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Trip Report: July/Aug 2005 Cape Town; South Luangwa; Lower Zambezi

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Aug 20th, 2005, 08:54 AM
  #21
 
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Dreaming,
I did happen to look at the zebra's bottoms...as the tails on the ones in Botswana made me think of a french braid. Very intricate and tidy as well.
Zambia Zebs are definitely black whith white stripes...

Brenda
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Aug 21st, 2005, 03:40 AM
  #22
 
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Only glanced at photos before but finally went through them at a more leisurely pace - lovely!
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Aug 21st, 2005, 05:27 PM
  #23
 
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(turning blue holding breath waiting for the next installment)
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Aug 22nd, 2005, 04:20 AM
  #24
 
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Hi Dreaming,
Great trip report!
I have a question for you - I will be staying overnight in the Jo'burg Airport Holiday Inn in about 3 weeks time. When you were there, did you go into town for dinner or just eat at the hotel?
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Aug 22nd, 2005, 01:59 PM
  #25
 
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(turned blue, already dead)
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:40 AM
  #26
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Many, many thanks for all of the feedback... The next installment is slightly delayed since I'm out of town. I haven't forgotten!

Dlemma - I didn't go into town for dinner, it was after 8 by the time I got to JNB and just too late to try to figure out where, etc.
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Aug 26th, 2005, 09:07 AM
  #27
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Bush Walks Continue

The night was punctuated with the sounds of hippos and lions, but secure in my self-delusion that animals won’t: a. go through mosquito netting and b. won’t climb stairs , I slept fairly well. I did consider a trip downstairs to the bathroom area, but since that flew in the face of my theories, I decided to stay in bed.

In the morning we set off for a long bush walk of about 4 hours. We walked across the island and boarded a small boat and were poled across the river.

Again, we came very close to elephant. We angled around one elephant to get a better view and crouched behind some light vegetation to watch while he ate. The elephant finished and moved to walk to his next savory feast, but his move turned him toward us and he starting walking directly at us. My stomach was rising in my throat as I looked out at him through the shelter of what suddenly seemed to be a few measly twigs. Our guide simply stood up, said “hey” in a normal talking voice. The elephant looked at him and you could almost see his eyes widening. He turned away and scurried into the surrounding bush. Within seconds he was out of sight.

We got a peak at a giraffe before he moved off into the brush. We had tea in a dried lagoon clearing, with impalas and baboons in the distance and birds flying overhead.

On the way back to the Camp, we walked near an elephant with a baby elephant, our scout and guide quickly moved us away from their direction to avoid any interaction with a mama elephant. The scout moved to stand in between us and the elephant until we were safely away. We moved into a clearing area and found another elephant across the clearing to our left. Mama and baby were to the right front. Another elephant moved into view to the left front and we could hear rustling in the bush behind. We were surrounded, but all a slight distance away. As I photographed the elephant across the clearing, he raised his head and looked as if to say, “hey, I haven’t heard one of those auto-focus, auto-wind things in a while”. I took another photo and he looked again, but for a little longer… I took that as one BIG elephant vote for the move to a digital camera. Just a few minutes later and the elephants had moved enough for us to continue our walk back.

On the walk that evening, we startled a Puku, who in turn startled a hyena. The hyena was running away, parallel to us, swinging his head from side to side looking for the threat. He finally located us, riveted his head in our direction and dashed away through the trees.

At the end of the walk, we found that the camp staff had set up chairs and sundowners at the end of the island so that we could watch the sunset over the river before walking back to camp. Then it was back to camp for the bucket shower, where I found I had a bathroom gecko. The bucket shower was wonderfully warm, but it took me a little while to remember to conserve the water!

In the morning it was an early rise and out to return to Kafunta River Lodge, as the group had a morning flight out to Lusaka. Watching the hippos as we were poled across the river to the Land Cruiser, we saw a hippo that seemed to bump into a crocodile. Instantly the hippo was on the alert swinging round and round in the water looking to find the invader. On the drive back to the lodge (2 hours) we saw elephants, waterhogs, puku, impala and, finally (!), giraffe. I had begun to wonder if I was going to get a good look at a giraffe this trip.
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Aug 26th, 2005, 10:09 AM
  #28
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Back to Game Drives

Last night at the Island Bush Camp, while we were on evening walk, a lion came into the camp. Ahhh, missed it again.

Back at Kafunta I was given chalet #8 (I had #7 before). Number 8 was furthest away in the row to the right of main common area. As I lounged in the room, waiting for the evening drive, baboons starting sneaking up bank from the river. As soon as they saw me, they would either jump back down the bank or leap to hide while watching to see what I was going to do. And I watched elephants, puku and baboons drank from the water in front of the lodge.

