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Southern Africa Safari

Author: Marden P. (More Trip Reviews by Marden P.)
Date of Trip: June 2008


southern africa safari vehicleJessie, Angie and I flew out of Salt Lake City, on June 8th at 8:30 AM, and arrived at JFK, in New York City, at about 4:00 PM. The flight took longer than anticipated because there was a storm and we had to fly around it, to the north over Maine, and then back south to JFK. There we quickly changed planes, from Delta to South Africa Airways, and set off for Africa. Eight hours later we landed in Dakar, Senegal on the west coast of Africa. We stayed on the plane while it was refueled and then flew another 8 hours to Johannesburg, South Africa. There we met Mike and Lisa, who had flown Delta all the way, and went to pick up our luggage. Everything was there and fine except for Jessie's bag. It would be ten days before her bag caught up to us in Livingstone. We were met at the airport and taken to the Airport Grand Hotel (which was nice but not GRAND) where we had a buffet supper for 120 Rands (about $21 US) each. It was OK but proved the truth of what Mike said, "Never sleep in a restaurant or eat in a hotel". We retired but didn't sleep much. Jessie was worried about her bag and I was just too wound up.

We lost a day in travel so it was now the 10th of June. Mike woke us (the flight finally caught up with us and we were dead to the world) and we took the hotel shuttle back to the airport to fly on to Lusaka, Zambia. When we arrived we stood in line forever to get through immigration (it could have been much worse but we had gotten our visas before leaving the States) and collect our luggage. Then we met Chauntel. She was a 29 year-old South African, of Dutch descent, who has been guiding for four years. She drove us to Pioneer Camp for our first nights stay. We had a nice lodge with two bedrooms, bath, kitchen and commons room. Hot water came from a "donkey" which is a tank enclosed in concrete, to help hold the heat, with a fire pit under it. We walked around the grounds and took pictures of the trees and flowers. There were orange, fig, peach and other trees we didn't recognize along with beautiful flowers. At 6:00 PM we met with Chauntel and had a planning and orientation meeting. We decided to follow the safari plan except that we would skip Lochinvar NP and drive directly from Kafue to our take-off point on the Zambezi River. Otherwise we would have a very long drive in the very early morning to get to the River on time. We had steak, salad, chips, and vegetables for supper and then to bed. I slept until about 2:30 and then got up and read until 4:00 then slept until 6:00 when we got up to hit the road.

June 11th. Pioneer Camp to Kafue NP.

We drove into Lusaka and bought groceries and clothes to replace what Jessie had in her "lost bag". She spent about $300 to buy clothing and a new pack (things are very expensive here) but it sounded much worse when you talk in terms of Zambian money. She spent almost TWO MILLION Zambian $ on her purchases and still had to use a pair of Angie's shoes, my pants and Lisa's underwear during the next ten days. We left Lusaka at about 11:00 AM and drove to Kafue NP. Along the way Jessie discovered that it is possible to go potty in the brush. She was greatly relieved and the rest of us were greatly amused. The first wildlife we saw were vultures eating a baboon that had been killed on the highway. At the gate to the Park we saw a snake that may have been a Black Mamba although it didn't stay long enough for a positive ID. As we drove further into the Park, about 20 miles on a dirt road, we saw elephant, roan antelope, puku, waterbucks, impala and zebra. We arrived at Lufupa Camp about 5:30 PM and set up our tents for the first time. There was a lot of construction going on at the camp because, like many places we were to visit, they are moving away from camping to full service lodge type accommodations. We did have shower and toilet facilities even though one of the staff built too much fire under the "donkey" and steam was blowing out all over. When I flushed the toilet boiling water came pouring out and if I had been sitting I would have gotten parboiled. Chauntel cooked a great supper of noodles with a hamburger-onion-tomato-peppercorn sauce and salad, garlic bread and broccoli with mushroom dip. We cleaned up and went to bed on our mats and sleeping bags. The bags were great and kept us toasty warm even with the temperatures in the mid-forties. During the night we heard lions, hyena, hippo, bush-babies and a variety of unidentified sounds. It made Jessie and Lisa a little nervous, especially when Chauntel told them not to go out of the tents without looking around carefully for "eyes in the dark". She also told us to not leave our shoes outside the tents because the hyenas would chew them up and a short time later Angie and I saw a pair of sneakers that had been torn in two. I don't know how they got that way but we took a picture and it will make a great story.

June 12th. Kafue NP.

