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Maki

Zambia – May 2012 - an unforgettable experience

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Maki

After a short safari experience in South Africa we were eager for more. I started to research safari trips, but it is very overwhelming for a newbie. Deciding on country alone seemed to take forever, all of them looked amazing. We read about walks in the national parks of Zambia, and as we only had experience with game drives, that sounded very interesting – being able to leave the vehicle and walk around surrounded by wildlife. The idea to be able to do different sort of activities was very appealing, besides walks there were also possibilities to go canoeing in the Lower Zambezi national park and a microlight flight in Livingstone and South Luangwa NP. We were sold.

Preparation: much more than for the first trip!

- Vaccinations (like DTP, hepatitis A, yellow fever). Yellow fever because of the changing and confusing rules for entry to South Africa at that time.

- Malarone, in the Netherlands you need a prescription. I had read that some people got side effects from Malarone, so I asked for a trial package. I’d rather be sick at home than in Africa, but no side effects for me.

- Bought one pair (!) of binoculars

- Neutral coloured clothing (more than necessary)

- Plenty of sunscreen and DEET too

- I thought of bringing a notebook as well, which turned out to be very helpful for this trip report.

 

Itinerary 6 – 22 May 2012:

Day 1 - Flight Amsterdam – Johannesburg (KLM) - overnight stay at City Lodge

Day 2 – Flight Johannesburg – Livingstone (Comair - BA)

Day 2-5 – Livingstone –Sindabezi lodge

Day 5 – Flight Livingstone - Lusaka – Royal airstrip (Proflight / Sky trails)

Day 5-9 – Lower Zambezi NP – Chiawa Camp

Day 9 – Flight Royal airstrip – Lusaka – Mfuwe (Proflight)

Day 9 -17 – South Luangwa NP – Puku Ridge (3 nights), Tafika (5 nights)

Day 17 – Flight Mfuwe, Lilongwe, Nairobi and finally Amsterdam. Was not looking forward to that. Luckily KLM added a route to Lusaka, so we could change our flights to Lusaka from Mfuwe and from Lusaka a direct flight to Amsterdam. (Proflight / KLM)

 

As the new route to Lusaka was scheduled three times a week, we either needed to extend or shorten our stay at Tafika. We were originally booked for three nights, but decided to extend our stay with 2 nights and are very pleased we did.

The reason to include Livingstone was the Victoria Falls, I couldn’t visit Zambia without seeing the Victoria Falls – I felt we would miss out by not going. We stayed for three nights, which was long enough to do some activities and relax a bit before starting our safari!

Edited by Maki

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Maki

Day 1 and 2 – Travel days – Spray and Stink bugs

 

The flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg was fine, nothing to brag nor complain about. We arrived in Johannesburg, customs was slow, and so was the luggage, my bags always seem to be put on the belt last. The hotel, City Lodge, was chosen for convenience, and I thought was more than fine for an overnight stay. The next morning we had a flight to Livingstone with Comair. After an hour or so, I was looking through the tiny window to check out the landscape, in the distance I saw what I thought was a cloud, but as we got closer it turned out to be the spray from the Victoria Falls. Amazing that you could see it from such a distance.

 

Going through customs, slowly, two flights had arrived so everyone was queuing in same line. I was ready to show passport and vaccination card, but the officers were not interested in the vaccination card one bit. When I asked why, because I have a fear of needles and had all these vaccinations for this trip so I wanted to show it, the answer was ‘’South Africa wants the yellow fever proof and not us’’. So, that was that, off to the luggage belt… Collected our bags and someone from the lodge was waiting for us for the transfer to the lodge.

 

It took about half an hour to get to Tongabezi (same owner as Sindabezi) – we were offered a wet towel and a nice cool drink – than the manager joined us to go through the paperwork (sign the nothing is ever their fault form), and information regarding the lodge and activities. The manager informed us there would be stinkbugs in our room… WHAT?? They never tell you these things when you book. They turned out to be harmless, as long as you didn’t step on them it was fine, and the room attendant made sure we hardly noticed the bugs.

 

We had a lovely lunch at Tongabezi, we just sat there and watched the Zambezi flow, it was high water and so impressive, I had never seen so much water and ‘drowned trees’. After lunch a short boat transfer to Sindabezi Island Lodge. Sindabezi is a very small island on the Zambezi with only five tents/chalets, it had a very private feel and we loved it. It was just us and another couple on their honeymoon. That afternoon we relaxed a bit and went on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Our first animal sightings of the trip: baboons, crocodile, fish eagle, kudu, white fronted bee eaters, flock of quelea – we first heard them, but didn’t recognize the sound until the guide explained that birds where making that noise! We had sundowners on the boat, what a treat!

