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Bush dog

Lower Zambezi : River & Forests

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Bush dog

Previously, I had been to Lower Zambezi and at the same camp only once, 18 years ago, in 2001.  That should not have impressed me too much because I had only very vague memories.  On the other hand, I stayed there at that time only 3 nights.  So it was a discovery rather than a rediscovery.  I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the forests and the ensemble they form with the Zambezi River giving it some Garden of Eden touch.  Two of these are particularly beautiful, the winter thorns extending from the Jeki plains to Old Mondoro, and perhaps further east, and the one along the river between Sausage Tree Camp and Chiawa to the west.  They are populated by trees that can grow up to 30 meters, with foliage starting more than 5 meters above the ground, sometimes forcing elephants to stand on their hind legs or shake them for food.  The temperature in these vast and shady areas, even in the middle of the day, remains at the end of the dry season, with the coolness of the river, very pleasant, attracting a large number of animals.

 

River

 

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Forest

 

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I had never seen before a place with so many elephants, baboons and waterbucks.  However, some species, such as giraffe and wildebeest, are absent.  Although a very skittish individual was seen a few years ago on the plains of Jeki, it can be said that the cheetah is also absent.  The vegetation outside the forest to the west of Sausage Tree Camp is very scrubby with also very dense species like mahogany, environment very appreciated by the leopards.  In this area, their population is estimated at around fifteen.  Though they are not easy to spot in this environment, they are seen during almost all game drives, sometimes with a little help from baboons.  It's also the first time I've seen more male lions (seven) than females (two).  I find that in Zambia night drives are more productive than anywhere else.  This was not denied in Lower Zambezi.   Some species, such as civet, several mongooses and porcupine, are quite common.  Wild dogs are present but I have not seen them, unfortunately.  Nevertheless here are 2 pictures taken in 2001.

 

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I spent the first night in Lusaka at Wild Dogs lodge which must be the closest lodge to the airport.  The rooms are comfortable, no more.  The next day, in the early morning, I took the flight to Jeki.  I was the only passenger in a Grand Caravan.  At Jeki, Ryan, my guide, was waiting for me.  After a fifteen minutes’ drive, we reached the bank of the Zambezi River, the rest of the transfer being then made by boat, significantly faster than overland.  Due to the drought in the whole region, the Zambezi water level was this year (second half of September) dramatically lower than last year at the same time.  The level was so low in some places that the bottom was flush with the surface and the risk of running aground was well present as it happened to us during one of our trips on the river.  It took a little less than thirty minutes to reach Sausage Tree Camp where I spent thirteen nights.  I was greeted by Ruth, the camp manager and Arnold, my muchinda (butler), who looked after me during my entire stay.

 

The camp was completely rebuilt last year.  It is still at the same location as in 2001.  Rates are all inclusive especially including  a private vehicle/guide  (which is particularly attractive when you know the price of it) and there is no single supplement.  All this makes this camp an unbeatable value for money and when you take into account the discounts for a long stay, it's even better.  The rooms face the river where the great spectacle of nature is permanent, especially at the end of the dry season.  Due to the drop in water levels, the islands on the Zambezi River then reappear.  There are mostly hippos, of course, but also elephants and some dagga boys who find there food and safety.

 

A few days after my arrival, Annekim came to greet me.  Annekim ran Busanga Plains Camp where I spent a week in September last year.  She is now working with her partner, James Duncan-Anderson at Potato Bush Camp, which is adjacent.  Some of you (@AndMic, @michael-ibk, @Atravelynn and @Kitsafari) know James for having him as guide at Musekese two years ago.

 

Regarding Sausage Tree Camp, everything has been perfect especially the commitment of all the staff towards the guests.   I have been personally able, in circumstances a little unfortunate, to realize it more precisely.  Indeed, four days before my departure, when I got out of the car, I seriously sprained my left ankle.  As a consequence of it, being in the car or the boat was not really a problem, but walking from my room to the vehicle/boat or going out for lunch/dinner at least four times a day, on sandy and rocky trails, has been extremely painful, so much so that I decided, for the last two game drives, to stay in my room and to eat there.  The camp staff did everything possible to make my life easier.  Last night, Annekim and James even had dinner with me on the front deck of my room.  A big thank you to all of them!  For the return trip, I had to ask for assistance (the wheelchair) and everything went smoothly.

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Wildship

Visit Sausage tree camp with my son in 2000, loved everything about the place and area. Is Jason still involved?

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Bush dog

@Wildship

 

Yes, Jason is still the owner of the camp.  He was there, during my stay, with his wife and son.

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wilddog

I must have been across the river on Mana when you were there. Were there concerns re the drought affecting animal health? 

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Bush dog

@wilddog

 

There were concerns, of course, but not as much as in Mana.  I did not see any animals dead from starvation, they all looked, so far, in good condition.

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janzin

Sorry about your unfortunate event with your ankle, but sounds like you made the best of it.

