Walking Safaris – Zambia

April 9th, 2011, posted in travel, Wildlife

Walking safaris are a personal favourite. Nothing beats being on foot in the bush. Apart from sitting at the camp or lodge and listening to the sound of the African bush, walking is the only other time you as a visitor get to be actively listening for bird song, frog calls, branches breaking or grunts. There is a constant adrenalin rush, there is always something new to discover and a far richer experience to take home than what a game drive can offer.

I have an adventurous family and my Aunt and Uncle though smitten with Africa’s wildlife, still want a bit of luxury, privacy and good food. They too enjoy wild walking trails and since I am the one making suggestions as to where they should travel to next, I had to also find a suitable lodge that catered for their interests in all ways.

I found a venue in South Luangwa, Zambia.

Puku

$550 per person per night for 3 nights inclusive of 2 walks per day, three meals a day, soft drinks, local wines and local spirits, national park fees and a laundry service.

For wildlife enthusiasts wanting to see more than the normal plains game, there are Puku, Thorncroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s Wildebeest and Crawshay’s Zebra. Since there is a concentration of wildlife in the South Luangwa National Park, there are also predators in the form of lion, leopard, crocodile and on the rare occasion – wild dog.

The game trails often lead guests to places with far-reaching views and finding some of the 400 species of birds will prove to be a lot easier along the river banks or islands that are reached by canoe.

For a bit of a colonial treat, trailists are accompanied by a tea bearer!

You’ll have plenty sightings of hippo and elephant and you’ll be on foot most of the time, so your experience will be as close to an authentic safari as you will ever get.

Cooksons Wildebeest

Crawshays Zebra

Thorncrofts Giraffe

November at Mvuu

March 15th, 2011, posted in Climate & Weather, travel

The end of November is the end of the tourist season, with the number of insects on the increase as the air temperatures increase.

It’s 06h00 – just after sunsrise and already it is 24ºC (ºF). The ground is dry, thirsty and begging for rain. Sleep is hard to come by – the air you breathe is hot and trying to home-school Joshua has become a 06h30-08h30 rush – his concentration drops with every degree the mercury climbs! He’s in the pool at least 4 times a day – his little body needs all the help it can to prevent heat-stroke and of course we can easily drink 2 litres of water and still need something more – which when juice and sodas come to our rescue!

Breeding herd of elephants in camp

It’s a pleasure to watch the elephants come into camp for their daily mud-bath – its so crazy how relaxed they are, drenching themselves with mud to help keep them cool and I’m starting to wonder if that may be a better option than sunblock?

Elephant bull at Mvuu lodge

The fishing is still good and we’ve just hosted a team from the TV series, WildFly and Inside angling – super men who fished from sunrise to sunset every day, with them was Chris Bladen who only fly-fished, no compromise – no bait, no spinners, only flies! Yes the 2010 season has been quite an adventure, meeting people from around the world, making new friends and learning much from the creatures that inhabit the Lower Zambezi Valley as well as its visitors.

Chris Bladen

Chris Bladen's Marlin

River cruise into the Lower Zambezi National Park

November 7th, 2010, posted in travel

sunrise-on the way to the park

We left at sunrise for our river safari into the Lower Zambezi National Park…

Just after paying our park fees we saw lions, 2 lionesses – it was Joshua’s first sighting of lions and what a treat we had! We then slowly made our way down stream, marveling at the large number of birds on the islands and trying to remember the names of the islands as Justin, our guide named them.

lioness-sighting on the bank

The sun got a bit higher and my men-folk’s tummy’s started rumbling so we stopped on an island for a cup of tea and a muffin! I must interrupt the safari at this point to mentions the ISLAND RULES!

