Back from Zambia !!!

Jun 5th, 2006, 08:03 AM
  #21  
 
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Great pictures! Thanks for sharing!
Favor is offline  
Jun 5th, 2006, 08:09 AM
  #22  
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Thanks Favor....I'm not good at trip reports, so I try to add text to the pictures.
Africa is offline  
Jun 5th, 2006, 08:24 AM
  #23  
 
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Africa~Great pictures, brought back a lot of memories of my trip to Lower Zambezi last year...it's a great place huh? Thanks for sharing!!
matnikstym is offline  
Jun 5th, 2006, 09:00 AM
  #24  
 
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Africa,
Many thanks for sharing your well done photo journal. I particularly enjoyed your bird shots - stunning. The cubs and Douglas, of course, are priceless. Those hippo shots looked so nasty - could you see much to really tell what was happening?
Sherry
cybor is offline  
Jun 5th, 2006, 09:45 AM
  #25  
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Thanks Dennis and Sherry

Regarding the hippo fight, it was far more horrific than the photos show us.

Even our guide and spotter drove straight past them and then asked us if we wanted to go back after explaining what was happening. Even they seemed a bit distressed, as one of the hippos had lost a lot of blood. The victim looked very weak and was still trying to run away, but would only manage about 10 meters before being attacked again. It was when the injured hippo moved towards our vehicle (for protection), our guide drove off at speed, as the aggressor was also moving towards our vehicle.
Africa is offline  
Jun 5th, 2006, 06:43 PM
  #26  
santharamhari
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Gaurang,

Yep....sure thing

Hari
 
Jun 5th, 2006, 08:29 PM
  #27  
 
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thanks for sharing the great photos, especially appreciated your comments

stakerk is offline  
Jun 6th, 2006, 10:17 AM
  #28  
 
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Wow, these are amazing -- thank you so much. I just love looking at them and the final sequence is fantastic.
lisa is offline  
Jun 6th, 2006, 10:31 AM
  #29  
 
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These are incredible. Thank you so much for sharing.
Leely is offline  
Jun 9th, 2006, 12:22 PM
  #30  
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Stakerk, Leely and Lisa - Thank you

TRIP REPORT

Introduction

This was the first time that I was leaving the “security” of East African safaris to venture into the unknown (5 previous safaris in East Africa).

The plan was to spend 10 days relaxing at a safari destination to celebrate my wife’s (Jayna) birthday and give her a well-deserved break. We wanted to stay in one location and at a maximum of 2 different camps. The options were narrowed down to Sabi Sands (SA) or the Lower Zambezi National Park (Zambia) and the thought of relaxing on the banks of the Zambezi river won it for me (together with the reputation of Chiawa Camp). It was Fodor’s and in particular Rocco’s posts that introduced me to Zambia, so I asked if he could help me to book this trip through his company. It was at very short notice (the idea was only presented to Rocco, 8 weeks before departure!!!), but Rocco done a great job and everything went smoothly and as planned. Living in London, Lusaka is only a 10 hour overnight BA flight with a 1 hour time-difference.

The itinerary was:

- 5 nights Chiawa Camp (superior luxury tent)
- 3 nights Sausage Tree Camp (honeymoon room)
- 1 night Taj Pamodzi (Lusaka)

This was also the most luxurious safari that I had ever booked (on my last safari, I spent nights sleeping in dome tents with a hole in the ground as my toilet) but it didn’t distort my thoughts from my main priority – GOOD GUIDING

Location

Zambia is unique on the African safari circuit as you are allowed to do night drives and walks within the National Parks. I love the thrill of night game-drives and all of my previous experiences had been in private reserves and conservation areas in Kenya.
After arriving in Lusaka, we still required the assistance of a light aircraft (25 minutes), a landcruiser (20 minutes) and a boat (15 minutes) – just to reach our first camp. Despite my love for the Mara river, the Zambezi was breathtaking and magical. During the transfer, the experience of speed-boating down the river and passing the curious animals on the banks, made me feel as though I was on my first ever safari. It was a wonderful new experience.
The LZNP was very green and bushy during our May visit. This made for some very suprising encounters during our game drives, including elephants that could hide but be just 10 meters away from the vehicle. During night-drives they would get as close as 3 meters before being seen – the most memorable encounter was when one elephant trumpeted in Jayna’s ear from 3 meters away during a night drive. The elephant was completely hidden by bushes at the side of the road and gave everyone a fright as we drove past. We also experienced some of our best “off-road” driving to date – very bumpy but enjoyable. The most amazing aspect of the LZNP park was it’s remoteness. I can remember 3-4 hour gamedrives where we did not encounter another vehicle. After spending so much time in East Africa – this was another new experience!!! Also, the guides from one camp will not radio guides from another camp if they find a good sighting – information was only passed on when guides crossed paths during gamedrives – and this was very rare!! During one gamedrive with Sausage Tree, whos guides had tracked down the lion pride, we passed a Chiawa vehicle and informed them of our find. Two Chiawa vehicles then followed us to the location and it was such a reassuringly pleasant affair. We were allowed to spend as much time as we wanted with the pride while the first Chiawa vehicle waited at least 25 meters away from us (and the second Chiawa vehicle waited a further 25 meters behind the first one). Not once did we feel rushed or crowded and the other vehicles even positioned themselves out of our view – so it was just us and the lions. Jayna and I have never seen such consideration for the animals or other guests during our East African safaris – another new experience!!!

