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Caracal

Another Trip Report Letter - Kafue & Livingstone 2011

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Caracal

Dear Marg, Sangeeta et al,

Well we got back last month from another fascinating and memorable safari to Kafue and Livingstone and are settling back into life in rural Australia albeit with memories of the trip still tugging.

You’ll be expecting me to tell you about this trip but hold on a moment and bear with me if you will. You see I have an outstanding (as in overdue) letter, being my trip to Kafue in 2011, and I think I better get things in chronological order. So if it’s OK with you I’ll start by writing about that trip then post another letter about the latest one.

Part 1

In August 2010 we’d been to the southern sector of Kafue NP and it was around February 2011 when we decided to do another trip a little later in August/September 2011. We wanted to make it Livingstone, Konkamoya, Nanzhila, Livingstone and Steve Smith from Nanzhila was a great help with his advice

On 23 August 2011 we flew into Joburg and, with a few hours in hand, included an essential visit to the bookshop with its great Africana selection before the connecting flight to Livingstone where we were met and driven to Waterberry Lodge. Waterberry is about a 30 minute drive from Livingstone. It is ideally situated on the banks of the Zambezi upriver from the Falls. I remain grateful to Steve Smith for this suggestion – the lodge accommodates 14 guests and is beautifully managed and maintained. Welcoming friendly and efficient staff, great facilities, superb meals. We had an excellent lunch on the terrace looking across the river to Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park and later took a lovely sunset cruise with Webbie steering and guiding. Webbie is an excellent guide with a special interest in birds of which we saw many along with hippos, crocs, monitor lizards etc. We had sundowners on an island that was apparently in Zimbabwe so that was my first visit to Zimbabwe since 1998!

The next day we visited Livingstone Museum where I found much of interest including archaeological exhibits, anthropological exhibits relating to various tribal cultures, traditions and artifacts, the David Livingstone Room with much memorabilia including many of his original letters which one could spend hours reading, and the history gallery tracing Zambia from early days thru’ the colonial era to independence. After the museum we visited Maramba Market – a huge market where the Zambians shop. Just about everything you can think of can be found there. We quickly bypassed the stalls where the air was invaded by the pungent smell of piles of fish dried and drying on numerous stalls and moved to the more rarefied air of the vegetable section where I stopped and took a photo of an elegantly dressed stallholder who had smiled and highfived me. I then took another of her and John.

 

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An adjoining stallholder then tugged at John and wanted her photo taken with him. John obeyed her request!

 

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She wanted me to send her the photo but had no address or anywhere I might post so that was impossible. However there is a follow up on this story in my recent trip. We wandered on through the market amazed at its size and the diversity of goods for sale.

 

On the road out of Waterberry we had passed four bull elephants and when we got back we found they were taking over the grounds at a leisurely pace much to the interest of the guests.

 

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On 25 August we had a road transfer from Livingstone to Nanzhila Plains Safari Camp. On the way we enjoyed the company of Bill and Maureen from St Louis. It was great to be back in Nanzhila and to catch up again with Brad and Ruth Keast, David Chirwa, Collins and the rest of the staff. This was just an overnight stop to start with and the next morning we set off with Brad for Konkamoya. Nanzhila’s a great spot for antelope and just on the way to the Kalenje Post we saw the delicate oribi, reedbuck, blue wildebeest, kudu, defassa waterbuck, impala and zebra.

Quite unexpectedly on the road north of Kalenje a lioness strolled across ahead of us and then lay down. We pause to look at her and only then do we spot another lioness behind.

 

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At Konkamoya we are pleased to meet up again with Chris Cooke. Chris shows us the new large lakeside lounge dining area and introduces us to his girlfriend Michelle, an attractive American from Seattle, who works as a Peacecorp Volunteer in north western Zambia. Michelle loves to cook and as the chef was on leave we became the fortunate benefactors of her hobby.

The main features of the afternoon game drive with Chris and Chinida were multiplicity of puku and impala, a good buffalo herd, and wafts from the Woolly Caper Bush (Capparis Tomentosa) scenting the night air on the drive back.

