Tag Archives: Zambia

The 2019 wish-list (continued): walk on the wild side in Zambia

Zambia is an incredibly exciting destination offering the perfect blend of prime wilderness, outstanding wildlife and wonderful camps.

Luangwa Safari House
Luangwa Safari House

An exciting network of large and remote national parks provide plenty of opportunity for an immersive safari experience, from the oldest, Kafue, to the newest, Lower Zambezi.

This is a gem of a country where hospitality is warm, wildlife is awesome and scenery spectacular – we urge you to go.

When to go?

Dry Season
Dry Season

The long dry winter months April to October is the optimum time for a safari to Zambia. Days are warm and sunny and nights are cold. As the season progresses temperatures soar with October usually the hottest month. This is also when wildlife densities peak, as animals gather around the remaining water sources.  Riverside camps offer  a refreshing  breeze and superb sightings. Camps/lodges with pools are a good choice if travelling in the heat of October/November.

Mfuwe Lodge - the Emerald Season
Mfuwe Lodge – the Emerald Season

The long rains tend to arrive late November into December time and stay until March  – this can make unsealed roads impassable. However permanent camps are open year-round – the Emerald Season can be a very rewarding time to travel. I speak from first-hand experience having spent a week in the Luangwa one November just as the rains arrived – it was astounding to see the overnight transformation of the park. Wildlife was exceptional. Some camps depending on water levels offer safari by boat giving you a unique perspective.

Five reasons to add Zambia to your safari wish list

Walking in July
Walking in July
Nkwali
Nkwali
  • Walking safaris

South Luangwa has been the home of the walking safari. since the 1960s. Guiding is consistently high quality and quality bush camps ensure a top notch experience. You can easily spend a week here. walking between bush camps, or combining a few days walking with a lodge and 4×4 safari. Walking can be tailored to your needs but 8-10km per day between camps is what you can expect. Although South Luangwa offers the largest variety of walking safaris, you can also enjoy walking in Kafue and the Lower Zambezi.

This 8 day safari combines contrasting camps and includes a walking element along with a 4×4 safari in the South Luangwa.

Luangwa Bush Camp
Luangwa Bush Camp

Luangwa Bush Camp max1100x600

Busanga, Kafue
Busanga, Kafue
  • Nights under Canvas

Zambia offers incredible rustic bush camps. These vary in style.

During the peak dry season months of July to September you can spend a night or two of your safari in a mobile ‘fly camp’.

These fully serviced mobile camps are extremely comfortable and well-equipped with walk-in tents and full bedding. The ‘safari’ bucket shower is under a tree and the long-drop ‘bush loo’ has a wooden throne. Meals of a high standard are served under the open sky with just the glow of the camp fire and paraffin lamps.

Overlooking the Luwi River
Overlooking the Luwi River

Mobile camps allow visitors to access really remote areas where the wildlife is unused to people.

Zambia is also famous for its tented seasonal camps which open in April-May and are taken down at the end of the dry season in November.These camps, some with canvas and some with thatched roofs offer more facilities than the simpler mobile  ‘fly camps’ but are still incredibly rustic and positioned in low vehicle/prime wildlife areas. Robin Pope’s Tena Tena for instance is a cluster of six tents on the Luangwa River. Ensuite bathrooms are open-air. Power is provided by solar panels and fresh drinking water comes from a bore-hole. Time & Tide’s wonderful Luwi  is nestled in a grove of ancient mahogany trees, the tented suites designed to fully immerse guests into the bush experience. Set along the riverbed and overlooking the floodplains below, guests can watch the abundant wildlife right from the privacy of their own suite. Feathertop beds, an open air, ensuite bathroom and a peaceful seating area create a comfortable guest experience in this seasonal camp.

 

If you are not a fan of spending nights under canvas, you can opt for a permanent lodge or safari house. These have more facilities and creature comforts. Zambia has superb ‘safari houses’ perfect for groups of friends or family groups. These houses are fully staffed with driver/guide and cook – choose from large, luxurious riverside Chongwe River House with its amazing pool, to small Robin’s House complete with its own hide .

Canoeing the Chanel
Canoeing the Chanel
Boating from Chongwe River House
Boating from Chongwe River House
  • Canoeing the Zambezi

The Lower Zambezi is Zambia’s newest national park and sits bang opposite Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. If you like variety then this is the place to go – you can boat, walk, drive and fish, all with a beautiful mountain view and sublime wildlife. Canoe trips are exceptional allowing for very close encounters with large species like elephants who come to the river to refresh.  You can glide along silently without disturbing the wildlife.