Guiding

The guides at Chiawa (Joe, Daniel, Dispenser) and at Sausage Tree (Moses, Lawrence) were all young, highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic. After 10 years of safaris and reading, I thought I already new all there was to know about African wildlife – but I was wrong – I learnt so many more new and interesting facts about the flora and fauna. These guides made you sit up and want to listen. The guides in Zambia have to work hard to qualify, especially if they want to take clients on gamedrives, walks and canoe trips (all three activities would require obtaining +70% in a total of 3 written and 2 practical exams). The standard was fantastic. Another observation that I made was that guides who are based in just one park are far more in tune with their surroundings and that confidence leads to a greater sense of reassurance.

The Game

The game-viewing was not as prolific as in east Africa and you had to work hard to find the game, mainly due to the time of year (water was available throughout the valley and escarpments + visibility was reduced). In the peak of the dry season (September – October), the game-viewing is more spectacular as most of the animals come to the valley floor in search of food and water, resulting in herds of animals on the banks of the Zambezi. The animals here were very “wild” and skittish. This made photography more of a challenge but also made us appreciate the time we did spend with the animals. I had never been a “bird” person before but I did enjoy the challenge of trying to capture them on photo, as you’ll see from my many bird photos (this trip was first attempt at using an SLR camera). I think the main reason for this is that in all of my previous safaris, I have focussed on video – and it’s much easier to capture birds on video. The guide’s tracking skills were really tested at times and this made it more rewarding when the animals were found – a great sense of achievement for both yourself and your guide.

Highlights (there were so many but here are a few…)
- the 4 meter African Rock Python. It has taken me 10 years to find this amazing animal and it was such a beautiful one. It was found by Daniel (Chiawa) during a night drive and very close to the camp. That night Daniel was following a leopard who was in sight, but when he saw the python crossing the road, he left the leopard to stay with the python (that would have been my choice too because it is quite a rare sighting). They left a plastic bottle on the side of the road to mark the area close to the slow-moving python. Joe, who was our guide that night, found the marker and allowed me to get out of the vehicle and walk within 2 meters of the resting python. Surprisingly all of the ladies remained in the car!!! (As you may be able to tell – I love snakes, especially the constrictors).
- Watching two equal sized elephant bulls having a good old fight. They boxed for 3 rounds, with stops for feeding between each round. It was fascinating to watch and required us to reposition our vehicle when the big elephant dust-ball was moving close to our vehicle.
- Two wonderful leopard sightings.
- The wonderful interaction between a male lion and his young cubs.
- A pair of honey badgers sighted during the day time and very close to Sausage Tree camp.
- One hippo trying to kill another during a night game-drive. This is one sighting that I will remember for its cold-blooded brutality rather than its beauty.

Biggest Regret

- Jayna and I went for a game-drive every single morning EXCEPT one (at Chiawa) – where we decided to go for a guided walk instead. That morning the Chiawa game-drive found 3 wild dogs while they were hunting and by the time they caught up with them, they were already feeding on an impala. By the afternoon game-drive, the dogs had moved on. If someone had asked me before the trip to choose between wild dog and python - then python would have been my first choice (as I had seen wild dog before in South Africa).

More to follow soon ......
Africa is offline  
Jun 9th, 2006, 12:28 PM
  #31  
 
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More more more! Can't wait!
Kavey is offline  
Jun 9th, 2006, 12:46 PM
  #32  
 
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Your pictures are amazing - We are headed to Namibia in Sept., and in the process of researching cameras. What type of camera and lens did you use ?

Thanks !
shunter is offline  
Jun 9th, 2006, 02:37 PM
  #33  
 
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Gaurang,

Great material so far! Before you get too much further along, I would propose that the actual trip report be placed in its own thread.

The Rock Python was an amazing sighting as was the hippo fight, unfortunate as it was for the defeated hippo.
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Jun 10th, 2006, 02:42 AM
  #34  
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Thanks Rocco - I will start a new thread titled "Trip Report - Lower Zambezi National Park" I will also incorporate the camera details and the info regarding the two camps (I'm getting quite a few requests by email) - please bare with me, it will be up soon.
Africa is offline  
Jul 8th, 2006, 06:01 PM
  #35  
 
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How did I miss this? fabulous report and photos! OMG - you got some fabulous shots of Douglas - We only saw him once, in the bushes. LOVE that final sequence. Unbelievable. Brought back a lot of memories. Thanks!~

cooncat3 is offline  
Jul 9th, 2006, 11:07 AM
  #36  
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Thanks Cooncat.

As I was leaving the Lower Zambezi, the rest of the Fodorite army were just arriving - so I missed everyone.

The full report with some more pictures taken by my wife can be found here:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34819431
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