Tag Archive | walking safari

Steve’s Thoughts

A day almost never goes by that I don’t think of Africa. Compared to our first trip to the Okavango Delta in Botswana in 2005, this trip was far more adventurous.

Our trip to Botswana was pure “frosting”… we never saw anything except the highlights of Africa… nothing except what Wilderness Safaris wanted us to see. It was as if a visitor to the US had flown into Yellowstone, then to Glacier, then to Yosemite, and then home.

Africa lost some of its luster on this trip — it’s not ALWAYS pretty. But we learned so much more this time. When we described our itinerary to Americans before our journey they commented, “You are nuts, you’ll die.” Some Africa travelers, when realizing we planned to drive through urban and rural Africa asked, “Why would you want to do that? Just stay in the Parks.” Our itinerary is not for everyone.

It was a car camping trip… with occasional lions and elephants in camp.

What would we do differently? We’d probably camp nearly the entire trip. This trip still cost more than we can really afford, about $19,000 for 21 days (including everything: travel doctor visit, travel insurance, airfares, meals, Rover, safari camps, tips, gifts, souvenirs, everything). We could have saved around $5000 by forgoing the safari lodge stays. We were also too shy to stop at local markets or bars, or even roadside vegetable stalls. Next time, we’d immerse ourselves a tiny bit more.

What’s next? We don’t know. We want to experience migration but we are totally turned off by the stories of hordes of people and Rovers. We have little interest in the experience of being another Rover with ten or even twenty more safari vehicles surrounding a pride of lions. We’ve heard of a place with tens of thousands migrating wildebeest — and no one else is there. Oh, and we’re not tellin’ where…yet.

So we want the wild Africa. And the freedom to be on our own schedule. We’re probably hooked on self drive. Now I just have to figure out how to deal with those damned tsetse flies!

And to all the guys out there planning a trip: Beware of the Tribal Textiles Vortex; it will suck your wife in with you attached and wring your wallet dry!

And, I luuuvvv you Rover!

Bird Sightings: Livingstone, Kafue, South Luangwa

P1010038White-breasted cormorant
African darter
Goliath heron
Purple heron
Grey heron
Black-headed heron
Great egret
Little egret
Cattle egret
Black heron
Yellow-billed stork
Marabou stork
Saddle-billed stork
African openbill
Hamerkop
Glossy ibis
African sacred ibis
Spur-winged goose
Egyptian goose
White-backed vulture
African fish eagle
Bateleur
Brown snake-eag;e
Wahlberg’s eagle
African harrier-hawk
Southern pale chanting goshawk
Black kite
Yellow-billed kite
Black-shouldered kite
Lizard buzzard
Red-billed francolin
Helmeted guineafowl
African finfoot
African jacana
Grey crowned crane
Wattled crane
White-crowned lapwing
African wattled lapwing
Blacksmith lapwing
Common sandpiper
Spotted thick-knee
African skimmer
Double-banded sandgrouse
Cape turtledove
Emerald-spotted wood-dove
Namaqua dove
Black-cheeked lovebird
Schalow’s turaco
Grey go-away bird
Coucal
Pel’s fishing owl
African scops owl
Square-tailed nightjar
Giant kingfisher
Pied kingfisher
Malachite kingfisher
Brown-hooded kingfisher
White-fronted bee-eater
Southern carmine bee-eater
Little bee-eater
Lilac-breasted roller
Racket-tailed roller
Southern ground hornbill
African grey hornbill
Red-billed hornbill
Green wood-hoopoe
Black-collared barbet
Lesser striped swallow
Wire-tailed swallow
Forked-tail drongo
Black-headed oriole
Pied crow
Arrow-marked babbler
Dark-capped bulbul
Yellow-bellied greenbul
White-browed robin-chat
Collared flycatcher
Chinspot batis
African pied wagtail
Common fiscal
White-crested helmet-shrike
Black-backed puffback
Meve’s starling
Red-billed oxpecker
Scarlet-chested sunbird
Variable sunbird
White-browed sparrow-weaver
Red-headed weaver
Red-billed quelea
Village indigobird
Red-billed firefinch
Blue waxbill
Green-winged pytilia

Leaving Zambia

Noooo! We don’t wanna go!! But, we’re out of reservations, and we’re expected back at our respective work desks on Monday.

P1010197Despite the extra early hour, Zhila (the camp manager) and Doc (who really runs the place) are up to make coffee and see us off. Our new friend Kelvin is behind the wheel, taking us back to Mfuwe Lodge for our airport shuttle. The two-hour and a half hour drive back to the lodge is like a scrapbook of all that we loved about this trip: the spectacular sunrise and it’s cloak of colors, fish eagles and bee eaters and yellow billed kites, zebras, warthogs, puku, kudu, impala, giraffe, water buffalo and elephants all put in an appearance. And suddenly around the corner, hanging out in a sausage tree next to the road: a leopard, looking mildly annoyed to be discovered, averting his gaze to that “you can’t see me” kind of cat-attitude.