As well as exploring by canoe, motorised boat trips provide the chance to explore larger tracts of the riverside.

Combined with walking and 4×4 safaris this is a wonderful way to experience the richness and diversity of Zambia’s national park network.

Victoria Falls in the Emerald Season
Victoria Falls in the Emerald Season
  • Victoria Falls/Livingstone

No trip to Zambia would be complete without a visit to the Falls. Livingstone is the town on the Zambian side of the Falls where many activities such as rafting can be organised. A number of stunning river lodges stretch along the river bank upstream from the Falls. Lodges provide complimentary transfers for guests to the Falls with some also offering activities such as river cruises. These lodges are a wonderful choice for pre or post safari R&R. An increasing network of domestic light aircraft flights connects several of Zambia’s key attractions with the main gateways of Lusaka and Livingstone meaning you can combine parks such as the Lower Zambezi and Mfuwe in the South Luangwa more easily than ever before.

Wild Dogs
Wild Dogs
  • Endangered species – wild dogs rule

Visitors to Zambia can enjoy spectacular wildlife including the chance to see many rare and iconic species. The Zambian Carnivore Programme recently announced that the South Luangwa National Park is now officially home to Zambia’s largest African wild dog population. Despite being one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores, wild dogs in and around the South Luangwa National Park have enjoyed several years of increasing numbers, and there are now estimated to be approximately 350 adults and yearlings living in the Luangwa Valley.

 

To find out more about Zambia’s national parks, you may be interested to read our country guide here.

You’ll also find sample safaris, with price guides.

 

 

 

Bush camping – but not as you know it! Zambia’s South Luangwa has it all zipped up…

As the second May bank holiday hurtles ever nearer, I feel the need, encouraged by our children, to dust off the tent and the camp stove and to get away for a weekend’s camping.

Memories of last year’s camping expeditions have faded sufficiently for me to embrace the idea with renewed enthusiasm. Afterall,  it’s a tradition, to head off, with the car groaning under the weight of camping gear and the dog squeezed into one  corner,  to  calve out a small but perfectly formed space in a field, amidst the sea of other tents. If it isn’t lashing with rain and blowing a gale, it just isn’t the same. ‘Character building’, my father would’ve called it.

So, if you like me, are simply masquerading as a happy camper, then perhaps it’s time to try something different.

No, not glamping but bush camping, Zambia style.

Cast off any image of battling with canvas in a storm, of crowded camp sites and hullabaloo. In Zambia you are treated to acres of wilderness with not another vehicle in sight very often. Small, discreet bush camps snuggle on the edge of a lagoon or within a shady grove of trees. And the only crowd? Well the snorting hippos make a bit of a racket I suppose…

Welcome to Zambia’s most exclusive camps – the bush camps, who, as I write, are unfurling the canvas for another year.

Bush camp basics – what is a bush camp anyway?

A bush camp is a seasonal camp which is taken down at the end of the dry season and leaves very little impact on the environment. You can enjoy a good deal of comfort with proper beds, rugs and furniture and an ensuite bathroom, usually open to the stars, complete with a flushing loo and hot shower. There’s a deck too  for you to sit and soak up the views.

Bush camps are constructed from locally sourced natural material like reed, grass and thatch, as well as using canvas. They blend in to their environment. In my opinion, they are the epitome of safari chic and an incredible way to experience the thrill of real, unspoilt and off the beaten track Africa.

Bush camps should not be confused with fly-camps. Fly-camps are impromptu camps set up just for a night some distance from the main camp or lodge. You would usually walk to a fly-camp during the cool of the afternoon. You sleep on a bedroll on the floor, with a simple gauze mosquito net or a tent for shelter. There will be a bucket shower and short -drop loo. Simple meals are served around the camp-fire. This is back to basics camping, and a great option for a night if you really want to feel at one with the wilderness.

Traditionally, bush camps started off like this – as pretty basic affairs set up for hard-core walkers. However over time bush camps have evolved and now, although still very small and intimate in their nature, they offer considerably more comfort, convenience and luxury compared to a fly-camp.

Many bush camps now offer a combination of walking and 4×4 safaris. In South Luangwa,

night drives are a real highlight.

Each camp has its own distinct personality and attributes.

