Part 2, Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa National Park

By Lyndon and Jason Duplessis, Fish Eagle Safaris

Back to Part 1.

Royal Zambezi

We leave the Kafue behind and head back to Lusaka to catch a plane to the Lower Zambezi.  We only have a couple of nights here but it was absolutely worth it to spend them in the Royal Zambezi.  It is a sizeable Lodge, very different than what we had been staying in at the Kafue.  Although you get to know some of the other guests over a drink before dinner or perhaps on an activity with them on a certain day there is not the level of camaraderie that is developed when you move from small camp to small camp with the same group of people doing everything together.  We miss that but at the same time its nice to be able to kick back and relax while going about things on your own pace.  And this lodge is the perfect place for it.

Some of the activities available at this lodge include boating, game drives, fishing, and spa time to name a few.  On our first night we take an evening game drive that is uneventful for the most part.  Probably better to take a morning game drive to be able to get some distance in.  The next morning, however, we got to do some tiger fishing and it was spectacular.  We started out early in the morning, the two of us with our own private guide.  First we had to catch some chaser fish to use as bait for the tiger.  This in itself was fun because action was plentiful.  After we got the hang of it we were able to reel in more than enough for use the rest of the day.

The tiger fishing, however, is something that one could get addicted to very fast.  In fact, that was the activity of choice for the remainder of our stay and to be honest they were not even biting that often.  Just being out on the Zambezi with a line in the water taking in the surroundings in peace was satisfying.  But when a tiger takes your line and you know you have him snagged, wow, what a thrill.  July is not the greatest time to be tiger fishing, it starts to pick up September and peak in October and that is something I have on my to-do list.  The heat at that time of year is something  you don’t look forward to but as a boy growing up in Houston I doubt there is much that can phase me in that regard.

 

Chindeni

Our transfer from the Lower Zambezi to the South Luangwa took a good portion of the day.  We had to go back to Lusaka then up to Mfuwe airport from which we had a long 2 and a half hour drive to our camp.  We settled into camp quickly around 5pm and were able to catch a ride to join up with the other guests already on their evening drive.  Lucky for us that we did because it wasn’t too long after meeting all the other guests that we found a mother leopard with a beautiful little cub, another first for me.  The guides correctly deduced that she must have had a kill up in the tree.  This theory was proven correct when we went for a walk in the same area the following morning and found traces of a dead antelope, likely a bushbuck.

 

Chindeni is one of the Bushcamp Company’s camps in the area.  It is a great little camp with spacious rooms overlooking a lagoon with the Chindeni Hills in the distance.  Bushcamp Company strives to give its guests a real Zambian safari, so that means walks in the morning.  Often transfers between the camps are made on foot while vehicles take luggage though it is certainly not mandatory. 

One of the great aspects of Chindeni to me was how they made the meals interactive for the guests.  We were all able to roll and bake our own pizzas for lunch.  Although a bit messy it was fun and the pizza was delicious.  On our last night we had a Mongolian style cookout.  This consisted of all the guests choosing from a large variety of ingredients to be put into a bowl and cooked by the chef.  I must admit, this meal was more tasteful than the pizza I had created the previous day.

We had another great leopard sighting on our morning drive.  As we were driving along we came across a rather large branch in the middle of the road, no doubt left there by an elephant.  The guide calmly stopped the vehicle and proceeded to move the log and within seconds a leopard darted away from about 20 feet.  Had it not been for the branch we would have missed it completely.  We were able to follow it for a ways and see it begin to stalk some antelope but nothing materialized.  It’s almost depressing to think how many of these creatures you just miss on game drives because they can be invisible if they feel like it.

Mfuwe Lodge

After a great stay at Chindeni we transferred to The Bushcamp Company HQ, Mfuwe Lodge near the entrance to the park.  It is a nice lodge but has a totally different feel than the small camps.  The rooms are nice, as you would expect at a lodge, and the staff and service in general is very good.  The game drives in this area of the park are significantly more crowded than the more isolated areas that the small camps reside.  On our evening drive we did have some luck though, spotting two young male lions with a fresh buffalo kill.  A bit later we got really lucky and saw a couple of honey badgers trotting off away from our spotlight.  Having never seen them in the wild I was very content with the drive as a whole.  Unfortunately due to the crowded lodge we had to sit 9 to a vehicle which doesn’t leave much room to operate.

 

 

Nsolo Camp

We only got to spend a very brief amount of time at our next camp, Nsolo.  Between a lengthy transfer and only staying  1 night we weren’t able to spend that much time on walks and really only got a brief night drive in.  Overall though it is a really nice little camp with some excellent guides.  Perhaps out of all the properties we visited the name Norman Carr carries the most weight in Zambia.  Tell another guide you are visiting Nsolo and instantly they know that’s a quality camp.  The rooms at Nsolo make special effort to incorporate their natural surroundings to make everything blend in nicely.  Our bathroom was seemingly built around a small tree, in fact.  It gives the camp a low-key but very African feel.

 

Kaingo

If you are a serious photographer Shenton Safaris is the perfect safari company to travel with.  Their vehicles are set up to help you get the best shot and the drivers are excellent in this aspect as well.  There are also plentiful hides to use during your stays at their camps.  For us the excitement started right as we got into camp and had our meet and greet with the manager.  As we were relaxing and having a drink a group of three elephants wandered right into camp.  The group consisted of a mother, a baby, and a young bull.  Within minutes we were literally surrounded, able to watch this small group feeding very closely.  Our tent was only meters away but we were pleasantly “stuck” until the elephants had had enough.  In fact the camp itself seemed to be a magnet to a multitude of animals.  After our first game drive we learned that there had been a leopard spotted just outside of our room.

The drives at Kaingo were very productive and featured a wide variety of game animals, birds, and some good lion spottings.  A good idea for this camp would be to spend some time in a hide or two between activities.  They are nicely shaded, you can take a drink with you and just sit a few feet away from a pod of hippos as they go about their business.  There is also a nice elevated hide right on the Luangwa that is excellent for watching elephants cross the river.  We were not able to see the carmine bee-eater hide as it isn’t built until September but that makes 3 worthwhile hides to spend a good amount of time in.

On our final night in camp we spotted a couple female lionesses on the hunt.  It was close to a full moon, which was great for us but certainly less than ideal for the lions.  We followed them for a good ways but in the end (as it often is with lions) nothing came of it.  Wild dog had been routinely spotted in the week before we arrived but we did not get to stay long enough to encounter them ourselves.

Mwamba

The sister camp to Kaingo has a very different feel to it.  Whereas Kaingo’s rooms are permanent solid stone Mwamba has a more rustic feel with reed and thatch chalets.  Bucket showers solar power and generally thicker bush in and around the camp contrast nicely with Kaingo making them a great combination.

This was another camp where we did not get to spend enough time looking for game.  As was the case with Kaingo wild dog had been spotted with some regularity but it wasn’t in the cards for us.

 

 

Conclusion:

*Zambia is a great relatively under the radar safari destination
*Be prepared to spend some time on the road with camp transfers as the light aircraft infrastructure is just not at the level of some of the other destinations
*Zambia is the walking safari capital of Africa, bar none.  Be prepared to experience the bush from this unique perspective (also a great way to work off some of that nice food you will be having)
*You can have a great safari experience while sticking to one section of the country i.e. Kafue but there is enough contrast that ideally you want to visit two or three areas

*My only real complaint was the tsetse flies, mainly in the Kafue, but if you are prepared for them and know what to expect you should be fine.

 

Until next time.

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