Shumba Camp - October 2015

Oct 30, 2015 Shumba Camp
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Climate and Landscape
As I sit here writing this final newsletter for Shumba all is strangely quiet. We did our final epic traipse, in vehicles laden with everyone’s kit, up to the villages a few days ago and dropped all our staff off at home for the end of the season. At the same time we collected the men who will stay here for the green season and brought them back to camp. So now everything is pretty much packed up and we are just a skeleton team here. It’s a bit like a ghost town and will be even more so once Daniel and I pull out and leave the hardy green season crew to their own devices. We’ll catch up again with them in May 2016 for the beginning of the new season.

Now, in this calm, it is a time for reflection, not only on what an awesome month it was but also what an incredible season we had! Our last guests booked out on November 1st still buzzing from the special champagne sundowners we had set up for them the previous evening under the huge boughs of what we call ‘One Fig.’ I don’t think anyone was up all night coming up with that moniker but it was certainly a location worthy of the occasion!

We’ve had a couple of storms so far – one producing 24 mm of rain – which caught us a bit by surprise but mainly we were able to watch the storms rolling around the plains from a dry front deck.

Temperatures this month were incredibly varied with nice cool temperatures after each shower, interspersed with blazing heat in the middle of the day. Temperatures ranged between 8° Celsius at night and 47° in the heat of the day! Siestas on those superheated afternoons were obligatory for all and the pool saw more use than ever before!

The plains are nearly completely dry now… Hippo Pools were a puddle for much of the month with the residents seemingly stuck in the mud. Many have now moved off to a more distant pool which still has water but luckily is very often on our balloon flight route. It wasn’t so much ‘tree shaving’ in the balloon this month but rather ‘hippo hopping.’ The same pool has many baby crocs in it and is best viewed from above.

Wildlife
This month the figs dropped off our huge specimens in camp and almost instantly the elephants became daily visitors to camp, hoovering them up at a speedy rate. Away from camp on drives we saw numerous large herds meandering across the Plains, very often spending the night on nearby Acacia Island. This island also certainly has one, if not two, resident leopards who were seen out in the open and lounging in the trees regularly. We also often saw the female leopard with her sub-adult cub in the Kapinga Island area. Our guides think by next season the cub will be off on its own.

Spotted cats were the talk of the camp this month with one particular drive throwing up leopard, cheetah and serval. We are particularly happy that the cheetah have been on point to make appearances this month as one of our guests, despite having lived in Africa for many years and visited numerous parks both in Zambia and across the African continent, had never before seen a cheetah. What a treat when they managed to pick up a pair on three different occasions during their stay with us! We’ve also seen a civet a few times this month out on the plains in the middle of the day, which is quite rare.

But what about the lions? Sightings this month were mainly of the Papyrus Pride, with cub Princess still learning the ropes and growing fast! They continue to practice the unique skill (for lions in this area) of taking down hippo. The Musanza Brothers were also about but Mr Busanga was strangely absent – hopefully only for the time being. One of the Musanza boys is just huge – our guide Isaac reckons in terms of body mass he is bigger than Mr Busanga and might only be outdone when it comes to the size of his mane. Perhaps this is why for the moment Mr B is steering clear and giving these guys their space.

Our hope for more cubs next season is strong. The Machine, as we call her, is heavily pregnant and has split off from the Papyrus Pride, we suspect to have her cubs. She has still been hunting very regularly by herself despite her huge tummy! Impressive!

Of note this month, as with September, were the increased sightings of leopard – as well as of hyaena, which we don’t generally see too much of in this area. Towards the end of the month over breakfast we watched a hyaena take down a lechwe just metres from the main area. The distinctive sound of an antelope dying was a bit too much for one guest who took to her tent but the rest of us watched nature “red in tooth and claw” take its course from the deck.

The big buffalo herd has moved further north but the Plains are still teeming with puku, lechwe, wildebeest, zebra, roan, oribi, reedbuck and many other types of antelope. In Kafue we have 23 different species of antelope which can mostly be found in the area around Shumba. One guest this month managed to see 21 species in her three-night stay with us!

Birds and Birding
On the birding front out on drives we had both rosy-throated and Fülleborn's longclaw, great white pelicans, Wahlberg’s eagle, African palm-swift, marsh sandpiper, Bohm’s bee-eater, purple roller, red-billed hornbill, Chaplin’s barbet and Bennett’s and cardinal woodpeckers, to name just a few of our rarer species. In camp we see lilac-breasted rollers, tropical boubous and firefinches daily.

However, all good things come to an end, even the Shumba season! I want to thank our incredible team at Shumba for our best season ever. The Busanga Plains is a special place but the people who work here make it even more so. The end of season party hosted at Shumba for ourselves and all members of staff from three other camps was testament to the team spirit which exists here – what a party!

But, for this season, it’s over and out! Check back with us in May 2016 when we will be here opening camp again and also watch out for our video taken by Caroline Culbert in the closing days of the season to see what we got up to and what it’s like packing up a seasonal camp. We leave you with a few pics from the last month – mainly taken by our talented guide and resident photography guru Isaac!

Guest Comments
“Everything about Shumba was stunning, starting with all the staff, the wonderful accommodation, the animals and of course the scenery…true isolation with no cell or internet, perfect. Thanks to the whole team!”
“Exceeded all expectations.”
“The game drives and the guides were great – their passion complements the whole experience. Seeing the big cats and the cub ‘Princess’ – priceless!! Hot air balloon – awesome!”
“It was a great time, thank you all! The most beautiful place on earth. We love you all and hope to see you again”
“Great camp, superb staff, we appreciated the wonderful work of the staff”

Busanga Plains - Season Finale with Wilderness Safaris

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