In summary, bush camps are:

  • Seasonal, usually mid May to the end of October in South Luangwa
  • Set up in beautiful, remote locations where wildlife is prolific
  • Small and intimate, with just a handful of tents

A profile of some of our favourite bush camps in the South Luangwa Valley

Norman Carr offers four bush camps in the northern part of the South Luangwa Valley, all open between 15 May and 31 October this year. Several of these stunning camps feature in our sample online itinerary, the Classic South Luangwa Walking Safari, the ultimate way to really experience the wildlife, landscapes and camps of the valley.

Luwi Camp

Set on the banks of the seasonal Luwi River under a canopy of mahogany trees around 12 km from the Luangwa River this rustic camp has a fabulous hippo hide, overlooking a hippo lagoon, one of two permanent lagoons near camp. The permanent source of water close to camp ensures a steady procession of wild visitors.

You really feel out in the wilderness at Luwi, which was one of the first bush camps in the Luangwa Valley and with the use of natural, locally sourced materials blends into the landscape beautifully. There are just four chalets constructed from wood, grass and thatch with large outdoor bathrooms. There are reed mats on the floor and some simple rustic furniture. Everything is paired down and simple. There is no electricity here,  but solar lanterns provide illumination after sun down and there is a steady supply of hot water.

Meals are served either in the shade of the trees (brunch and afternoon tea) or under the stars around the camp fire (three course evening meal). The small bar with its sand floor is a good place to watch the sunset and to make the most of the views across the floodplain.

Luwi is a classic walking safari camp – there are few roads in this remote zone of the valley and so exploration is best done on foot with a guide. Sister camp Nsolo is around 7km away and the walk there ranks as a highlight for anyone lucky enough to have done it.

Mchenja

Right on the banks of the majestic Luangwa River, Mchenja is an altogether more showy camp.

Surrounded by an ebony grove, all five tented chalets have sweeping views of the river. The airy octagonal tents lead to ensuite bathrooms, open to the air, complete with Victorian roll-top bath and river view.

 

You can enjoy walking safaris here, as well as day and evening game drives. Because of the extra level of comfort and luxury – there is even a plunge pool in camp – we recommend saving your last night or two for Mchenja.

It’s absolutely fantastic to be right on the river, and this camp contrasts well with the more simple Luwi Bush Camp

Nsolo
Nsolo, like Luwi is one of the original Zambian bush camps and it really appeals to people who want to experience wildlife up close in a truly remote and untouched area while enjoying comfort, wonderful hospitality and guiding and a bit of African ‘bush’ style. The four large chalets with grass and reed walls are raised up with a private deck area and lovely views. Each  runs on solar power and has an open air bathroom with a super hot shower and a  flush loo.

At the heart of the camp is a traditional ‘chitenje’ – an open sided thatched area where meals are enjoyed and guests can pour over books, have a drink from the bar and watch the comings and going of the wildlife from the permanent pools of water beyond camp. There is also a very special sundowner spot on the riverbed.

Kakuli

Kakuli stands out because it offers a slightly longer season, remaining open until 7 November. Standing in an elevated position on the banks of the Luangwa River, the camp has four traditional walk-in, simple safari tents with ensuite bathrooms. Unlike the other camps, Kakuli has a very open feel to it. The front of the tents unzip to reveal astounding views of the wide sweep of  river while lovely large showers have plentiful hot water.

The central bar area with its thatched roof, open sides and sandy floor overlooks a grassy zone leading down to the river where wildlife frequently visits. Lounging on a sofa with a cool drink is a lovely way to while away an evening either here or further down near the fire pit.

Guests can join walking safaris, as well as going on game drives from Kakuli but one of the real highlights is exploring the riverside at night, when the elusive leopards are prowling. When the river is high, some game viewing activities take to the water in the camp’s boat.

Land of the Leopard – why you really want to explore the South Luangwa Valley

Leopards have to be right up there as a reason to go to South Luangwa. I had one of my most memorable leopard enocunters in the valley – it was during a torrential downpour during a night drive (in an open vehicle I hasten to add!) in late October. There were great cracks of thunder and out of the darkness came the roar of lions. Our guide then spotted the eye shine of a leopard – we were so close and had not realised. There the leopard crouched, looking very regal,  right next to us, enveloped in the darkness in the shelter of a thicket. If that doesn’t give you goosebumps then …

Leopards are not the only big cats making an impact on visitors to South Luangwa. The northern area, around these bush camps is also well known for its lions. Lion Plain is a game rich area accessible from the camps.

Wild dogs can also be seen in the area (I need to go back as this was about the only thing I didn’t see…). They are great water lovers and den in the area.

