Planes, Buses and Automobiles

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Zambia
30th September, 2009
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We’re not having much luck with transport on this trip. Yesterday morning on the way to the airport (for our transfer to Kafue National Park) we had asked the hotel to book a minibus for all our equipment. However the receptionist had forgotten and so we were left in the hands of a Zambian minibus driver. He turned up asking to copy the music from our laptop onto his flash drive (we all looked bemused), a fuel tank on empty, drove at 120kmph as the bus lurched from one side to the other and then thought it was a great idea to pull into a bus garage to pick up more passengers. Nick the producer completely lost it and shouted at the poor fellow.

Then we took a flight from Lusaka to Kafue National Park on an islander plane. The thing was tiny and didn’t exactly fill me with faith. Once in the air the ride was a bit bumpy, but overall not too bad. But then we hit a bit of turbulence and the plane dropped. We all bumped our heads on the ceiling and Luke has been worrying about it ever since. The flight back should be fun.


And finally today we were driving in our highly sophisticated 4×4/safari hybrid car when we hit a huge ditch in the road. I was so busy swatting away the pestering Tutsi flies (they’ve followed us everywhere out in the African bush) that I failed to hold onto the vehicle and went crashing forward. I flew into a metal bar and bashed my cheek quite badly and cut my fingers. I think from now on I’ll put up with the tiny little blood suckers and hold on.

On a final note I would like to commend our driver in Lusaka, Geoff, who has been an absolute godsend. He is a great chap and has worked extremely hard ferrying us from place to place. And he has also managed to make us laugh with his very dry sense of humour and taste in music – the biggest Chris de Burgh fan in Africa. Thanks Geoff.

Elephant Orphanage

by Luke, in Zambia
30th September, 2009
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Baby elephants exude such personality and character that it’s impossible not to like them instantly. The David Shepherd Foundation are sponsoring and supporting Game Rangers International in a project to run the one and only Zambian elephant orphanage and I had the privilege of meeting the incredibly committed and dedicated people who are running it. They are making a stand to champion and protect these magnificent animals in Kafue National Park and I really take my hat off to Sport, Rachel, James and their team who are tirelessly working to nuture and rehabilitate three orphaned baby elephants in the remote Zambian bush.


The set up is very rustic and unlike the other elephant institutions I’ve visited in Kenya, Thailand and India, it was inspirational to see how much drive they putting into getting the place established. Sport is training anti-poaching units to work alongside ZAWA to safeguard the animals whilst Rachel is the primary carer of the elephants and the programme which will eventually see them reintegrated back into the wild.


James, who flew out with us yesterday was one of the founders of the camp and once the initial introductions had been made and the grogginess of a 4.30am start had worn off, I really warmed to their team and was introduced to their world in the camp and meet the resident baby elephants who were simply a real joy to be around.

Adam hopefully got some great footage – the camera packed up for about two hours midway through the morning but thankfully started to work again after a small rest and we all got bitten to pieces by huge Tetse flies that swarmed the back of the truck. Aside from hitting a huge bump on the track and Bruce bending a metal bar with his cheek (he must have titanium in his bones – got to watch him, he’s a dark horse), we all had a great day and very much enjoyed it.

The only other interlude was that I had to write a big report on the dead buffalo found yesterday for the Director General of the Zambian Wildlife Authority and Man U are playing tonight which means Bruce and Adam are firmly entrenched in front of the only TV in the lodge. I look forward to being dazzled with some hard hitting football facts tomorrow…

Elephant Safari

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Zambia
1st October, 2009
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Traveling out into the bush has been a joy and definitely a great way to finish the shoot. This morning we went on a drive safari in an effort to get some beautiful shots of elephants, buffalo, hippopotamus and hopefully some lions. What did we end up getting? Nothing. When the highlight of a four-hour drive is some pelicans circling above the vehicle and some wildebeest running around as specks in the guide’s binoculars you know it hasn’t been a very productive session.

But the afternoon proved much better as on our way to the airstrip to meet the helicopter we ran into a bull (as in male) elephant. And we got the full works as it flapped its ears, sounded its trunk and gave mock charges towards the car. All in all it was a bit scary seeing a massive creature like that charging towards the back of an open safari vehicle. You feel quite helpless, because if it did feel like challenging you there would be only one winner.

After our little meeting with our large friend we ventured on to finish the shoot in style with some glorious helicopter shots. The wildlife came out in force and we got sweeping views of herds of buffalo and marching elephants. Nick the producer was enjoying the moment running around like some extra from Airwolf.

The Need for Speed

by Luke, in Zambia
1st October, 2009
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Adam made it very clear I wasn’t to make any quips today or do anything that could delay the helicopter. Tough one because I was feeling hilarious. The morning game drive revealed plenty more Tetse flies and several fish eagles, but that was about it. Apparently there were some wildebeest and zebra on the horizon but they could have been pretty much anything considering they were so far away. My money is on James having duped us all into visiting the only African National Park that rates a pelican as its most dangerous resident.


