Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala)

The Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala) has five subspecies:

  • H. l. acteon (Lesson, R, 1830) – Cape Verde Islands
  • H. l. leucocephala (Statius Müller, PL, 1776) – Senegal and Gambia to northwest Somalia, north Tanzania and north DR Congo
  • H. l. semicaerulea (Gmelin, JF, 1788) – south Arabian Peninsula
  • H. l. hyacinthina Reichenow, 1900 – southeast Somalia to Tanzania
  • H. l. pallidiventris Cabanis, 1880 – south DR Congo to northwest Tanzania and south to north South Africa

The ones I saw in Zambia would be the last subspecies, H. l. pallidiventris.

As you can see they have a huge range covering most of sub-Saharan Africa.  The photos above were taken by me in South Luangwa NP, Zambia.




Biodiversity Explorer


Let’s see what Youtube has.  Here’s one from Ghana.

Another one from Gambia.

How about the Kenyan subspecies?

And lastly one from Kruger in South Africa which is the same subspecies as Zambia.



White-fronted Bee-eater (Merops bullockoides)

The White-fronted bee-eater (Merops bullockoides) is a species of bee-eater widely distributed in sub-equatorial Africa.  They have a distinctive white forehead, a square tail and a bright red patch on their throat. They nest in small colonies, digging holes in cliffs or earthen banks but can usually be seen in low trees waiting for passing insects from which they hunt either by making quick hawking flights or gliding down before hovering briefly to catch insects.

They have a very large range in southern Africa.  I saw them in Zambia in both Machile IBA & South Luangwa NP.






Preening action

Just hanging out waiting for food.




South Luangwa Game Drive Afternoon/Evening #2

Once again we headed off at 4pm for our last game drive in South Luangwa NP.  Having seen our target bird (Lilian’s Lovebird) and the stunning leopard in the morning, we were ready  to just relax and enjoy this drive, come what may.

Mama hippo with a cute little baby hippo

We continued along the river to see the nesting areas for the Bee-eaters.  In season, this is where you find the striking Carmine Bee-eater.  At least we did see some White-fronted Bee-eaters, which are also very lovely birds!

We hit the rush hour traffic.

Here we see a dead crocodile that has been pretty well picked over.

Time for the traditional sunset viewing and snack.

This is where I had been sitting in the truck for all the drives, except I did get shotgun on the first morning drive.  Take careful note of how open this vehicle is.  Nothing to prevent an animal from jumping inside if it wanted to.

A lonely Fish Eagle looks for one last meal before bedtime.

It does get dark very quickly once the sun sets.  The nocturnal animals were coming out eager to find food.  We returned to the dead crocodile and found a hyaena chowing down.  Yuck!

Notice the glowing eyes from the spotlight, this is how they spot animals in the dark.

I hope this rabbit doesn’t become someone’s dinner!

Do our butts look big in this?

And then it happened.  Out of nowhere, a pride of lions was spotted.  We were the first truck to find them and had them all to ourselves for quite a while.  Remember how open the truck is?  Well take note of how close we were, I got the mirrors in on purpose.  There we were, basically room service for these hungry lions!  The guide told us to stay quiet and keep our hands and bodies inside the vehicle.  My heart was beating rapidly as I realized that they could leap inside anytime they wanted for a nice human buffet dinner.  The logical part of me was saying that the guide sees this all the time and wouldn’t have come so close if there was any real danger. 

This last one seems to be saying, “Yeah, I know I could eat you but I’m going to let you go instead”.

What a way to finish an amazing stay at the South Luangwa National Park!

South Luangwa Game Drive Morning #2

Fasten your seatbelts because this is going to be an epic ride!

Just like the previous morning, we stopped at several vantage points to watch the sunrise.

Waiting our turn to pay the $25 entrance fee.

Security is tight so don’t try to get away without paying.

Unless the “guards” are otherwise occupied!

See anything interesting?

How about a closer look?

OMG a leopard actually strolling along within meters of our truck!

Flushed with the excitement of seeing a wild leopard up close, we proceeded on the rest of the game drive.  We had a break at a point overlooking the river.

Birds were out in full force!  A Lilian’s Lovebird trying to hide

Woodland Kingfisher also trying to hide

Cute family of Helmeted Guineafowls

The ever-elegant Lilac-breasted Roller

Grey-headed Kingfisher

Some tourists can’t hide from the hot sun………….

…………….but hippos can hide in the river!

Yet another sighting of Lilian’s Lovebirds!

Small crocodile

These guys work in the park.

And once again it was back to Marula Lodge for lunch and a siesta!

Lilian’s Lovebird (Agapornis lilianae)

The Lilian’s Lovebird (Agapornis lilianae), also known as Nyasa Lovebird, is a small African parrot species of the lovebird genus.  At 13 cm (5 inches) long, they are the smallest parrot on mainland Africa.  I was so excited to get really good sightings of these cuties in South Luangwa NP.

With a very limited range in Zambia, Zimbabwe & Malawi, you need to plan well to find these lovely but rare birds.  I got lucky at South Luangwa in Zambia.



World Parrot Trust


Birdlife – Conservation



Amazing clip of a large flock drinking at a waterhole.


A bonded pair foraging on a tree.


South Luangwa Game Drive Afternoon/Evening #1

We were given afternoon tea at 3:30pm, then left on the game drive around 4pm-ish.  It was still pretty hot and most birds and animals were resting.  As dusk approached, they started coming out.

Meyers Parrots in flight


Grey-crowned Cranes

It’s always a pleasure to see the beautiful Lilac-breasted Roller

Don’t bother me!

Openbill Stork

South Luangwa River, a great place to see hippos and elephants

Although the showier Carmine Bee-eater wasn’t around this time of year, thankfully the elegant White-fronted Bee-eaters were.  After all someone has to eat all those bees!

Meves Starling

Art in the middle of the reserve

Notice the safari vehicle without a roof, these would be very hot with no place to hide!

It was just as the sun was starting to set we spotted a small flock of Lillian’s Lovebirds!  I was thrilled to find these little beauties!

A sweet little family!

The sun was setting and I was losing the light, plus the other people in the truck weren’t was bird-crazed as I was!

Sunset stop with a snack

The sun goes down fast and the nocturnal animals started coming out.  Unfortunately, I am even worse at night photography than I am at day photography.



We slowly made our way out of the park where dinner awaited us back at Marula Lodge.

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


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



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.

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.




Mpala Live


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.


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!



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!