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Thursday, September 23, 2010

South Luangwa National Park

The South Luangwa is one of the most incredible National Parks in Africa and our 5 days spend here was without a doubt for both Ralf, Perdita and myself the highlight of the 2 week Zambia Photographic Safari.

Experts have dubbed South Luangwa one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and not without reason. The concentration of game around the Luangwa River and its ox bow lagoons is among the most intense in Africa.

Our base was the legendary Kaingo Camp and after my visit I now completely understand why it is rated as an absolute wildlife photographic paradise. The first 2 nights we stayed at Kaingo’s Bush Camp, Mwamba. The camp provided an incredible opportunity to explore the heartland of the South Luangwa.

On our first full day we had an incredible "day time" sighting of a female leopard stalking a small herd of impala, unfortunately she did not have any luck on this occasion. Over a period of 5 days we saw no less than 6 individual leopards, with a mating pair the highlight.

Sightings were incredible and various members of the 33 strong Mwamba Pride of lions were seen frequently. We decided to spend our first 2 days scanning the Luangwa River and surrounds and were rewarded with incredible sightings of the pride.

South Luangwa is home to 3 endemic species of mammals and we were very fortunate to see and photograph them all, Cookson’s Wildebeest, Thornicroft’s Giraffe and sub-specie of Burchell’s Zebra, Crawshaw’s Zebra. Various species of antelope were seen around every corner and include Impala, Puku, Greater Kudu and bushbuck.

We were sad to leave the “rustic” charm of Mwamba Bush Camp but what followed over the next 3 days at Kaingo Camp can only be described as pure magic. On arrival Ralf came storming into my room, a huge crocodile caught a Puku right in front them. We watched in awe as this massive reptile fought of 7 more crocodiles to claim what was rightfully his.

The days that followed were pure photographic bliss as we saw and photographed huge herds of elephant. We spend countless hours with the beautiful Hollywood Pride of lions (this famous pride has been the subject of numerous National Geographic and other renowned documentaries). The highlight of observing the “Hollywood’s” was seeing them interacting with a herd of elephants and shortly after sundowners (an ice cold Mosi Lager) we watched them catching and killing a large Puku ram.

The photographic opportunities at Kaingo are endless mainly due to the numerous photographic hides that are constructed all around the reserve; these hides most certainly optimize close encounters with various species of birds and mammals. The bulk of our “Hide Photography” was done from the Hippo Hide, where you get so close to the action that you feel you are part of the pod.

Our hides have certainly turned the heads of the professionals. We have been visited by world renowned wildlife photographer Frans Lanting (multiple times, this year Frans Lanting and National Geographic returned for a month, cancelling all other camps in the valley to extend their stay with us again and again) of National Geographic. BBC used our hippo hide in the filming of the Wild Africa Series.” We have featured in both National Geographic and National Geographic magazine in 2006.” Kaingo Camp

My favourite hide was the “Carmine bee – eater” hide. The hide is especially put up every year, once the Carmines are established at the nesting site. The brightly colored Carmines build their nests in huge colonies into the river bank. Getting to the hide itself is a great adventure as you walk (with an armed scout) to the edge of the river and then by canoe (with owner Derek Shenton) cross the water to reach the hide, a remarkable photographic experience in deed.

Other birding highlights for me include seeing and ticking Three-banded Courser, Lillian’s Lovebird, Bohm’s Spinetail and Red-necked Falcon. Huge flocks of Yellow-billed Storks provided us with great bird photography opportunities.

Another highlight was viewing no less than 9 Spotted Hyena's fighting over the remains of a dead hippo.

The South Luangwa is truly a wildlife photographic mega and I can without a doubt recommend Kaingo Camp to anybody interested in photographing “The Valley”.


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Amazing photos, each and every one of them. The carmine bee eaters bring back wonderful memories for me working with the wild life research officer in the low veld in what was then Rhodesia. Diane

Shem Compion said...

That elephant charging image is something special. Nice work!

Marius Coetzee Photography said...

Thank you for commenting Diane. Shem comments coming from you are always really special, cheers mate!!