On 27 August we set off for the Musa River and I was fascinated by the beauty of the bush with bursts of the fresh green leaves of the Kamponi surprising me as I hadn’t realised that they and other species put on new growth so many weeks before the rainy season.

 

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We had coffee on the Musa River bed and then returned. Some good bird sightings included the colourful crested barbet, hoopoe, barred owlet, pearl spotted owlet, white helmeted shrike, brown snake eagle and lizard buzzard.

 

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A barred owlet in more than one way!

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Knobthorn. Acacia Nigrescens.

The afternoon drive featured two harems of kudu, a side striped jackal and then a special highlight when we came across elephant drinking at a waterhole in the late afternoon. The breeze was in our favour. We stopped, got out and quietly got a little closer then crouched behind some bushes absorbing the beautiful scene across the water.

 

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The thing about Kafue is its sense of remoteness and being in a true wilderness area. Maybe you don’t see as many animals and as often as in other better known parks but when you do see a scene like this you are the only ones present and it truly feels a privilege to be there. Hard to explain but maybe you’ll understand what I mean when I say that for me the feeling can be sort of spiritual.

We left after the elephants had wandered back into the bush and after sundowners by the old seismic station looking across the landscape a great dinner back at camp completed a memorable day.

 

Michelle joined us for the game drive the next morning and whilst stopped to watch a pair of yellow billed kites building a nest there was the unmistakable sound of a herd of buffalo. Soon we came across them.

 

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After they’d passed I was amazed to see how such a large herd had quickly and simply disappeared into thick bush. We cross into the Nkala GMA where we pause at the most unusual sighting of another vehicle. The lone driver tells us he’s a cameraman who takes films for hunting parties. The reason for the herd shifting into the park becomes apparent when he tells us the hunters are searching through the scrub for a wounded buffalo.

On the Shakalonga plain we see hartebeest, wildebeest, oribi and zebra. Then back into the park and another visit to the Elephant Orphanage where we chat to Kate and watch the six orphans coming in from the park for lunch.

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On the way back we pass a Raintree (Philenoptera Violacea) and Chris explains it got its name due to the inhabitation of froghoppers with cuckoo spit raining out the water they eject.

 

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Little Banded Goshawk (Shikra) on afternoon drive.

 

On a morning walk with Chris and Chinida we pass curious and watchful puku and impala and admire a baobab with the yellow flowering Cassia Abbreviata and also the red flowers of Combretum Microphyllum pushing through the earth.

 

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Head back to camp for a great brunch then relax a little while watching puku and impala lakeside before the road transfer to Nanzhila.

 

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Caracal

Part II

David Chirwa arrives around noon to take us to Nanzhila. After leaving the lakeside puku

 

 

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the drive was fairly quiet but it was good to chat to David and catch up on his news. I looked forward to the game drives ahead as he had shown great promise as a young guide in 2010 with his incredible eyesight, gentle sense of humour and eagerness to keep learning and improving.

On the last 13 kms from Kalenje post the game improved as it usually does.

 

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I spent a quiet afternoon outside our chalet – with vervets playing around the back and waterbuck browsing and warthogs rootling out front. Wattled cranes and jacana join the company. I enjoy those quiet afternoons at Nanzhila just sitting in the warmth listening and watching in between bouts of reading ( usually browsing mammal or bird guides).

 

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Wake up in the early hours to lions roaring. See their spoor on the morning drive which includes good antelope species and birds plus baboons, etc but quina shumbwa( no lion).

 

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That afternoon the endemic blackcheeked lovebirds proved great to see through the bins but difficult to photo at a distance. Serval and 4 genets were good sights on the night drive back.

 

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That night lions roar back and forth impressively on either side of the chalet continuing their challenges after daybreak. The morning drive had plenty of interest but again no lion. Then after brunch a message is received at camp from David that staff collecting wood have come across two males. We head off with Brad and Ruth and locate them ‘tho one was playing hide and seek.

