2015 in Review

08th January 2016

Many thanks to all my followers who have supported my activities in 2015; some of you have commented on photos, many have contributed to discussions on social media boards, and an increasing number have joined me on safari! Through all these contributions, 2015 has been my best year to date, and I’m most grateful to you all.



2015 Outlook
We started the year surrounded by doom and gloom in the African tourism trade. The global slow-down in China combined with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was predicted to hit the tourism sector hard. Happily, while the effect was felt by many in Zambia, South Luangwa’s reputation carried it through. Most importantly, the people of West Africa, who had suffered so much, were able to contain the outbreak so that many thousands more did not die.


Our First Photo Safari
Before the rains had even come to an end, we hosted a group of 10 Italian photographers who enjoyed some wonderful wildlife and the chance to muddy their shoes on several occasions – heavy rains accompanied the whole week and led to several vehicle rescue incidents, but the joyful mood always carried through!


Recce Trips
During May, I went on a recce trip to Liuwa Plains National Park in Western Zambia to scout the location for future photographic safaris. It turns out to be a paradise, and not just for photographers – the plain is created by the flood action of the upper Zambezi and is one of the most majestic locations I have ever visited. I am running safaris there in 2016, and I would highly recommend it.


A New Bushcamp
After Liuwa, I began helping a friend of mine to build his new bush camp – Nkhonzi Camp – which is set in the interior of the park along a beautiful sand river. Setting up a camp for the first time is a challenge in itself, but doing so while your wife is 8 months pregnant, more than 5000 miles away, was more than anyone should have to bear! Before he dashed off for the birth, we finished building a beautiful camp from where I led many safaris this year.


Short Visits to Luangwa
The most memorable of these safaris at Nkhonzi was perhaps a visit from Serge & Juliette, friends of guests who I had guided twice before. They only stayed 2 nights with us, hoping to fit in as much as possible during their short time in Zambia, but the Luangwa certainly did not disappoint; the most astounding quality of this park is how much it offers up in a very short time.


Family-time
There is something about having a young child which suddenly makes your parents very keen to visit! And so it was that my parents joined us for a couple of very hot weeks in September (Zambia was having some problems with power generation and we were often without electricity for many hours!). We spent most of the time outside, or on safari, so it mattered little.


New Private Safaris
Responding to demand from several single photographers, I launched a new range of private safari options which make the South Luangwa affordable to single photographers or photographers travelling in small groups of 2 or 3. These have proven extremely popular and I am rapidly filling space in 2016.

Hermann joined me from Germany for 5 days of high-drama in late September. Below are my photos, and here is Hermann's own review of the week:


Roger and Vicky, repeat guests and good friends, returned for their annual fix of wildlife and photography and were rewarded with the sighting of a lifetime – read more in the 2015 highlights below!


And Ken and Sandra returned to Flatdogs for another week of guiding with me which was the first time they’d ever re-visited a camp in many years of travels! Their company was wonderful and Luangwa was sure to show them some treats.


Sukey
Our daughter continues to love the bush, demanding to be ‘outdoor’ whenever we stay in the house more than a few minutes, and getting very excited at the prospect of our weekend safaris. “Daddy, effelant ova day-yer!” is regularly heard from the back seat of my safari vehicle, as was a very loud “big puss cat – meeeoooww” while we watched a leopard hunting one afternoon!


Africa Geographic
I was very pleased to start a business relationship with Africa Geographic Travel, the safaris arm of the highly respected Travel Magazine, to promote photographic safaris in the South Luangwa. We ran our first trip in October which sold out within days, and we are offering two trips in 2016. With the combined reputation and marketing power of AGT and my unique position as photographer and guide in Luangwa, I am looking forward to great things in the years to come.


ESPS Safaris Ltd
In the final days of 2015, the paperwork for the incorporation of my company came through! The business is registered as ESPS Safaris Ltd in Zambia and is the starting point for what I hope will be a long and happy time for us in the Luangwa.



2015 Highlights
I would like to end with a small selection of my highlights from this year – they are all wildlife-related, which I think is only right!!

1. Warthog with Porcupine Quills - in October, I came across a Warthog with a couple of porcupine quills embedded deeply in her rump! I suspect she had reversed quickly into her burrow to escape danger and found that a porcupine had taken up residence in there while she was out. This sharing of burrows is a common occurrence, so it's actually amazing that I hadn't seen it before!



2. Roger and Vicky’s Aardvark Sighting - this has to have been the sighting of the season. Not just an aardvark sighting, but a real sighting, where you can take photos, watch the animal and enjoy its presence, rather than the 3 seconds that you usually get with these elusive creatures!


3. 30 Minutes with a Leopard - and top of the list has to be a leopard who we spent over 30 minutes with in the most beautiful September sunshine. It is a sighting that I will never forget!



Kirstie, Sukey and I would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year, and all the best for 2016.



Ed

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