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Trip Report - Kafue National Park and Other Places in Zambia (Sept '09)


Safaridude

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Safaridude

I finally got around to writing a full report. Here goes...

 

Itinerary:

 

Rietvlei Nature Reserve, Pretoria, South Africa – afternoon drive

Chaminuka Game Reserve, Lusaka, Zambia – 1 night

Nanzhila Plains Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia – 4 nights

Lufupa Tented Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia – 2 nights

Musanza Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia – 1 night

Shumba Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia – 3 nights

Nchila Game Reserve, Northwestern Province, Zambia – 3 nights

 

Guide: from Chaminuka through Shumba, Benson Siyawareva

 

 

Kafue Musings; Rietvlei and Chaminuka

 

High aloft over the continent of Africa on the South African Airways flight to Johannesburg, I awaken to a route map prominently displayed on the video screen. The plane is flying over the famous Etosha National Park in Namibia. The Etosha Pan itself is clearly distinguishable on the satellite map. The route map zooms out, now showing Southern Africa in its entirety. There is the Okavango Delta, Chobe, and Central Kalahari. Hwange is harder to make out. Kruger must be over here… and don’t forget Kalahari Transfrontier, and the Luangwa Valley, of course. But I am headed to Kafue National Park in Zambia as a repeat visitor. Kafue is an acquired taste. So enticing was the first bite, I return in exactly a year. 30 years ago, Kafue would have been muttered in the same breath as the aforementioned great wilderness areas of Southern Africa. What has occurred since is a story which is both tragic and inspirational.

 

But first, I have an entire afternoon in Johannesburg, and I decide to spend it at Rietvlei Nature Reserve, which is an easy 30-minute drive from the airport. If one can ignore the power lines going through the reserve, visiting Rietvlei is a delightful way to spend a few hours on a layover in Johannesburg. There is a glimpse of the highveld environment, which existed undisturbed prior to human settlement in the greater Johannesburg/Pretoria area. Herds of springboks, blesboks, elands, and black wildebeests mingle. A couple of white rhinos amble by the vehicle. The birding is excellent. For 35 Rands, Rietvlei is an absolute steal.

 

I next spend a night at Chaminuka Game Reserve and Lodge in Lusaka, Zambia. An expensive but delightful place, Chaminuka is owned by Andrew and Danae Sardanis, who have made it their home since 1978. They have rehabilitated the 10,000-acre property, re-stocking it with plains game. The lodge showcases their contemporary Zambian art collection as well as serves artisan cheese made right on the property. Here, I am joined by my guide for the next couple of weeks, Benson Siyawareva. Benson is a Zimbabwean, but you would never know it. He is a rare, truly bi-cultural individual. He was affiliated with Wilderness Safaris before becoming an independent guide. Having built Makalolo Camp and Little Makalolo Camp in Hwange for Wilderness, he then went onto managing Savuti Camp in Linyanti, Botswana. The famous woodpile hide in front of Savuti Camp is his creation. Over a Mosi, we discuss our plans for Kafue. Benson is very familiar with the park, but he has only visited the southern part of the park once. He is eager and excited as I am.

 

 

Southern Kafue

 

Westbound from Lusaka, the Cessna knifes through a typically hazy September Zambia sky. Wheat fields, which I am not certain existed just last year, sprawl west of the city. 40 minutes into the flight, we are flying over the vast wetlands of Lochinvar/Kafue Flats (not to be confused with Kafue National Park). So extensive and uniform is the floodplain, the land below appears as a sheet of glass. Its smoothness is occasionally interrupted by hippo trails, visible even from several thousand feet above. Somewhere below, there are some 50,000 Kafue lechwes, endemic only to Lochinvar/Kafue Flats.

 

As we approach the park boundaries of Kafue National Park, the deforestation just outside the park is evident. Smoke arises from the nearby villages as a result of refuse burning and “slash and burn” agriculture technique being practiced. On the other side of the aircraft though, a group of elephants greets us at the Ngoma airstrip, cut amongst a still virgin miombo forest. 30 plus years ago, between here and beyond the forest somewhere in a place called Nanzhila, thousands of elephants and buffaloes roamed amongst other plains game and the attendant predators. At the lonely Ngoma airstrip at present, it is hard to fathom that once there were regularly scheduled flights from both Lusaka and Livingstone into Ngoma -- and that Kafue was “the place” before Luangwa became “the place” in Zambia. It is a very little known fact that Norman Carr, the father of the walking safari in Africa, was actually the first warden of Kafue before he found Luangwa. What happened to Kafue, especially its southern part, since the ‘70s, is a story so familiar in many other parts of Africa: apathy leading to degradation leading to loss of visitor numbers -- each element following the other – resulting in an uncontrolled downward spiral. This southern part of Kafue was practically left for dead in the late 90’s, as the only operator at the time who was conducting mobile safaris called it a day because he was encountering too many poachers.

