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Lower Zambezi/South Luangwa/Livingstone - August 2013


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Hi all! Have been lurking on Safaritalk for a while now so just a quick thanks to everyone for all the advice and inspiration throughout the forums!


My girlfriend and I organized a 10-night trip to Zambia in August. The itinerary was as follows:


- 4 nights: Kasaka River Lodge, Lower Zambezi

- 4 nights: Flatdogs Camp, South Luangwa

- 2 nights: Zambezi Sun, Livingstone


We had initially planned to visit South Luangwa first, but they were already full when we were booking back in January! It was my girlfriend's first safari and my first ‘proper’ safari (I grew up in South Africa and any safaris were normally self-driven family trips), so it actually worked out better this way, as Lower Zambezi was probably a bit of a smoother way to transition into the safari! On an unrelated note, it’s remarkable how quickly you adjust to waking up at 5am every morning and sleeping by 10pm every night! We spent almost 24 hours travelling from Singapore-Johannesburg-Lusaka-Lower Zambezi and arrived at Kasaka at around 5:30pm but that didn’t stop us from hopping straight in the land rover for a short drive around the GMA! (it was unfortunately a bit late to make it into the park by then)


We don’t have experience with any other lodges, but we loved our stay at Kasaka River Lodge. We really enjoyed the slightly rustic feel to the camp, and enjoyed having meals with the other guests and and being able to chat and with them and listen their stories from previous safaris. I can imagine that this experience would be even greater once you move on to the higher-end camps and the number of guests gets smaller. Meals were great with breakfasts and lunch more buffet-style, while dinner was a set 3-course meal with the exception of a big braai on our (coincidentally) last night. Our tent was on the ‘tame’ side of the camp, although I’m pretty sure the distinction between the ‘tame’ and ‘wild’ sides are purely in the aesthetics. The tents on the tame side are placed around the gardened lawn whereas the tents on the wild side are accessed via a boardwalk with the brush underneath. Both sides are visited by foraging hippos during the night and we were woken up most nights by hippos grazing just outside our tent!


What we loved about our stay at Kasaka, and I guess it’s just the nature of the Lower Zambezi in general, is the range of activities that you are able to do. As well as the regular drives there are motorboat safaris, canoe safaris and tigerfishing trips, all of which we managed to do. We didn’t have enough time to do a walking safari, but we did manage to visit one of the local villages and schools, as well as the small adjoining cultural village. There were lots of good photo opportunities of the local children, but the kids all rush up to you to hold your hands as you are touring the village! On more than one occasion I had a chain of 5 kids on each hand!


The Lower Zambezi National Park is about a 5km drive from the lodge, and while in the park we were surprised by the many different types of terrain and how often you switch from one type to the next. The density of animals is not as great as in South Luangwa but there are much fewer vehicles, and as such the guides seem to have a bit more freedom to drive off the main paths.


I'm just an amateur holiday photographer, but here are some pictures of our time in Lower Zambezi:




Massive baobab estimated to be ~1500 years old!



We made daily visits to a pair of lion brothers that had made a buffalo kill perhaps the day before we arrived. Apparently they had made a kill before they killed the buffalo and were still quite full, so they didn’t start feeding until our 3rd day there. By the time our last day arrived, the smell was pretty unbearable!



We saw a lot of elephants, and they generally seemed much grumpier and quicker to mock charge/trumpet than their South Luangwa counterparts!







Smirking waterbuck



Sitting on a boat in the middle of the Zambezi with a Mosi in hand, watching the sun set behind the hills more than made up for the fact that we didn't catch anything!