 

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We follow them for a while through difficult scrub before heading back to camp. After sunset the night drive was spectacular with 2 wildcats, grysbok, 4 young lions on the track ahead, serval, genet and bushbaby. All that was followed by a surprise dinner set up in the bush. A great bbq followed with champagne and wine around a fire to celebrate my birthday.

 

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Next day we go to with David and Collins to Shezongo village. The villagers are subsistence farmers so homes and tracks and paths are really spread out over quite some kms – very different from the tight clusters of huts in Maasai or Samburu manyattas. We meet Chief Shezongo again at his palace (a large stockaded compound) and he tells us he has 185 villages in his chiefdom, 19 schools & 3 or 4 medical clinics. We head to the medical clinic some 4 kms from the palace. We meet the male nurse Munyati ( buffalo) and when I give him prints of the photos I had taken the previous year of the nurse Rosemary and some patients he smiles with surprise and delight telling me that Rosemary is his wife and she soon joins us there. There are 17 beds at the clinic and HIV Aids is a big problem as is malaria, particularly in the wet season, and pneumonia. Diarrhoea is a real problem in babies and children. They vaccinate babies but sometimes run out. A doctor from Itezhi Itezhi visits once a month.

 

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We then go to the nearby school. It’s school holidays but we meet up with teachers Mr & Mrs Makonde and chat to them in the main classroom. They have three school sessions a day starting early to fit in all the pupils. We hand them pencils, biros, exercise books, balls etc which seem quite inadequate looking at the need that is so apparent.

 

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Second classroom in background

 

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After leaving the village behind we stop for a picnic lunch watching a small boy in charge of some grazing cattle. Collins points out a few that are his and then asks if we might call in at his home on the way back as he hasn’t seen his wives for over a month and needs to give them some money. We happily oblige and driving across the plain to the home shared by Collins , his brother and their respective wives Collins tells us that as he is an Ila he was able to choose where to build. However if a member of another tribe wanted to have a home in the chiefdom he would have to get the chief’s permission and could only build where stipulated.

The home/farmlet consists of a clearing with huts for the two brothers, their wives and children, granary and other outbuildings.

 

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We found the visit fascinating and it gave us a valuable insight into their way of life. Crops were being grown nearby.

 

Good roan and sable the next day along with wildebeest , hartebeest & kudu made for another excellent drive with David. The afternoon drive brought some nice elephant viewing.

 

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Brightson & David

 


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Morning sadly meant time to leave Nanzhila – my favourite camp – and time to say goodbye to Ruth, David, Collins, Elvis and head to Livingstone with Brad.

 

 

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At Waterberry I was surprised and saddened to be told by Kevin that whilst we’d been in Kafue 2 of the 4 elephants had been killed by poachers. Never would have suspected poaching to be a problem in that area.

At predinner drinks on the terrace we saw vultures and heard hyenas on the opposite river bank. After a great dinner and chats around the fire head to bed with the night filled with the sounds of hyenas calling, whooping and cackling.

An early morning bird walk with Webbie is most enjoyable. See lots of birds including scarlet breasted sunbird, blackheaded oriole and trumpeter hornbills. Talk also ranges about plants and their traditional uses ( goat apples good for malaria, leaves of monkey oranges best thing for snake bite) and animal spoor including serval dung heaps.

 

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Later an enjoyable sunset cruise and another great dinner round off the day.

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Breakfast on the terrace in the morning sunshine has me feeling reflective as I gaze at the Zambezi flowing majestically past. Reflective because today is departure day and I’m wondering whether I’ll see the Zambezi again, whether I’ll again set foot in Africa. Then I think what a great safari this has been with an interesting mix - in some ways the best.

 

My travel diary on 5 September 2011 the day of departure says:

 

However many birthdays lie ahead this one will always be memorable and hard to top.

 

Well that was my first birthday in Africa but I’m now pleased to say it didn’t turn out to be my last in Africa.

 

Hoping that I haven’t bored you all too much I’ll now set about writing up my recent trip.