Survived the night and arose at 5:30 AM for hot chocolate (the entire trip we were explaining why we didn't drink coffee and tea) which became a morning ritual throughout the safari. We set our tents up under a large tree so it would be shaded and this morning we found out that wasn't such a good idea. The tree had some small fruit that attracted birds by day and bats and bush-babies by night. Then they would mess on our tents and drop sticky seeds so the tents were a real mess. We went for our first game drive and it was a great success. We saw antelope (puku, impala, waterbuck, bushbuck, kudu and steenbok) as well as warthog, hippo, croc, baboon, monkey and many birds. There was a hot sulfur spring in the Lufupa River and the hippos loved lazing around in it. We returned to camp about 11:00 and had a brunch of French toast, cereal and juice. Everyone, except me, then took a nap. I wandered around camp and played with my new camera. I bought it just as we were leaving SLC and so I am still learning how to use it. There was a family of warthogs rooting around the camp so I had live subjects to practice on. The camp is being rebuilt and they have a beautiful dining area over-looking the confluence of the Kafue and Lufupa Rivers. When nap time was over we sat on the deck and watched birds; including cormorants, darters and kingfishers. Went for another game drive and saw more of the same animals but not as many because it was hotter and many of them were shaded up. Returned to camp for a supper of chicken, sweet potatoes (African ones are white but very good), and green salad. At 7:30 PM we set out on a night game drive with local guides in an open vehicle. The driver said his name was J.D. and that stood for John Deere. We had coats and blankets and ponchos but we still nearly froze. We didn't see much and certainly didn't get our $35 apiece worth. We saw hares, mongoose, bush-babies, hippos and bushbuck. We spent most of the night looking for a pride of lions that had been reported in the area, but never did see them. Finally we gave up and returned to camp. Just as we were driving into camp we saw a hyena in the road (probably looking for a pair of shoes). It wasn't a very long look but it was the only one we saw on the entire safari. Went to bed and tried to "warm up".

June 13th. Lufupa Camp in Kafue NP

Got up and had our hot chocolate and set out for another game drive. We didn't drive along the river like we had been doing but headed into another area hoping to see different kinds of animals. No such luck! We saw lots of impala, puku, waterbucks, kudu and hippos. Many areas of the park have been burned to remove brush and encourage grass growth. The grazing animals love these areas because there isn't cover for predators and the new growth makes for good grazing. Over-all the Park seems to have a real scarcity of large grazers and much of the Park has grass several feet high that shows no signs of grazing. We saw a variety of birds, including ground hornbills, bee-eaters, wattled cranes, fish eagles and many small birds. Returned to camp for lunch, took pictures of the birds which were lunching on the fruit above our tents, and then set out for another game drive. Mike has been ill and he opted to stay in camp and sleep. We drove along the river and found a troop of monkeys whose purpose in life seemed to be entertaining us. We spent a long time just watching them interact and play. The young ones are just like kids in the way they tease and play with each other and the adults. We also saw a new antelope that none of us (including Chauntel) had seen before. It is called an ORIBI and is much like an impala but enough different that I knew it was a new species as soon as I saw it. There are a few biting flies here but while the bites hurt at the time there isn't any lasting effect. No swelling or itching and the bites don't hurt as bad as our deer fly bites. No mosquitoes! We returned to camp and after supper we watched the sunset on the Kafue River.

June 14th. On the Road Again. Kafue to Zambezi River.

I got up about 4:30 AM and coaxed the fire back to life then sat near it and listened to Africa come to life. Maybe I should say listened to half of Africa come to life, the other half had been alive all night. When the others got up at 5:30 we broke camp, loaded "Injabulo" and set out for the Zambezi River. Injabulo was the name of our truck and it means "Happiness" in one of the local languages. All of Jenman's trucks are named happiness, just in different languages .On the drive out of the park we saw a sable antelope, and in the distance zebra, hartebeest and gnu. Just outside the Park gate, but still inside the Park, we saw a waterhole with a number of different animal and bird species. We drove back through Lusaka and stopped for fuel and groceries before heading south. I took a lot of pictures, through the windows, as we drove, of the villages and natives. We'll see if any of them turn out-we were going about 110 KPH and the roads are not exactly smooth. We arrived at Breezers Camp at about 4:00 PM and set up camp. It is right on the banks of the Zambezi River and a very nice area. There is grass to set the tents up on and trees (without fruit) for shade. We can look out our tent door and see the hippos in the river. I hope they don't use the trail into camp to find grass tonight. I am writing this by lamp light since it is dark and we are waiting for supper to cook. There is a three-legged dog running around camp and the owner says he keeps the dog as a warning to tourists. The fourth leg made a meal for a hungry croc. The moon is nearly full and it is a beautiful night. The hippos are grunting, the frogs are croaking and there are no mosquitoes buzzing. After supper it will be a shower and off to bed. After eight hours on the road I think everyone is ready.

June 15th. Zambezi River.

