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Caracal

A Safari Friendship Renewed - 2014

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Caracal

5 September 2014

 

At breakfast Tom Heinecken comes over to say hello. Tom and Viviane will be driving us to Nanzhila Plains Safari Camp which they will be managing for a few days whilst Steve Smith is away. Tom and Viviane are the original owners of Kaingu Safari Lodge and still retain an interest. They built it some years back now and were operating it when we visited previously in 2010. They obviously planned and built the lodge with a lot of thought, care and attention to detail and our stay has shown that Rick and Lynda and Gil and Julia are undertaking its expansion with similar care and attention. They have been excellent hosts and we share their enthusiasm for Kafue’s future. So pleased we returned.

 

Isaac boats us over to the car park and we then set off down the spinal road. Along the way we see sable, impala, puku, kudu, warthogs and more sable. The scenery becomes more dramatic further south with dark brooding hills and granite outcrops giving them an air of mystery. Looking at the rugged scenery and knowing that the park wilderness stretches for miles to its western border with nothing in the way of roads one can only wonder what might be out there in the way of wildlife and whether there might still be some surprising discoveries.

 

When we cross the Musa River I’m back onto more familiar territory. Back in 2011 we had wandered along the dry river bed with Chris Cooke and Chinida. We had driven there from Konkamoya but could not cross as the earlier bridge had long before collapsed and disintegrated. Now we were heading back in the Konkamoya direction and I was starting to recognise some local features. We then turn south for our visit to the elephant orphanage which we make for the lunchtime meal when the elephants and their keepers head back into the compound from the park. There are presently nine elephants at the orphanage. The oldest orphan is now free to roam and mix with the wild herds.

 

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After leaving the orphanage and a stop for lunch we head to Nanzhila on the way seeing a black bellied bustard, blue wildebeest, a roan, sable bull, zebra, reedbuck and then a welcoming committee of elephant near the camp.

 

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At Nanzhila we are welcomed by Collins, Sidney and Ralph and after a refreshing beer head to our chalets.

 

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Collins is a quietly spoken man who manages the bar, dining and lounge area. In 2011 we had spent a fascinating afternoon visiting his home and meeting his wives and children on our way back from a village visit. Later at the bar I handed to Collins prints of all the photos I’d taken that day. It didn’t matter that this was 3 years later – he was surprised, delighted and most grateful. As he looked at each photo he said softly and repeatedly “I am so happy”. He was engrossed in each photo and I was never sure whether he was speaking to me or simply out loud to himself. When looking at the photo of his two older boys he told me that his firstborn was now 18. I have often noticed that Africans refer to the oldest child as firstborn.

 

A short time later David Chirwa arrived back at camp giving us a wonderfully warm greeting and welcome back. It was good to see him again and I was looking forward to our game drives in the days ahead.

 

Steve Smith had also returned to camp and it was great to have a chat with him prior to dinner and an early night.

 

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Geoff

Lovely picturesque setting with all the boulders on the river...

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Caracal

6 September 2014

 

It happened at Leopard Lodge. It happened at Kaingu Safari Lodge. Nanzhila Plains Safari Camp wasn’t going to be the odd one out so there too I wake up during the night to the sound of lion roaring.

 

After an early morning cuppa round the fire with Steve Smith we set off for our morning drive. It was like old times going for a drive on the Mafuta Loop with David.

 

The Defassa Waterbuck were plentiful as they always are near the camp and on the drive I saw four common duiker. Generally over the years my sightings of duiker have been of a blur as they sprint off at a fast rate of knots kicking up puffs of dust in their wake. However this time one duiker was very accommodating staying still for quite a while and I was able to get a good view of this dainty and beautiful antelope and of its markings.

 

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Other animals seen were Sharpes Grysbok, reedbuck, oribi, Chacma baboon, blue wildebeest and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. Birds included Little beeeater, swallow tailed beeater, lizard buzzard and ground hornbill.

 

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Hoping someone can help identify this bird. Is it a Gabar Goshawk?