The Zambezi River is a wonderful river with the deep-water channel being the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Tourists are asked to remain on the correct side of mutual islands, but only to alight on islands that fall within the country’s boundary – so, its best you take a river safari with a licensed guide that knows which islands belong to which country and then which islands are safe to venture out on as some have large herds of buffalo and I’m told but did not witness that there is even an island on which lion live….

zambezi islands

Tummy’s satisfied we continued down the Zambezi River, watching elephant along the shoreline and marveling at bee-eater colonies and the ever changing vegetation!! I think that’s what makes a river safari so different – it’s a smooth relaxing ride, with no/few tse-tse flies and great sightings of wildlife!

hippo pod

ground hornbills

buffalo sighting 100+

Time flew and then we stopped for a picnic lunch before heading out to a spot to try our hand at catching Chessa…

Pieter, Justin and Joshua did very well, whereas I only caught 1! You’ll see from the pictures the delight in Joshua’s face and excitement at catching his first fish in the Zambezi! We now look forward to try Tiger fishing these same waters…

fishing for chessa

Joshua catches a Chessa


Our day came to an end, but before we reached camp, our good-bye present from the Lower Zambezi National Park was another sighting of Lions – this time a male and female, there they were on the shore of the Zambezi River lion and lioness and I just had marvel at the exceptional day we had all had. What a blessing!

Pieter fishing the Zambezi waters

Lion and lioness

Mystery at dusk

September 26th, 2010, posted in Climate & Weather, Creatures Great & Small

Just after sunset as the cooler night air began to flow into camp, the still September air was suddenly filled with sound of raindrops. There is no rain in the Lower Zambezi Valley during the hot dry months of September and October but there was no doubt about what I could hear – it was the sound of raindrops on the dry leaves that had been blown off the trees by the August winds.

I stepped out from under the thatched lounge area to feel the raindrops but instead felt nothing and only heard the rustle of leaves under my feet. The sound of raindrops hitting the ground stopped and now I was mystified! The following afternoon, just after sunset it happened again…

Pieter identified the tree that grows there as a “Rain Tree”, Lonchocarpus capassa . Early the next morning, I went to have a look at what the raindrops could have been but could not see anything. A few days later, to my delight there were thousands of tiny purple-blue flowers on the ground of which I have a picture to show you and for those interested, it’s not the flowers that are referred to as rain, but water from an insect…

“Many Africans are very superstitious about L. capassa for it is one of the so-called rain trees, and some specimens do ‘rain’ for a week or more during the hot dry months just prior to the actual breaking of the rains. This phenomenon is found in other unrelated genera and in this case is caused by the numph of a small insect, a species of frog-hopper, Ptyelus grossus, belonging to the order Hemiptera. As a protection against the sun, the nymph covers itself with a frothy substance similar to patches of foam, popularly called ‘cuckoo-spit’, caused by common, closely related species. The insects obtain nourishment by piercing the bark of the tree with their sucking mouth parts (stylets) and sucking up the sap at great speed. They eject almost pure water equally fast, and this drips from the tree in sufficient quantity to form pools on the ground below…

flowers from Loncocarpus

Why I like the cool dry season

August 20th, 2010, posted in travel

Aside from the romantic part of cuddling up to your loved one, sitting around a fire and drinking wine for as long as you want to without insects bugging you, there is very little discomfort…

I’ve just had the luxury of taking a bath in Luxury tent 7 (us manager’s need to check the condition of the rooms at times.. wink, wink). It was early evening and I heard the grunt of a leopard, nightjars singing the sun a lullaby and the rustle of leaves through the trees – there is no substitute for the sounds of nature and no health/beauty spa could have offered me a better option, that’s for sure!

The weather from mid May to mid August is variable to some degree with more wind in August and cooler nights in June, but each month have a nature-lover’s reason to invite you to the Lower Zambezi Valley… the animals that wonder through the camps, and all the sounds like the lions roaring, elephant trumpeting, hippo honking, baboon barking and genets screeching – these are some of the sounds I hear almost every night here at Mvuu Lodge …

The crazy-awesome Lower Zambezi

July 30th, 2010, posted in travel

It’s crazy-awesome staying in the Lower Zambezi Valley, I’m guaranteed of hearing Elephants every day and seeing Hippo at least once every 24 hours! I get to see vervet monkeys, samango monkeys and chacma baboons almost every day and I gaze out onto the Zambezi River every meal time.

