Part 4: A great day on safari in the Kafue

Photography and report by Bert Duplessis

Skip to Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11

If you’ve ever been on an African safari, you’ll know that it is so much more than just about animals. Of course it is about seeing and hopefully photographing a lot of large (and small) mammals and other living things first and foremost.No keen photographer in Africa likes to waste the wonderful morning and afternoon golden light without something to reflect it.

There are days though when the experience of being inAfrica transcends the clicking of the camera, or even the sheer visual impact of raw nature in all its glory. On this day, there were a couple of occasions when I felt as much a part of the African environment as I am a denizen of the asphalt jungle of Houston. City slicker or not, at least for a few moments or minutes, I was connected to Africa at a primal, even visceral level. Even though it was just in my mind, I was at home here, thousands of miles from home.

Africa will do that to you, if you will let it. Take your time over the experience. Don’t rush from camp to camp and area to area (like we had to, working you know…). Make time to just do nothing other than looking and listening. Of course in these remote parts of Africa – including the Zambian wilderness – you are often hearing hardly anything, just one level of silence piled onto another one. Is there anything out there? Of course there is, but not something nearly as jarring as the rude sounds of ‘civilization’. Concentrate and you will experience an almost overpowering sense of quiet and peace, interrupted only by the gentle and soothing sounds of nature.

Breakfast this morning was a winner: oats, fruit salad with watermelon and honeydew, fresh toast with marmalade or strawberry jam, cereals, vegan muffins and naturally, eggs to order. 

The morning activity started out with some birding. Wattled crane, several ground hornbills, Yellowthroated sandgrouse, guineafowl, Capped Wheatear, Arnot’s Chat and many more. We also had our first good look at a couple of Oribi antelope; small dainty animals, reminiscent of steenbok. Our guide Brian followed some lion tracks along a dirt road for several kilometers and then Kathleen spotted a solitary lioness purposefully strolling through the veld. She momentarily rested under a tree but then continued with her pursuit. There were some very nervous Impala watching her just as intently as we were.

A dainty Oribi antelope. The Kafue National Park has 17 species of antelope altogether. 

A dainty Oribi antelope. The Kafue National Park has 17 species of antelope altogether. 

A ground hornbill, the largest African hornbill species. 

Morning tea was enjoyed at one of Brian’s favorite spots, overlooking a big raft of about 30 to 35 hippo, densely packed into a large dambo, close to the Lufupa River. Cheek by jowl, they were constantly jostling and arguing, pushing and shoving, sniping and snarling, swishing their tails and swiveling their massive heads around. Warily, they moved a bit further soon after our arrival, but eventually settled down as we sipped our tea and coffee, and enjoyed a snack of chicken wings or fresh dried fruit.

Getting ready for morning tea – or coffee – on safari 

The raft of hippos at the hippo pool never really settled down while we were having our tea and refreshments. 

They kept on moving around, continually giving us the evil eye…

Brunch was yet another winning combination of rice and beef stew, with a vegan option of rice with mushrooms in a red wine sauce. Absolutely delicious. There were some carrots, a fresh green salad and freshly baked bread as well. 

During the siesta period Kathleen and I were shown around the main camp complex by manager Bas, inspecting everything from the terrific lounge area overlooking the Kafue, to the popular pizza oven, the curio shop, office, kitchen, camp ground, boma and of course the bar. I managed about an hour or so of real work on the computer, courtesy of a slow yet free wireless internet connection.

The deck in front of the main lodge area at Lufupa River Camp has great views over the confluence of the Lufupa and Kafue Rivers.

The bar at Lufupa River Camp, with the newly built boma in the background.

The pizza chefs at Lufupa River Camp. Apparently pizza is the most popular item on the menu – who could have guessed… 

The pool at Lufupa River Camp – manager Bas told us that it gets really popular on hot summer days. 

It was good to see that recycling is alive and well even out here in the remote Zambian wilderness. 

