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Just putting my feet up at Lusaka Airport after 6 incredible nights in the fantastic Luangwa Valley and thinking about yet another wonderful trip shared with wonderful people. Thank you Astra, Marisa, Sean, Jenny, Neil and John – we sure had awesome sightings and created some remarkable photographs and boy the sundowners were fun. For Sean and Marisa this was their second trip with me. They loved the first one so much that they repeated the exact itinerary inviting their parents as well as two other friends from our Cape Town photo group.

Although they were all very experienced bush people, the Luangwa initiates could not get over the beauty of Zambia.  “It’s the trees that make it so special,” they told me.  And it’s true. The vast avenues of African ebony trees, massive baobabs, leadwood forests and other fine trees in this valley do make the heart sing.

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We owe so much to Jacob Shawa who found us sweet light, loads of leopards and quiet places to explore. I am now convinced that he has eyes on the back of his head. Our best tally on this trip was 3 leopards in one day. That’s a little off our record—we had 5 in a day last year, but it’s still pretty good viewing.

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We also spotted two bushpigs in broad daylight. It was a first for Jacob and for me, but we chatted to valley doyen Phil Berry, and he says they have been seen quite a bit over the past seven months. How strange to see them, especially during the daytime.

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Bertram took us under his wing at Tena Tena and drove us from wonderful sighting to wonderful sighting. We loved his gentle nature and there is no denying that the wildness and isolation of this part of the park cannot be matched. Nor can the game. Jules, the good natured Kiwi videographer filming in the area, popped in for tea, and kept us up to date on the pack of 12 wild dog which we watched on two occasions. He also tipped us off about the dead hippo being feasted upon by a veritable army of crocodiles.  Thank you, Jules.

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The fact that nobody ever seems to leave Robin Pope Safaris says loads; the staff are as happy and welcoming as ever. What other camp can you visit again and again and always enjoy the same wonderful people as hosts? And the same is said of the guests. Just about everyone you meet has been to RPS two, three or more times.

Rob and Emily took over a big baton from Robin and Jo Pope when they took over management and have made their impression in subtle and excellent ways. The housekeeping, guiding and food has never been better.  And although it was a shock seeing that the Imperial Leather soap, which has been at Robin Pope Safaris for as long as I can remember, had been replaced, I was pleased to find that the new hand-made soaps work just fine– and they are made in Zambia!

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My flight to the Masai Mara is leaving shortly. I am heading to Kenya to catch the great migration, but I will be back in the Luangwa Valley again in November and again for nearly a month in February. It’s nearly 15 years since our first photographic workshop at Luangwa, and I feel so much a part of the Robin Pope Safaris family. What a privilege to witness the changing seasons in this remarkable valley. This year the lagoons are much dryer than in previous times, and I think it’s going to be a difficult season for the animals before the onset of the rains.

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