The best part about my work is that I get to learn from the local Zambians whilst I assist them to improve their learned skills and natural talents! It’s all just a life we live that forms a part of our skills transfer programme.

The interesting part about spending time at Mvuu Lodge whilst we assist the staff working here, is meeting such a variety of people, those wanting to camp, those wanting to self-cater and those wanted to live the good life and stay in the tents with ensuite bathrooms and have meals prepared for them!

I’ve been surprised at the number of foreign travelers who simply hire a 4X4 vehicles in Lusaka and get going, arriving here without a booking and spending 3-4 nights exploring the Zambezi river, the surrounding Game management area and the Lower Zambezi National Park. It seems even the first-time-to-Africa German tourists get the hang of driving in four-wheel drive pretty quickly out here, patiently waiting for elephants who seem to wonder into the road and taking countless photographs of the numerous butterflies flying around at the moment.

I’ll wonder to the deck in a few minutes, have a cup of Zambian coffee and rest my soul before welcoming our next group of campers due in an hours time…

Mvuu – our new home

July 11th, 2010, posted in travel

We have only been here at Mvuu Lodge for a week and already it has crept into our hearts! The river is still full at the moment and early in the mornings and late in the afternoons it has a calming effect even though it is flowing at 12km/hour!!!

The Zambian people are very friendly and we look forward to meeting and working along side them in the days to come…

We have learnt not only to shine our torch along the path but all around as hippo and elephant tend to roam in between the lodgings at night and although we have not yet seen the hyena, she and her cub have left tracks as evidence of a visit.

So far I’ve heard lion, hyena, baboon and owls at night, but Pieter has heard the low rumble of elephants and the grunt of a leopard!!

Here’s a pic of what I see whilst downloading e-mails and updating bushtrail blogs!!!

The Zambezi River, filling its banks near Mvuu, Lower Zambezi

Zim on the rebound

June 24th, 2010, posted in travel

We had a great week in Zimbabwe, but unfortunately there are still some people a bit nervous about going into President Mugabe’s land. We hope to blog next (with photo’s) of our fun time In Victoria Falls, but for now, you’ll have to do with this pic we took of a very full Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side and a very interesting document that was sent to me today!

Zimbabwe to Record Top Growth!

The Travel & Tourism Economic Impact report for 2010 released by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), states Zimbabwe will become the third fastest growing country on its travel and tourism economy’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), buoyed by a stable political environment and the spin-offs from the World Cup, growing by 9,4% this year.

The report estimates that between 2011 and 2020, Zimbabwe will record annual growth rates of 8,7%, trailing China as the fastest growing tourism economy.

The report was done by WTTC in conjunction with Oxford Economics, a leading economic forecasting consultancy firm. Adrian Cooper, Oxford Economic MD, said the forecast growth was premised on the normalisation of the environment, allowing local businesses to grow. Since the formation of the inclusive government last year, the business environment has improved significantly and restored morale could lead to much higher productivity.

The UNWTO mission responded to a request from Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Walter Mzembi (MP), to assess the current state of tourism in Zimbabwe and identify areas for supportive action. UNWTO’s support for the re-emergence of Zimbabwe as a major African Tourism Centre underscored the special role of tourism in poverty alleviation and job creation, particularly in small and medium enterprises.

A strong commitment was received at all levels of the public and private sector to promote tourism as a key element of renewed national economic development and much of the underlying infrastructure and product remains in place with the challenge being regeneration.

Soccer fans coming to Southern Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup present a unique opportunity to attract visitors to Zimbabwe with millions more tuning in through multimedia, which is a great opportunity to spotlight Zimbabwe’s tourism product, particularly the world-renowned Victoria Falls.
UNWTO will explore how to help tourism in Zimbabwe in a number of basic areas such as capacity building, community tourism, brand development, statistics, issues around 2010 preparedness, strengthening competitiveness, national park conservation and how Victoria Falls can successfully transform to the green economy.