The helicopter shoot was a big deal. A lot of pressure to get it right and it involved James and I charging about in the four wheel drive under the direction of a moderately stressed production team. A slight technical hitch with the main helicopter camera didn’t help but we finally found something larger than a pelican and drove straight into the middle of about 150 elephants. The helicopter missed this of course but luckily James was totally reassured throughout as I was behind the wheel and have been on a safari before when on honeymoon Loaded with experience to deal with virtually any situation in the African bush, James whispered to me that he had a feeling of disquiet about our predicament. Thankfully I’ve also played the Need for Speed once and we made it out just fine. Got to be in it to win it.

Elephants galore – we also got charged by a lone male elephant (we had a proper driver during this bit which was a relief) – spectacular. It was only a warning – something to do with the ears sticking out apparently. James is a specialist in ears and trunks.

Aerials over Kafue National Park

by Adam the Cameraman, in Zambia
1st October, 2009
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Spent the day in a helicopter filming aerials over the park with a Cineflex. Incredible. It was like watching a 3D of Planet earth!

We had just under two hours of flying time to get everything that we needed to film. Everything had to be planned with the Pilot, with Dave the Cineflex operator, Luke, the elephant orphanage, the park rangers etc.


We started by filming Luke and James from the elephant orphanage, driving around, stopping and looking at wildlife, then we turned off and filmed some wilder beasts and zebras, which were running around like headless chickens, one way this and one way that. Despite being quite high up, the noise of the chopper was disturbing the animals. We couldn’t go any higher as the helicopter was to heavy and the winds were too strong.


We spotted a herd of elephants alongside the road to the airstrip; there were about a hundred or so. It was incredible. To think the amount of times we had driven along that road knowing there were elephants there, yet  we couldn’t spot them for the dense burnt trees.

Once we had elephants in the can, we veered north towards the lake. The idea was to head towards where we had filmed the dead buffaloes, but fuel was going fast and we didn’t want to miss out filming Luke at the elephant orphanage.  So we circled around and got some shots of some hippos ducking into the water, some impala’s and buffalo and headed back south to the elephant orphanage.


When you’re up in the air over the park you begin realize its size. It stretches for miles in to the horizon. absolutely stunning. What a privilege to have been able to do and see that!


Packed Like Sardines in a Tin Box

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Zambia
2nd October, 2009
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The final day of filming and it has been another epic day. We had an early start with a flight back to Lusaka on the Islander plane. It all went ok this time, no mid-air mishaps, although we were all a bit apprehensive on the approach to the runway as we’d been told that radar was down and there had been a number of near-miss collisions.

We rounded off the shoot with revisits to Richard to see how he was getting on at LAWS, and a final check up on some puppies that Luke had previously worked on. It all went smoothly.

But then we returned to the hotel only to discover somebody had been through our bags, whislt we had been away the past three days. I’m not sure about the other guys, but I’ve lost a pair of trainers and my not very old ipod. I’m pretty annoyed.

The last part of the shoot has been completing the helicopter shots back in Lusaka. And Luke driving was the order of the day. Unfortunately for Nick (the producer), Geoff (our driver) and myself this meant hiding in the back of the van out of shot. We were lying down like three stiff corpses or sardines in a tin box… Not exactly my finest moment in TV.

The last day!

by Luke, in Zambia
2nd October, 2009
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Unbelievable – all that trekking about yesterday and seeing absolutely no game compared with a twenty minute drive to the airport this morning and seeing a large pack of wild dog – I wanted to get out the truck and take my chances with them rather than face the ‘vomit comet’ ride back in the Islander plane. Needless to say I didn’t (which is probably just as well) and despite my inherent fear about hopping up beside Brendan the pilot for the return journey, he did a great job and got us back to Lusaka without incident.

Great end to the trip, back at the shelter to revisit all the animals and people we had left a week ago. Whilst Cherry, Twinkle and the pups are unforgettable, it will be Richard’s story that will really stick with me. When we arrived at LAWS, he was dressed in his uniform and scrubbing out the kennels. He had arrived early for work because he didn’t want to miss us and say goodbye. He had a big smile on his face and I was really happy to see him. I wish him the very best and Sue said he had fitted in incredibly well and the other guys like him.


The last day of any trip is always a bit of a strange one. We are all pretty tired, looking forward to going home and seeing our respective families but will nevertheless invariably miss the charity we’ve been working with over such an intense couple of weeks. LAWS is no exception. The goodbye meal was so warm and genuine, the people great company and the charity is a special one. It has been a fantastic adventure and Zambia is a wonderful country. I really look forward to staying in touch with all the great people I’ve met and it’s been an absolute winner to have visited them.