 

Bye for now

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Sangeeta

@@Caracal - so sorry for coming late to this - with all the TRs that have suddenly hit the forum lately, I did not realize you'd snuck in a mini-one of your own! I am endlessly fascinated by this park and your latest report just adds to that fascination. Those sable herds are beautiful, and yes, I fully hear you on the feeling of being alone in the bush watching animals interact and act as if they were by themselves. That is a very precious feeling.

 

Very distressing to hear about the poaching - I have heard that things are not so good in Zam, esp in and around southern Kafue, but for poaching to occur in a place as close to Vic Falls as Waterberry Lodge is especially saddening. Poor eles. The people and village insights were very interesting also - thanks for sharing.

 

The Ele Orphanage - is this the release site for the ele orphanage near Lusaka? SafariChick and I gad considered staying there but this trip was so rushed that we thought we would not do it justice in one half day. Please do tell us more about the rewilding if you can.

 

Need you to tell us about the newer trips too - and soon! @@SafariChick and I are leaving for Kafue in 2 weeks, though we will be based at Musekese Camp with Tyrone. But I would love to put together a comprehensive Kafue trip one year - south to north and take 2-3 weeks to do this really well. Perhaps we can gather a group of Kafue-philes and do this together?

 

In the meantime, waiting for your newest trip too :)

Edited by Sangeeta

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twaffle

Something missing from so many trip reports to Southern Africa are photos and info about local villages and how people live in the areas. You have filled this gap admirably. I really love seeing a bit of Zambia outside the usual wildlife viewing. Thanks.

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SafariChick

Thanks so much for this @@Caracal - as @@Sangeeta said, she and I are off for several days in Kafue in about 2 weeks before we then head to Liuwa, so I'm really enjoying seeing this as well! And I too would love to see the update about your recent trip. I also love seeing the details and photos about the local people, so thanks for adding that in.

 

I came across this article which I found encouraging about poaching in Zambia so maybe things are improving since 2011?

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/africa/zambia-how-the-wildliferich-nation-has-achieved-a-fall-in-poaching-9815588.html

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Caracal

Thanks Sangeeta, Twaffle & SafariChick.

 

@@Sangeeta. Yes the Ele Orphanage is the Kafue Release Project near Ngoma. Young orphans are cared for at Lilayi Elephant Nursery in Lusaka till they'r weaned off milk at around 2 years and then transferred to the Release Project. The keepers there daily walk them out into the park where they can be introduced to wild elephants. I have great admiration for the dedication of the keepers and their courage (there must at times be real risks involved).

I get regular email newsletters from Game Rangers International which keep me updated about the orphanage, conservation issues , community education etc.

For more info - http://www.gamerangersinternational.org/ourprojects/elephant-orphanage-project

 

Kafue-philes - an interesting concept.

 

@@SafariChick Thanks for the interesting article - sorry to say however there was a poaching incident on our recent trip.

 

Will get on to latest trip shortly. This afternoon however I'm off to one of my regular visits to a fascinating lady who was born in Livingstone in 1928. Her father was a vet who came to Zambia in 1920. She has an amazing memory and many fascinating stories of her childhood and later married years in Zambia.

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panamaleo

Caracal,

 

Looking forward to your next update on Kafue, which so fortunately included me this past August-September! This was my first time in Zambia, and was enhanced by such experienced fellow-travelers. Wonderful to get the background on 2011.

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Sangeeta

@@panamaleo - hope very much that you will add your own TR to Caracal's report as well. Going to be my first time to Zambia too and very excited as the date rolls closer...

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Geoff

Nothing boring about this report. Very interesting reading.

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Safaridude

@@Caracal

 

Thank you for this unique trip report.

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Marks

I just love this style of report. Some excellent photos and experiences. Maramba Market sounds/looks like fun, too. Were there any "prepared food" vendors (as opposed to fruit/vegetable/ingredient stalls)?

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Caracal

Thanks Geoff, Safaridude & Marks.

