Track and Trail Monthly Update –  September 2013

…monthly update on daily life at the lodge and surroundings

The challenges of September

Hippo resting

Baby Hippo ISO250, F6.3, 1/500

When we talk about high temperatures I always immediately think of the smashing heat of October and keep on forgetting that September is almost as extreme. Almost that is, there is an airy breeze that keeps us going and prepares us for melting days to come. And while we survived the cool July evenings we are now not leaving home without our September survival kit: a bottle of water to top up supplies and sunglasses to block sunlight and dust.

And what better excuse then the warm weather to enjoy long lazy days.

What’s now….

What is better than to have a refreshing plunge in the swimming pool in between safaris.

Our elevated swimming pool not only gives you an excellent view on the Luangwa river but while you are relaxing there is a good chance of elephants passing by and you can watch them from on top.


Picture this

Pells fishing owl

Pells Fishing Owl ISO1000, F5.6 , 1/40 Bean bag

When going on a night drive, once it is dark, the spotter will use his spotlight to spot nocturnal creatures like leopard, hyena and the Pells fishing owl. Now if you have taken pictures on a night drive you probably know that it is not that easy. The spotlight basically overexposes your subject and you have to underexpose to get a good picture.

If your subject (i.e. light source) is close by you have to underexpose more than when your subject is further away.

Low-light situations need long exposure times to capture all available light. Set your camera to aperture priority mode or to the lowest aperture setting (F-number) possible to shoot at the fastest shutter speed. To explain: the aperture controls the amount of light the camera takes in; the lower the F-number, the more light is captured.

Leopard in tree

Leopard ISO125, F4.0 , 1/5 Bean bag

Then you also have to increase your ISO to get more shutter speed. An ISO of 3200, for example, will get you exposures of around 1/60 second but be aware that a higher ISO results in more digital noise on your pictures.

Working with high ISO numbers is not unusual after sunset. I always say; it’s better to have a grainy picture (more noise) than a blurry picture, because that means no picture at all in most cases. Don’t be afraid to use ISO settings above 1600.


What’s cooking:

Deliciously refreshing lemongrass, an intensely aromatic herb with a rich citrus flavor that goes perfectly in all types of dishes. And very decorative too, try these lemongrass chicken kebabs as a starter or snack.

To make your own:


  • 400g chicken breast fillet
  • 1 or 2 small chili peppers, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 spring onion chopped
  • 2 tbsp thai fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • salt & pepper to taste


Mince the chicken in a kitchen machine, add ingredients and make a paste. Take 8 lemongrass stalks and remove outside hard leaves. Kneed the mince mixture around the thick part of the lemongrass into a long sized shaped sausage, cover and let cool in fridge. When serving brush with oil and grill or fry for 6-8 minutes.

Serves 4

Did you know

The spotted hyena is one of my favorites animals. A carnivorous dog-like nocturnal animal with a sloping body as the front legs are longer than the hind legs. And well known for its cackling laugh-like scream, which alerts other hyenas of a newly located food source.

Hyenas are known as sneaky scavengers but they are actually skilled active pack hunters. But just like all other animals they will steal absolutely anything in order to have a good meal. And there is not much that goes to waste when hyenas dine out. Hugely powerful jaws crack open all but the very largest bones, releasing the nutritious marrow. The acidic fluids in their stomachs can digest skin, hair, bone and even teeth.


Hyena ISO125, F7.1 , 1/800 Bean bag

This month we found a hyena hunting for puku, trying to steal a leopard’s meal and having buffalo on the menu after the buffalo got stuck in the mud.

Some Hyena Facts:

PG-Crocuta crocuta

Hyena ISO6400, F7.1 , 1/60 Bean bag

  • A hyena call can be heard over 4km away
  • The hyena’s heart contains 10% of its body weight, powering it to speed up to 50km/ph over 3km while chasing prey
  • Although cubs are fed with milk from 1 to 1,5 year, they will start eating meat as soon as they reach 5 months
  • Because of the 15% protein and fat mix of hyena milk – human milk is around 5% – pups can last a week between feeds
  • A group of hyenas can eat a whole adult zebra in half an hour

You are invited


Carmine bee eater ISO250, F5.6 , 1/2000


PG-carmine bee-eater

Carmine bee eater ISO100, F5.6 , 1/1250

The bee-team is back! This month you find the carmine bee-eaters nesting in colonies in the steep banks of the Luangwa river. These colonies can consist of thousands of individuals an awesome sighting not to be missed. Nesting is at the end of a 1-2m long burrow in an earthen bank, where they lay from 2-5 eggs.

Their diet is made up primarily of bees and other flying insects, and their major hunting strategy involves hawking flying insects from perch.

For more information on birding safaris send us an email 



And finally….


Impala ISO125, F6.3 , 1/320

Now the hot dry season kicked in, many lagoons have run dry and at some places the Luangwa river has shrunk to a small seep. Temperatures in Zambia are extreme and the dry heat changes the land to become parched.

And while food is becoming more scares the animals adapt to different food sources available, the characteristic Sausage tree being one of them.

Hungry antelope eat the fallen flowers, and many animals among which baboons, zebra and even squirrels eat the large heavy sausage-shaped fruits.


Squirrel ISO320, F5.6 , 1/800

The sausage tree has many uses and even I use the cream when I get sunburned as an after sun lotion. And while nature takes care of us we are waiting for October to check in.