Thu 28th & Fri 29 Oct – Chula Camp
Sat 30th Oct – Mvuu Lodge Campsite
Sun 31st Oct – Drive to border at Siavonga (crossing the Lake Kariba Dam Wall)
Lusaka – Chula Camp, Lower Zambezi NP – 294km
Our own game drives in Lower Zambezi NP – 67km
Mvuu campsite – Siavonga Border – 139km
Total km travelled since Nairobi: 6,832km
On-the-move vehicle repairs:
- Second (of 4) battery not working properly, meaning all fridges and freezers are not receiving the power they need
- An investigation discovered a messy-looking clump of melted wires at the positive terminal, which we stripped down and tidied up. This looks like it’s not a new issue and may have contributed to earlier electrical issues.
- Replacing that battery means we’re now functioning at 100% again … and the stereo is still working!
- Kenya 0
- Tanzania 6
- Malawi 0
- Zambia 2
- TOTAL 8
The Mighty Zambezi…. Our River Adventure Begins.
Wilbur Smith once wrote, ‘The man who drinks Zambezi waters must always return to drink again’ and having spent just a few days on the river, I strongly suspect that this will be the case for us.
The next few sections of our travel will all involve certain sections of the impressive Zambezi River, starting today with Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park, then crossing into Zimbabwe to explore Lake Kariba and Mana Pools before moving far upstream to Victoria Falls in over a weeks’ time. We’re also reunited as a family, with Gillian flying into Lusaka to rejoin us, bringing in gifts and notes from friends and vitally needed supplies from Nairobi, such as the all-important hair detangling spray to try and keep Kian from looking like a giant birds’ nest.
Getting to the Lower Zam, as the locals refer to it, means dropping down an escarpment into the Zambezi Valley. We’d intended to take a direct dirt road, which would have reportedly included some interesting switchbacks but heard on the grapevine that a truck had got stuck across it and blocked the route, meaning we instead needed to take a longer, busier tar road around, where we were reunited with our nemesis … the over-zealous traffic cop armed with a speed gun.
Several hundred Zambian Kwacha in fines and several hours later, we were racing across dusty plains on the main road set back from the river to meet the team from Chula Camp, who would take us on by boat, as they are located on an island in the river. Driving to the river in the late afternoon was frankly quite magical. Leaving the dust of the main road behind, we wove through massive forests of Winter Thorn (apple ring acacia / Faidherbia albida) and here we started to come across large herds of elephant and buffalo enjoying the shade and the water that remained in a few pools. The winter thorn carries leaves in the dry season when most other plants seem to be little more than dry firewood, and the canopy creates a cavernous space reminiscent of an old, tall church, with large tree trunks forming arches and light dappling on the ground, as if through a stained-glass window. Photographers travel from far and wide to capture this!
The car parked and unpacked, we were soon racing up the river in the twilight, passing pods of hippos and more elephants and buffalo wading through shallower sections of the river. We arrived in camp and settled into our mosquito net tent ever conscious of the hippos laughing and elephants trumpeting not far away.
The Lower Zambezi National Park is home to a variety of plains game and predators, but no giraffe, which I feel would have looked quite regal in the winter thorn forests. Having been cooped up in a vehicle for the last 2 days from South Luangwa, we opted to spend our time in the park on the water, exploring the river by motorized boat and canoe and it was absolutely splendid! There were several occasions when elephants crossed river channels in front of us and we found ourselves ankle-high to them as they towered over us from the banks. Our guide Kyle, who is also one of the owners of the camp, had to discourage a slightly aggressive hippo bull from taking too much interest in us, which he did by paddle-slapping the water and bellowing loudly! The birdlife was also impressive, with goliath herons, saddle-billed storks, ibis and others wading in the shadows and carmine bee-eaters whizzing around above us. We got to see black egrets, but they did not create their hunting umbrella with their wings, which is one of the things I’d hoped we would find.
On our final morning at Chula, we attempted a walking safari. I say attempted as the elephants seemed to have other ideas about what we should be doing, starting with a large bull who came to pull seed pods from the winter thorn under which we were being briefed and then over 100 females and young from various breeding herds who blocked our intended route on various occasions. Too many elephants is a nice problem to have, and we retreated to the riverbanks near our boat to drink coffee instead. As impressive as the setting and elephant herds were, I preferred the experience of walking in South Luangwa because of the variety of both vegetation and wildlife we saw. However, I would happily add 3 or 4 days on the mighty Zambezi here in the Lower Zam at the end of a week’s Luangwa walking safari.
Our final night in Zambia was spent camping on the banks of the river just outside the park. The area is still full of wildlife, and we were visited in the middle of the night by a bull elephant who seemed intent upon feeding on the tree under which our car was parked. This involved him loitering right by the entrance to our tent, which left some of us sitting in the tent with our legs tightly crossed, waiting for him to move on so we could get outside to answer our own call of nature.
We bid farewell to a country that I feel we could easily have spent a lot more time in. The safari areas of Kafue, Liuwa and Banguelu all sound like they are well worth a visit, and I would love to get up to North Luangwa, which is even more remote than the southern neighbour we so enjoyed.
It seems only right to finish as we started, with a quote … as both a famous weight-lifting Governator and a beleaguered British Prime Minister once said, ‘Hasta la vista baby … I’ll be back!’.