Bench International has launched a fly-in Zimbabwe safari, on the back of returning consumer confidence in the destination. The wholesaler’s chairman, Mike Kirkland, said gradual growth in the market during 2009 took a leap in the last three months with Zimbabwe becoming the second most popular of the 15 countries to which Bench sent Australian travellers.

Many lodges and destinations are reopening to tourists, helped by an improvement in the Zimbabwe economy, resulting from the switch from the Zimbabwe dollar to foreign currencies such as the South African rand, Botswana pula and the United States dollar.

Kirkland said that traffic to Zimbabwe for the last quarter had amounted to 13% of Bench’s sales, consisting of both group and independent traffic. He added: “What is more significant is that many of the itineraries included areas of Zimbabwe other than Victoria Falls. There has been a significant return of interest in places like Hwange National Park and Lake Kariba, where the legendary Bumi Hills property has been re-built.”

Ross Kennedy, Chief Executive of Africa Albida Tourism (AAT), who markets and manages the Bumi Hills property says: “The currency switch has changed everything, and there’s a sense that the challenges Zimbabwe has faced as a nation over the past 10 years have passed. It’s a destination people once again should be selling.”

Kennedy added: “Because of its remoteness – nearly 900km from the capital Harare – Victoria Falls has been largely isolated from political problems and has always been a popular and safe stepping-off point to destinations around the falls, for Botswana’s Chobe National Park, home to Africa’s largest elephant population, and whitewater rafting activities on the Zambezi.”
Kennedy said with the Zimbabwe National Tourism body having limited funds, it was reliant on the private sector to try and build interest, such as tourism establishments and operators, promoting the country to the fantastic destination it once was.

So, here’s to many future bookings in Zimbabwe!

Why arrive earlier at the airstrip?

June 16th, 2010, posted in travel, Wildlife

Why should you arrive earlier at the airstrip?

When we book fly-in safaris it is either to save the guests travel time, to allow the guests to experience the area by air, or simply because the roads are so bad it could ruin the experience!

Two weeks ago we were on our way to the Royal airstrip in the Lower Zambezi valley when our transfer came to stop as a beautiful male leopard walked across the road…

Leopard walks across the road

So we stop and watch him rather than rush to catch a flight!

The bottom line _______ even in rural Africa, in the bush without traffic, you may want to leave a little earlier than you need to, you never know what you might see along the way!

When Black-Jacks became beautiful

May 21st, 2010, posted in Flora

I gasped at their beauty.  Never before had I seen common Black-jacks so beautiful!

Bidens pilosa

I had woken early that morning, my mind buzzing with the things that had to be done in preparation for my brother’s birthday party.  It was exciting, as finally my months, weeks and days of planning would evolve from my imagination and become a creative reality!

Pieter accepted coffee from me at 05h30 and to settle my excitement, he took me for a birding walk, the air was crisp with a cool breeze blowing, we listening to the early morning bird songs and walked amongst the tall red thatching grass watching stone chats and wax bills, robins and weavers living a free life.

We turned a corner and there in front of me was the most beautiful sight, surprisingly not an animal, nor a bird, but Bidens pilosa, the common Black-jack. The fine silhouette of its burrs made this weed attractive which was also thought provoking…  I thought about how often I had grumbled to myself about these obnoxious weeds, how I had spent hours picking the black, needle-like burrs out of my socks, off my sons trousers as well as off my husband’s jersey.  The Black-jacks had often ruined a relaxing walk by making me pluck their burrs that had caught on our clothing off, taking care to throw them into the dustbin to prevent further distribution.  Now I was admiring this plant and the very part of it I had begrudged!

My thoughts turned inward a little more as I realized how narrow minded I had become – my passion for conservation and alien plant control, though important and good for our natural world in its own right, this very mindset had choked my appreciation of all creation!

Today,  I dedicate my blog to the weeds of life, each created for a purpose and all to be marveled at!

 
 
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