 

Very interesting to hear that Sausage Tree Camp provides a private vehicle. As you may recall from my trip report a couple of years ago, I much preferred Lower Zambezi to South Luangwa (which I didn't care for at all, but it may have been the choice of camps.) I did so love the incredible forests, and the abundance of elephants and leopards and all the water activity. Tempting me to return!

 

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Bush dog

During my stay, I went twice, in the morning, to the part of the park located between Jeki and Old Mondoro.  More than two hours are necessary to reach it if you go by land.  To save time, we go by the river to the small landing stage which is mostly used for arrival and departure of guests of camps, located west of the park, using Jeki airstrip.  The vehicle used to drive these customers to or from the airstrip is permanently parked there.  So it can be used for game drives when no transfer is scheduled at that time.  The pictures below are from the first time I went there.

 

Here are the three big males that rule this area stretching to Sausage Tree Camp and west beyond.

 

Blackie

 

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Blondie

 

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Roadie

 

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Elephant on the road overlooking the winter thorns forest (behind the photographer) with the escarpment in the background.

 

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There are much more than elsewhere a lot of elephant bulls in the winter thorns forest.

 

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Group of six greater kudu males

 

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Bush dog

Some pictures of animals on the river Zambezi islands

 

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Towlersonsafari

The ellie landscape shot in particular is wonderful @Bush dog

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Atravelynn

Hope your ankle is better and hope it did not detract much from your time in the bush.  Your shutter finger was in fine form!  

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Bush dog

@Atravelynn

 

My ankle is better, thank you, while still being a bit stiff.

 

@Towlersonsafari

 

Thanks a lot for your kind comments.

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Bush dog

The first day I was there, I saw two young males, one being very busy with a female.  That female is part of a small pride of five (two other young males, two females and a cub).  By carefully observing how the mating took place, in this case the male taking all the initiatives, Ryan thought that this female could pretend to be in estrus to keep them away from the cub.  Two days later, I saw them again having some trouble with an elephant.

 

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The next day, I saw the three dominants near Jeki.  The same day, they decided to go see what was happening west of their territory.  They probably covered this long road (more than twenty kilometers) during the evening and at night to arrive at dawn the next day somewhere west of the camp.  And there, they came across the two young lions to which they gave a serious beating.  Only the occupants of a vehicle from Chiawa witnessed it.  As can be seen on the photos below, one of the two has a small hole in the head, probably caused by a fang, with still dry blood around.

 

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I would add that no one knows where these two young lions came from, but Ryan thinks they crossed the Zambezi River from Mana Pools.

 

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Towlersonsafari

stop me if you have heard this before @Bush dog  but the picture of the lion in the landscape is rather wonderful! (third from the bottom) we just loved the scenery when we were in the Lower Zambezi

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Hads

That young Lion surely did get abit of a hiding, impressive looking young pair of cats though.

Wonderful report so far thanks @Bush dog.

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Bush dog

@janzin

 

Yes, I remember quite well your trip report of a couple of years ago and the magnificent leopard night pictures.  Concerning South Luangwa, if you really did not like it, I agree, it must be because of a wrong choice of camps.

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Bush dog

@Towlersonsafari

 

Thanks, as I was deeply impressed by these forests and the river, I did what I not often do, namely photograph animals in their environment.

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Bush dog

@Hads

 

Thanks a lot for your kind comments!

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Bush dog

Here are some pictures of elephants reveling in a good dust bath while sometimes presenting some strange grimaces.

 

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Bush dog

This post is about diving hippos, some very daring others less.

 

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I always wondered why an animal that seemed to me safe where it was, was in most cases rushing to leave it as soon as a vehicle or a boat was approaching.  In similar situations, I found that baboons and vervets did the same. They were tumbling down trees as quickly to flee once on the ground.  I discussed it with Ryan and came to the conclusion that they were probably very scared of feeling trapped if they stayed where they were.

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Kitsafari

awesome close-ups of the elephants!

 

I'm so sorry to hear about the mishap with your ankle and the trouble you had walking to your tent, but it certainly has not affected your eye for photos at all. glad to hear the ankle is much better.

 

Those male lions - the threesome and the duo - look in good condition. 

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Bush dog

@Kitsafari

 

Hi Kit, thanks a lot for your kind words.  Yes, those 3 males are in good condition even if though they had to take part in many fights as the scars on their muzzle (more photos to come) can testify.  As for the two youngsters are concerned, the little hole in the head of one of them did not seem to bother him.  

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Amylovescritters

My mom badly sprained her ankle on our trip in Costa Rica, too, and like you she powered through. Great TR! Hope you’re mending.

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Bush dog

Here is a first batch of birds.

 

Bearded woodpecker

 

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White-faced ducks

 

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Goliath heron

 

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Brown-hooded kingfisher

 

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White-fronted bee-eaters

 

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Pied kingfishers

 

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Purple heron

 

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Crested guineafowl

 

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Bush dog

@Amylovescritters

 

Thank you for your comments and yes, I'm mending.

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michael-ibk

Mike, top report with gorgeous photos like always, really enjoying it. Very glad to hear your ankle is getting better.

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