I have just finished a safari with Clive & Sue Ferreira from South Africa who booked their safari with Africa Geographic Travel. They hoped for the great wildlife sightings and remote seclusion offered by the Nsefu Sector, and I believe that Luangwa delivered on both!

Just before I start a new safari again tomorrow – this time with a cameraman shooting video rather than stills – here’s a run-through of the highlights of this trip!

An eland bull runs right to left in mopane forest, South Luangwa National Park.
Leaving camp on our first morning, I spotted the back end of a large antelope heading away from us in the mopane woodland. Hoping that it might be an eland, I drove a long route around and tried to intercept it! Luckily enough I guessed correctly and it crossed the road right where I stopped the vehicle. I managed one shot of it running through the forest before it was gone, with long-legged strides.

A heavily back-lit baboon profile silhouette on safari in South Luangwa.
Heading back along the Kauluzi floodplain, I saw that a shaft of light was hitting the edge of a drainage channel, and the nearby baboons were illuminated in a very special way. Suggesting to my guests to underexpose heavily we managed to capture rim-lit primates in an interesting way. These are some of my favourite photos from the trip.

Tightly bunched elephants form a protective herd around the youngsters.
The smell of a nearby hyaena kill, and the sounds that the carnivores were making, caused alarm amongst this elephant herd. They rapidly bunched tightly around the youngsters and held ears out, listening intently to gather more information. Choosing a shallow depth of field here accentuates the feeling that the calf is protected among a large herd.

A lilac-breasted roller takes flight from a small twig.
Trying to catch brightly coloured birds when they take flight is always a fun activity on safari. This time around, the roller co-operated and flew in the right direction and parallel to us. Using a fast shutter speed and smaller aperture of f8 gives a better chance that you will end up with an image that is sharp and in focus!

Dust-bathing elephants approach the photographer in soft evening light of South Luangwa.
There is nowhere that boasts more elephants in Luangwa than the Nsefu Sector. We find breeding herds and bull groups on almost every corner. Lunga Lagoon is one of the best areas of all, and on this afternoon, herds were streaming past and through the lagoon on all sides. This backlit group gave us excellent chances to show off the dust cloud that they made when tossing dust on their backs.

Two bull elephants play in the shallow waters of Lunga Lagoon, South Luangwa National Park
Surrounded by cattle egrets seeking displaced insects, these two bull elephants met in the middle of Lunga lagoon. First they greeted with the customary “trunk-in-mouth” gesture and then they playfully chased each other in the shallow water.

A bull elephant walks briskly towards water in South Luangwa National Park.
One of the bulls’ colleagues pursues him down the bank to the water, momentarily framing himself under the branches of a sausage tree.

Crowned Cranes walk through golden grass in the early morning of a Nsefu Sector day.
One early morning trip to the Nsefu Salt Pans gave us several special encounters, including these two Crowned Cranes in the soft morning light…..

Buffalo bulls eye us from the shallow water of the Nsefu Hot Springs in South Luangwa.
…..a couple of buffalo bulls coming to drink……

Nervous to approach the water in case of nearby predators, this group of Zebra kept their distance from the water.
….and some wary zebra who refused to approach the water while watched nearby!

A flock of Crowned Cranes fly right to left across a dead mopane tree at the Nsefu Salt Pans in South Luangwa.
But for me, best of all is the daily arrival of hundreds of Crowned Cranes, flocking in from the surrounding grassland to feed on the insects and seeds of the salt pan surroundings. Choosing to turn this shot to a moody monochrome is a new departure for me.

An impala in stripy surroundings of South Luangwa
Before heading back to camp after a successful morning I noticed the stripy surroundings of this lone impala male and we stopped to snap a shot. I had been helping Clive with back-button “focus and recompose” techniques which we were useful in this situation when I had just a moment to snap the shot before the impala dropped his head again.

Greater Kudu family stands briefly for a portrait in South Luangwa.
Heading out in the area around Zikomo that afternoon, we found a family of Greater Kudu who looked very striking in the sharp afternoon light. Some animals which have soft contrasting coats can be photographed when the light is bright…..kudu can, for example; elephants cannot!

A young lioness stands up among low-level shrubs to scout the surroundings for prey.
We located the Nsefu pride – a group of 9 lions found regularly around the southern part of the Nsefu Sector. They were lazing around while it was hot, occasionally raising their heads to look around or make eyes at a passing antelope….

Lioness scanning for prey in South Luangwa National Park
……but as the light fell, they rose, stretched and began to hunt more seriously. As darkness arrived, we followed their hunt (with a red filter on our spotlight) and watched as a female launched herself onto the back of a hippo which had just emerged from the water. The rest of the pride clearly thought she was mad as they made no attempt to join! Later, they fanned out and surrounded a puku but narrowly missed catching it.

Soft light on a pair of white-fronted bee-eaters in South Luangwa.
Thin clouds one morning created the perfect conditions for bird photography – bright, low-contrast light. We made full use of it, spending half-an-hour with a flock of bee-eaters who were hawking for insects from various perches.

A rarely-seen moment of tenderness between a female warthog and her piglet (wartlet?)
We also observed a rarely-seen moment of tenderness between a female warthog and her piglet (wartlet?)

Elephants feed along the margins of lunga lagoon in nsefu sector.
Elephants have sundowners snacks and drinks along Lunga lagoon late one afternoon. Including the tree on the top left of the image adds balance to the frame.

A cow elephant reaches for the leaves of a sausage tree in South Luangwa NP.
Fine light one morning, combined with the chance to photograph elephants in the forests always makes me happy! In this case, it was a cow who was tall enough to reach the new growth on the lower branches of the Sausage trees. Choosing a wide aperture ensures the background trees add context without competing with the outline of the elephant.

An alert giraffe looks at the camera from under the canopy of a Sausage tree.
The stunning light continued in the afternoon, giving us diffused sunshine for this giraffe under a Sausage tree canopy.

A herd of elephants cross the river towards the camera, drinking as they go, in South Luangwa.
Elephants often cross the river towards Kasikizi lagoon in the afternoons. The light was poor at this stage, but we managed to get in a good position to watch the crossing and hear the splashing of their legs in the water!

Backlit leopard crossed in front of a vehicle in South Luangwa.
Clive had been very keen on backlighting from the start – and was very pleased with the baboon encounter earlier in the week – but of course, a backlit leopard would be the holy grail. On our last evening, an opportunity presented itself and we were able to use the spotlight from another vehicle to provide a great rim-light around our subject. Clive’s photos are great!

Elephant bulls play fight on the sandbank in front of camp early in the morning.
Our last morning had a couple of nice treats for us. A couple of bull elephants playing on the sand in the pink light…….

A leopard scours the plains for a meal in the South Luangwa.
……and a tree-climbing leopard who momentarily looked out over the bush behind us before climbing down and wandering off into the bush!

I will be back in the Nsefu Sector in a couple of weeks’ time, and again several times later this year. I am also taking a lot of bookings for Zikomo and the Robin Pope Safaris camps in Nsefu for next year already. It looks as if I will be spending a lot more time in this magic area in the coming years! If you would like to join me, get in touch.