@ Marks I recommend Maramba market to anyone visiting Livingstone. I don't recall any hot food stalls but there may have been - the market is huge.When we were talking to some folk in the vegetable section on our recent visit there, we were beside a cafe with the rather grand name of the Sunrise Restaurant. It is amazing what's on offer in the rest of the market, shoes, clothes,toiletries, hardware, furniture, leather goods,bicycle repairs, the list goes on. Word of caution sturdy shoes are the order of the day as the ground is very rough and uneven up and down all the alleyways. Not sure about the market in the wet - that could be difficult.

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Caracal

Thanks Geoff, Safaridude & Marks.

@ Marks I recommend Maramba market to anyone visiting Livingstone. I don't recall any hot food stalls but there may have been - the market is huge.When we were talking to some folk in the vegetable section on our recent visit there, we were beside a cafe with the rather grand name of the Sunrise Restaurant. It is amazing what's on offer in the rest of the market, shoes, clothes,toiletries, hardware, furniture, leather goods,bicycle repairs, the list goes on. Word of caution sturdy shoes are the order of the day as the ground is very rough and uneven up and down all the alleyways. Not sure about the market in the wet - that could be difficult.

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Marks

Thanks @@Caracal, I may get the opportunity to check it out next year.

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Caracal

@@Marks, you've got me intrigued. I don't see any post of yours in Trip Planning 2015 but it sounds like you're planning one. Look forward to news on that front in due course.

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Marks

@@Caracal Thanks, currently looking at SLNP/Livingstone for sometime next year. I have already bookmarked this thread to help me think of specifics later on. :)

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Tom Kellie

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~ @Caracal:

 

Thank you for sharing these images.

I've never heard of either Combretum Microphyllum or Bugeranus carunculatus.

It's so helpful of you to provide identification of these, so that we might learn about them.

I'm so glad to have found and read your fine trip report.

Tom K.

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Caracal

I was surprised to find this report woken from its dormancy @@Tom Kellie but pleased that you found it of interest. Many thanks for your comments.

 

I don’t profess to have much in the way of botanical knowledge and certainly not in the vast arena of African botany but I do like to ask questions of guides about particular flowers, trees or shrubs that pique my interest. I also appreciate it when guides say they don’t know but will look it up back at camp. A communal review of the field guides back at camp and sharing of opinions, thoughts and information found can sometimes add to the interest.

 

Nanzhila is an excellent place to see wattled crane. On my first two visits there was a pair round Nangandwe pool which is right in front of the lounge/dining area. Last September the pool had dried up but there was a pair a short distance further out and they’re quite often seen on game drives as well.

 

I recall seeing a TV documentary about the beautiful Japanese dancing cranes – I imagine you have one or probably more species of cranes in China.

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Tom Kellie

I was surprised to find this report woken from its dormancy @@Tom Kellie but pleased that you found it of interest. Many thanks for your comments.

 

I don’t profess to have much in the way of botanical knowledge and certainly not in the vast arena of African botany but I do like to ask questions of guides about particular flowers, trees or shrubs that pique my interest. I also appreciate it when guides say they don’t know but will look it up back at camp. A communal review of the field guides back at camp and sharing of opinions, thoughts and information found can sometimes add to the interest.

 

Nanzhila is an excellent place to see wattled crane. On my first two visits there was a pair round Nangandwe pool which is right in front of the lounge/dining area. Last September the pool had dried up but there was a pair a short distance further out and they’re quite often seen on game drives as well.

 

I recall seeing a TV documentary about the beautiful Japanese dancing cranes – I imagine you have one or probably more species of cranes in China.

 

~ @Caracal:

 

There are indeed cranes in China, although relatively rare and very seldom seen.

Certain refuges are available as flyways when they migrate between north and south.

The wattled crane image was a revelation, as I'd never previously noticed anything about it.

What especially appeals to me is the gracefully drooping effect of the dark tail feathers.

They're an avian ski jump...a rollercoaster dip...living mathematical functions.

You're so right about talking over identification after game drives. It does add interest, especially concerning less frequently observed flora or insects.

When anyone tells me “I don't know but I'll see if we can find out” I feel that I'm in good company.

Again, many thanks for your trip report.

I'm finding that leisurely reading of archived trip reports is deepening my understanding of African wildlife and safari dynamics.

Tom K.

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