 

The highlight though was watching a herd of approximately 30 sable including one handsome male and a lone hartebeest with an identity crisis as they slowly moved up a slope to a treed area. As they approached the treed area a small herd of blue wildebeest came through the trees to join them and then a small herd of hartebeest also mingled. A great sighting.

 

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Back at camp whilst having brunch we watched 7 elephant quietly walking in single file to the Kasha river behind the dried out Nangandwe Pool.

 

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It seemed strange to see the pool dried out as on my two previous visits in 2010 and 2011 there was water still there with attendant jacanas , wattled cranes and the like.

 

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I then had a quiet spell sitting outside my chalet reading and watching. I saw a large mongoose run quickly into some long grass in front of me at the edge of the dried up pool.

Checking my Kingdon’s Pocket Guide to African Mammals which I always have with me on safari I think it may well have been the Ichneumon Mongoose but it happened too quickly for me to be sure.

 

Soon after that it was time to get ready for our afternoon visit to Nanzhila for the school, clinic, mission etc

 

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Geoff

Looks like a Gabar Goshawk to me.

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TonyQ

@@Caracal

Great to se the duiker and the sable!

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michael-ibk

Beautiful Duiker, and how lucky you were with Sables - jealous here. :)

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Caracal

Thanks @@Geoff - I was thinking for a moment I was about to post a photo of a lizard buzzard then I thought no it's not.

 

Thanks @@TonyQ & @@michael-ibk - I've seen good sable on each of my three visits to Nanzhila - they really seem to like that Mafuta Loop in particular.

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Caracal

6 September 2014 cont’d

 

We set off for Nanzhila around 2.30pm with Steve and David and also Tom and Viviane Heinecken joining the party. I’m looking forward to another visit there and hopefully making contact with the school.

 

I’ve become fascinated in learning about the history of the area and its exploration. Back in 2010 when I asked the meaning of Nanzhila I was told that it meant “No way or no path to the Ila”. It was explained to me that when the first missionaries were asking the way to the Ila people they were told Nanzhila – there is no way – in an attempt to discourage them from getting there or finding their way there. The missionaries misunderstood and thought Nanzhila was the name of the place. I haven’t yet confirmed this explanation is true but even if not I like the story.

 

The Ila warriors were noted for their conelike head-dress which could be three feet or more high ( Selous says up to five feet ). The base was their own hair into which other hair was woven and it tapered up to a fine point the tip of which was a piece of finely scraped antelope horn. Theses head-dresses meant they could locate each other when walking through the tall grasses of the Kafue flats.

 

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The Ila were also known as the Mashukulumbwe and Frederick Selous mentions them in Travel And Adventures In South-East Africa when in 1988 he had a narrow escape from a raiding party in which some of his party were killed. Mashukulumbwe was a name still used in the 1930s. I know this because for some six months now I have been visiting a fascinating lady who was born in Livingstone in 1928 and spent her early childhood in Mazabuka where her father was a vet. Sheilah and her husband reside in an aged care facility in a nearby town. Sheilah tells me that when as a child she lost her two front teeth her father jokingly said she looked like a Mashakulumbwe due to their practice in those days of knocking out their two front teeth.

 

Nanzhila mission was founded in 1895 by William Chapman with Frederick Pickering. A short time later Edwin Smith and his wife took over. In 1920 Edwin collaborated with one Andrew Dale to publish a two volume work “The Ila Speaking Peoples of Northern Rhodesia”. I have a republished version of this work and still wonder how people such as Smith and Chapman ever found time to write such comprehensive works in days when travel in Africa would have been long, arduous and dangerous and when you’d think there’d be no time left after starting up missions, schools, clinics, and learning languages.

 

Anyway I’m digressing far too much so back to the TR.

 

The drive to Nanzhila at that hour of the day was pretty quiet on the wildlife front but we did see some pretty impressive kudu horns disappearing into the bush

 

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And we also saw a fine specimen of a warthog – we pronounced him a champion!

