We’ve now been back a few days after an intensive 3-week trip to
In summary, the trip was everything we had anticipated and more: remote, fantastic camps, excellent guiding, great views of a dizzying variety of mammals, birds and other wildlife, amazing scenic beauty, generally light tourism traffic except around Mfuwe, first class food and drink and seamless transfers between camps and national parks.
Activities were very diverse, ranging from game drives to walking, boating, fishing, observing wildlife from hides, night drives, and two firsts: a romantic private dinner for the two of us at Kapinga Camp on the Busanga Plains and a private lunch on the Zambezi River at Chiawa Camp, with some 'instant friends' we had made (a couple from San Francisco). There we were, drifting downstream on one of the mightiest rivers in
There were many many highlights. 6 (yes six!) sitatunga at Kapinga, a fantastic leopard & cub on a kill sighting ex Shumba, amazing lion viewing at Lufupa, predators galore in the Kaingo and Nsefu area, exceptional guiding at Kalamu (I'd walk into elephants any time with Petros and Luckson is one of the best all-round guides I have ever seen in action) and a though-provoking visit to a village near Kalamu. I am still sorting through the emotions I felt upon observing such staggering poverty on the one hand, and such 'joie de vivre' displayed by the many kids we met in the village. 'What is your name', 'how are you', 'take my picture'... All they wanted from us (other than for us to take their pictures) was a container to carry water to school. Not money, not food, just a container to carry fresh water.
This is Zambia – 20 little dusty kids pressing up against you to scan the camera playback screen for their likeness, exclaiming in delight when they saw themselves, or hamming it up with their friends for the next pic. No sullen faces negotiating payment for photographs, just pure, unadulterated joy in the face of seemingly overwhelming social problems.
As far as the tourism infrastructure goes, for a relatively small player on the African safari scene, we were impressed with how smoothly everything went. Over the space of 21 days, we experienced just one delay of more than 2 hours, all the other flights and transfers were right on time or within minutes of the scheduled times. Better than the
With one or two minor exceptions everything in the camps worked: water was warm when it needed to be (the solar water heaters are amazingly effective!) the toilets flushed, there were adequate battery recharging facilities, and laundry was done at no extra charge. Kathleen did have a large hole burnt into one of her synthetic safari pants: it is probably best to let the staff know not to iron certain items. We did have an issue with lighting at one of the smaller bush camps but it is being attended to.
The food and catering in general were of very high standard, comparable with the best we have seen elsewhere. My special dietary request (vegan meals) was handled without a fuss, and it was simply a delight to enjoy such a wide variety of foods, including a few local specialties such as nshima, at the various camps. Fresh vegetables and salads, the most delicious home-made breads, creative desserts, baked goods, lots of legumes and grains, there was plenty there for even the most discerning palate. Omnivores would do pretty well too as there is invariably some kind of meat, chicken and occasionally seafood on the daily menu, plus of course eggs to order for brunch, several varieties of cheese, preserves and more. If there is one thing that is a given on safari, it is that guests are always well fed!
By and large insects were not too much of a problem, but
The 4-wheel drive vehicles were all spotless and in good condition, with ample leg room and unobstructed views. Most of the camps made use of a driver-guide plus a spotter/assistant, often a trainee guide. Predominantly men, with one notably exception: Freya, a female American guide at Kaingo. And excellent she was too! We cannot say enough about the quality of the guiding: it was as good as we had experienced anywhere in