There are 60 different animal species and around 400 bird species, including 39 birds of prey in the park. Thornicroft giraffe amble across the plains while impressive herds of elephant gather at the river. Moody congregations of buffalo can also be seen along with zebra and a range of antelope.  The only notable exception is really the rhino, sadly poached to extinction here.

The landscape is very beautiful with some magnificent baobabs, winterthorn, mopane, leadwood and marula trees. One of the Norman Carr bush camps occupies an ebony grove which is very special.

Most importantly, the guides in South Luangwa have a reputation for being among the best. This can add immeasurable value to your trip.

All Real Africa’s trips to Zambia are tailor-made according to your specification, so if the wild open spaces and the incredible wildlife of this spectacular country appeal to you then be sure to check out the website and call us on 01603 283517.

 

By Sara White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lily’s Epic African Odyssey – Part Two. Zambia

Continuing from last week where we left Lily in Mozambique on her pan-African odyssey.

After leaving the lovely Azura Quilalea Resort I lfew by light aircraft to Pemba where I stayed at the Pemba Beach Hotel. Pemba itself is a very attractive old port situated on the northwest tip of the peninsula which forms the southern entrance to Pemba Bay.  Pemba Bay is a large, deep, semi-enclosed natural harbour on a stretch of coast renowned for its wide, sandy and clean palm-lined beaches, protected by a coral reef that guarantees safe swimming as well as good snorkelling.    Pemba’s old town is typical of many of Africa’s original colonial towns and luckily much of it has been beautifully preserved. It is a lively place with plenty of restaurants, shops and cultural activities to while away the balmy evenings. Whilst in Pemba I explored many other places including Ulala Lodge, Chuiba Palms and Londo Lodge. One word of warning (although I thought of it as one of the most fun things to do)  – a lot of my transfers were done by speed boat where you sometimes have to wade onto the beach from the boat – dress appropriately! Londo Lodge is an easy ride from Pemba and great for people looking to escape to an island paradise without epic distances involved. As I arrived at Londo there was a pod of dolphins swimming out to greet us!

The next part of my journey was my journey to Zambia. This wonderful country is a fantastic safari destination and I had been eager to explore more. Starting in Livingstone I spent the night at Waterberry Lodge which makes a great based for exploring Livingstone and the world famous Victoria Falls. The lodge has a secluded position on the banks of the Zambezi River, looking over to the Zimbabwe Game Reserve on the opposite bank.  All seven chalets are named after birds and I occupied ‘Swallow’ which was as near to the Zambezi River as you can get!  The usual activities and excursions are available from visiting Livingstone with its Maramba Market, old colonial buildings, Livingstone Museum (with huge amount of David Livingstone memorabilia), Victoria Falls, fishing, birding, cruises etc. The next day I went to visit one of our luxury options in the area, the famous  Tongabezi Lodge. Tongabezi was one of the original lodges on the Zambian side of the Zambezi river, established in 1990 by Ben Parker and the late Will Ruck-Keene, who were pioneers of eco-tourism in Zambia.  Privately owned and run, romance and exclusivity is combined with warm and attentive service.   We visited the Lookout which is Tongabezi’s latest concept to promote relaxation, rejuvenation and space.  There is a high tech internet desk and library, and it has multiple decks with Zambezi River views for casual dining, private dining and reading. As always, guests can do as little or as much as they like with the choice of game drives, sunrise/sunset boat trips, fishing, lunch on their private island, sanpan floating candlelit dinner, bird watching and guided bush walks, walks in gorge below the Falls, guided canoeing on Zambezi, visits to Simonga Village, visits to Mukuni Park, a cultural museum tour, croquet at Tongabezi etc – all of which are included in their rates.

The next day I was transferred to the waiting motor launch on the jetty for our Livingstone Island visit and brunch.  As we sped across the Zambezi, to the island where David Livingstone on 16 November, 1855 first viewed the Falls and exclaimed ‘ sights such as these must have been gazed on by angels’.  I felt very privileged we were to be able to experience this island as it is located on the very edge of the Falls in the midst of a thundering mass of water.

My next adventure was canoeing on the Zambezi to Tongabezi’s sister camp, Sindabezi Island.  What a lovely place set on a shady, picturesque island in the middle of the Zambezi River.  Sindabezi was selected by the Sunday Times as one of the best remote places to stay in the world… and we all loved it.  There are just five open sided thatched chalets and two honeymoon chalets with open fronts which allow guests to soak up the sights and sounds of the African bush and the river in a perfectly untouched setting. After spending the night here we transferred the following day by plane to Chongwe River Camp. This is where I got to spend the night admiring the hippos and to go on a safari in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Next week read all about Lily’s expedition into the South Luangwa where she went on a walking safari and spent the night with some friendly lions! She then finishes off her epic tour on the banks of Lake Malawi.