We loved the canoe safari! A bit of a similar feeling to walking safari and being a bit more in touch and closer to nature. You start along the main river but divert down a side channel so as to avoid hippos and the bigger crocs







Sunrise from the lodge



A coalition of 5 young males lazing away the late morning/early afternoon heat






Kudu on a termite mound



Probably the best sighting we had was a pair of mating lions on their honeymoon period. We went on an all-day drive and went by them in the morning. Later in the afternoon we were fishing in a small pond maybe 500-600m from where we had seen the lions in the morning when we heard some pretty loud warning calls from a troop (?) of baboons which went on for some time. Our guide made up pack up and get back into the land rover and we went over to see what the commotion was about. It turned out that the mating lion pair had managed to kill a small elephant calf. We probably missed the kill by a matter of minutes, as they hadn’t broken through the elephant hide by the time we got there. It was a bit of a tense situation as there were a lot of elephants in the area, and our guide mentioned that if any of the elephants smelt the carcass that they would probably try and charge the lions to chase them from the kill. There was a bull elephant who was hanging around and keeping a close watch but generally kept his distance. As it was started to get dark we headed back to camp.










While we were on our canoe safari the evening before, some of the guests had managed to see a leopard with a fresh impala kill. On our way back from our all-day drive we saw that the carcass had been hoisted up a tree, and shortly after we managed to spot the leopard in some bushes nearby.




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Looks like an action-packed safari! Very beautiful skies from an amateur photographer. The close up eles are beautiful photos too.


Do describe the canoeing in a little more detail @@mtow48 - would like to hear how the Zambia side of the river feels in terms of hippos, crocs, river currents and general safety. Did the lodge send qualified canoe guides with you? How many canoes together in the water? Did the side channels feel much quieter?


Sad about the ele calf, though :(

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@@mtow48 Lovely report on the first part of your trip with some great sightings. Seeing those lions with a freshly killed elephant calf was probably quite an emotional moment; but a reminder of the raw environment into which you have entered.


Do you have any images of the accommodation at Kasaka? I would certainly be interested, if so.


One small point the 'puku' in your image are actually waterbuck. Coordinating the images and the text in a report is a challenge and it is easy to make a mistake. It is probably too late for you to edit it personally, so if you would like me to correct that for you, let me know; happy to oblige. .


Looking forward to hearing more.......................

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We made our way to Mfuwe via Lusaka and to get to South Luangwa and Flatdogs Camp. We had met a couple in Kasaka who were following a near-identical itinerary to us: 4 nights Kasaka, 4 nights Flatdogs, 1 night Livingstone. Fortunately, they had been to Flatdogs before and advised that we keep our hats readily accessible for the 30 minute drive from the airport to Flatdogs. They were definitely necessary as we immediately noticed the difference in weather; it was significantly hotter in Mfuwe than it had been in Lower Zambezi. Not to mention that we arrived in Mfuwe at around midday! Can’t imagine what it’s like to be around during ‘suicide month’ in October!


The grounds of Flatdogs are much larger than at Kasaka. The staff were really friendly and welcoming, and we liked the fact that they would be there to greet and chat to us after every drive. We did notice that the camp definitely had a bit more of a commercial feel to it where you are a bit more ‘on your own’ and we did miss the more intimate feel of Kasaka. But of course we understood this before we went, and it just comes with the territory of being one of the lower-end options available. To be fair, there is not THAT much time to spend around camp anyway, so it wasn’t too big an issue for us. The food was good, a la carte based and a lot more varied than at Kasaka, but we still enjoyed the food at Kasaka more. We initially planned to stay all 4 nights in a standard tent, but things were quite full so we ended up staying the first 2 nights in a standard tent, and the last 2 nights in a luxury tent. Our standard tent was around the back-end of the camp, overlooking a small lagoon. At first, I wasn’t too sure how I felt facing the lagoon rather than the river, but it was actually pretty awesome! Lots of naughty baboons, lots of elephants bathing in the lagoon and often grazing next to our tents (we were almost late for our afternoon drive the one day as we had an elephant grazing just outside our window for 45 minutes!). The one afternoon inbetween the morning and afternoon drives there was a white-fronted bee-eater who came to hang out and hunt for insects on a small shrub just outside the front of our tent! The luxury tent was a pretty big jump up in quality, and whereas the lagoon tent was like having a safari right outside, the luxury tent had a bit more of a tranquil, relaxed feel to it, as the river was a bit further away and not as many animals immediately around the tent.


