Safari Travel Notes: The Journey
|Leopard Spotting |
South Luangwa National Park
"There is something about safari life that makes you forget
all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne-
bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive."
I am a bit of a romantic when it comes to safari tales. I love watching nostalgic films, ones that take you to another place and time. I claim Out of Africa as one of my 'Africa' favourites, Mr. H claims Born Free. I think of my father when I watch The African Queen and Mogambo with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. He loved the classics and I learned to love them with him. I find this cinematic passion of mine often translates to the way I travel, how I photograph life around me and write about it.
Travel tips, things to buy, places to shop...
The travel journals I carry with me are filling up and to be honest they are a nuisance to travel with as I travel from home to home. So today I started typing my safari travel notes to store on the blog. You might enjoy them too, whether it be for a trip you are considering or purely for the pleasure from your armchair. I have travel tips, book and movie recommendations, a few stories, things to buy, and places to shop, all with a little romantic nostalgia thrown in. This page will stay on my sidebar along with my Hong Kong and Saigon travel notes.
MY SAFARI TRAVEL NOTES
Tailor made safari...
When planning a safari trip, I admit, we do prefer remote locations away from other tourists. We look for small, intimate bushcamps that feel like home. Thatched chalets, cozy beds, warm baths, comfortable deck chairs, a well-stocked library...and bar, a good old-fashioned campfire...all of these add to the safari charm. The smaller the better and if we can manage to fill the camp with family...making it our own, best of all. We love the warm levels of hospitality and yes...a bit of luxury goes a long way too, if not on every location, at least one of them and preferably the last. All of this is possible with a travel agent that understands your travel needs.
The travel agent...
When travelling anywhere but certainly in Africa, it is best to get solid travel advice. To save yourself a whole lot of hassle, get a good travel agent, one who really knows the ins and outs of the safari experience and travelling around the area of Africa you plan to visit. We planned our first trip in 2005 with Gill and Graham Maskell of Africa 2000 Tours and enjoyed it so much that we went back to them earlier this year to plan our recent trip, asking them to build upon what we had already experienced with a few additional requests. We wanted to make the experience true to us and they did. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we went to Gill and Graham with another twist on the experience and have just booked our next safari in 2018.
The price tag...
If you have travelled on safari before or have looked at planning a trip you will most likely have suffered from sticker shock...safari travels come at a cost, often a big cost, another reason why you want to get every last detail just right. Again, a good travel agent can help you with your budget and plan accordingly.
The armchair traveller...
If a safari is off the books for you but you love the idea of travelling from your armchair, I have ideas for you on that front too! Read on..
A little bit about our recent trip to Zambia...
We had a few objectives in mind when we planned this trip, one of them was to have a more intimate experience with the land and animals. Gill suggested a walking safari with The Bushcamp Company, offering a combination of walking with day and night game drives. It was exactly what we were looking for.
|Walking with the Giraffes|
The Bushcamp Company has six intimate and exclusive bushcamps in the remote southern section of South Luangwa Nationa Park in Zambia where walking safaris were pioneered as a way to experience the pristine wilderness. Within the park there are 60 different mammal species and 400 different bird specimens. Clearly, we had a lot to see!
We travelled to three of the six bushcamps: Kuyenda, Kapamba, Zunguilla and Mfuwi Lodge. Each unique in their own way with four chalets, allowing for a maximum of eight guests. We spent three nights in each camp with the exception of the last, Mfuwi Lodge, staying for one evening.
Winter Safari ScheduleIn case you are wondering, I have noted what a typical safari day looks. We like to go on safari during the winter months when the weather is cooler and the location of the animals is a bit more predictable due to water supply. The summer month itinerary varies slightly to allow for longer daylight hours. The daytime temperatures reached a brisk yet warm C23/F73 and evenings dropped to a brisk C9/F48. Perfect sleeping weather and a good reason to sit around the campfire in the early mornings and evenings. A typical day for us looked like this..
6:30am Morning Walk/Game Drive
12:00 to 3:30pm Siesta (rest)
3:30pm Afternoon Tea
4:00pm Night Game Drive
6:00pm Sundowner (sunset cocktail)
6:30pm continued Night Game Drive
Kuyenda Bushcamp, open from June-November, is the most rustic of the three bushcamps we visited, it sits on the banks of the (dry) Manzi River with views to a grassy plain with abundant wildlife.
At Kuyenda we truly felt the essence of Old Africa and a bygone era. We nestled into thatch and grass chalets with an open-air en-suite bathroom complete with bucket showers. Hot water was at request which I had trembled at the thought of prior to arriving. It ended up being one of the many charming memories of our time there. Each morning we awoke to a gentle "good morning" from staff who would leave a large pitcher of steaming hot water outside our bathroom to mix with the chilly tap water for our early morning ablutions. It was a vigorous start to the day!
We were advised to shower during siesta time, when the air was warmer and the water tanks tended to stay equally warm from the morning sun. The lack of electricity and wifi was another little note I had not fully appreciated and as the days passed I did not miss it either.
|By candlelight...Kuyenda Bushcamp|
We travelled by jeep to each of the camps, at the most we travelled an hour between each with the exception of the last which allowed us an extra long game drive by two additional hours. The terrain was different enough to offer a unique gaming experience in each camp.
