South Luangwa Game Drive Morning #1

I have a ridiculous number of photos so I will be breaking up this series into 4 parts and selecting a few key birds to profile.  In this post, I will be writing about the 1st morning game drive the day after we arrived at Marula Lodge.

We had a 5am wake up call, then served a light breakfast at 5:30.  At 6am, we were off to the park!

The sun was coming up as the driver/guide pulled up to the gate and we each paid $25 for the entry fee.  You are advised to keep your ticket as you can use the same one for the full day but you have to buy a new one each day.  Cash only so be prepared!

We drove slowly over the bridge and into the park, stopping for all creatures great and small.

Helmeted Guinea-fowl

African Fish Eagle

There are quite a few of these little guys.  While I do have the checklist made with the guide, putting a name to a photo is a bit harder!

Grey-headed Kingfisher

Hornbill

Probably an eagle nest

Meves Starling

Lions were fairly common, we saw at least 1 on each drive.

Mid-morning snack

Perspective of how close we were in an open vehicle

Hammerkop

Hornbill

Southern Cordonbleu

Red-necked Francolin

Monitor Lizard

Giraffe with a hitch-hiker

Grey Go-away Bird

We returned to the lodge around noon-ish in time for lunch, then time to rest or swim or whatever until the afternoon.

Scottevest – Last Sale 2017: 40% Off Select Styles

Scottevest is having a huge sale ending 18 Sept so get in fast!  I have several reviews of their products and find they are excellent value for eco-tourists.

Important Information:
-All Sales Final – No Returns or Exchanges
-This promotion only applies to the items listed on the sale page
-Cannot be combined with other offers; cannot be applied to prior purchases
-Applies to in-stock items only – no rainchecks

-Only while supplies last; we reserve the right to end the sale early

There is no limit on how many garments you can purchase, so now is the perfect time to stock up on your favorite styles or buy gifts before the holiday rush!

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta)

The Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta), is a medium-sized wading bird. It is the only living species in the genus Scopus and the family Scopidae. The shape of its head with a long bill and crest at the back is reminiscent of a hammer, which has given this species its name.

With such a large range, you are almost guaranteed to see one on an African safari.  I know I have seen them in several places, most recently at South Luangwa NP in Zambia.

LEARN MORE ABOUT HAMERKOPS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Mpala Live

VIDEOS

Building a nest

Fresh frog for dinner

So who’s afraid of crocodiles, not me!

 

Lodge Review: Marula Lodge, South Luangwa NP, Zambia

South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is arguably the best safari location I have been to in Africa, and I have been to quite a few!  But before we get to the safari details, first we need a place to stay.  After lots of research, I found the Marula Lodge which is a mere 5 minutes from the gate.  They cater for all budgets with backpacker dorms, camping tents and chalet rooms.  We had a special Backpacker Package for around $450 which included 3 nights for us both in a tent, all meals and 2 game drives per day-morning and late afternoon/evening.  You can pay with a credit card but there is a 5% surcharge, to me it was worth it for the added security and bank transfer fees on my end would have been about the same.

 

We were picked up at the bus station in Mfuwe and driven to the lodge about 5 minutes away.  You are advised not to try to walk as there could be dangerous animals around, lions don’t know the borders of the park!

Heading towards the main building which houses reception, the restaurant, bar, souvenir shop and bathrooms.

Do take some time to read the notice board!

We tried several times but the wifi just didn’t work during our stay.

Daily schedule.

Office building, I think the backpacker dorm is in here as well.

Our tent, here it is by night.

And in the early morning.

Sorry for the blurry shot, you can see the basic set up-2 cots and a table in the middle.  They give you a rechargeable lantern.

The showers and toilets are in this open-air structure.  I got a bit nervous to go there at night but there are security guards around who will escort you if needed.

You hook a chain across the entrance to show it’s occupied.

Our safari vehicle, please note that it is covered on top!  This is an issue as the sun gets very hot during the day and we passed quite a few other vehicles with open tops and red-faced tourists!

Map of South Luangwa NP

Wifi details, I would say don’t bother!  But come prepared with whatever you need for the duration of your stay-downloaded entertainment, books or whatever.

