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Trip Report First African safari to Zambia trip report

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We took our first safari to Africa in 2012, late August to September. It was a wonderful experience and I think we are now addicted to safaris. I don’t think a day has gone by without me thinking of our trip and wanting to go back! Here is a (rather late) report of this trip. We chose Zambia for our first safari as we wanted to be able to walk in the parks and to be in more remote areas that didn’t have a lot of people and vehicles. Zambia turned out to be the right choice. I think Botswana would also have been great but it was much more expensive. We have just booked another trip to Zambia and Zimbabwe for 2013. We booked through Expert Africa and they were very knowledgeable about the parks and camps and excellent to deal with so I have booked the second trip through them also.

Our itinerary was:

Fly Vancouver, Canada to Lusaka
One night Pioneer Camp Lusaka

Kafue Rivers & Plains tour for one week:
Three nights Lufupa Bush Camp
Two nights Musanza Bush Camp
Two nights Busanga Bush Camp

Transfer by plane Kafue – Lusaka – Mfuwe

Nine nights at Bushcamp Company camps in South Luangwa:
Three nights Kuyenda
Two nights Kapamba
Two nights Bilimungwe
Two nights Chindeni

Transfer by land to Shenton Safari camps for one week
Three nights Kaingo
Four nights Mwamba

Transfer by plane Mfuwe – Lusaka – Livingstone
Three nights Zambezi Sun Hotel, Livingstone
Fly home from Livingstone

The Kafue Rivers and Plains trip was a tour so we were with the same people for the week. We were a small group with an excellent guide, Brent Harris, and it was a great introduction to being on safari. We just did drives, not walks, in Kafue as the distances are great. There was a bit of a problem with tsetse flies at the start of the trip but they did not bother us too much. The camps were all good but Busanga Camp was special as it is on a vast plain full of animals in a very beautiful area of Kafue. We would have liked to spend a few more nights there.

The Bushcamp Company camps were all very good. Our favourite was Kuyenda due to the excellent walks led by Phil Berry and the superb food and conversation due to his charming wife Babette. The food here was the best of the whole trip with a great selection of interesting fruit and vegetables dishes as well as meat. There were some good close up wildlife experiences at all the camps with elephants being frequent visitors especially at Bilimungwe.

The week at the Shenton camps finished the safari part of our trip off on a high note. There were lions everywhere and the animal viewing got better and better every day. We loved both camps and they had an extra activity each day which was great. We especially appreciated the hides these camps have which allowed some very good close up viewing. Mwamba was our favourite camp of the whole trip partly because it was small and rustic and partly because the wildlife viewing there was so superb.

We enjoyed our last few days at the Zambezi Sun Hotel in Livingstone but it was a shock to suddenly be among lots of people again after the quiet of the bush. We also missed having companions and conversation over the dinner table. The Zambezi Sun is a big hotel but a good choice for visiting the Falls as it is only a few minutes’ walk away so we could go there at different times of the day. We also had an enjoyable day in Livingstone. We ate the buffet at the Zambezi Sun our first night – very good with live music, but expensive. We had some good meals next door at the Royal Livingstone at a lower cost. Be sure to make reservations if you want to eat there.

In summary this trip was the best vacation we have ever had (and we’ve had some very good trips). All the camps were excellent and I’d be happy to return to any of them. We chose to limit ourselves to a few companies as we got discounts by staying longer with one company. The guides were all knowledgeable and good. We had some superb walks and drives and always felt we were in safe hands even when very close to animals. Our transfers and travel arrangements all went smoothly and we owe a big thanks to Maruska Adye of Expert Africa who was our agent. She had stayed in most of the camps herself and had some excellent suggestions for us that made the trip such a success.

My photos of our trip are at https://picasaweb.google.com/103756556041709623250/. I’m not an experienced photographer but they will give you an idea of the camps and the wildlife we saw. Unfortunately my camera could not take good night photos so I’m missing photos of some superb viewings of leopards and other nocturnal animals.

Lessons learned for next time:
- While we were pleased to experience staying at a lot of different camps we have decided for future trips we’d rather stay 3 or 4 days in a camp as it allows us to get a real feel for the area and the wildlife viewing as well as get to know the guides and others in the camp. We also preferred “settling in" for a few days rather than constantly packing up and moving on.
- We both preferred to wear shirts with collars on the walks as binocular and cameras hanging around our necks were uncomfortable with a collarless t-shirt.
- Packed too many clothes even though we travelled carry on! All camps did laundry and when we washed clothes ourselves they were dry within a few hours as it was so hot and dry and usually a small breeze. A tiny clothes line bought in a travel shop and a few light plastic coat hangers were great for hanging up washing.
- Some clothes we took were too lightly coloured (very light beige or grey) for the walks so we have now purchased darker green, brown, grey clothes for the next trip which will involve a lot of walking.
- We were most comfortable wearing light weight synthetic hiking clothes made by brands such as North Face, Columbia, Mountain Hardwear etc. as they were cool to wear and dried very quickly.
- The wildlife viewing got better throughout the trip as the weather got hotter and drier so we will be going a few weeks later on our next trip.

I posted this report because I really found reading these reports helped me plan my trip so I hope others find this helpful. If anyone has any questions or wants more details I’ll be happy to provide more information.

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