Edited by Maki

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Maki

med_gallery_47102_932_256542.jpgWater everywhere

 

The water levels are very high in April and May med_gallery_47102_932_5852961.jpg

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Tdgraves

haha @@Maki another Zambia TR - we really will get all those STers who haven't been there yet hooked sooner or later........

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Maki

The very elusive baboons

 

gallery_47102_932_9590838.jpg

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Maki

med_gallery_47102_932_777698.jpgmed_gallery_47102_932_3164742.jpg

 

med_gallery_47102_932_414033.jpgmed_gallery_47102_932_1762750.jpg

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Maki

@@Tdgraves - hooked or fed up... Hopefully hooked!

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Maki

med_gallery_47102_932_7788721.jpg Sindabezi, chalet

 

med_gallery_47102_932_7209195.jpg View from Sindabezi Lodge

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Maki

Day 3 – Livingstone Sindabezi Lodge – Bandit and Elephant dung cake

 

We were asked to lock up when leaving the tent as a vervet monkey would steal your belongings. The vervet monkey was stuck on the island, he hung around for too long and now could not leave because of the water level. I think he could have done worse than being stuck on this island. At least there was plenty of food, especially in the morning he tried to steal some, most of the times successfully, we called him Bandit.

It was cold in the morning, much colder than I expected. There was mist on the river in the mornings, that cold…..

 

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The plan for today was a visit to the Victoria Falls and a microlight flight in the afternoon. We had preferred to do the microlight in the morning, but there was a group scheduled, so they told us that late in the afternoon was better because the wind usually settles down again.

We visited the Victoria Falls together with the other couple. First we went by boat to Tongabezi lodge and then a drive. I didn’t mind the short trips from Sindabezi, there was always something to see, fish eagle, crocodiles, hippos.

Before the entry to the Victoria Falls there is a small market, but luckily the people are not aggressive with selling. The baboons on the other hand, were quite aggressive, all because people started to feed them. Such a shame.

We paid the entrance fee, from the ticket office you could already hear the falls, but seeing them is amazing. Unfortunately, words fail me to describe the Victoria Falls, it is something you have to experience, once. The other couple went further than we did, to the knife edge bridge, but you’d get wet and as we were not able to change before the microlight we stayed at the same viewing point.

med_gallery_47102_932_5097492.jpg The mighty Zambezi

med_gallery_47102_932_7473172.jpg Rainbows

med_gallery_47102_932_4718874.jpg The smoke that thunders

 

med_gallery_47102_932_3273130.jpg The Victoria Falls

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Maki

We drove back to Tongabezi for lunch. The other couple were supposed to have lunch with us, but they needed to go back to Sindabezi to check if anything was missing from their belongings … Bandit had been in their tent and managed to open the toilet case among other things…. The sleeping pills were missing, so we were worried that Bandit might have had an overdose… I hoped he was fine, maybe just sleeping a bit longer than usual…

 

Later in the afternoon we left for the microlight flight (Batoka Sky, now Livingstone Adventures). I was so looking forward to that, an aerial view of the Victoria Falls, the gorge – the zig zag of where the Zambezi River once was. Unfortunately when we arrived at the premises there was a group before us, the group that was scheduled for the morning, and if we would mind waiting half an hour. Yes, I did mind, but did I have another option? We waited for much longer than half an hour, but they tried to reassure us, we could still go … unless the wind picked up, some reassurance. Eventually it was my turn, and it was breathtakingly beautiful and also a bit scary to be honest. The view and the experience were great, and I would do it again, only change it to first flight in the morning. The sun started to set and we had to get back, than the panic started a bit amongst the staff, because we had to be back at Sindabezi before it was dark as they are not allowed to go by boat to the island after 7 or so. Had I known I would have asked the group before us if we could go first, but nobody had mentioned it might become an issue. Fast pace back to the lodge, hurried to the boat and made it back to Sindabezi, the boat ride in the ‘’almost’’ dark was more scary than the microlight flight earlier. When I asked the guide why they didn’t mention that it was better to schedule the flight the next morning, he said ‘’because it is your birthday today’’ which I thought was very nice and considerate, but I would not have minded to change it. I don’t mention birthdays when on holiday, as I don’t like a fuss.