The park was great, and we couldn’t get enough of the amazing sunsets and sunrises. There were much more vehicles than in Lower Zambezi, and things could get quite dusty if caught behind another vehicle, and on night drives it was quite common to see a train of vehicles, with the accompanying spotlight beams scanning the surrounding area. That being said, the park is large enough that it was possible to get away from the crowds for a more isolated experience. With the exception of one walking safari, we did all game drives. We did love the walking safari and there is an amazing closeness to nature trying to tune in to the different sights and sounds along the way. It felt a lot more educational learning about tracks, dung and general animal behavior! I was surprised at how close we were able to get to the animals too. I had read that they are a bit more skittish with people on foot, but we were alongside a big group of 12-15 giraffes and managed to come within 10m of some of them! I think game-wise on our drives we were a bit unlucky, to be honest. When we got there we heard that the game-viewing had been really good, but things seemed quite quiet when we were there. We managed a glimpse of a well-concealed leopard in a tree with a kill, and another on our last night. Our guide had mentioned that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been for more than 3 consecutive drives without managing to spot one! Lions seemed pretty scarce too and we managed only to spot a couple of them quite far in the distance. We did see a lot of birds and had some pretty cool sightings and it was just really nice to be out in the park, out in nature, even if there weren’t always the animals to go with it!


Some of the sights of South Luangwa:


Amazing sunrises and sunsets








Lagoon-watching from our tent




Elephant river crossings








Giraffes on walking safari





My white-fronted bee-eater friend spending the afternoon with me outside our tent





A fluffy lilac-breasted roller keeping warm on a chilly morning





While on a night drive, our spotter managed to find a tiny 2” chameleon with naught but his spotlight – amazing!



Breakfast buddies



African lovebirds in flight



Male puku chasing after a female




An intruder being chased away. Love their facial expressions!



Giraffes are such peculiar creatures





Fish eagle in flight



Pontoon crossing to get from the GMA into the park



After 3 days of searching, the elusive leopard! A nice touch was that we were the only vehicle around, so got to just sit and watch her for a while before she moved on




5 cute little bee-eaters roosting on a branch together during the night



An African harrier hawk a.k.a. gymnogene searching for food on our last morning drive




A grumpy buffalo catching the morning light



Big, medium & small


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This TR gets better and better.

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We almost didn’t get a spot at Zambezi Sun, and when we got there we found out that the United Nations World Trade Organization General Assembly was being co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe by the Victoria Falls, and many guests were staying at the Zambezi Sun. The hotel, being owned by Sun International, definitely reminded me of the times I’d been to Sun City in South Africa, and it was actually really well built up. The only negative point we have about Zambezi Sun is that the food was not very good, but we are really happy that we managed to stay here mainly due to the proximity to the falls. The falls can be accessed via an entrance at the back of the hotel, and guests of the hotel enjoy free entry to the falls! Both mornings we were up and by the entrance to the falls at 6am to catch the sunrise! We were pretty surprised that there were little or no other people there to watch the sun rise over the falls as it is truly incredible.


We had slightly overestimated the amount of time we had in Livingstone, and our flight from Mfuwe to Livingstone had been delayed, so there hadn’t been time for any activities on our first evening there. As such, we had mainly a full day to squeeze in activities and we managed to do the following: Zimbabwe trip to view the falls from that side, horse safari through Mosi-oa-Tunya NP, microlighting, sundowners at Royal Livingstone overlooking the falls and on our last morning managed to do a gorge swing en-route to the airport! The microlight and gorge swing (microlight especially) are probably the two coolest things I’ve ever done. The view of the falls from above is truly spectacular and not being enclosed within a helicopter or plane and being able to feel the sun and the wind on your skin was an amazing feeling!


Victoria Falls sunrises. I am pretty sure that African sunrises and sunsets are one of the best things ever...