For the night drive, there were four guests in the car, me, another American (on her first safari) and two Germans (college aged) plus the guide, Mayhem (sp?) and a spotter. As we got onto the pontoon to cross into the park, I asked if I could try pulling the pontoon along the cable. After they finished laughing at me and realized that I was serious they said yes and I got down off the car and onto the pontoon. Suddenly the narrow space in between the side of the car and the edge of the pontoon suddenly seemed much narrower and any hidden dangers lurking in the water seemed much closer. They showed me how to sit and how to pull the club handle along the cable and we started off. After what seemed like an eternity I looked up and the opposite bank didn’t seem to be any closer. Meanwhile the car at the parallel pontoon (there were two) were nearing the bank. We finally reached the far (and I do mean FAR) shore and collapsed back into the Land Cruiser. Somehow during this process I banged my leg on something and ended up with a massive bruise across my leg that wasn’t at all painful, but inspired a lot of comment.

It was a very quiet night for wildlife, but we saw some nocturnal animals including, civet, genet, mongoose, and hyena. While I was out on the evening drive, lions came to the water in front of the camp. Can’t believe I missed it again!

The next morning I was back in the car with the other American, the English couple (from the first game drive) and three English boys (18ish), with Martin as the guide. It was the morning of the giraffe and we went from one giraffe sighting to another. Later we pulled up to a bank where hippos were lounging and watched them spring up and dash into the water to move away from the sounds of the car. Two young hippos were playfully sparing in the water.

The evening drive that day was the last for my stay in South Luangwa. Again, I was with the other American and we were to be joined by a group of five. Fortunately for us, unfortunately for them, they were delayed on the drive in (seemed to coming from Malawi). For this drive we drove up to enter the park through the main gate. This seemed to take about 30 minutes or so. As we entered the park, we stopped and looked at the temporary resident of a tree – a python had moved into a tree through a knothole and had been there for a few months. We could only see a patch of skin on its side, but could easily tell it was there. We saw more cars, both from other lodges and private cars, in this area of the park.

After we stopped at a termite mound and got the termite mound lecture (you know the one – building the mound, social structure, warmth in the mound, etc.). I leaned forward to Mayhem and said, you know Mayhem, we’d really like to see lion or leopard. The other American hadn’t seen lion yet and had just had a glance at leopard and I hadn’t seen either while in South Luangwa. With that, Mayhem was off. We stopped and checked with some other guides and Mayhem figured out a likely spot to try that was quite a distance away. So, we barreled away hoping to be lucky. We stopped for sundowners at a dried lagoon and just after we stopped a journey of seven giraffe started walking across the lagoon (my camera was up on the seat. They alternately walked and ran across the clearing past us. Just as they reached the far side of the clearing another giraffe lagging behind came into view. He meandered across the lagoon until he caught sight of us. Then he stood and looked at us looking at him until he decided that it was time to catch up to his buddies.

We then continued our lion search and FOUND THEM! 4 female and 1 male lion, just lazing the evening away hidden in high grass. We were now running late to return to camp, so started to head back to the main gate. We were getting closer to the main gate when we began hearing a cacophony of sound. Baboons barking hysterically in the trees. We pulled up behind another Land Cruiser and started looking with the spotlight for the problem. The guides quickly found the leopard. The leopard was stalking two impala that were just casually hanging out under the trees. The guides both turned out the spotlights and we waited in the eerie night with the baboons shouting their warnings. Occasionally one of the guides would turn on the spotlight, but point it away, so we could dimly see if the leopard and the impala were still there. The impala eventually drifted off, the leopard watched for a while, then started stalking off in another direction. Our guide reversed up the road for a distance, convinced he knew where the leopard was going to come out from the bush. He was right! The leopard stalked out of the bush and walked past us about 10 – 15 feet away. What an incredible evening!

Coming Next: The Invasion
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Aug 26th, 2005, 10:14 AM
  #29
 
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Wow! Walks and drives all sounding great!
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Aug 26th, 2005, 10:32 AM
  #30
 
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excellent report! keep it coming! 53 more days for me!
Dennis
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Aug 26th, 2005, 11:06 AM
  #31
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Coming Next: The Invasion

Back at Kafunta, the staff were delighted for us, knowing that we had hoped for lion or leopard. Dinner had that special, post successful game drive glow. The glow lasted all the way back to my chalet. I floated into the room, got one look and crashed back down to earth. There was a large hairy spider in the room and he was on the INSIDE of the mosquito netting. Can’t imagine why I didn’t get a picture! This monster must have been at least 4 inches across (including legs). The body was probably almost an inch. So I’m standing there trying to figure out what to do. So I put my day pack down on the edge of the mosquito netting (so it didn’t just float out when I tried to swat it), got a book and went inside the net for hand to hand combat. I stood there with the book in my hand thinking that if I missed I might not know where the spider was and now he might be really annoyed. So, I looked at the whistle hanging on the door. Anyone else have that psychological barrier to the whistle? As in, it had better be life threatening if you blow it?