 

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A couple of elephant by the Nanzhila river watched us pass on our way to the village. We reached the church, school and clinic after passing through the village. It was school holidays and there was initially no sign of the head teacher. However some of the kids were heading off to spread news of our arrival.

 

I was interested to see the site of the original mission which I’ve read about and have pictures of in my books.

 

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When I saw the graves of the Smith’s baby and the Price’s baby I pondered over the difficulties and tragedies the early missionaries faced – at times they must have seemed insurmountable. But then again many of those difficulties and dangers such as disease had been a constant in Africa for the Africans.

 

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When we walked back to the school we were introduced to the Deputy Headmaster Mr. Chibomba. We gave him gifts of footballs and a pump from our local school and John and I gave him the pens, exercise books etc. that we had brought. We were escorted into the office where the various gifts were carefully recorded by Mr Chibomba in a school records book.

 

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By this time we had accumulated a following of interested children who were keen to have their photos taken at every opportunity.

 

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Many children walk long distances to get to school and the school starts early and holds three sessions to fit them in.

 

When we left we drove past villagers many of whom waved and we later stopped for sundowners.

 

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After dark our spotlight caused some angry sounding trumpeting from surprised elephants and we also saw grysbok and wild cat on the way back.

 

 

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twaffle

Such an interesting account of your travels which I'm enjoying very much. Love that sable bull, such a handsome animal.

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Kitsafari

how interesting those stories are, from how Nanzhila earned its name (great story even if not accurate) to why the Ila warriors wore their hair thus.

 

 

I love waking up to lions roaring or hippos grunting or hyena whooping. they are quintessentially the sounds of Africa.

 

very much enjoying your trip. how long are the drives between the camps? was it cold at the time that you were there? and did u get a lot tsetse flies as well?

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panamaleo

Louise here, part of the Kafue safari with Clive and John..... I found the mornings quite chilly (my travel clock/temp gage showed 49F one morning), but the afternoons warmed nicely. It's all about dressing in layers.

 

Drives between the camps averaged about 6 hours.

 

The tsetse were annoying at Leopard Lodge primarily. Elephant dung smoking in a pot aft of the game drive vehicle seemed to work better than any sprays or lotions.

 

It was a terrific safari, and just like the other safaritalk readers, I am enjoying re-living the days with Clive's descriptive reports.

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Caracal

Thanks @twaffle and @@Kitsafari.

 

As Louise says the road transfers averaged about 6 hours. If I were doing a road transfer again from Lusaka to Kafue then I would look for accommodation somewhere on the western side of Lusaka which would cut about an hour off the time 'cos of traffic congestion thru' the capital. That's no criticism of Pioneer Camp which I enjoyed.

 

Yes you know when you get a tsetse bite but I don't find them too troublesome. Fortunately I don't react . Got bitten in the garden the other day by bull ants - I rate them much worse!

 

The transfer from Kaingu to Nanzhila down the Spinal Road with a stop at the Elephant Orphanage on the way I would choose every time over a charter flight. Great scenery and how often can you take a road transfer with such a good prospect of seeing sable as we did plus so many other possibilities?

 

 

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Game Warden

What a Sable. And really interesting the historical aspect of your trip. Something of course that is close to my heart. Matt.

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Caracal

Yes @@Game Warden for me the historical aspect adds another dimension to a safari. I'll have a bit more of a history angle with Livingstone but in the meantime I know that there was an earlier mission founded in 1893 at Nkala near Ngoma. I believe there are still ruins there and ruins of an old fort and I just mention it because that would be close to Konkamoya if any safaritalkers are interested and planning to head that way.

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Caracal

7 September 2014

 

Tom Heinecken joins us for the morning drive with David on the Mubi Loop. This winds through mopane woodlands which provide quite a contrast with the more widespread miombo.

 

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We see two brown snake eagles and the a nice herd of zebra.

 

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A bit later we come across six roan.

 

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The green vegetation in the foreground looking like rows of cos lettuce is the Forest Waterberry which as I’ve mentioned previously grows mainly underground.