 

But hope, as we all know, springs eternal in Africa. A few years ago, the World Bank and Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation provided financial assistance for the revitalization of Kafue National Park. Old roads and bridges were rehabilitated and new ones built; ranger patrols intensified; and visitor numbers increased steadily. Last year, I visited the northern half of the park, and I was thrilled by the game experience. Still, the southern part of the park remains a mystery. All I know from having read an encyclopedic report on Kafue National Park written by Peter Moss in 1976, this southern end of the park was once teeming with game.

 

We are picked up by Andre and Aaron from Nanzhila Plains Camp, an operation set up four years ago in this truly remote part of Kafue. The two-hour drive to camp is like a condensed African botany class. Cathedral miombo woodlands dominated by brachestygia and julbernardia trees feature yellow and russet leaves reminiscent of a New England autumn. Mature Zambezi teaks are found in particularly sandy patches. Huge black-cotton soil plains (locally called “dambos”) lie between such woodlands, while combretum and terminalia trees frame the edges of such dambos. Some of the dambos are spectacularly huge near an area near Nkala; the scene is right out of Serengeti’s Western Corridor. The dambos are dotted with small groups of wildebeests, zebras, oribis and common reedbucks. Suddenly, the soil turns to clay, and we are driving through a mopane forest. After turning at the Kalenje post, Nanzhila Plains proper comes into view. The Nanzhila “plains” area is composed of a series of large, flat depressions, which become waterlogged each rainy season. The Nanzhila River snakes through the plains but shrinks into pools late in the dry season. Unlike the surrounding miombo woodlands, the plains contain rich, productive soil, sustaining many bulk grazers. The botany class continues with knobthorn, jackalberry, baobab, wild seringa, leadwood, Ilala palm, etc.

 

Nanzhila Plains Camp is tastefully designed. Steve Smith, the owner, nailed it: not too basic yet not superfluous. Three tented units on one side and three thatched cottage units on the other flank the mess area. The camp overlooks Nangandwe Pools, where waterbucks and saddle-billed storks are inconstant view. Andre and Lara manage this relaxing camp.

 

Since the establishment of the camp four years ago, the game numbers have improved every year. The plains near camp are strewn with large herds of wildebeests, smaller herds of zebras, and many pairs of common reedbucks and oribis. Termitaria on the plains are especially productive and attract browsers such as impalas and kudus. The comical looking black-cheeked lovebirds make an appearance near a hide recently built on the plains. This “lifer” bird for many is endemic only in a narrow strip from the Nanzhila area down to Zambia’s border with Botswana and Zimbabwe. West of camp, the land is gently undulating, with plateaus covered in miombo on sandy soil and treeless drainage lines flushed with brilliant green grass. This is the haunt of sable, roan, and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. Rarely seen in other parts of Africa, these three miombo antelopes do quite well here. One evening, a lioness and her cubs are seen drinking from a pool in the western woodland. Southwest of camp is a vast mopane forest, which for this time of the year is temporarily devoid of game. Beyond the mopane, the southwestern woodlands feature camelthorn trees, which are generally semi-desert species and thus look out of place amongst the miombo. Bull elephants are seen relishing the camelthorn pods. Three male cheetahs drink nervously from a pool and, upon detecting us, disappear into the bush. Finally, north of camp is the extension of the plains but with sand ridges reminiscent of Northern Botswana – the road ending up in a cul-de-sac near a pool called Chilenje. Wild dog tracks are everywhere.

 

For me, the most exciting activity offered at Nanzhila is stalking game with an armed ZAWA (Zambian Wildlife Authority) scout. The gently undulating terrain away from the central plain area is such that you can utilize trees, hills, and mounds as your cover in order to approach game on foot. Is it the latent, 3 million year-old hunting instinct cached deep inside the brain? Whatever the reason, the irrepressible urge to get close to animals on foot can be satisfied here.