I walked past the whistle and went outside hoping to get the attention of the night watchman (and yes, I’m really embarrassed at this point). So I showed the night watchman the spider and asked if it was poisonous. (Figuring the spider and I might reach coexistence if it weren’t.) He didn’t answer but gathered up the mosquito netting so he had one hand on either side of the spider (why didn’t I think of that? Oh, I know, my hands were going nowhere NEAR there!). Once the spider was gone, he pointed out the whistle to me for any future problems and that was it.

Once he was gone, I chastised both the wall gecko and the bathroom gecko for not dealing with the spider issue before I got back, then I went into the bathroom. Where I found that a squirrel had left very small droppings on the edge of the toilet seat… almost as though he had been aiming for the toilet!

The next morning I was very disappointed to have to leave. Kafunta and the Bush Camp were both incredible. The staff was personable. The food was good, fellow guests enjoyable, rooms comfortable. The chalet at the Island Bush camp was rustic, but my favorite room (with a view!) of the trip. Overall, the wildlife seemed somewhat scarce and it could be a while between sightings, but the walks and drives were still fantastic experiences with very knowledgeable guides.

It took us 50 minutes to get to the airport, where I checked in and paid my airport tax. With some spare time, I wandered over Moondog’s café for a cup of coffee and to browse the books. Coffee was $2 (They took US$, but not required). Books were very highly priced. (A fiction book for $40, etc.) They did have a wide selection of field guides and I found a small book on the Mammals of Zambia for $4.

Then it was time for the flight to Lusaka, a flight to Royal airstrip on the Lower Zambezi and a transfer to Chongwe. With a 4 hour wait in Lusaka, this trip would mean that I left too early for a morning drive and arrived too late for an evening trip. (Which I knew when I booked the trip. It appears that Airwaves added a later South Luangwa to Lusaka flight, but it was cancelled on my day of travel). I had lunch in the airport restaurant upstairs – chicken curry, surprisingly good ($10, and they did take US$ as well). I checked out making an international call, but the business services center told me that it would be $8/minute, which seemed a little crazy considering I’d be waking up people at 1AM and then telling them to hurry up and talk! I didn’t find the internet access that Lin found, but it must have been there in the same center.

In the airport, Airwaves directed me to the airport tax booth and told me to fill out a form to have the airport tax for the Lusaka to Royal leg waived, since I was in transit. It was a very short form and with no problems, the $5 for the second leg was waived.

Finally it was flight time! There was just 4 passengers on the plane, me, a couple getting off at the Jeki strip, and one of the management staff from Chongwe. We stopped first at Jeki, dropping off the couple and then carried onto Royal. When we arrived at Royal, the Chongwe land cruiser was waiting with some other guests who had arrived on an earlier ProFlight flight. Then it was off for a short 15 – 20 minute drive to Chongwe. When I arrived - good news! I had thought I wouldn't be able to get an evening activity, but I would after all.... Yeah!
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Aug 26th, 2005, 11:36 AM
  #32
 
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Sheesh, my heart rate has gone right up and I keep feeling phantom creepy crawlies on my skin - I HATE spiders and a 4 inch one would have elicited a shriek from me that the entire camp would have heard!

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Aug 26th, 2005, 04:52 PM
  #33
 
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Great report. You've had some exciting encounters in S. Luangwa. Looking forward to your Lower Zambezi adventure.

Will check out your photos later.

I know what you mean about the camera noise telling you it's time to move to digital.
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Aug 26th, 2005, 05:49 PM
  #34
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Well, I will see whether the big cats in South Luangwa are telling me the same about my photo equipment...

22 days and counting...
 
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Aug 26th, 2005, 06:41 PM
  #35
 
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:-? wondering if dreaming will ever get to the chongwe report...
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Aug 26th, 2005, 06:52 PM
  #36
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Dennis, how many days? 50?
 
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Aug 26th, 2005, 06:56 PM
  #37
 
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53 bwana, thanks for asking! time is both gong fast and slow...
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Aug 26th, 2005, 06:56 PM
  #38
 
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Dennis,

Hang in there...I will have my Chongwe trip report in a couple weeks, as soon as I get to Cape Town!
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Aug 26th, 2005, 06:59 PM
  #39
 
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Thanks Rocco! and no matter how good your pictures are I WILL NOT BUY ANOTHER CAMERA, I WILL NOT BUY ANOTHER CAMERA, I WILL NOT BUY ANOTHER CAMERA!
Dennis
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Aug 26th, 2005, 07:01 PM
  #40
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In the meantime, look at this:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=-15.71...38989+(Chongwe River Camp)&spn=0.134062,0.148075&t=k&hl=en

Mitch
 
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