My girlfriend is an avid horserider so when we found out that horse safaris were available, all other activities had to work around a horseriding trip! There are no predators in the Mosi-oa-Tunya NP, and we went in the mid-afternoon so the animals were pretty scarce, but it was pretty cool going through the park and especially walking through some parts of the river upstream from the falls. I'm a novice rider at best, so this activity turned into quite the exciting adventure as my horse apparently LOVED the water and kept trying to splash about and play! Definitely had my heart racing a bit when doing this on the uneven/slippery rocks along the riverbeds!



Microlight views were truly magnificent, especially as we went towards the end of the day as the sun was starting to dip, so everything was tinged with a warm late afternoon/early evening glow. A truly incredible experience.




Sundowners at Royal Livingstone while overlooking the falls




We had to overnight in Johannesburg en-route back to Singapore so managed to have dinner and stay with some of my family who are over there, which was a really nice way to round up such an unforgettable trip.


The only downside of the trip was that it wasn’t for longer, and needless to say, getting back into ‘work mode’ has been quite a depressing affair! We have been constantly reminiscing and reliving the memories of our time in Zambia and in the bush since we have been back, and really missing the wide open spaces and beautiful scenery, especially compared to the concrete jungle of Singapore. I’m not sure when or where the next safari will be, but the bank account is currently being replenished, so hopefully it will be really soon!

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@@mtow48 Amateur? Yeah right... Great start, great photos. Nature can be shocking - as the images of the lions tucking into the elephant calf. Nice shot of the bee eaters all lined up on the branch :)


Edit, you posted the next entry as I wrote this. Super shots of Vic Falls - the microlight flight must have been a fantastic experience. What was the cost per person and how long did the flight last?


Thanks, Matt.

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Love your photos, especially those of the baobab tree, the 5 beeeaters on the branch And of the 5 young male lions sleeping - one of which had his hind legs resting on his pal's head.


@@mtow48 - yay, a rare STer in Singapore.

Edited by Kitsafari
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Great trip report and beautiful photos. I especially liked the LZ lion looking through the branches.

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Hey guys, thanks for all the nice comments!


Yeah, the elephant calf kill was quite a shock and pretty sad. Quite a sobering experience. The only time I've seen an actual kill was when I was maybe 7 or 8 with my family in Namibia. We saw a lioness killing a springbok and I was sobbing my eyes out!


We had actually just been speaking to our guide maybe an hour beforehand and we were asking about the frequency at lions would prey on elephants and he said very very rarely, so quite a coincidence. It was all quite surprising as the whole area was pretty full of elephants, so not sure if the calf wandered off by itself...



We went on our canoe safari in 2 separate canoes. My girlfriend and a guide in the first canoe, myself and another guide in the second. I'm pretty sure the guides are qualified canoe guides and would have to go through some sort of test/certification process. The guide with my girlfriend was one of the guides we were with for most of our game drives, and I recall him mentioning he is qualified for canoe/walking/driving safaris. For the guide with me, our canoe safari was the only time I actually met and saw him, so not sure if he is solely qualified for canoe safaris at the moment. The guide gave us a brief safety talk before we started: our proposed route, what to do & where to swim in the event of capsizing, etc. The canoe felt pretty safe and sturdy though, and we didn't feel at any point that there'd be a risk of capsizing. We took the motorboat to the starting point for the canoe safari, which is along the main river, but after a short while going downstream along the main river, you divert down one of the side channels. A big part of it is to avoid hippos and the bigger crocs. There are a lot of little crocs in the side channels and I think another couple staying at Kasaka went on a canoe trip the day before and managed to see a mother hippo with a baby, but we didn't see any on ours. The main river actually moves quite fast, so the side channels are a bit more relaxed and idyllic. Game-wise, the main sightings were a couple herds of elephants, a few scattered grumpy buffalo, some impala, quite a few white-fronted bee-eaters in their burrows along the river walls (the carmines hadn't arrived to evict them yet!) Nothing too noteworthy, but such a unique experience; you're so quite that you're able to get pretty close to the animals, so for the first group of elephants with the little calf, we managed to pull up on the river banks and watch them for a while and they didn't seem bothered at all by us being there.