We munch a quick breakfast at the lodge, although it is clear that they are ready to fold up as soon as we are done. We gulp down more coffee, and get loaded into a van with a chatty couple returning to the US. They are disturbing our mood, and we rudely ignore them. We are not happy or excited to be going home. We have caught that scent on the Zambian breeze and we are anxious to hold onto it as long as we can.

Resisting the End

We only have two more days, two more nights in the bush – the reality is starting to settle in. We’ve resisted thinking and talking about home and work for most of the trip. But now bits are starting to creep in. Still, we take full advantage of all the leisure time we have between walks, drives and eating: I read my book about Charles Darwin and his daughter Annie, compile my trip bird list, and watch the robber fly capture carpenter bees living in our deck railing. Steve types notes in the netbook and naps. (Yes, he does get his share of naps on this trip!)

The morning walk was interesting, but short – we arrived back at our chalet by 9:30 a.m. Another drawback to safari lodge life is that you do need to know what time it is. You do get a wake-up “knock-knock” in the morning, but generally meals are served at a certain time; drives and walks start and end to coincide with the mealtimes. But, there is no denying the routine that comes with lodge life, where we had no boundaries other than the hours of daylight on the self-drive part of our trip.

DSCF4040More great food for brunch and tea, then our evening drive highlighted by hippos and honey badger. Little did we know that a honey badger was undermining the plumbing at camp until we tried to take a shower before bed: there was no water on tap. We entertained ourselves by feeding the frogs in the sinks before retreating under our mosquito netting for the night.

Last Camp

It’s early, and they seem to have worked out most of the kinks in our requested walk. All of our companions at Chindeni were departing, and getting guests on to their next destination is a logistical pretzel. We could walk to Chamilandu, but our chalet would not be ready, as we would be overlapping brunch with the guests currently there. No problem – we’re still on vacation.

We drove a few kilometers before we start walking – I’m not sure what hazards prevented us from walking the entire distance, but it was nice to approach on foot, and to walk with a destination. Arriving a little early, we sat out on the sand on top of the riverbank, enjoying cold drinks and the view. Brunch was served at the camp’s hide – a spectacular braai and accompanying salads prepared by Chef George.

After a short wait in the lounge area, we moved into our open chalet. With walls on three sides and the front open to the river in the sleeping area, the bathroom was open to the sky, with an outdoor shower and just enough walls to give us privacy. I missed the hammocks at Chindeni, but the open air was better than the somewhat stuffy tent. Perched on the Luangwa River bank, and up in the canopy of the surrounding trees, this place was perfect!

P1000855Our escorts for our evening game drive were our guide Gilbert, ZAWA scout David, and teabearer Mulengwe. While a ZAWA scout is not required for the evening drives, David opted to join us rather than hang around the camp. Gilbert seemed to have a specific sundowner spot in mind, but as we approached, we saw that another group had snagged the spot. Gilbert turned the vehicle to head down river when he suddenly spotted a Pels Fishing Owl. Generally a rare bird to spot, some people make many trips and never see one. And we saw this one just because we were bumped out of a sundowner spot – very cool! We also caught up with a hyena that settled down to crunch on some leftover bone. Back at camp, George whipped up another great dinner, and we capped off the day catching moths to feed the tree frogs that had taken up residence in our bathroom sinks.

Walking – Steve’ 2-cents

At least part of the reason we chose Zambia was the allure of the “walking safari.” Most say that walking safaris started in South Luangwa and now the concept is spreading across Africa.

We found that walking was a great way to learn about the smaller things. We generally saw a bit less, but we learned more. It is definitely a thrill to negotiate a terrain full of elephants and other game all jostling for space.

And, the reality of self drive is that there is very little exercise. You get in the car in the morning and drive for hours on end. Some safari camps have associated campgrounds and often campers can choose meals and activities a la carte.

The guide is important: At one camp we had a great guide who was eager to give and let us sop in information. We left the camp early and stayed out for about three and a half hours. At another camp the guide was shall we say – less engaged and spent most of his time speaking local language with the ZAWA scout. And we always returned early.

Walkabout

We were up early the next morning for walking safari. We were surprised that two pairs of guests chose to skip the walk: one couple decided to sleep in, and the other couple basically said, “We’ve done that already.” Well, fine – that’s less people and more time with the guide.

P1000878We had walked several days in Botswana – while you don’t necessarily see as much wildlife, you actually learn more about the environment: the plants, the details, the tracks, the droppings – all of this adds dimension to our ability to read the landscape and the animals. Who knew that there is a whole bunch of amphibians tucked down in the cracks in the dried mud, just waiting for the rainy season to begin? What is different is that we have three escorts: our guide Peter, our teabearer Gift, and a ZAWA scout, Godrick. Godrick carries the gun, while Peter is in charge of herding the guests. Gift carries the radio, refreshments and snacks.

We returned to camp for brunch, with the plumbing restored and the table full of guests. A lively conversation ensued about conservation, giving everyone something to think about as we headed back to our tents for siesta.