 

We quickly changed as we would dine together with the other couple, and didn’t want to be late. Dinner was at another spot this time, raised deck under a tree, like a treehouse, sort of, I’ll add a picture. Dinner was great, as usual, loved the food and wine. The newlyweds told us that they were not aware they had to have a yellow fever jab, and in Johannesburg they had to pay 100 dollars each to get it on the spot, so they could go back to Johannesburg for their further travel arrangements… Nice start of a honeymoon! We did laugh about it.

Than we heard singing …and the staff showed up with a birthday cake, which looked like elephant dung, it tasted delicious. Like I said, I don’t like a fuss, feel a bit uncomfortable in a situation like that, but it was a lovely touch. Luckily there were not too many people around.

 

Had I mentioned it was cold in the morning? I think the staff noticed I mentioned it once or twice. Just before going to bed I hear ‘’knock, knock’’, it was Charles the room attendant, ‘’I have come to bring the babies’’. I nearly choked, but it turned out to be hot water bottles and these were very welcome!

 

Day 4 – Leisurely canoe trip

 

Bandit, the vervet monkey, was still missing in action…

 

Plenty of activities were possible, and we decided to do the canoe trip from Tongabezi to Sindabezi. No experience was needed we were told, there would be a guide with us, and a motorboat – easy peasy. Well, it turned out to be not so easy peasy. The two of us were in a canoe together, the guide in another canoe providing instructions. It was just a couple of kilometers, but with no experience, it was tough! We almost ended up in a tree! We decided to relax the rest of the afternoon after all the excitement in the morning. A final sunset cruise, and tomorrow our safari part of the trip would start!

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Maki

Sindabezi Lodge:

 

There are 5 chalets on this tiny isle on the Zambezi River. As mentioned before, you get there by a short boat ride from the sister lodge Tongabezi. We were in chalet number 1, which had a nice deck with two chairs, bath and outdoor shower. The view – Victoria Falls NP, so the Zimbabwean side. We saw some game like kudu, baboons, and a bush buck, probably more to see during dry season. It is an eco-lodge, solar heaters etc. The food was lovely and the staff very friendly. Meals were either together with other guests or private, you could choose. Below some pictures to give you an idea. There were plenty of included activities (like sunset cruise, visit to Victoria Falls, canoeing), some you had to pay for (for example microlight flight, Livingstone island visit – which is not possible in May by the way).

 

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med_gallery_47102_932_9744675.jpgmed_gallery_47102_932_3687705.jpg

 

med_gallery_47102_932_9128342.jpg

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JohnR

@@Maki Thanks for the pictures of Mosi o Tunya. I've only been in the dry season when the flow is much less especially when the hydro power station is at full power. So it is really impressive to see it in full flood.

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SafariChick

Enjoying this very much. I'm anxious to hear about Bandit - I hope the poor little thing didn't overdose on the sleeping pills!

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Atravelynn

My jaw dropped at the first photos of river levels. Really high! I've only been in the dry season. Lovely falls shots, very full. Good advice about booking the first flight on the microlight and sorry you had to learn the hard way.

 

‘’I have come to bring the babies’’. Never heard that for delivery (ha ha) of the hot water bottles.

 

Now you have me worried about Bandit.

 

Hope you enjoyed your birthday on safari and the dung cake. Any photos of it?

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TonyQ

Can't have too much Zambia!

It is interesting seeing the water level so high - when we went it was in August and so much lower

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Maki

Thank you all for checking my trip report!

 

@@JohnR - it was very impressive the see the falls in full flood, we bought dvds with pictures from our microlight flight, and these had pictures of the falls with high and low levels - very different indeed! Not sure if I could post them in here as we didn't take the photos...

 

@@TonyQ - there will be more of Zambia, working on the lower zambezi part now....

 

@@Atravelynn - No photos of the cake, sorry, we didnt bring the camera as it was getting dark.

 

@@SafariChick - thanks for reading, working on the rest of the trip report, poor bandit indeed, we came to see wildlife, not to harm it...

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JohnR

@@Maki I have a photo in my gallery taken in the first week of September 2008 from a similar viewpoint as your last photo of the Falls showing lots more rocks. The two bushes in the middle ground are recognisable.

 

gallery_6125_239_166190.jpg

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Maki

Day 5 – Travel day – Lower Zambezi NP - Chiawa camp

 

First thing in the morning I asked the staff if there was any sign of Bandit, they mentioned seeing him earlier in the morning, but he wasn’t very active yet (wonder why)… I was hoping I would get to see him myself as well... Luckily I did, just before we left after breakfast. Bandit had made it, panic over!