 

As we descend onto an open dambo, Aaron spots a magnificent bull eland about 500 yards away emerging out of the woodland on the other side of the dambo. Normally supremely vigilant, the eland does not detect us as he walks down into the valley for a drink at a pool. If we get out of the vehicle with the ZAWA scout, walk around into the woodland, and come out of the tree line a few hundred yards later, we might manage to get very close to him. As every hunter knows, wind direction is everything. Animals tend to react to a combination of the senses: sight, smell and sound – with smell usually being confirmatory. When they see you or hear you, they are alarmed. When they smell you, as well as see you or hear you, they are gone. The wind is in our favor. He hasn’t seen us, and he cannot smell or hear us. The scout leads us deep into the woodland. We try our best to step around the dry, fallen leaves and onto the soft Kalahari sand, but it is impossible not to make crackling noises under our feet. Pursuing while hunched over in full stalk mode, we wince with every loud crackle. We come around the last mound with eager anticipation, but the wind betrays us. It had changed directions some time ago, so the noise and the smell had been carried. The eland is gone.

 

We drive on to the next dambo, and it looks like yet another perfect setup. A herd of 30 sable antelopes is grazing peacefully on the dambo. This time, the wind cooperates fully. The herd sees us as we emerge out of the woodland but is unable to make out exactly what we are. The scout motions for me to go ahead out into the open a bit. I carefully break out onto the open dambo and begin clicking away. The herd has formed a phalanx and is now about 75 yards away. The herd bull, jet-black with regal scimitar-shaped horns, appears especially anxious, turning sideways and back. I can sense the fear in him. He sees a primate-like creature, but he can’t smell it to confirm exactly what it is. He doesn’t quite know what to do. Adrenaline must be pumping in his veins. A part of him wants to take no chances and run away, but he can’t help himself. After all, he is the proud herd bull. He takes a couple of steps forward, leans his head back and puffs his chest out in a typical dominance posture -- one last show of defiance before galloping off into the woodland with the rest of the herd.

 

With two hours of road transfer ahead of us to the Ngoma airstrip our last morning, we discuss our strategy for the day. On a whim, we decide to check out Chilenje Pool, an offshoot from the main road to Ngoma. Of course, these are the moments when Africa rewards. Having seen numerous wild dog tracks the previous days, we finally encounter wild dogs drinking at the pool. The two male dogs, no doubt part of a bigger pack, are typically nonchalant. Benson hypothesizes that the rest of the pack may be at a new den site.

 

If there is any doubt that responsible tourism plays a role in the protection of wilderness areas, Nanzhila Plains Camp provides the answer. Just a few years removed from some campers reporting not hearing, much less not seeing, any game in this then derelict part of Kafue, I am stunned by what I have seen at Nanzhila. Once again, wildlife proves its surprising resilience. Can this area regain the glory of the yester year as documented by Peter Moss’ game report from 1976? The staff at Nanzhila intends to find out. This will be the first year in which the Nanzhila team will stay in camp throughout the wet season, providing a natural anti-poaching presence. They also intend to step up their involvement with the local communities. The future developments in Southern Kafue will be a fascinating to follow.

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twaffle

Thanks Safaridude, this is a most excellent, well written and interesting report. I look forward to more. What good news coming out of Kafue, well done to all the team at Nanzhila.

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Safaridude

North-Central Kafue

 

On paper, the entire Kafue National Park is described as miombo woodlands interspersed with dambos. Upon landing at the Lufupa airstrip, however, it is evident how different this miombo environ is from the southern part of the park. The soil is visibly less sandy and often cracked. In the burnt areas, the grass cover is sparse. The trees seem more stunted. Combretum species, with their brilliant green leaves, are often more dominant than miombo. On the dambos here in the north, pukus and impalas replace zebras and wildebeests as the dominant herbivores. The narrow road that leads from the airstrip to Lufupa Tented Camp is canopied on both sides by impenetrable vegetation. “Spooky” - in a good way- is the operative word.

 

This is my repeat visit to Lufupa Tented Camp. Since last year, some upgrades have been made, but the Tented Camp still remains quaint by Wilderness Safaris’ standards. Bas and Natalie manage not only the Tented Camp but also the River Camp, used mostly by self-drive clients. Robert is my local guide again, and he is especially cheery today as he learns of the birth of his first son in his village. He is grinning ear to ear even as the dreaded tsetse fly bites his arm. Actually, the tsetses are not bad at all this year since ZAWA allowed limited use of flytraps near camp.