Here’s the restaurant.  You can see the bar in the rear and buffet table with red & white table cloth.  Each couple or group gets their own table.

Breakfast is a small buffet, lunch and dinner are served on a plate.

Some of the hand-made souvenirs from nearby villagers.  Support the local economy and bring something special home!

Dinner the next day, served after the evening game drive.

The bathrooms in the main building have some pretty amazing artwork!

The period between lunch and the afternoon snack is free.  You can sit by the river and watch for animals or have a dip in the pool.  We did both!

During siesta time, I was hanging out at the pool and watched an uninvited guest sneak in a free swim!  Thankfully I was on a lounger and not in the pool at the time!

Marula Lodge is an amazing place with a gorgeous setting and has everything you need for a successful safari.  The management is knowledgeable and friendly, the food is good and the guides top-notch!  We loved this place and were very sorry when we had to leave after 3 days, most people on Trip Advisor were also very happy.  I can highly recommend the Backpacker Special as one of the best deals you could find in Africa!

Stay tuned for our game drives in South Luangwa NP!

 

The Zambian Bus Experience Part 2 – Lusaka To Mfuwe (South Luangwa NP)

There is only one bus company at time of writing that does the trip directly from Lusaka to Mfuwe on one bus.  Otherwise you have to change buses in Chipata, get a minibus or hire a taxi if you miss the last one.  Jonda Bus is a good bus company and the 2 drivers we had (outbound and return) were safe and didn’t use their phones while driving.

OUTBOUND LUSAKA TO MFUWE

There is only one direct bus to Mfuwe leaving at 5am but you should be there by 4:30 max to board and claim your seat.  I strongly recommend buying tickets the day before at least as there were no extra tickets available the time we arrived.  I hadn’t been aware this was a 2 x 3 seater and after the last experience on this configuration, I wanted to switch our 2 seats to 3 seats with an empty middle and pay for the extra seat.  It wasn’t possible as the bus was full.  Tickets are 220 Kwacha ($23-ish) and for a 11-12 hour bus trip I would have gladly paid for more comfort.

For the return we did book 3 seats, much better!  Look how cramped we were, my husband is a big guy!

The cooler/esky in the front contains juice boxes which are passed out together with a bag of chips, included in the fare.  At stops, people would come up selling drinks and snacks.

We passed through several small villages with interesting markets.  They also make roadside stops for toiletting in the bush but be careful!  I was forced to use one of these and a local lady cautioned me to beware of snakes!   From that point, I drank sparingly until we arrived in Mfuwe.

We reached Chipata around lunch time-1pm-ish.  They have pay toilets at the bus station and a few small shops for food and drinks.

Chipata was the largest town after Lusaka.

The toilet is behind the Jonda ticket office.

We reached Mfuwe around 4:30pm and the first thing I did was go into the office and buy 3 tickets for the return to Lusaka!  A lady from the Murula Lodge was waiting for us in a safari truck so off we went!

 

BACK TO LUSAKA

Same thing, bus leaves at 5am, be there by 4:30 latest.  Seat numbers aren’t written on tickets although we were quick to claim the 3 right behind the driver to maximize leg room.  These are the best seats on the bus if you can get them.

Wow, I look so tired!

It was dark when we left so I tried to sleep but failed.  After a couple hours we arrived in Chipata and the bus started to fill up.  I had to show our 3 tickets a few times to people who wanted to take one of our seats.

Getting close to Lusaka!

Grabbing a last minute drink for the staff.

Once we arrived at Lusaka Intercity Bus Terminal, we grabbed a taxi to the Intercontinental Lusaka (great use of a Chase free night) for some well-deserved luxury!

 

The SPG-AA 30% Bonus Promo Is Back Through 15 Oct 2017

This is a good deal, especially for Aussies who have no other way to earn AA miles.  The SPG promo comes around every year about this time and I have made excellent use of it in the past.

40,000 Amex MR = 20,000 SPG

September 1, 2017 at 12:01 a.m. Central Time through October 15, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. Central Time.

(1) During the Program Period, American Airlines AAdvantage® and Starwood Preferred Guest® program members (each, a “Member”) that convert Starpoints® to AAdvantage® miles will earn 20% additional AAdvantage® miles on each conversion (“Conversion(s)”).

