The end of our safari season always arrives more suddenly than expected, but with the end comes new beginnings. October (and even more so, November) is made of really hot stuff and isn’t for the faint-hearted. That said, if you can handle the heat and are happy to slug down a daily glass of rehydration salts, the rewards are worth it. It’s a time of freshly budded blooms, many newly birthed babies, cocky fat predators and hoards of thirsty animals flocking to water.
As per usual, the Luangwa is a law unto its own and it threw us a curve ball to keep us on our toes – on the 4th of October we received our first and very unexpected (and very substantial!) dumping of rain. This came as more of a shock than the anticipated October heat waves and although it was lovely and cool, a few days of unusually quiet game viewing followed the early shower.
It wasn’t long before October bounced back in usual form and the multitude of Luangwa treasures could be fully appreciated again.
During this time the river becomes the centre of attention as most of the outlying lagoons have dried up and lazy predators sit by the water…and wait.
It’s a time of hardship for the big herbivores with the water being guarded by predators and drying muddy lagoons posing a very real threat of sticky deaths in return for a sip of putrid water. Some strong individuals can show that mud who’s boss but others aren’t so lucky.
Sadly, a loss that hit home recently was the death of Olimba / Pink nose’s male cub. He was killed by lions, one of the biggest threats to leopards in the Luangwa. On a positive note, the female cub has been spotted regularly this season and last week was seen bonding and playing with her mother in a blur of spots.
Leopard are in abundance in the Luangwa and we’re happy to share that every visiting group at Tafika Camp (except for one 🙁 – there’s always one!) enjoyed leopard sightings in 2021.
Many hippos didn’t cope well this year so there were several floating carcasses feeding congregations of swarming crocodiles in the Luangwa rivers muddy shallows. Although it marks the end of many old and sick animals who are either targeted or can’t cope with the dwindling food and water supplies (or both), it marks the beginning for many new ones too.
The trees are full of little black vervet monkeys clinging to their mothers, tiny ‘wartlets’ with erect tails trotting after their beefy warthog parents and by the beginning of November, the grassy verges are dotted with dainty impala fawns. Although elephants and giraffe aren’t strictly seasonal breeders, we saw several new born elephant calves and a towering giraffe calf this past month which was a real treat.
There were a few fantastic game viewing experiences this month but we’d like to highlight Mukupa’s epic night drive where he saw a host of amazing species: leopard, lion, serval and aardvark, all on one outing. Serval is a special spot and it’s unusual to see an aardvark before 10 o’clock at night but you just never know what a wild area has in store for you!
Even though the heat and lack of water feel rather oppressive, many tree species come to life in October. The Luangwa always gives a glimpse of the abundant life beneath the thinning bush and parched earth with the rain trees pouring their soft purple flowers onto the ground, acacias frosting their canopies with puffy white flowers and mopani and combretum trees resurrecting their bare frames with an abundance of new, vibrant green leaves.
The scent, sights and sounds of new life is even more striking during this harsh time of year.
We’re happy to say that despite the tough travel conditions of 2021, we still saw many friends returning to the Luangwa and welcomed a host of new ones. We opened four of our five bush camps, with Crocodile River Camp guests moving to Chikoko and Tafika – thank you for your patience and understanding if you were hoping to visit Crocodile this year!
We’re excited to share that next year, Crocodile River Camp will be relocated slightly further south to overlook the historic Big Lagoon. The move will only bring new and brighter things with access to extended walking areas, a general camp revamp (while still maintaining the rustic and authentic feel) and improved in-camp game viewing from your chalet.
We were happy to kick off our co-management agreement with African Parks and the Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board for Shoebill Island Camp this year. A number of guests were delighted to visit the Bangweulu wetlands, with some great sightings being recorded including cheetah (recently reintroduced), impressive numbers of black lechwe and of course the iconic shoebill.
Being accessible by plane from both South and North Luangwa, the Bangweulu is a fantastic addition to a Luangwa safari.
The Tafika Fund
Our Tafika Fund has continued to support the local community despite reduced revenue. Generous guests brought out some school supplies which were happily received and thanks to a donation to the clinic, new paint was purchased – it will be the first time the clinic is painted since we built it in the early 2000s!
Our termly school supply offerings have also been increased after reduced stock last year.
If you would like to gift a donation this Christmas, please keep the Tafika Fund in mind, thank you so much. For more information about the Fund please email Jen on email@example.com.
This year we put together an infographic outlining the work of our Tafika Fund over the past 23 years which we’re proud to share with you.
As we move into the off-season with all of our camps closed until May, keep following our social media platforms for experiences from the past year, we still have a lot of magic to share with you.
Have you visited one of our camps recently? Please tag us to share the love and be part of our story. If you’re not that into social media but would like to share your experiences, please send your stories and/or images through to Nick on firstname.lastname@example.org.