 

We said goodbye to the lovely staff who had taken such great care of us, and off we went to Lower Zambezi NP.

To get to Lower Zambezi NP we first had to fly to Lusaka (Proflight) and then a 30-minute flight to Lower Zambezi NP Royal Airstrip (Sky trails). We were looking forward to this part of the trip as we had seen many beautiful documentaries about the Zambezi River.

 

To give you an idea, these were the planes:

 

med_gallery_47102_932_8339739.jpgmed_gallery_47102_932_6859688.jpg

1,5 seater to Royal airstrip, luckily it was just a short flight

 

 

med_gallery_47102_932_597087.jpgmed_gallery_47102_932_6983917.jpg

The mighty Zambezi

 

A drive and a boat transfer were needed to get to Chiawa camp. We got there around lunchtime, perfect timing.

 

We were informed by the camp manager that there would be elephants in camp, and were given instructions what to do when we encountered them on the way to our tent. In the evening you would be escorted. But when we ran into an elephant, I ignored all instructions and quickly walked (ran) back to the main area. I thought elephants would walk through camp every now and then, not all the time…

 

There are plenty activities at Chiawa, walks, game drives, cruise on pontoon, sunset cruise could be combined with a night game drive, canoeing and fishing. As we would stay for 4 nights, we wanted to try them all, apart from fishing. What I loved about Chiawa is that there were plenty of guides around, so you could do any activity you wanted to, even in May which is shoulder season. Camp was quite full, so it was great you had that flexibility. The guiding was fantastic as well.

That afternoon we went on a game drive, but it was a rather uneventful one, we did see elephants and buffalos.

 

The sundowner spot was very pretty:

gallery_47102_932_1004217.jpg

Edited by Maki

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Maki

After the drive we went back to our tent to change for dinner. When the camp manager mentioned that dinner was ready to be served we followed the other guests, but we were asked to follow one of the staff members…. Surprise…they had arranged a barge dinner for the two us because of my birthday. I wondered, did they pay close attention to passports, or had the travel agent mentioned it? It was a nice experience, barge dinner on the Zambezi, three courses brought to you by boat, and the sound of hippos…

 

Day 6 – Bush walk – elephants

 

Today we decided to do a walk in the morning, we had never done a bush walk before and were very keen. You drive to an area that is considered to be safe for walking, and after instructions – walk in single line, listen to guide for instructions, don’t run etc. – off we went. There was one other repeat guest with us. The guide was from Zimbabwe. We loved it, it was great to be out in the open, and get more information about the little things, trees, and plants. The other guest was very into birding, so we had an intro into birding as well, didn’t think birds could be that interesting.

You walk for a couple of hours, early in the morning, as it is too hot afterwards.

I forgot to mention a ZAWA (Zambia Wildlife Authority) ranger accompanies you for safety.

 

After brunch we went back to our tent to relax a bit and watch the elephants, there were so many of them, swimming, playing in the water, just going to the river for a drink.

 

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It was lovely, other animals you could see without leaving your tent were impala, warthog, baboons, hippos and bushbuck.

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Maki

We wanted to try all the different activities Chiawa had to offer, so in the afternoon we left for a sunset cruise followed by an evening game drive (hoping to see the leopard). I enjoyed the water based activities a lot, the views and the sounds were amazing.

 

We went downstream and saw a pride of lions, relaxing on the river bank. It was great to see lions from the water.

 

gallery_47102_932_3742208.jpg

 

gallery_47102_932_8750759.jpg

 

All went well until elephants came, who wanted to have a drink,

 

gallery_47102_932_2321344.jpg

 

the lions were very focused on them, but the elephants still got to drink....

 

gallery_47102_932_5428339.jpg

 

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wilddog

Eye level with lions - lovely.

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Kitsafari

I'm enjoying your adventures. :-)

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africapurohit

Thanks @@Maki, I'm really enjoying your report. Regarding the photos of the elephants bathing around Chiawa Camp, were they taken close to the raised hide in the camp grounds? I stayed at Chiawa in 2006 and that visual perspective looks very familiar.

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Maki

@@africapurohit - thank you. I am enjoying yours too - very much so! I think they turned that raised hide into the honeymoon tent... I found the below picture, to the far right in the middle is our tent. And above the elephant is the honeymoon tent, maybe that used to be the raised hide as I don't recall a hide at Chiawa...

 

gallery_47102_932_2136141.jpg

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africapurohit

Thanks @@Maki, I'll have to check my old photos to try and get my bearings.

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