(2) For every 100,000 AAdvantage® miles a Member receives from Conversions during the Program Period, the Member will receive an additional 10,000 AAdvantage® miles.

(3) For every 20,000 Starpoints® converted to AAdvantage® miles within the same Conversion, SPG® will automatically add another 5,000 AAdvantage® miles. The 20% bonus referenced in #1 above will apply after this addition. Thus, converting 20,000 Starpoints® in a single Conversion would result in the Member receiving 30,000 AAdvantage® miles.

SEE FULL T&CS HERE 

I will be sitting this one out this year as I don’t have a need for AA miles within the next couple years and they could devalue before then so I prefer to keep building my Amex MR account for the time being.

Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum)

The Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum) is a bird in the crane family Gruidae.  Although they are the national bird of Uganda and depicted on the flag, I didn’t see one in the wild until South Luangwa NP in Zambia.

They have a huge range throughout most of central and southern Africa so odds are good you will see one while on safari.  I took the photos above at South Luangwa NP in Zambia.  They are the national bird of Uganda and many people also see them in Tanzania.

LEARN MORE ABOUT GREY CROWNED CRANES

Wikipedia

Birdlife

International Crane Foundation

VIDEOS

Not only are they beautiful and elegant, they can also bust some moves!

Match-making for cranes, love is in the air!

 

Hotel Review: Crown Plaza Inn, Lusaka

We had an overnight stay in Lusaka between 2 bus trips.  First we would arrive from Livingstone on Shalom bus and the next morning, we needed to be at the Lusaka Bus Terminal at 4:30 for the Johabie Express but to Mfuwe.  A cheap hotel near the bus station was in order.  After much research, I finally decided on the Crown Plaza Inn which (according to Google maps) was close to the bus station and very cheap.

We arrived around 6pm and it was already dark so I forgot to get the exterior shot.  Please enjoy this bright pink hallway instead!

The room was quite simple but considering it was about $20-ish we couldn’t complain.  The wifi worked but was really slow.

I could say that it was in need of a renovation, but you do get what you pay for. 

The staff were friendly and offered to book a taxi to the bus station the next morning but we had already arranged with the driver who brought us to come back for us.  There is no restaurant on the premises and we left around 4:15 so too early for the included breakfast.  They have soft drinks and water for sale.  Any shopping centres within walking distance were closed so we couldn’t go out for dinner and this isn’t an area where you want to be walking around after dark.  Thankfully we had some snacks we had brought on the bus and that was basically dinner!

Over all, it was ok for an overnight, especially since we arrived late and would be leaving early so the only facility I wanted was wifi and I got it, albeit slower than I liked.

Targeted Qantas Promo – 15-30% Bonus Points On Credit Card Transfers

If you have ever transferred points from a credit card to Qantas, you are probably targeted for this special bonus.  If you don’t see it in your email, check your spam.

The reason I am not putting a link up is because it is a targeted offer.  If you didn’t get an email, the offer won’t work for you – this time.  However, if you make a small transfer of 1000 points, it will put you on “the list” for future promos.  If you are in the USA, Citibank Thank You Points transfer to Qantas.  If you are in Australia, numerous credit cards transfer to Qantas.  Please see full T&Cs below.

Crimson-breasted Shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus)

The Crimson-breasted Shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus) or the Crimson-breasted Gonolek, (‘gonolek’ – supposedly imitative of its call), is a dramatically coloured southern African bird with black upper parts with a white flash on the wing, and bright scarlet underparts.

I don’t know why this beauty was trying to hide from the camera!

His Namibian cousin was not so shy!

They have a large range within southern Africa but even with that bright crimson breast they can be hard to find!  My eagle-eyed guide, Chiinga found the Zambian one as we were leaving the Machile IBA in Zambia.  I found the Namibian one on my own, he did stand out!

LEARN MORE ABOUT CRIMSON-BREASTED SHRIKES

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Botswana Tourism

VIDEOS

It seems these birds have to work hard for their meals.  A grasshopper proves to be easy prey.

If you want to eat a scorpion, you have to work much harder!