Part 6: No doors or mirrors required

Photography and report by Bert Duplessis

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Where most of us live – certainly here in Houston – two rear view mirrors on the left and right hand side of the car are not enough. You really need two additional wide-angle mirrors to make your way safely around the freeways. In Zambia? How about zero mirrors. In all the wilderness areas we visited, the mirrors on the game drive vehicles had been rendered inoperable. There is no need to see what is behind you because there is nobody else there. In the South Luangwa, which we would get to visit a bit later, there were not even any doors on the game drive vehicles. Don’t need them, don’t have them…

After yet another delightful brunch at Shumba, which included sautéed bream, a stuffed baked potato, fresh fruit salad, delicious green salad, as well as focaccia bread, we said our goodbyes and headed over to Busanga Bush Camp. BBC, as everyone refers to it, is a perfectly placed little camp, with just 4 tents, each of them with superb views over the floodplain. Compared with Shumba, it is on the ground (no walkways) and one feels truly connected to the environment. It is almost as if the Busanga Plains extends right to the front of your tent, and you are literally just a few steps from the wildlife environment. The tents are not huge but certainly big enough, with comfortable beds, a separate shower and toilet at the back of the tent, and a front porch where you can connect with Africa. The main lounge looked inviting and cozy, as did the boma with its unique ‘bush chandelier’. The camp’s best feature is a lookout point from where you can just sit and relax and look out over the plains.

The setting for Busanga Bush Camp, on a small island in the Busanga Plains

Interior of one of the rooms at Busanga Bush Camp

Part of the lounge and dining area at Busanga Bush Camp

The lookout point at Busanga Bush Camp, with fantastic views over the plains

From BBC it is just a short drive to Kapinga, another very small camp (4 tents) in a superb setting on Kapinga Island, the largest island on the Busanga Plains. The tents are similar, in fact practically identical to those at Shumba, but like BBC this camp is not elevated. We immediately fell in love with the lounge and dining room area, which was very different from most other Wilderness Safaris properties, being circular. The camp does have quite a lot of steps so it is not really suitable for people with disabilities or who have problems walking or climbing stairs. Camp manager Sjanie Cuyler was very friendly and we shared some Botswana stories over dinner, which was a very tasty mélange of aubergine, sweet potato, tomato, and rice.

The view from the pool at Kapinga Camp on the Kafue Plains

A nice touch at Kapinga Camp

Bed oh bed, what a wonderful place to rest my weary head…

View over a portion of the deck area at Kapinga

Our afternoon activity with guide Idos was specifically to see some Sitatunga, the rare and extremely shy antelope more commonly associated with the Okavango Delta than with Zambia. Idos drove us out to a large grove of papyrus bushes about 45 minutes drive from Kapinga.

We were hardly there when he excitedly pointed out two Sitatunga standing in a small clearing on the edge of the massive papyrus thicket. We got a good look at them and then suddenly spotted several more; turned out there were 6 of them in total, including two young ones which were running around just like little impalas. Really an exceptional sighting, apparently the first time ever Idos had seen that many together in something like 16 years of guiding in the area. On the way back to camp we saw a family group of 6 water mongooses which Idos considered to be a unique sighting as these mammals are usually solitary. I also got some good photographs of Roan antelope so all in all it was a very successful afternoon outing.

Getting ready for brunch at Kapinga Camp

A young Roan buck

August 10

Today was a relatively quiet and peaceful day, measured against the normal rather busy, action-packed day on safari. We were up at 0600 as usual, light breakfast at 0630 and then on a game drive by 0700 with Idos. The idea was to go and find some lions which had been heard calling earlier this morning, but no matter where we looked, they were not to be found. Eventually Idos saw some vultures circling and landing, and upon investigating we found the carcass of a dead animal; it turned out to be a cheetah kill from the previous night. Unfortunately we only found the kill, not the cheetah.

This white-backed vulture is trying hard to intimidate some of its competitors to get to the puku carcass below

One final shot of the vultures squabbling over the puku carcass

Then it was back to camp for brunch, followed by a nice long siesta and then a change of pace: we went walking for about 2 hours along the perimeter road, separating Kapinga Island from the plains. It was refreshing and certainly a welcome change after many hours in the vehicle. We did not see much but that was really beside the point: walking in the bush is all about the little things: animal tracks and signs, trees, shrubs, flowers, scents and sounds, all the things that you miss while sitting several feet above ground in a noisy Landrover. We did have a tense couple of minutes when we walked quite close by a small herd of elephant, not far from camp. They could not see us (we could barely see them in the thick underbrush) and we were downwind from the elephants so it was not a risky situation. Exciting yes, but dangerous, no.

On all walks inside the national parks a scout with rifle has to be present

Idos talking about some animal tracks, estimating approximately when they were made

On walks it is possible to stop and study various plants and other organisms

Sundowners in the bush, at the conclusion of our walking safari

This evening Kathleen and I were treated to our first ever private dinner at our tent, with a small table and two chairs set up on the deck. Complete with several lanterns, a red tablecloth and napkins folded origami-style, it was quite the romantic evening. Just us, the stars and the opera of the bush: some frogs, an occasional bark like noise from a bush-buck in the thickets, and a Barred Owl making us aware of its presence. Dinner was delightful: a delicious tomato soup to start, main course of pasta with a pesto sauce and an apple crumble as the grand finale.

August 11

Another fairly quiet morning with Idos at Kapinga; despite his best efforts we could not find the cheetah responsible for the kill we saw yesterday. A bit later in the morning, we met up with a National Geographic film crew shooting a documentary – the Tree-climbing lions of the Busanga. Film maker Nathan showed us where the Busanga pride was holed up across the Lufupa channel. Even with binoculars we could just barely make out the difference between male and female, they were that far away. After getting up a few times, the lions appeared to settle in for the day, so we made our way back to camp to pack & get ready for the flight to the South Luangwa area.

Getting around the Busanga area involves crossing several makeshift ‘bridges’ such as this one, until very late in the season when the area finally dries out

After a quick but exciting chopper flight to Busanga Airstrip, we were flown to Lusaka by Mike, a vintage pilot flying a very vintage twin-engined plane. This one was even older than the beaten up Cessna which flew us in the opposite direction a week ago. At around 8000 feet it was a very bumpy, very uncomfortable flight, with the plane seeming to wallow through the air continuously. At least we were the only 2 persons on board.

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After being dropped off by chopper from Kapinga, we boarded a twin prop aircraft, our ride back to Lusaka

We made a very tight connection in Lusaka onto a Proflight turboprop for a comfortable and smooth 1 hr 10 minute flight to Mfuwe. This was followed by a 45 minute drive on a good asphalt road through various villages to the Main Gate of the S. Luangwa National Park, and from there another approximately 2 hr game drive/transit drive through the park, to Kaingo, which would be our base for the next couple of days. The thatched bungalow rooms are simple and without any frills, but very comfortable and clean, really suitable for all but the most demanding traveler. Dinner caused a bit of a stir as the camp had not received any notice of my special dietary needs. Even so dinner was quite tasty: a stuffed green pepper with lots of vegetables on the side, some fresh bread and a salad.

 

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