 

 

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We then come across a herd of blue wildebeest. David smiles and says “Your favourite animals John”. John has long championed their cause claiming them to be highly underrated antelopes.

We also see a side striped jackal and then receive quite a surprise when an African wildcat runs across the track in front of our vehicle. Wildcats have been to the fore on this safari with two at Leopard Lodge and now two at Nanzhila. I saw two at Nanzhila in 2011 but before that the only wildcat I’d seen was at Zib, Selinda in 1998.

 

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Further on David stops suddenly when I shout that something moved in the grass beside the track. I take a very hurried shot of a Sharpe’s grysbok that we’d disturbed.

 

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At a coffee break by the pool with water lilies we see fish eagles, jacana, pied kingfisher and egret as well as waterbuck, reedbuck and impala in the background.

 

Back at camp whilst having brunch I watch a troop of Chacma baboons wander in front of the lodge picking over the dried mud floor of the Nangwande Pool no doubt searching for beetles and the like. This brings me to a particular topic.

 

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Kafue Baboons

At Leopard Lodge they were yellow baboons. At Nanzhila they are the larger and darker Chacma baboons with manes and capes.

I would be fascinated to know where in the park lies the boundary between the two species. Is there an area where they coexist and do the ever interbreed?

 

 

 

 

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Caracal

7 September 2014 cont'd

 

I sit outside the chalet in the afternoon reading Ivory Apes and Peacocks interspersed with gazing.

 

The evening game drive with Steve and David proves to be an antelope special with the ubiquitous waterbuck, duiker, impala, reedbuck, oribi, kudu and a lovely sighting of 23 eland ,

 

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The hazy look is due mainly to smoke drifting from the burning elephant dung for tsetse control

 

followed a bit later by two sable bulls, 20 wildebeest

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and then another sable plus a rather out of focus sidestriped jackal.

 

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Steve Smith and David Chirwa

 

The night drive after sundowners was pretty quiet with spring hares and a bushbaby but we then enjoyed a lovely sighting of a lesser bushbaby jumping from branch to branch. I hadn’t realised just how agile they are.

 

An enjoyable dinner of butternut soup, beef casserole and milk tart completed the day nicely.

 

 

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Marks

I enjoy the added historical and cultural perspective you've included here. Wildlife sightings are top-notch, of course!

 

Ivory, Apes, & Peacocks - is that the book by Alan Root (and if so, how was it)?

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Caracal

Thanks @@Marks and yes that's the book by Alan Root.

I found it a great read. He's had an amazing life and courted dangers to achieve his objectives of ground breaking and innovative wildlife films.

A compelling book which I highly recommend

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Caracal

8 September 2014

 

This morning we say farewell to Steve who has a twelve hour drive ahead of him to Francistown, Botswana. Then John and I set off with David on a morning walk. It’s only going to be a short walk from the camp to the Kasha River and back. Kasha is Kaonde for duiker. We soon discover that we don’t need jackets as it’s warm walking in the early morning sun unlike the morning chill at the start of the morning game drives. We pause to look at numerous small mounds of earth. David explains they are caused by mole-rats that build tunnels. He tells us that if you break open a tunnel they’ll come to repair it – they have all sorts of different colours.

 

We see a pair of wattled lapwings and ahead there is a herd of twenty waterbuck. We approach walking slowly and stopping quietly for a while before proceeding. In this manner we get closer than I’d imagined possible.

 

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However a pair of wattled cranes decided we were getting too close and with loud wingbeats and a haunting cry they took off and flew a short distance further away.

 

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It’s about at this point when we hear the ominous sound of a gunshot sounding a fair distance away beyond the camp. David radios the camp to ensure ZAWA’s being alerted.

 

 

We then carry on and after passing the waterbuck approach the Kasha River which is more in the nature of ponds at this time in the dry season.

 

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In the bush around the river there are impala, lion and elephant dung and tracks. Some ponds have lilies and jacana. We then spy a fish eagle in a tree with its catch.

