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Lower Zambezi - a third encounter of the close kind (June 2017)


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You got some great shots on that second canoe trip.  Blacky blocking the lioness is a cute shot that makes them look like a happy couple on a stroll, though his intentions are more direct.


The alpha female wild dog really did look dejected after no one followed her to hunt.  Certainly hope they did not expect her to go it alone and regurgitate an entire meal for them when she got back.  Great dog activity on your last video and nice ending with the live choir!  Love your night time tree and the stars shot.  Another great trip, right?

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Day 6 Travel to Lower Zambezi:   As much as we like Cape Town it was now time to move on to Zambia and the Lower Zambezi. We had our early start planned out with a breakfast of croissants bo

Itinerary.   5 nights Cape Town (Lawhill Apartments). 4 nights Old Mondoro, Lower Zambezi, Zambia. 4 nights Chiawa, Lower Zambezi, Zambia.   Day 2 Cape Town:  

Hello friends.   I have been away from this forum for too long and have just found time to start a trip report from our latest excursion to Zambia. Our third trip there in as many years henc

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Day 13 Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi:


Our last full day today and we really didn't mind what activity we did  - we'd crammed a lot in to our 4 nights at Chiawa but we opted for a drive and were paired with Chris again and two young ladies from Texas who were traveling with their parents  but their parents were taking a day off for Father's Day.


Chris drove East to a part of the park we had been to a couple of times - it is a plain named after a famous film about Africa (probably the most famous) and will be the movie quote for today!


We had seen some great sightings this trip so we were ready to savor anything and everything today starting with these baboons just outside of camp. they were very playful and had Chris not heard about some lion tracks further East then I would have spent the morning right there.









After about 15 more minutes of driving Chris found the tracks for himself and was puzzled as it looked like they were for a single male and then a single female and going in opposite directions. We followed them for quite a while and went through some thick bush, dry river beds and all over the place with Chris speculating that the lions had finally stopped their mating and were going their separate ways with the lioness perhaps looking to meet up again with her pride.


The scenery was nice as well.



Hooded vulture - I got excited when I saw this as it usually means lions but all we had was tracks.



After a bit more tracking we were no nearer to any lions so Chris drove us onto a large open plain to scan with his binoculars and wouldn't you know it there was a pair of mating lions. So much for them splitting up. Actually, this was a different male - it looked like that middle male that had been waiting and watching had finally muscled in and was doing some mating of his own.





Some serious scars on this fellow









We watched them for a while but we were a fair distance East of camp so Chris eventually turned us around and we headed for home with a drink stop along the way by the side of a lovely stretch of water used by one of the other camps for canoe trips. 


I took the time to take in my surroundings and fulfilled a promise to myself to photograph more impalas as I always take them for granted. Such beautiful animals and probably the one that we see the most.




We got back to camp and had another spectacular lunch (more bacon and eggs cooked to order as well as the salads, breads, meats and mixed dishes) before retiring for s siesta. My siesta consisted of 2 hours at the viewing platform and it was prettyd quiet nearby but with a lot of hippo activity in the distance on the river for me to look at. There were of course lots of birds to view  through the scope and the binoculars and I also took my camera and tripod along also and was very pleased when two birds starting buzzing about overhead. I had no clue what they were other than they looked eagle like and I was happy when I showed the photos to Spence later and he ID'd them as crowned eagles. And I got to read about them in the library as well in one of the many books on the animals found in the park.








Always nice to see new animals and today had already been a good day but we had our last afternoon activity to look forward to and this was also something new - a sunset cruise. If I am honest, this is something that we have been offered in the past at Old Mondoro and Mrs deano was always keen but I never really fancied it. Well let me tell you that after this, admittedly fairly quiet cruise, I am now hooked and will definitely squeeze one again given the chance.


It was brilliant. Fantastic. Amazing. Gorgeous. You name it and it was that cruise. I set myself up on a chair with camera on a tripod and the skipper would point things out to us and I would try and photograph it as he cut the engine (to reduce vibration and engine noise) and we would drift by. If I messed up (which I did a lot) well he would just go back and do it all again. 


Just us two and a skipper and we had a couple of hours to cruise up and down before meeting Spence and a vehicle (and more guests) for a night drive "...somewhere downstream...". 


This is my set up. Tripod, camera, Nikon 80-400  + TC 1.4.