In the afternoon we set out for another game drive, during which we saw several new mammals for the trip: kudu, zebra and Defassa waterbuck, as well as a nice group of elephant, drinking at the water opposite from the hippo pool. And once again we got lucky with lions, coming upon the same solitary female from this morning, walking along the dirt road, still in search of who knows what. We also enjoyed some good photographic opportunities with birds, including guinea fowl, wattled cranes, and more francolin.

There were not that many zebra to be seen in the Lufupa area, and those that we did bump into were usually quick to beat a retreat. This little group decided to get a good look at us before they moved off.

Kathleen was our lion spotter of the trip, and she was the one to first see this female lion (and many others). We saw this solitary lioness twice on the same day, the second sighting several kilometers from the earlier one.

The lioness did not rest for very long before she was off again. She was probably just trying to reunite with the pride. 

We saw these elephants at the hippo pool, but they were rather wary and moved away from the water’s edge as soon as they noticed our approach. 

The waterbuck species seen in the Kafue region are the Defassa Waterbuck, not the common waterbuck with the tell-tale ring around the tail. The Defassa Waterbuck are also the commonly seen waterbuck in Southern Tanzania (Ruaha National Park and Selous Game Reserve). 

A handsome Impala ram. 

Enjoying sundowners at a nice spot in the Kafue National Park 

In camp just before tea I had my ‘Africa moment ’with a little family group of warthogs, which I had seen around camp the previous day. I was standing at the car park near the Lufupa Tented Camp main lounge when they came upon me. There were three adults, one of which was much more wary than the other two, plus three youngsters. Happily feeding on tufts of green grass, they were at first oblivious to my presence.

It was really quiet. So quiet that I could clearly hear the warthogs smacking their lips as they were munching away on what appeared to be a real treat, some fresh green shoots just off the vehicle driveway. The mother warthog was extremely confiding and walked pretty much right up to me, with the ‘scaredy cat’ adult warthog sounding the alarm, but unsuccessfully so. Slowly but surely the three little piglets followed, keeping their eyes glued on me for any sign of movement. I stood dead still as they approached, all three of them making little grunting, squealing contact noises just to let each other and their parents know where they were. Then the strangest thing happened. One after another, the three young warthogs hunched down completely on all fours, as if they were suddenly really tired and had to take a rest. They sat like that for a minute or so and then got up and rejoined the group which slowly meandered off.

The very comfortable lounge area at Lufupa Tented Camp, next to the dining room. 

The plunge pool at Lufupa Tented Camp, with the Kafue River in the background.

The dining area at Lufupa Tented Camp 

I really enjoyed the evening meal of soup, nshima (polenta), spinach, and a stuffed noodle dish. Dessert was Malva Pudding for the omnivores and fresh fruit salad for yours truly. 

We packed in a lot today with another after dinner game drive. Not far outside of camp there were some elephants crossing the road. Brian gave them plenty of opportunity to move away before we proceeded further down the road. We passed right by the airstrip where a couple of scrub hares were inspecting a parked Cessna. Not far beyond the airstrip, Brian heard something and after momentarily thinking that the vehicle was dragging something, he realized what it was. Evans shone the spotlight to our right and there it was: 5 lionesses and the two cubs in a tight circle literally diving into a fresh kill – an unfortunate waterbuck which was being devoured and torn into pieces right before our eyes. Noisily and greedily, each of the animals was tearing away chunks of flesh, blood all over their faces and forequarters. It was a feeding frenzy, each of the animals in an agitated, highly excited state, growling and snarling, stopping just short of turning on each other, in their haste to fill their stomachs. It was difficult to watch at times, but spellbinding. The guests in our vehicle were as quiet as the lions were noisy. Such a display of ferocity is so far removed from our human experience and frame of reference that we find it difficult to assimilate.Despite what we may think, there is nothing shocking or cruel about it, it is just nature. Eventually the group started to break up as first one and then another broke off with a flesh & bone trophy. We drove back to camp quietly, our minds still reeling with the bloody images we had just witnessed. 

Continue to Part 5

Return to Trip Reports