Kapamba Bushcamp- open from April to January, is situated on the banks of the Kapamba River in a peaceful, secluded area. Each of the four chalets are open fronted with en-suite baths and a spacious sunken bath that allowed us perfect views to the River. An added bonus was our own tree house a alongside the chalet. One afternoon siesta, while I bathed and Mr. H read in the treetops, an elephant set his sights on the trees next to the tree house, a perfect spot for his next meal. I bathed, Mr. H read and the "Elly" munched away...we were all perfectly still and quiet (except the elephant) enjoying a surreal experience. And...wouldn't you know it...my camera was nowhere in sight! Note to self...future safari baths, keep camera close at hand.
Zunguilla Bushcamp- open from May to January, is located in the most remote, southern part of the South Luangwa National Park, on a tranquil bend of the Kapamba River with sweeping views to an open plain and the river beyond. We stayed in a classic style Meru thatched tent with its own private bamboo veranda and en-suite bath with a wonderfully deep soaking bathtub...open air. It was glorious!
On our first night game drive we had the good fortune to discover a lion and four lionesses covertly moving in on their next meal. The lionesses had their sights on a zebra with the lion a relaxed pace behind them. Within minutes of our arrival they were all running like the speed of light in chase of the zebra. Unfortunately for them, the zebra was faster. Somewhere in all the confusion they moved onto the next best thing and snared an impala. What happened next astounded me. After all their hard work, the lion moved in, took the impala and proceeded to enjoy his meal while the lionesses looked on from a safe distance.
|Lion laying claim to the "kill"|
|Lionesses in wait for dinner|
Each time they tried to approach, the lion lifted his head, bared his magnificent teeth and deeply growled which was enough to put the lionesses in their place. Our guide parked the jeep within a few feet of the entire scene. Miss Claire and I held our breath, nearly frozen, with cameras in hand. Five mammals all within a distance that could have taken over the five passengers in the jeep. I was never so happy to move on and yet exhilarated by what we had just witnessed. I can tell you, I never enjoyed a sundowner cocktail more than that night!
Mfuwi Lodge-open all year, is located just inside the South Luangwa National Park. With 18 guest chalets and full amenities it was the signal that our three little secret hideaway's were behind us. We stayed at the lodge on our last evening to facilitate an early morning departure from Mfuwe International Airport. The lodge is charming and we were very appreciative of the wonderful birthday cake created for Miss Claire with the full accompaniment of the kitchen staff singing Happy Birthday...Zambian Style. It was a birthday to remember!
A note about the food..
People often ask what the food is like on safari. All I can say is that it is plentiful and just when you think there is no way you could possibly eat anymore that day...you do. Each camp allowed it's chef to create his own menu and the result was delicious. We never had an overlap in menus and looked forward to every meal. Exercise is minimal on safari with the exception of the walking tours which even then is was no more than two hours of walking due to the activity of the animals. You eat a lot, rest more than you might at home and aside from the jostling about in the jeep you can pretty much plan on adding a bit of weight during the trip...deliciously so!
|Wild Dogs at play|
Where The Wild Things Live...
Of course the highlight to all of this were our days and evenings spent with the magnificent African wildlife. I had a checklist which I diligently kept up with. We saw many of the following in each of the camps...
Mammals: Yellow Baboon, Velvet Monkey, 4-toed Elephant Shrew, Crawshay's Zebra, Warthog, Hippopotamus, Thornicroft's Giraffe, Elephant, Buffalo, Greater Kudu, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Puku, Impala, Wild Dog, African Civet, Large-spotted Genet, Bushy-tailed Mongoose, White-tailed Mongoose, Spotted Hyena, Leopard, Lion, Serval, Scrub Hare, Porcupine and...
Birds: Hammerkkop, Grey Heron, Great White Egret, Green-backed Heron, African Sacred Ibis, Hadeda Ibis, Saddle-billed Stork, African Openbill, Yellow-billed Stork, White Faced Duck, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose, African Fish Eagle, Hooded Vulture, Bateleur, African Harrier Hawk, African Jacana, African Palm Swift, Lilac Breasted Roller and the list goes on...
|A friendly follower|
Walking with the animals...
Without wifi to distract us we focused our attention on the land. Our walking safaris were led by an armed ZAWA ( Zambian Wildlife Authority) Scout, followed by our Guide, then me...because I am easily distracted, Miss Claire, Mr. H and our Tea Porter who served us tea and biscuits during morning tea break. I have a greater knowledge of animal spoor, can easily spot and name prints on the ground, learned about the uses of medicinal plants in the bush, can identify many of the mammals and birds listed above and have a deeper appreciation for the African bush...which I love.
|The Morning Newspaper|
Best of all was what we heard in the distance and sometimes a little too close for comfort. Lions, elephants and hyenas...OH MY! They came calling each night and left their prints in the sand around our tents each morning so that we could easily identify them. So kind...but we loved the night sounds most of all. It is worth travelling back to Africa into the wild just to sleep by the night sounds.
"Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno;
it is a photographer's paradise, a hunter's Valhalla,
an escapists Utopia. It is what you will,
and it withstands all interpretations.
It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a shiny new one.
To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just'home'.
It is all these things but one thing- it is never dull."
End of Part I
I hope you enjoyed that little safari trip
and picked up some ideas
of what it is like to travel on safari.
I have more to follow
Safari Style~my essentials
Camera Talk~what to consider
The Ladies Bushcamp Bookclub
The Armchair Traveller
Thank you for reading along!
Always a pleasure to share a tale with you!!
If you have any questions or comments
please feel free to write to me
Always a pleasure to share a tale with you!!
If you have any questions or comments
please feel free to write to me