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Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa Sept 2017: A Different View


janzin
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@janzin Thank-you for a lovely report and excellent photos. Also many thanks for the tip on highlight metering that I hope I can use in South Africa in a couple of weeks. I really felt for you over the issues you had with late starts and leaving sightings - I could never have been as polite as you (and we English are supposed to excel at that).

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Almost done, but not quite...

 

Given that our Devil's Pool trip returned us by 9:30ish, we decided to return to the Zambian side of the falls one last time. It was free, after all, as entry is included in the Avani room rate. We also took some time to explore the pond and grounds of the Avani. So a few more photos...

 

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This fellow was hanging by the pond. Yes, yes...Yellow Baboon, not Olive!

 

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We also had some nice colorful skinks! I tried to narrow down the species but without success, so "skink"  will have to do.

 

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The gardener had a hose running and it created a little pool that was attracting a number of birds.

 

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All the above were on the grounds of the Avani...I am really glad we chose to stay there!

 

We went back into the park for a bit, and I didn't take many new photos...we just wanted to experience the falls one last time.

 

We saw these folks right at the edge and could not figure out where they were or how they got there. Clearly it was not somewhere they were supposed to be. This might be near one of the other unofficial pools, as when I zoomed in I could see the guys had on bathing suits (there are some pools similar to Devil's Pool that are not recommended, not safe and not officially "legal" but some guides will take you there.)

 

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We had one last outing...a sunset boat ride on the river at 4:30. We went back to the Avani for another nice poolside lunch, then a rest and a final re-packing before our cruise.

 

Edited by janzin
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I had originally hoped to take one of the dinner cruises for our last evening. A bit touristy, I know, but I thought it might be a nice way to end the trip. However, I discovered that for whatever reason, the only dinner cruises left from the Zimbabwe side. The Zambian side only had two choices of sunset cruise...a larger party boat, or a very small, wildlife cruise. Guess which one we picked :) 

 

Of course, we took the small boat, even though it seemed doubtful we'd see anything new, and it was a bit more expensive than the larger boats, but it was our last night! We were picked up from the Royal Livingstone by minibus, which took us to the dock area where the boat embarked.

 

This is the link to the boat cruise we did: http://www.seasonsinafrica.com/adventure-activities-zambia/victoria-falls-activities/livingstones-adventure/zambezi-river-safaris/

 

We boarded our boat with about six other people, I think the maximum it holds is 10. It was a lovely ride on the river and being in the small boat allowed us to get close to some birds, although photography was difficult as we never really stopped for more than a minute or two. We started out in the wide section of the river but then turned down some narrower channels.

 

We of course saw some hippos...

 

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And some birds...

 

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We pulled alongside a colony of White-throated Bee-eaters...although there were only a couple home! But this one posed nicely for me.

 

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Other birds seen from the boat were African Darter, Striated Heron, Egyptian Goose, Black-crowned Night Heron, White-headed Lapwing...just to name a few.

 

We even saw a new bird for the trip: African Skimmer! We saw several skimming and coming in to roost on the islands. And more Rock Pratincoles, a bit closer than previously, but no photos as the boat was moving too quickly.

 

And a final elephant for the trip...

 

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We pulled into a small island for sundowners and a spread of appetizers.  Here, you can see our small boat in the foreground.

 

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We were really happy that we took this little boat trip....it was quite relaxing and a bit better than we even expected.

 

Returning to the Avani, we had one last dinner at the poolside restaurant, and headed back on the long journey home the next morning.

 

Farewell Zambia! Would we return? Maybe so, but there will be other African destinations I will be heading for first (in fact, planning a return to the Mara for 2019.) I hope I haven't dissuaded anyone from visiting Zambia, as that wasn't my intention...but I did want to relate our experiences. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes :)

 

 

 

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Great report @janzin thanks for a warts and all account of your trip.

 

As others have said it's a reminder to check the small details like departure and return times of all game activities.

 

Despite some inconveniences you had some great viewing and your photos are simply stunning! Zambia is next on my hit list so I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your trip.

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Just read your entire report in one evening @janzin - most enjoyable. Absolutely gorgeous photos as I have come to expect from you, and interesting to hear about your experiences, the good and not as good.  

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@janzin

 

Wonderful report - stunning pictures as usual, I really enjoyed reading it. Far too many amazing pictures to single any out, but did just love that Goliath Heron in the last post

Don't worry, I doubt you will have put anyone off going to Zambia.  You have just highlighted the need not to take anything for granted and ask loads of questions beforehand.

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@janzin Thanks for the excellent trip report. I read it with bated breath because I'll be staying at some Bushcamp properties this year around the same time as you. (Fortunately, we do have a private vehicle while with Bushcamp, and I'm now feeling even more grateful for that.) You've taught me some good lessons about asking questions and speaking up if we're not happy about how things are going. 