Oops, waterbuck, of course! Clearly been dealing with too many photos lately haha! Yes, if you could please correct that for me, that would be awesome! Thank you!!

Will get up some photos up of Kasaka too!


@@Game Warden

The microlight flight worked out to about US$150 for a 15 minute flight. There's also a 30 minute option and think it would more-or-less double up in price. Just over US$20 for the CD of your photos too. You start upstream of the falls and it takes maybe just under 5 minutes to reach the falls, 5 minutes to make a couple passes over the falls and then another 5 minutes over and along the river back to the airfield. Since the falls are part of the Mosi-oa-Tunya NP, there's a chance you'll see some animals along the way; we managed to fly over a big herd of elephants, a big herd of buffalo, and my pilot picked out a hippo in the water on the way back to the airfield.

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As requested :)


Main entrance/reception with the Zambezi behind and Mana Pools in the distance



Our tent on the 'tame' side




The pool area on the 'tame' side, from the river looking inland. Our tent was the one at the back on the left



The pool from the opposite direction overlooking the river



As you come out the reception there is a little boardwalk that leads you along to the right to (in order): the dining area, lounge, bar, 'wild' side tents. You can go down some stairs to get to the library (which is the roof on the left) and also to get down to the little dock for river-based activities



Dining area and the lounge area on the left, overlooking the river



The bar, with the boardwalk leading to the 'wild' side tents



The library



The library from the opposite direction


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@@mtow48 -great! Thanks for posting these. Looks a great place. Love the 'tame side' tent with it's mosi net windows and proper door!, the walk ways and of course the views. Sad to be home but as you say you are now busy saving, and more importantly, planning for the next safari.

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Thank you for sharing. Great TR; very informative.


Is August a good time to go in your opinion?


Oh, and who did you book with? :)

Edited by Super LEEDS
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Great report @@mtow48. Some brilliant photos - I love the one of the 5 lions lying on their backs. The photo of the 5 beaters is amazing!

Lots of the photos really create the atmosphere. I am really impressed by the sunsets. We are just back from S.Luangwe and had a daily ritual around the sundowner.

"Stop for sundowner. Drink Mosi beer. Take picture of sunset. Delete picture of sunset because it is rubbish!". You certainly know how to take them.


The elephant calf photo was very sad - I am glad we didn't see that. (strange how it is less upsetting to see an antelope being eaten)

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@@Super LEEDS


We were in Zambia from 8-18 August, and I think it was a pretty good time to go. Weather in Lower Zambezi was pretty much perfect, but it was starting to get quite hot in South Luangwa in the middle of the afternoons. Leopards and lions were a bit scarce in South Luangwa, but sightings had apparently been really good before we got there so will put it down to just a bit of bad luck this time (will have to go again to test that out though!). We were also a bit too early for the carmine bee-eaters, so if we were to do it again, I think we'd probably go a week or two later towards the end of August. I reckon September onwards might start getting a bit too hot...


We booked with Clyde from Africa Travel Resource who was great!




Thanks for the compliments! I generally followed the law of averages with my photo-taking, so had the same sundowner ritual as you, with the amendment being that I would take enough photos such that there'd eventually be a few keepers along the way!


Hope you had an amazing time in South Luangwa too, and had a bit better luck on the game drives than we did!

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I think there is a bit more than "law of averages" to your photos!


We were there slightly later than you (22nd August- 2nd September) - We did had a great time in South Luwangwa - some good viewing and leopard and lions. But you are right, there is a significant element of luck. (I have been working through photos this afternoon, and will get round to a trip report)

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  • 2 weeks later...

@@mtow48 it is defintitely hotter in september, but we didn't find it oppressive. We were in SLNP 7-14th Sept and it got to 38 degrees at lunchtime - but it doesn't matter if you are asleep! Don't think I could do October though, it's not called suicide month for nothing

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