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Africa Geographic
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Shenton Safaris

Wildlife filmmakers, Will and Lianne, are no strangers to South Luangwa and Robin Pope Safaris’ Luangwa-based camps. They have visited on numerous occasions during different times of the year and each time they are privileged with fantastic sightings and new stories to tell. And with the preface, “One hasn’t quite experienced the Luangwa Valley until you see both the emerald green and the relentless dry,” this story needs to be told.

Like two kids in a candy store, here’s why Will and Lianne can’t get enough of Luangwa, particularly during the underrated emerald season:

Luangwa

For us as wildlife filmmakers it’s been a great privilege to have documented both seasons in the valley. And this year we once again returned to film the astonishing emerald season. There is something so striking and awe-inspiring about the lush, green world that just seems to overflow with exquisite beauty. It’s that time of year where threatening skies and sheets of lightning decorate the horizon from all angles.

That time of year where you slip and slide in the black cotton soil’s mud and 4×4 driving becomes one great adventure. It’s that time of year where life is plentiful and food is in abundance – a time of prosperity. You can see it in the impala herds leaping and stotting high in the air with such grace and agility, the antelope males sparring continuously to show their fitness and strength, and the elephants swimming joyfully in the full Luangwa River with only the tips of their trunks and tails appearing above the surface. Every animal is in great condition and every animal seems to thrive. Perhaps the birds most of all…

It is a great joy to film the flocks of red-billed buffalo weavers noisily building their nests in the blooming ancient baobab trees. The ground hornbill family delivering parcels to their single precious young that stays hidden in a hole of an ebony tree. The male jacana that takes sole care of its two chicks, protecting them as they hop along on the Nile cabbage of a lagoon. And you simply don’t know how to stop filming the hundreds of yellow-billed storks that return to Nsefu’s cluster of ebony trees each year to nest and raise their young all together.

bird-photography
© Will and Lianne Steenkamp
bird-in-flight
© Will and Lianne Steenkamp

Unlike the birds, this time of year the large carnivores are more elusive. Filming a leopard or a lion in this emerald green landscape is as magical as it is rare.

lion-in-luangwa
© Will and Lianne Steenkamp

But the large pack of wild dogs has shown itself time and time again. And as fit as the antelope may be, the dogs never fail to hunt successfully.

safari-in-Luangwa
© Will and Lianne Steenkamp

The adults have taken great care of the now nearly grown pups that easily keep up with their parents and join in the hunts. Always full of energy, they never cease the opportunity to chase a vulture or a hyena, and one another if no one else can be targeted. Being able to document this successful, thriving wild dog pack as a threatened species is a highlight for us as filmmakers.

photographing-wild-dogs
© Will and Lianne Steenkamp
wild-dog
© Will and Lianne Steenkamp

For having filmed extensive periods in the dry season and witnessing the toll it takes on many of its species, the emerald season is a pleasant opposite; a spectacle of all that is astonishing and beautiful. It’s a completely different world that shows Luangwa is not just harsh, it is paradise just the same. One hasn’t quite experienced the Luangwa Valley until you see both the emerald green and the relentless dry.”

So like the migrant birds arriving in droves this time of year, you too should flock to the valley and experience Luangwa at its greenest.

Ndumu River Lodge
Robin Pope Safaris

At Robin Pope Safaris we have one simple goal: to give our guests an amazing African safari holiday, experiencing the wonder of Africa's secluded wilderness, rich culture and outstanding wildlife, whilst staying in our lodges and safari camps in Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.