It is the greatest accolade for a guide to have repeat guests and it is not something that I ever take lightly. Ann is unusual in that she is not a photographer and has, even so, now travelled twice with me. (We are planning our third trip for next year at the moment!)

She joined my Pan-Zambia safari in July with her husband and two other guests. We had a fantastic time, and I’m really grateful to her for writing it up for me (and you!) here.

This is a personal trip report of this, our second trip with Ed, from the viewpoint of a non-photographer.

It may sound surprising for someone not into cameras to go on a trip with a photo guide but – my other half Iain is a keen (some would say obsessive) photographer and I am a keen wildlife watcher. Ed’s trips enable us both to have a great time and learn a lot. But be warned if you are expecting lots of discussion here about lenses, apertures and F stops you may be disappointed.

After arriving on our flight from UK we spent a relaxing day at the wonderful Latitude 15 hotel in Lusaka. We met up with Ed at the hotel and over the evening first Tony, and then Julie arrived – and our group was complete. It was quickly apparent that everyone would get on really well.

The next day, after a short flight from Lusaka to Jeki airstrip, we arrived in Lower Zambezi National Park. Anabezi Camp was all it promised to be – exceedingly comfortable, with great views of the river, superb food and excellent staff. And we were soon out on our first drive.

One of the reasons (perhaps even the main reason) that Ed is such a good photo guide – is that he is a great nature guide as well. That means he can spot opportunities worth checking out. I lost count of the number of times the vehicle would stop and after a quick look at the ground Ed would announce that lions/leopards had gone that way probably x hours earlier, or he would recognise the alarm call of a puku or baboon and know there was something worth checking out.

Once we were in the general area of something interesting, we would spend a lot of time just watching to see what was likely to pan out and then getting into the best position to see/photograph it – without having a negative impact on the animals. There were very few other vehicles around – often we were alone – and that improves sightings.

Highlights from Lower Zambezi for me were the wonderful leopards (with the two female cubs from two years ago still hanging around a bit with mum which was unusual behaviour) and the amazing wild dogs. We witnessed the start of a chase by the pack and then the behaviour after a kill. As ever though they were way too fast to follow on a chase! But the behaviour was fascinating – wild dogs really do show team working at its best.

And lots of elephants!

We then travelled to Lion Camp in South Luangwa NP. We had been there last year on our previous trip so we knew what to expect. It was as good as ever.

As well as lions, we were keen to renew our acquaintance with Chip the leopard and her now nearly fully grown cubs. We were not disappointed. The cubs are now increasingly independent and it will be interesting to see how the behaviours change over the coming months as they reach full maturity. For now, they all seem to tolerate each other without being overtly friendly. We watched the female cub high in the trees that the baboons had been ‘roosting’ in overnight. Just making it known that she was actually the boss but she would let them stay there – for now. Then she came down the tree and there was a really neat greeting with her brother.

But it isn’t all mammals. There was fascinating bird behaviour to see as well – from the fish eagles, through the lilac breasted rollers and the amazing sight of tens of thousands of quelea forming amazing shapes as they swirled over the grass – which of course attracted the falcons.

After 4 days in Lion Camp we had a long day’s travel to Busanga Bush Camp in Kafue NP. This was a very different landscape – and climate (early mornings were decidedly chilly!) flooded earlier in the year then as the water recedes islands and channels are left. This gives lots of opportunities for viewing – but frustratingly sometimes means you can’t get close when there is a channel in the way (although temporary ‘bespoke’ bridges miraculously appeared as the water went down thanks to the hard work of the guys at the camp!). But as the early morning sun rises there is the potential for beautiful mists to appear. Great scope for photography especially with the lechwe antelopes jumping the channels and creating water splashes as well. (And beautiful to just watch….).

Busanga Bush Camp is very comfortable – how do they produce such food out in the middle of a plain? Isaac Kalio our guide shared his extensive knowledge with us and was incredibly entertaining. Along with Ed he kept this non photographer on her toes by checking I had seen the interesting behaviour a few hundred metres away – too far for a photographer but great with my trusted binoculars.

There were lots of lions – including cubs to be seen. Initially the two main males were ‘heard but not seen’ – although Isaac had informed us that, judging by the visible paw prints they had wandered through the camp one night. But then we finally found first Mohawk and then finally the General.

On our final morning we woke up to be told that two of the lionesses and their 6 cubs were actually literally in front of the camp. What a start to a day – breakfast with lions!

Having said I wasn’t going to talk about photography – I will! Inevitably when your partner is a photographer you do pick up a lot of information. I could see Ed assessing how best to help each of the photographers individually, talking about composition and positioning as well the technical aspects. And adjusting his advice to suit each photographer. But he also never forgot that I wasn’t a photographer and patiently told me about the animals and their behaviours and answered all my questions.

Sadly, all too soon it was time to fly back to Lusaka for our flight home.

So, if you are the partner/friend of a keen photographer wondering if these trips were right for you then I would definitely say that if you are interested in watching the amazing wildlife, learning loads along the way then the answer is ‘yes’. My one piece of advice is to beg, borrow, steal or buy a decent set of binoculars for your trip – so much happens at a distance that they are an essential piece of kit for the avid non-photographer. But one advantage is that, unlike photographers, your memories do not rely on hardware – or the correct light! And they can’t be spoiled by ‘operator error’ or inadvertently deleted……

Hopefully we will back for another trip with Ed next year – when who knows I may even take up this photography thing – it does look fun……… 🙂

With thanks to Tony, Julie and Iain – here are just a few photos to give a flavour of what we saw on our trip. Ann

Image from pan-zambia photo safari by iain brownlee
Image of ‘Mohawk’ jumping a flooded channel in Kafue, from pan-Zambia photo safari by Iain Brownlee

Image from pan-zambia photo safari by iain brownlee
Wild dogs on the hunt, from pan-Zambia photo safari by Iain Brownlee

Image from pan-zambia photo safari by iain brownlee
Elephants in the ebony grove, an image from pan-Zambia photo safari by Iain Brownlee

Image from pan-zambia photo safari by julie mitchell
A pile of lion cubs in Busanga, from pan-Zambia photo safari by Julie Mitchell

Image from pan-zambia photo safari by julie mitchell
Taonga stalking a hyaena in South Luangwa from pan-Zambia photo safari by Julie Mitchell

Image from pan-zambia photo safari by julie mitchell
A favourite from pan-Zambia photo safari by Julie Mitchell

Image from pan-zambia photo safari by tony weston
High key lioness image from pan-Zambia photo safari by Tony Weston

Image from pan-zambia photo safari by tony weston
Stunning sight of a lechwe ram in the mist from pan-Zambia photo safari by Tony Weston

Image from pan-zambia photo safari by tony weston
Young leopard in Lower Zambezi, from pan-Zambia photo safari by Tony Weston