P.S. We opted not to go to Victoria Falls for some of the same reasons you mentioned you hesitated, and I have to say that your trip report and photos are giving me some major regrets. The Devil's Pool looked amazing! (You looked fabulous, by the way, not that it matters.) Definitely worth capturing a moment like that!

Edited by bluebird
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I wanted to add that I've made all the corrections to identifications on my web site.

 

Olive Baboon throughout this report should be Yellow Baboon

Black-backed Jackal should be Side-striped Jackal

and in a total brain-dead moment, I labeled all the White-fronted Bee-eaters as White-throated...that one I knew, but I just was rushing too much!

 

Unfortunately I can't fix them here on the trip report...too late to make changes.

 

If anyone wants to see the full photo album from this trip, it can be viewed here: http://www.jczinn.com/South Africa/Zambia 2017/safindex.html

 

I think most of the photos are in this report but there may be a few that weren't included.

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Thanks for sharing @janzin your stunning photos (I love that goliath in the golden dusk light) and your candid thoughts on SLNP . you did have some good viewings, although I personally think the areas you had visited were not the best places for leopard and big cat sightings. The further north you go (probably Mchenja camp and upwards) will yield more sightings with fewer vehicles and perhaps the reason why it's more expensive. I know some people feel Shenton Safaris' camps are very expensive, but their guides are superb and Derek spends on grading the vast road network every year at his own expense, since the government doesn't do it. When I do return to SLNP, I plan to spend a couple of nights in the central area and the rest up north in Mwamba. That is still my favourite camp of all. 

Your report on Lower Zembezi though is making me think I should include it as well, so thanks for changing my mind on that park!

 

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9 hours ago, janzin said:

I wanted to add that I've made all the corrections to identifications on my web site.

 

Olive Baboon throughout this report should be Yellow Baboon

Black-backed Jackal should be Side-striped Jackal

and in a total brain-dead moment, I labeled all the White-fronted Bee-eaters as White-throated...that one I knew, but I just was rushing too much!

 

Unfortunately I can't fix them here on the trip report...too late to make changes.

 

If anyone wants to see the full photo album from this trip, it can be viewed here: http://www.jczinn.com/South Africa/Zambia 2017/safindex.html

 

I think most of the photos are in this report but there may be a few that weren't included.

 

The baboons around the Vic Falls are Chacma, in Kafue from south to north the proportion of chacma's decreases and they get replaced by yellow or kinda.

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@janzin very nice report thanks. I did a microlight flight over Vic falls back in 1999 (young backpacker days) and it was and still is a highlight of my travels. My first Safari was in South Luangwa in the same year - I would love to go back one day. All Safari's are great - some are better than others, they sure beat working :D.

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@janzin  Really enjoyed your report and your photographs are just superb. Some interesting points to consider here, especially the late start times. As a single traveller, already hit with single supps, a private guide is waaay beyond my pay grade! However, I will be sure to check that wherever I stay it won't be cooked breakfast and leaving after sunrise. Good advice from many contributors here and much appreciated. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/12/2018 at 1:45 AM, SafariChick said:

Just read your entire report in one evening @janzin - most enjoyable. Absolutely gorgeous photos as I have come to expect from you, and interesting to hear about your experiences, the good and not as good.  

+1

Just read your entire report today. Your photography composition quality and picture IQ consistency is just superb.

 

Sorry to read about some of the lows but the highs mostly made up. For me PV, great guide (prefer to research and ask for a specific guide) and a camp that will provide packed food (or even better drive-to-us) food are absolute requirements. The rest is secondary and luxurious digs not required.

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On 3/2/2018 at 2:14 PM, AKR1 said:

+1

Just read your entire report today. Your photography composition quality and picture IQ consistency is just superb.

 

Sorry to read about some of the lows but the highs mostly made up. For me PV, great guide (prefer to research and ask for a specific guide) and a camp that will provide packed food (or even better drive-to-us) food are absolute requirements. The rest is secondary and luxurious digs not required.

 

 

Thank you for the compliments @Galago and @AKR1

 

Indeed, I've learned my lesson. Which is why I've just booked a return to the Mara for next year with Enaidura camp and Serian :) 

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  • 3 months later...
Peter Connan

Thank you for a great report, filled with incredible photography. 

 

While it might not have met your expectations, it certainly is difficult to tell from the photos!

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  • 4 weeks later...

P1 - Excellent start to your trip even if the carmine bee eaters were not cooperating.  Great stuff day and night!

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Nice job on the Pel's Fishing Owl, who stayed put for you after all the other annoyances of the day. 

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