As is to be expected we saw a lot of bee eaters, hippos and crocs as well as a few pied kingfishers, egyptian geese and ibis but seeing them like this was just fantastic. We spent a lot of time drifting past bee eaters as they tunneled into the bank and must have re-positioned half a dozen times to return to watch their antics. It was like a BBC documentary (but with dodgy footage shot on an iPhone!) and I was regretting not having done this before.














We saw big crocs and this tiny baby that can't have been very old






He needs to watch out for this fish eagle



Colourful bee eaters were seen frequently









And a coucal (?) - must improve my birding.



This was of course a sunset cruise and our sundowner drinks had been packed in advance for us to enjoy at a suitable spot on the river. The sunset was not typical but spectacular all the same and at one point the sun dropped behind the mountains and looked like the hill top was on fire. Hard not to photograph this a few too many times but hey...have I mentioned that I love Africa?


We had a great elephant sighting around about this time also. I took a lot of video (with dslr) and you can watch it in the clip at the end. I swear he winks at me at one point!



Sit up straight man. Very bad posture.










After the sun had set we spied Spence and the vehicle on the river bank and we headed in to join them and finish off our sundowner with him and couple of American guests whose names I forget but were also great company (I have to take a note book next time!).



Our last sundowner of the trip - right by the Zambezi after a glorious sunset cruise. Can't beat that.



After a somewhat quiet night drive (we didn't care, we had had some great sightings) we enjoyed a great meal and the Chiawa choir and stayed up a bit late because it was our last night. Chiawa had definitely found a way into our hearts and we were already planning a return (2019 probably)  - for us, it's just that good.


Video for today has a bit more dslr footage in it. Hope you enjoy it.


And of course today's movie quote; remember that is a famous film about Africa and we went to a plain named after it today and in fact you could say that we didn't so much drive away from it but we got "out" of it - "...I had a farm in Africa...".


Kind regards



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Thank you @Atravelynn - that second canoe trip was what dreams are made of with the elephants crossing right in front of us; and that dominant black maned male was quite the character indeed. We enjoyed the wild dogs and suspect that the injured one put a bit of a downer on some of the others - hence their reluctance to hunt. If I was the Alpha in that pack I'd have bitten a few bums to gee them up!


We had a great trip thanks. Next year is our 25th Wedding and also Debbie's (mrs deano) 30th Birthday and also her 20th as well on the same day (if you catch my drift) and we really wanted to go back to Zambia but have taken the plunge and booked Botswana instead....just to see what all the fuss is about. Botswana has got a lot to live up to and I will be on the Safari Countdown thread after I have caught up with some trip reports on here that I have had my eye on.


Thank you for all of your comments and likes @Atravelynn and everyone else.


Just a short installment tomorrow and a Chiawa compilation video.


Kind regards



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I'm guessing your coucal is white browed. 


Next year is a BIGGIE!  I get your drift.


Looking forward to the rest.

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Thanks Deano for this great report and for finishing it up before we leave on Wednesday!  I really didn't know what to expect from Lower Zambezi but you've gotten me really psyched for it with your fabulous photos, videos and stories.  



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@deano great end to your trip!  I for one am happy for middle male lion for his patience paying off.  Fair play.  Also your last cruise was a winner.  A beautiful Monet sky to savor with that last sundowner.  You captured it well.


Zambia is my destination for 2018, the more I read (thank you very much!) the more I'm convinced.  Thank you for sharing, I especially loved your video!!

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On 20/08/2017 at 9:11 PM, janzin said:

Ah so you did see the mystery cheetah!! Great photo :) I really wonder if its still in the area or will be when we get there in September. We are staying at Amanzi camp, which is just a bit further upriver from Old Mondoro. Jeki is our arrival airstrip.  I know that  @CaroleE stayed there recently and was able to do a full day game drive to the Jeki area--whether or not she saw the cheetah is still a mystery, as she hasn't gotten that far in her trip report yet!


I've read that some think the cheetah crossed from Mana Pools, but who knows. Cats will roam!


As for this movie quote...no idea...these are tough!




Haha if I had seen the cheetah in Lower Zambezi I would have immediately logged in to ST on return to camp, created a new topic for it and shraed the news. May have even done a Facebook Live during the sighting :D

So no @janzin and @deano I didnt see the cheetah. Think I said as much in the original topic about it.

That will be one off the list of potential things for 2 major sightings I mentioned in my TR. Talking of which I really do need to find some time to complete some more of it. Otherwise @janzin will already be home and started hers!! But may have to read @deano's first:)

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Yes - A biggie @Atravelynn (and it had better be as good as the hype!).