Arose at 5:30 AM and watched the sunrise as we ate our pancakes and then broke camp. We loaded everything we are not taking on the river in the truck so it will be ready to go when we return. We had an orientation session with our guide T.K., and his apprentice Carlos, then packed the canoes and set out on the mighty Zambezi. There was a good current but also a good headwind and so we had to paddle more than we would have liked. Angie went in one canoe with T.K., Mike and Lisa went in a canoe, Jessie and I in another and Carlos had his own with much of the gear. We saw elephants, bushbuck, hippos, crocs (not as many as I expected and not as large) and a variety of birds. Angie is really good at learning the names of the birds (as well as taking their pictures) and Lisa is writing the names down so when we get home we can identify the various birds in our pictures. We stopped on the Zimbabwe side of the river for a potty break even though we were not supposed to be there without a visa. The Zimbabwe side is a national park so there weren't any people around while the Zambian side of the river is quite populated. Jessie and I had a hard time working together to get the canoe where we wanted it to be (Probably because she didn't want it to be where I wanted it to be). She was worried about the hippos and would paddle frantically if we started to get anywhere near one. I told her to "relax" and let me paddle but she just kept "helping me paddle". She didn't think I could paddle and take pictures at the same time. Imagine that! We had lunch on an island with the tables and camp stools setting in an inch or two of water. However, the tables were covered with checkered tablecloths and if you didn't sit too heavy the stools wouldn't sink completely into the sand. After lunch we continued on until about 4:30 PM when we pulled up on an island and set up camp. We used tents that were smaller than the ones we are used to but we did bring our sleeping pads and bags. The gas stove wouldn't work so supper was cooked over an open fire and consisted of rice, chicken stew, squash and green salad. Everyone was very tired so we retired early and slept soundly (despite the hippos grazing nearby and the usual chorus of birds and frogs).

June 16th. Zambezi River.

africa elephantsI was up at 5:30 AM and built up the camp fire and watched the sun-rise. Others were up at 6:30 and we had hot chocolate and toast with jam and were on the river by 7:30. Cloudy and windy again today and we had to do a good deal of paddling. We saw elephants, up close and personal, and hippos at a distance (unless you ask Jessie and then they were UP CLOSE and PERSONAL, too). There were lots of water birds: cranes, herons, egrets (both common and cattle), geese (both Egyptian and spur-winged) and smaller ones that were colorful and vocal. We stopped on the Zambian shore and there were elephants and warthogs in a mud hole about 100 yards away. We spent about an hour photographing them and just watching their antics. Several groups of elephants came by during that time and they all spent some time mud-bathing. Later we stopped on the Zimbabwe shore and took a short "nature walk". We saw vultures, monkeys and lots of tracks but no animals. T.K. dug out an ant lion and showed us one of the "little five". We resumed our float until it was time for lunch. Everyone took a nap except Angie and me. We were writing in our journals when three elephants came in to water right near us. That got everyone, except Mike, up and taking pictures. Mike is still not feeling well and he spent his time having a "GrandBob" nap. After about 30 minutes the elephants moved on and were soon replaced by five more, including a huge bull. We finally had to get back on the river so we left them. Saw a large group of kudu, including two young ones who were as interested in watching us as we were in watching them, and baboons, bushbuck and birds. We stopped at a permanent camp and filled our water jug and then floated on to our camping island. There was a full moon and it was beautiful. Mike was sitting in a canoe watching the water, fish and moon when the guide told him "It is croc's feeding time. You should move away from the water". Needless to say he complied. During the night three elephants swam onto the island and one of them stayed until morning.

June 17th. Zambezi River.

The wind was blowing so hard we couldn't get on the river. Fortunately we had some entertainment. The elephant was still there and seemed to be willing to stay as long as we did. He just wandered around his end of the island and we watched him from ours. The only problem was the potty tree was on his end. When he moved the cattle egrets walked along beside him and picked up the insects he kicked up. The island was about 250 yards wide and 800 yards long with several large trees and some small bushes and lots of bamboo on the shore lines. There were hippo tracks all over the island but we didn't see any out of the water. We finally left the island just after noon with the wind still blowing. We got a little wet crossing the river but when we got in near the bank the wind died down and we were able to drift along without much paddling. We often pulled the canoes together and just rafted along with the current. It was easier to talk that way and Jessie felt safer, especially if our canoe was in the middle. Saw lots of elephants in small bunches along the bank. They don't seem to pay us any mind unless they have calves and then they are very protective and move away as soon as we get near. Mom still won't let us get close to the hippos. She keeps a sharp look-out and spots them at a good distance (she also spots a few croc-a-logs and rock-o-pottumuses). We decided to not camp on the river another night but went on to the take-out point where the boat will pick us up for the return trip tomorrow. It was a good choice because they have showers and toilets. Angie went to shower first and chased all the lizards out but them when she turned on the shower a frog came out of the drain hole. She yelled at Jessie to "send Dad". I went and got the poor little guy and took his picture then turned him loose. The showers were cold but after three days on the river we were up for it. As the sun went down we sat on the river bank and watched the hippos come out on the opposite bank (Zimbabwe side). We also saw buffalo, waterbuck and impala all at a considerable distance. T.K. and Carlos sat with us, around the campfire and told us about their lives and families. Carlos had a brother who was eaten by a croc when he was just three years old. T.K. told us some stories about his guiding experiences, including one about a client who didn't move away from the water at "croc feeding time" and nearly lost his life. We retired to the sounds of lions, hippos and hyenas.

June 18th. Zambezi River to Livingstone.

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