It’s Monday 19th July 2010 and a village safari

A few weeks ago I finally had the pleasure to meet the person responsible for our websites, David Marsh, who I’ve been working closely with since I joined in January this year and never had the chance to meet in person. David is an experienced traveller in Africa and decided to invite friends from his home village to experience his favourite places in Zambia. This week David will share his and his friend’s adventures from South Luangwa to Victoria Falls, passing through Lower Zambezi. Over to David:

…“For many years now I’ve been visiting Africa, and when I get back friends often say that they would love to go on safari. “Right”, I said, “let’s organise it”, and so it was that four couples, all from the same village near Oxford, England, arrived at Mfuwe airport to be met by Jacob and driven to Luangwa Safari House. Elephants, hippos, and a fishing party right outside the house, made a wonderful introduction, especially for my neighbours, for whom this was their first day in Africa.

After dinner at Luangwa Safari HouseElephants pass the bedroom

Luangwa Safari House is described as perfect for families and groups of friends. And indeed it was for us. Spacious, stylish and amazingly situated. Always with impala and puku in view, and often with giraffe and warthogs. Not to mention the elephants on the doorstep. We had several nights here, before a brief stay at Nsefu, with an opportunity to see a different part of the Park. Then we flew to Lower Zambezi to enjoy the contrasting experience of Chongwe River House.

Another fabulous setting, and such a funky house. This year the rains at the source of the Zambezi mean that the whole river is about one metre higher than normal, so the Chongwe River came right up to the steps of the house. But it also meant that we had a fabulous evening cruise up the river, way past the normal vehicle crossing point into the Park.

Chongwe River House reflectionsCrocodile on the Chongwe River

To finish, we went to Victoria Falls, and stayed on Sindabezi Island. Still the same exclusive feel – not just a house to ourselves, but a whole island. And by now any worries about creepy crawlies, or larger things bumping about in the night were firmly dismissed and we relished the hippos splashing in the river outside our rooms. At the end, we sat round the fire, watching the bush TV, with our self appointed fire monitor occasionally changing channels with a flick of a log, and recalled the highlights of the trip:

For Bill, the first highlight, for which we have no photograph, is the memory of watching a crocodile catching a fish right in the middle of the channel at the bottom of a gully we were about to cross, and then, as we crossed the water, realising that it had many friends lurking in the dark just waiting.

Bull elephant browsing from a winterthorn treeJuvenile pleasures

Alan loved the elephants, especially the big bulls. We watched one large bull at Nkwali devouring huge branches of winterthorn tree, and not just the foliage. Imagine trying to swallow a toothpick some three inches in diameter. Another provided a perfect photo-opportunity to bring out our juvenile sides, whilst the most dramatic was the huge bull, in full musth, greeting us at the front of Chongwe River House. The aroma lingered for a long while after he had passed.

Bull elephant in musth outside Chongwe River HouseBull elephant in musth outside Chongwe River House

Elephants were also a favourite for Bill, recalling the early morning crossing of a small herd returning to the park across the Luangwa in the “sweet morning light”.

For Sally the houses made an impact. “Loved the wow factor of Luangwa Safari House, and the 180 degree views”. Whereas Clare, enjoying her creature comforts, highlighted the views from the beds at all the locations. Everyone appreciated the very high standard of food everywhere. The familiar feeling of eating together as a group of friends, combined with the unfamiliarity of not having to prepare the food, was a particular delight! Phil said that nothing could beat the surprise bush breakfast in South Luangwa. Phil also enjoyed the Mongolian wok at Chongwe, and the fun provided by the Chongwe House dancers.

Bush BreakfastChongwe River House entertainment

Barbara loved the chance to meet such friendly Zambians; the staff, the guides and rangers, and people and kids we met at Kawaza School (also a highlight for Phil). Barbara was also, if truth be told, a little nervous about how close the lions came to the car and adopted Kefus, the ranger, as her special friend. Such a comfort, even though it turned out that the rifle was not loaded! Alan on the other hand, relished the proximity to the lions, especially as it was getting dark and seven lionesses padded silently past the car at the start of an evening’s hunt.

Kefus is between Barbara and the lionsStart of the evening hunt

Getting close to buffalo in tall grass was another special moment for everyone. Some of us had decided one evening to enjoy sundowners on the deck of the Luangwa Safari House. Normally a very good choice, but it was the night when Jacob was determined to find leopard, so for the lucky three of us, our highlight was a nocturnal leopard sighting.

BuffaloLeopard

Too much good food, and not enough exercise, is a frequent complaint from a safari, so chances to walk were special, and Bill enjoyed the adrenalin rush of following a leopard track in the bushes right outside Chongwe River House. Fresh leopard prints were clearly seen, plus the drag marks as it carried a small impala some 500 metres before stashing it away in a tree. Penny highlighted the chance of some real exercise when we climbed back up from the “Boiling Pot” at the bottom of the Victoria Falls.

Boiling pot at Victoria FallsTrying to explain snow at Kawaza school

Funniest moment was Alan trying to explain a skiing holiday to the children at Kawaza School. How do you start, even to describe snow? And the most philosophical was Sally, at Livingstone airport at the end of the safari: “The camps now say hello to the new people, and we become just an entry in the visitor’s book”. Well, the welcome for new people, including us, was warm and friendly, and the visitors book just didn’t have enough space to do justice to the enjoyment of the visit. ”

 

Have a wonderful week,

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