Walking Safari in South Luangwa National Park Zambia

Of all the ways of experiencing the African Bush, a walking safari is perhaps the most exciting. In a vehicle you feel secure. The animals are neither threatened by a safari vehicle, nor do they think of it as something that can be eaten. They ignore you as if you were not there.

To watch a video made by one of our staff of her South Luangwa Bush walk, click here.

To walk through the bush is completely different. For a start there are the sounds. A vehicle will drown out all but the loudest, while on foot you will hear the breeze in the trees and the birds calling and singing to each other. Follow a river and you will hear the water running along its bed and cross dry savanna and you can hear the dried grass scrunch beneath your feet.

It gives you the chance to watch and appreciate the smaller creatures that live in Africa. Ants busy carrying leaves many times their own size along small pathways back to their nest. Dung beetles rolling large balls of dung. Butterflies, Moths, caterpillars and many other things you’d otherwise miss.

Your guide can show you plants, explain their life cycle and uses to the local people and animals. He can show you animal tracks and spoor, teaching you how to track along the dusty trails and sandy river banks. He can explain the game trails and how you get down wind of the animals you are there to see.

And of course the thrill of seeing large game. Seeing an elephant as you stand there on foot lets you truly appreciate the size and splendour of these magnificent animals. Seeing large cats is somewhat more nerve-wracking, but your guides are trained to keep you safe and instruct you on the correct procedures to follow.

You return from your walk exhilarated, dusty and with the real smell of Africa in your nostrils, a memory and experience you’ll never forget. And there are few places as good to visit to enjoy a bush walk through true wilderness than South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. The Park is focused around the Luangwa river and offers a variety of terrain and flora and fauna that is second to none. You are accompanied by experienced guides as well as an armed guard. The walks can be taken from one camp, or you can experience the ultimate in safari holidays – walking everyday from camp to camp. It really is the best way to experience the real Africa.

Spotlight on Victoria Falls

This week we are taking a closer look at one of Africa’s most iconic sights- the Victoria Falls, also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya or the Cloud that Thunders.

One of the most famous waterfalls in the world, the Victoria Falls are created where the River Zambezi drops from the flat plains into a narrow rocky chasm carved out by the river. This chasm or gorge is so narrow that the river is truly squeezed into a tiny space as it pours in, creating the famous river rapids so beloved of white-water rafters. The mighty river cascades over the rocky edge of the plain and falls 355 feet in depth at its mid point and over 5,604 feet in width. It is regarded as the largest waterfall in the world despite it being neither the tallest or widest but a combination of the two.  The Victoria Falls are so special they have UNESCO World Heritage Status. The two main flows of water over the Falls are split by two islands; Cataract Island and Livingstone Island. During the dry season when the water level falls more, islands appear and divide the river into parallel streams all of which have their own names: Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls and the Eastern Cataract.

The highest water levels are between February and May with the peak usually in April when the Falls are at their most powerful. The spray from the Falls rises up to 1,300 feet in the air which can then be seen from up to 30 miles away. In fact the mist cloud is so overwhelming it isn’t possible to see the foot of the waterfall or the gorge! It is best to visit Victoria Falls when the water levels have dropped slightly. Even in the dry months of September to January there is still water pouring through and also various walks along the river and falls are available that are not possible during the wetter months.

David Livingstone the famous Victorian explorer was the first European to see the Falls although there have been many Stone Age discoveries in the area indicating it was a popular spot even 50,000 years ago. It was Livingstone who renamed them Victoria Falls after the reining monarch. He was so enamoured of their beauty he wrote, “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

The Victoria Falls share the border between both Zambia and Zimbabwe so can be visited from both countries. There is a huge range of accommodation available in both, from small eco-camps to large luxury 5 star hotel resorts. The town of Victoria Falls is in Zimbabwe and the town of Livingstone in Zambia and these both form the main bases for tourism in the area. Other activities around the Falls include bungee jumping, white water rafting, canoeing on the Zambezi and going on safari in the nearby national parks of Zambia or Botswana. Elephant, buffalo, giraffe, crocodiles and hippo are commonly seen on safari, and if you are extremely lucky you might catch a glimpse of a lion or leopard.

By Ruth Hardy