You are welcome @janzin and I hope that your trip is everything that you hope it will be + maybe a spotted fast cat?


Good stuff @amybatt - thanks for reading and commenting. Zambia is a special place for us and with 3 trips now it has really got to be our favourite. I'll put some camp and lodge reports up now that I have a  bit more time.


Come on @CaroleE - yours is one of the many reports I would like to see more of so please get back to it. I have half an idea what one of your special sightings might be but I'll save my guesses. 


Thanks again everyone. Just one last installment and then I am onto safari countdown....30 weeks or so...........


Kind regards



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crowned eagles - great prize.

beautiful sky shots

Those white fronted bee eaters are gorgeous.  Doug, Macdonald, who has guided me in Zim said everybody always raves about the carmine bee-eaters, but in his opinion the white fronted are more beautifully colored.


Don't hype the big event too much!

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Chiawa last morning and transfer:


Just a short installment mainly as an excuse to post the Chiawa Camp compilation video.


Great night by the camp fire last night with me spending most of my time trying to get images of the milky way but there was a bit too much light from the fire and lanterns unless I stood by the side of the Zambezi in the pitch dark of a Zambian night which is not advisable! 


I had a restless night due to the sounds of what I was convinced was a buffalo herd being harassed in the night on the other side of the dried up river bed in front of tent #7. So convinced was I that I got up with my torch in the middle of the night but could not see anything.


Next morning by the camp fire at breakfast other guests said they had heard the same sounds as I did and came to the same conclusion so since we were on a shortened game drive this morning (so that we didn't miss our transfer) we volunteered to check it out with the help of course of guide Daniel.


We spent the best part of 45 minutes bush whacking and did find a large path of flattened grass, fresh buffalo dung and then a couple of buffalo but they were most definitely healthy and didn't have any lions attached to them although we did hear a big growl at one point but none of us could pin point it.


Back on the camp side of the river bed we then had vervets alarm calling frantically very close to one of the tents but we couldn't get close enough in the vehicle. Daniel radioed camp and Joshua went up on foot and advised us later that he got growled at by what he was sure was a leopard with a kill stashed in the bush - it just shows that these animals really don't give us or these camps any thought at all and they just go about their business as though we were not there. I would liked to have followed up but it was out last morning at Chiawa.


Despite our lack of finding anything we enjoyed the 'hunt' and wouldn't have missed it for the world.


By now, other vehicles had been out for about an hour and Daniel advised that he had heard on the radio that the lions were all back together now but back over towards "Out of Africa Plains" (surely you all got that one from yesterday and Casablanca from the day before?). We would only have time to drive there and back leaving us with 5 mins to watch the lions and no time for a coffee stop - we said go for it. A lion in the hand is worth a leopard in the bush....or something like that and besides, we would be leaving join a couple of hours and there are not many chances to see lions elsewhere on our journey home!


On the way, we found a very obliging LBR that begged to be photographed and then allowed me to change my settings (to 1/4000th) for the take off. 



Finally, an LBR in flight



When we reached the plains we had a choice of sitting with the lionesses and a few cubs or we could see that Blackie was sat on his own right out in the middle of nowhere so we opted for Blackie. It turned out to be good move as Blackie decided to get up and go for a wander and Daniel positioned the vehicle perfectly for him to walk a good distance right towards us. I decided to video with my dslr but sadly I screwed up the settings and missed most of his walk but I did get the last few seconds of it and also some iPhone footage as well. Shame, it would have been so much nicer on a dslr!


Anyhow, Daniel said we only had a few minutes left and then as luck would have it, the rest of the pride decided to move off in the direction of Blackie and therefore us and we got to see them walk from their resting spot and out into the open and right past the vehicle. We couldn't have asked for a nicer final sighting in Lower Zambezi and we got some nice footage which is in the Chiawa compilation video below. 


Here is the lead lioness



Daniel wasn't kidding when he said we only had a few minutes as were gone soon after and we had a speedy drive back to camp where we had a an early lunch (more bacon and eggs for me!) before our boat trip down stream to meet a vehicle for the final transfer to Jeki.


One last pic of Chiawa



We had time to reflect on the trip on the boat transfer and also the vehicle transfer and decided that we now had an even bigger addiction - Chiawa was now equal with Old Mondoro and we would just have to return to both camps. Which leads nicely to the final movie quote - another gimme "...I'll be back!...". 


Bags being transferred from boat to vehicle with some drinks in the cooler for later - have I mentioned that I love Africa?