 

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A lizard buzzard flies into the tree. This apparently disturbs the eagle which then flies away with its catch and lizard buzzard in pursuit.

 

We walk back to the camp across the dried out Nangandwe pool where baboons have spread apart fresh elephant dung. David presents Louise with a guinea fowl feather that was found on the walk. This was an appropriate presentation as when we were in Katavi back in 2005 the three of us decided we should start The Guinea Fowl Foundation in honour of these smartly dressed and busy personalities of the African bush that are often taken for granted or for food!

 

After brunch I’m at my chalet when I hear Louise call quietly “Clive, elephants.” I look up to see nine elephants walking to the Kasha on the other side of Nangandwe.

 

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There’s a lot of activity with ZAWA scouts around camp that afternoon. Apparently the gunshots heard that morning were attributable to poachers killing a zebra.

 

 

The game drive that evening was pretty quiet but we fortunately sighted the endemic black cheeked lovebirds on two or three occasions during the drive. Their call is similar to our Rainbow Lorikeets. Also just before sundowners David spotted a magnificent lone sable bull in amongst the trees. The light was fading and I’ve no idea how he spotted it.

 

Our sundowners were interesting with the sun setting in one direction and a virtually full moon rising at the same time in the other direction.

 

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A quiet night drive followed with spring hares and two civets.

 

At drinks before dinner a honey badger scurried around below the front of the dining/lounge area. No doubt the same one who had previously torn a hole in the canvas covering to the large ice chest.

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Caracal

9 September 2014

 

This is our last full day at Nanzhila and I wonder what it will bring.

 

We set off a little late due to some mechanical problems and not long into the drive we come across a healthy herd of Lichtenstein’s hartebeest with 7 adults and 5 young.

 

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We then head through the mopane forest which has baobabs dotted throughout.

 

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Forgot to include the above two photos which were taken on an earlier afternoon drive on the Mubi Loop

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I see quite a few squirrels but what type? My Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals has no less than 35 squirrel species but thankfully the odds are shortened with @@Peter de Vere Moss Guide to Kafue National Park which lists only 3 species. My money’s on Tree Squirrel Paraxerus Cepapi which is called Smith’s Bush Squirrel in Kingdon.

 

Later on we spot four roan some distance back then chacma baboons and warthogs.

 

Crowds of vultures are clustered in trees about the area where the zebra was slain by poachers.

 

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On the drive back to camp we see vervets

 

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helmeted guinea fowl

 

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impala, wattled crane and a tawny eagle.

 

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Brunch was followed by a brief but interesting chat with an English couple who are staying at the campsite and have travelled to Africa many times over past years. It was a pleasure to meet this talented couple who are both employed at Cambridge University. The husband is Director of the Conservation Institute there.

 

The afternoon drive with David and Tom is on the Mufuta Loop. Soon after leaving camp and passing the campsite we see 2 warthogs looking dark and wet after a wallow in the Kasha. More warthogs then 2 elephant in the bush.

 

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Waterbuck, a slender mongoose scuttling up the road, more waterbuck, oribi, impala, kudu, chacma baboon, sable, 8 hartebeest and one calf plus one forlorn wildebeest,

 

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2 female eland, kudus, 20 wildebeest

 

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and one roan

 

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before we stop for sundowners and admire a magnificent sunset.

 

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The night drive brings, jackal, spring hares and 2 civets and we’re driving on when David calls to Tom to stop. Reverse, more, stop, bit more reverse – how he spotted them we don’t know but in the bushes quite some distance away are two lionesses. David was very happy saying “I didn’t want Clive to leave without seeing lion’’ and I was very happy to have had another great drive with David.

 

The drive was followed by an enjoyable dinner of French onion soup and steak with baked potatoes. This, at Louise’s suggestion was enjoyed at a table set up at the edge of the dining area under a canopy of stars.

 

 

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Safaridude

@@Caracal

 

A beautiful report on an area I am particularly fond of. It makes me a bit sad reading this, as I feel like I am leaving Nanzhila with you.

