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The Luangwa game of life
Game Viewing Diaries / 30 Aug 2023

The Luangwa game of life

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The last six weeks of the safari season have been full of activity as the Luangwa game of life goes on. We’ve been kept entertained with several wildlife movements – like pieces on a chess board – including wild dog dispersals, an influx of lion and Carmine Bee-eater gathering in an ever changing environment with Sausage Tree leaf shedding, receding grass lines and evaporating lagoons.

The hot weather replaced winter from one day to the next with the 15th of August marking a distinct change in temperature. The bush is noticeably more open with the grass drying up and succumbing to the heat, hooves of hundreds of buffalo and bulky masses of elephant.

The Milyoti wild dog pack den in the Tafika game viewing area near the stork colony provided amazing entertainment for several weeks and some exceptional photographic opportunities. Sadly, the pack numbers are slightly reduced with a few fatalities in the ranks. The 3-legged male dog succumbed to injuries after a nasty crocodile attack;

another male was fatally injured by lions while defending the pups and sadly his efforts were in vain as one pup was killed by lions.

The Nsefu lion pride moved into the area uprooting the dogs from the den so they are now on the move again with the mobile and energetic pups in tow. Lloyd confirmed counting a total of nine pups during the last sighting of the Milyoti pack a few days ago. 

Alex also discovered a wild dog den near Takwela Camp, belonging to an un-collared alpha female. Fortunately, thanks to the tireless work of the Zambian Carnivore Programme and DNPW, we’ve had a dog-filled few months. This pack had a litter of seven pups tucked away in a rocky outcrop.

For weeks, Takwela guests had fantastic sightings of wild dog kills and regurgitating feeding sessions at the den. After lions strolled passed the hideout, the pack left unscathed the very next day, making the safety of the pups a top priority.

Tafika’s exclusive Kawere hide has been constructed again this year at the Kawere lagoon. The hide’s new position is perfectly placed to observe buffalo, impala, zebra, giraffe and baboon coming down to drink, elephant scooping up tasty Winter thorn pods or rolling in the mud and leopards slinking through the grass on the lagoon periphery in the early evening.

This hide is a lovely spot to visit whilst out on game drives from Tafika. Guests can spend hours nestled in the cool dugout hide, eye level with Jacanas and dragon flies dancing over the lagoon’s vegetation or counting the toe nails on an elephant’s passing foot.

The Carmine Bee-eaters are congregating again reminding us that our annual Carmine hide will be needed soon. Once the birds have laid their eggs and are settled, hide construction will begin. We hope for it to be built and in use by mid-September.

Last season the Tafika male lion trio monopolized our Carmine hide with several females and whilst we welcome their arrival, we hope they leave some space for guests this year. The lions have already spent many days in and around Tafika this month serenading us through the night with rhythmical roars.

RASair has been soaring over the Luangwa especially on trips to the North Luangwa and Lower Zambezi. The flight from Lower Zambezi continues to be a massive benefit to guests combining this destination with the Luangwa. The quick, direct 1h30 flight straight from bush strip to bush strip, ensures guests enjoy the majority of their day in the wilderness.

The usual first sighting request by guests coming from Lower Zambezi is giraffe. Our resident tower of giraffe are always happy to oblige and show off their attractive patchy coats.

Tafika’s resident leopards, Chibala (scar) and her daughter, Kamini (scorpion), are becoming more prominent while our more iconic spotted residents like Olimba (strength) and Mutima (heart) have been slightly more scarce. After the disagreement over territory between Olimba and Mutima, Olimba seems to be retaining her prime territory, forcing Mutima further south.

Olimba wasn’t a fan of the wild dogs who set-up-shop in her space but since their departure from the den we’ve been seeing her again and she appears to have established herself closer to Tafika. Chibala’s most recent cub, an attractive young male, is also becoming more accustomed to the spotlight.

He’s not the only eye candy around at the moment – a hyena den close to Tafika is home to several litters of cubs that are becoming more relaxed and playful. 

The Tafika Walking Trails Camps (previously called Chikoko Trails) have had some great game viewing from camp as well as on the walking safaris. Elephants have flocked to both camps as the Ebony trees have been fruiting abundantly this year – the ‘muchenja’ fruit peppering the ground in and around the Big Lagoon chalets, and Chikoko’s dining deck were an irresistible attraction. Antelope, giraffe, mongoose and warthog are frequent visitors to both camps.

Leopard have been spotted from the Big Lagoon deck during lunch and dinner several times and the sound effects of lion killing a buffalo serenaded Chikoko’s dinner one night. The walking team merely had to step out of Chikoko Tree Camp the following morning to find the successful pride and watch the rest of the feasting from a safe distance.

The Tafika Trails Walking Camps continue to offer unrivaled and exclusive walking experiences, second only to Mwaleshi Camp, which offers the wildest retreat of all and the rare opportunity to spot a black rhino. Up in North Luangwa, guests have been treated to lovely sundowners and bush brunches by Heather and the team.

As it gets warmer, we’re not the only ones cooling off in the irresistible Mwaleshi river.

The guiding contingent in North Luangwa, made up of Alex, Moffat and Stephen, has now been bolstered by the return of Brent at Mwaleshi. His expert guiding and connection to the wild always add considerably to the rustic Mwaleshi experience.

Mwaleshi Camp has enjoyed some very special moments with lion prides on foot while the team at Takwela have spent some good bonding time with their pride and males. General game around camp is increasing with elephant, impala and kudu coming through Takwela regularly.

The Tafika Fund

After two months of football games the Football for Wildlife league came to an end this August. Both North Luangwa teams came out victorious; the Chitemwa Buffalos beat the Mwanya Wild dogs in the ladies’ final, and Chidyake beat the Mkasanga Leopards in the men’s finals which took place in North Luangwa this year.

The league comprised of 50 games, 25 for ladies teams and 25 for mens teams. The matches were well attended and fueled the local villages with great excitement. We managed to source handmade wildlife footballs for the finals which should till the next league. 

The four finalists won branded keyrings which can continue to be used along with the winner and runner up prize money. 

This year we used the league to sponsor a set of football goals for our Mkasanga football field. Next year we will add a net for the final professional finish.

All of the football teams did their share of garbage collecting, leading by example.

The school pupils start their third and final term of the year in September, so we will be putting their scholarships together this week. Given Nkhoma, our latest accounting graduate is now working in the Tafika office, together with Lovemore and Carol. He’s already hard at work setting up a new stock system.

Thank you for all of your generous donations that keep these initiatives alive – changing lives one step at a time.

The stakes in the Luangwa’s game of life just get higher as we move steadily into the dry season. Keep following our news to see who comes out on top. 

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