20 minutes later we were at Jeki waiting for Proflight. We sat in silence with a cool drink and watched Lower Zambezi do its thing...okay we half hoped we'd see the cheetah again but we were not that lucky but then again, how much more lucky could we have been on this trip?! It was incredible and we really will return in couple of years.


That's it for this trip report. I hope you have enjoyed reading it at least half as much I have enjoyed writing it. Here is the final video.


Kind regards



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Thanks Deano for the wonderful report, I hope we have as great a time in Lower Zambezi as you did (I have no doubt we will!) We leave in the morning!



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Excellent report @deano. I really enjoyed reading it and seeing your photos. The videos at the end of each edition added something extra...well done!


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Splendid report @deano brought back some lovely memories the lower Zambezi is a beautiful place

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Wild Dogger

@deano thanks for this report. Really enjoyed it.
We´ll be in the Lower Zambezi in November, staying at Amanzi Camp just like @janzin.
Hopefully it will not be suicidal hot in November.

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@deano thanks again for a wonderfully written, photographed and filmed trip report. And congratulations on the LBR in flight... something that I have never managed to achieve!

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Well, as always, I'm late to the game. But let me just say that I've thoroughly enjoyed another great report from the Ambassador to Zambia here. There are so many memorable experiences that you recounted, but that leopard with the impala kill, and her hauling it up into the tree, was extra special, especially considering it was your first drive of the trip. But, my God, that hippo charge during your canoe ride was unbelievable. Maybe you didn't feel truly threatened, but with those fabulous photos, you easily could have bluffed me into thinking you had a narrow escape. 


I know I always say this, but Zambia has always been high on my wish list. One of these days, I will surprise everyone by booking a trip instead of just talking about it. In the meantime, thanks for giving us one more glimpse of that very special place. 

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@deano - Reading through your trip report and watching the videos has just about convinced me to get a GoPro for my upcoming trip.  My main use would likely be for timelapses, which I love to shoot on my DSLR but I really like the idea of leaving the cheaper GoPro outside rather than having an elephant step on my more expensive camera!  Plus I also like the idea of being able to leave it behind and shoot a long timelapse during the day.


A few questions:

  • On at least one of your videos you have a timelapse of the night sky with stars.  Is this really from the GoPro?  I didn't realize it would do that well at night.
  • How long will a single battery last when shooting timelapses (at whatever shot interval you most often use)?  I had read a little under two hours when shooting video, but wasn't sure if a timelapse would be more efficient.
  • How many memory cards and spare batteries do you take with you?




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Thank you for a great report - I really enjoyed your enthusiasm, your writing, your photos and the videos!

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You ended with Arnold!  And a great video.  Chiawa should use that on their website.  Great report!

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Thank you @janzin @Davesg @Towlersonsafari @Wild Dogger @ZaminOz @Alexander33 @cjt3 @TonyQ and of course @Atravelynn (Hasta la vista, baby)! I enjoy re-living these trips through these reports and it is always nice when folks take the time to read and comment. But then again you lot are as mad about Africa as I am aren't you?


@Alexander33 I am afraid that I will lose my Ambassador to Zambia title next year when we visit Botswana. Hopefully my "Member of the Jamesons Empire"  remains in place!


@cjt3 - My journey to GoPro was much like what you have described - I like Time Lapse but it ties up the dslr and so I first tried an app for iPhone (Lapse It)  which is very good and easy to use but you are limited by the capability of the camera in your phone e.g. long exposures for night are very difficult if not impossible. I ended up buying GoPro Hero4 Silver mainly for TL although I'd get the Hero 5 Black now. Try and get one with an LCD screen...so much easier for adjusting settings, framing and even reviewing etc. although the free app makes all that a bit easier if you have a smart phone.


In response to your specific questions;


Yes - amazing that a camera so small can do that nightlapse eh? it is not perfect but is a bit easier to set up than a dslr and the edit is also very simple with GoPro Studio. You will need to practice as the ambient light makes a massive difference e.g. full moons can use a modest ISO and say 20 second exposure whereas a new moon will likely need 30 secs and max ISO and could be a bit grainy but you will need that for the Milky way for example. (From what I have seen, the Hero 5 is better still).