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panamaleo

I will never forget the sun setting, and full moon rising, that night; both brilliant red due to the dry season dust in the air. Nor will I forget the following morning before dawn when the full moon shone through my chalet, as the cry of the African Fish Eagle announced another day in the Kafue.

 

How David Chiwa spotted those lionesses, I have no idea. He has night vision like an owl; such a modest, knowledgeable, young guide...he is bound to be recognized as one of Zambia's best.

 

On this safari, I became particularly fascinated with the baobabs; wish I was a decent photographer (not!), as they are so individual in color and shape, not to mention the heritage and tales attached to this species. That's the beauty of African safaris.... a passing glance becomes a lingering gaze of interest and curiosity.

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pault

You do your research and I am glad you shared your potted findings about the name of the park, among other things. Very interesting, as are all your sightings of course.

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Caracal

Thanks @@Safaridude. Nanzhila has lost none of its appeal after this my third visit and yes I did feel sad leaving.

 

Thanks @@pault am pleased you found the "potted findings" interesting. If I start overdoing them I'll blame you for encouraging me!

 

@@panamaleo yes many special moments.

 

That's the beauty of African safaris.... a passing glance becomes a lingering gaze of interest and curiosity.

 

 

That saying of yours is so true. Love it.

 

 

 

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Caracal

10 September 2014

 

Pack, breakfast, then time to leave.

 

Nanzhila time goes all too soon for me but leave we must so after a farewell hug with David and a fond goodbye with Collins we set off for Livingstone with Tom and Viviane. Leaving with the hope that I will return for a fourth visit sometime.

 

We drive to the Kalenje ZAWA Post and then south through the park to the Dundumwezi Gate. We see hartebeest and at one point a large herd of kudus runs across the road in front of us – 7 fit bulls with quite a lot of females following. I haven’t noted other wildlife but recall impalas, baboons, vervets and warthogs.

 

After the usual formalities at the gate we exit the park and start to see habitation and that quintessential African roadside scene – walkers and bicycles.

 

In this area there are many subsistence farmers and we pass the collection point for the bags of maize that are brought from small holdings from miles around. I didn’t take a photo this time around. The following is a photo from my 2011 trip which admittedly had a lot more maize gathered than this time round.

 

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We stop at a village where Tom thought we might get refreshments at a bar he knew was there. No luck – the bar was deserted and, according to others who wandered up to see what we were about, the owner’s struck hard times.

 

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We drive on a while then stop for a picnic lunch.

 

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Then on to Kalomo.

 

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Kalomo’s a town on the main road and rail between Livingstone and Lusaka. It was the first administration centre for the British South Africa Company’s territory of North Western Rhodesia serving as capital until Livingstone took over in 1907.The Administrator’s House built around 1903 still stands and there’s a sign for it.

 

Just north of Kalomo is a mound that is the site of an iron age village however we were turning south for Livingstone.

 

Kalomo gets a mention by HF Varian in “Some African Milestones”. Varian was a railway engineer involved in the construction of many of Africa’s pioneer railways and the Vic Falls bridge. He was really an explorer as well as an engineer. The giant Angolan Sable Hippotragus niger variani was named after him as he’d established to the Zoological Society it was a different species. Anyhow he records that when the rail from Vic Falls to Broken Hill was being constructed in 1906 there was a collision between the construction train and an elephant near Kalomo. The elephant fell on the track and the impact derailed the engine and part of the train. As the contract rate for construction was a mile a day the line was deviated around the carcase and derailment.

 

The highway from Kalomo to Livingstone is a smooth fast sealed road.

 

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Leaving Kalomo

 

 

We drive into Livingstone then west for Waterberry Lodge arriving there around 3.15pm.

 

Later on we take a sunset cruise with Webbie steering and guiding. It is very relaxing and enjoyable after the day’s drive.

 

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A lovely dinner outside is followed by drinks around the fire having an interesting chat with an English couple who we’d met on the cruise.

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