I messed about with mine for about a month and the average for GoPro battery or 3rd party (I use Wasabi) was around 3 hours irrespective of settings but the "type" of TL did affect that a little bit (I can bore you on that once you've bought one...). I then remembered that I had a 5200mAh power source that I used for charing my mobile when away from normal power. I was amazed that this device got me easily 12hrs + for the GoPro on TL and I would often return to find that the GoPro battery was still powering the camera even after the power source had drained itself. I'm actually buying a second power source for my next trip so that I can have one for days and one for nights (rather than not have one for the 4 hrs or so it takes to recharge it). They are about US$20. 

I have 4 camera batteries and have only once been in a situation where I didn't have a charged one on hand and that was my fault as I just got lazy with re-charging them and juggling them about. 3 would be more than enough and the 3rd party ones work just fine and cost less. 

I have not tried continuous video shooting but I think that, depending on resolution, you can shoot for more or less the duration of your battery with a large card e.g. a 64GB. A smaller card will fill up before battery expires and of course a video at the highest resolution would fill the card faster than your battery drains but yes - about 2 hours is the average with a 64GB card.

A fully charged battery will easily get you through a typical 3 hr game drive etc. and in that time I would be using the LCD screen and would be shooting video, maybe a few stills and perhaps a time lapse at a drink stop or sunset etc. so lots of stuff that drains battery life quickly.

I take 1 x 64GB and 2 x 32GB card and the 64 on its own is hard to fill. I sometimes just put TL on a separate card and always plan to swap out cards from say one camp to the next for ease of reference and to avoid data loss but (touch wood) I have been okay and despite good intentions I usually just lump everything onto the 64GB card and in 3 trips where I have used it  barely fill it (only once did I spill over onto one of the other cards).

I would definitely get a small Joby type tripod and if you have the cash get the remote as well. The Joby lets you set up the camera anywhere and the remote saves card memory as you can set up a shot and then wait before you start/stop recording rather than just pressing record and then doing a lot of editing because you took 60 seconds of footage for 5 seconds of action. The phone app does the same thing but the remote works over a much greater distance. 



If you are like me and like to use the internet before buying them a guy called Mic Bersema has some great stuff on Youtube regarding GoPros.


Kind regards



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Thanks, @deano!


I actually placed the order for a Hero5 Black later in the day after writing my last post.  When I started looking at the GoPro I was looking at the cheapest ($150) version and thought that would be plenty.  As with most of my electronics purchases, though, it didn't take me long to justify the incremental upgrade to the $300 version and then to the $400 version.  As you said, the biggest reason to me for the going up to the Hero5 Black is having the screen to be able to frame shots and change settings.


Looking forward to getting the camera next week and playing around with it.  And thanks for the advice on the battery pack (along with all the other great advice).  That sounds great to be able to have a timelapse running for 12 hours, although now I'm getting a little concerned about managing battery charging for 2 DSLRs, a GoPro, a phone, and one or more battery packs.  Guess I will figure that out as I go . . .


Thanks again!


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I haven't visited the Lower Zambezi NP but your most enjoyable report @deano has provided me with a great introduction - that engaging commentary interweaving so well with those lovely photos and videos of the wildlife, landscapes, riverines and safari camps. Thanks.


PS I flunked your quiz! Nearly saved by the bell knowing immediately film, book and author of  " I had a farm in Africa" but nowhere near an overall  pass I'm afraid!

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  • 2 weeks later...

@deano Enjoyed seeing Cape Town through your eyes.

Great action with the leopard and its kill on the first page; elephants stole the show on page two for me. The hippo charging through the water is also a very impressive and dynamic series of shots - you must have really kept your cool! The dust-bathing eles photos on page three also have some amazing light.


Jameson's for breakfast made me smile - now that is a safari done right!

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Having just returned yesterday from Zambia and Lower Zambezi I had to revisit this report. We will now join the ranks of "lovers of Lower Zambezi!" We actually preferred it to South Luangwa (shhh don't tell the fans.) It really was fabulous and since it will likely be awhile before I get to my own trip report I'll answer the question I know @deano is wondering--no we didn't do a canoe trip :(  The hippos were frightfully frightful and seemingly in the millions :Dand even the small boat ride was a bit nerve-wracking--but we loved it!

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Hippos do give off a different vibe when you are on the water with them @janzin and if you didn't fancy a canoe trip then so be it...but maybe next time? I know exactly what you mean about LZ and I am looking forward to the trip report.


Thank you @Caracal and @Marks - I think anything from Karen Blixen would be a a give away that Africa is going to be a large part of the story and I suppose that any reference to Jamesons will always be associated with deano on safari!


@cjt3 have you got your GoPro yet?


Kind regards



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