 

During the dry season, herds of roans, zebras and wildebeests tend to move a bit north of the main game viewing area, but the pukus and impalas remain, and they become the major prey species for the lions and leopards of Lufupa. The Lufupa area is known for its cooperative leopards, but we are the extremely unfortunate as we only see their tracks. Everyone else staying at the Tented Camp and the River Camp elaborates on his or her latest leopard. We are, however, lucky enough to encounter the two pride males of the Lufupa lion pride during a night drive. One of them appears malnourished. His ribs are showing. Robert explains that the male had been mating, with no thought given to food or water for days. This pride is twenty strong, but it is almost never seen together. Perhaps this is due to the seasonal lack of suitably large prey species. Genet, civet, Sharpe’s grysbok, and porcupine are also spotted on the way back to dinner.

 

Kafwala is an interesting loop about an hour south of Lufupa. Again, the miombo woodland there is different – more cathedral but with a lower layer of combretum saplings. The loop had not been graded thus far this year, and the ride is cerebral cortex-jarring. We are rewarded, however, with a viewing of a small herd of relaxed roan antelopes. The loop skirts a wide floodplain and ends up on the Kafue River where ancient rocks protrude over the white-water rapids. “A cable bridge to the rocks for a dinner under the stars amongst the rapids would be…” ponders Bas later that evening.

 

Lufupa’s signature activity is the boat ride. The Lufupa and Kafue Rivers meet right near camp, and we explore the Lufupa this time. The river is canopied on both sides by thick vegetation, again giving off a sense of eeriness. Hippos and crocodiles are abundant, and elephants water on the banks. But it’s the birdlife that is truly spectacular. Rare species such as Bohm’s bee-eater and the African finfoot (with improbable orange feet) are seen, along with malachite kingfisher, wattled crane, grey heron, and fish eagle, to name a few.

 

Months ago, I had asked Wilderness Safaris for the availability of Musanza Camp, which lies halfway between Lufupa and the Busanga Plain. The answer was no, since Musanza is used only by big groups for their “exploration” trips. But Natalie informs us that a big group is just leaving Musanza, and since the whole staff is present we can have a night at Musanza if we wish. We take the opportunity.

 

Musanza is a classic bush camp. There is no running water. Just a bucket shower and a canvas wash basin outside the tent. It is a reminder that one does not need much to live in comfort. Daniel the chef, however, is on a singular mission to turn me into a 300-pound heap in just 24 hours. A harmless green snake is found climbing a tree in camp, prompting Benson to tell a classic tale from when he managed Wilderness Safaris’ Savuti Camp in Botswana. One day, of all people, an ophidiophobic guest encountered a python consuming a ground squirrel in the communal bathroom at Savuti Camp. Benson and the staff obviously wanted to remove the snake but also return it to the wild. It was decided that they would put the python in a cool box and take it on the next game drive, at which point the snake would be released in a suitable habitat far from camp. So, the guests set out on a game drive that afternoon, and of course, they encountered a wild dog pack on a hunt. As anyone who has been lucky enough to experience this knows, pursuing a wild dog pack on a hunt is a certifiable E-ticket ride. During the pandemonium, the cool box was jarred slightly open, and the python began to slither out. A primordial scream was followed by an abrupt halting of the vehicle, which in turn was followed by the guests springing out of the vehicle for their lives.

 

The Musanza area is yet still very different. It might as well be Southern Tarangire. East African plant species such as acacia nilotica, acacia robusta, and baobabs thrive. Impalas, pukus and kudus are the dominant herbivores. There is a good population of elephants. An aftermath of a wild dog kill (a former male puku) is found. A legitimate 18-foot crocodile is seen in the channel. Lion and leopard tracks are also found, but they, unfortunately, all lead to the other side of the Lufupa Channel/River. If we could jerry-rig a bridge over the channel… but our time at Musanza is all too short. It’s time to soldier on north to Busanga.

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Great stuff, excellent reading. Very descriptive. I feel like I'm there with you.

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Game Warden

Excellent, combining memories, and history, background etc. Look forward to seeing more photos.

 

Matt

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twaffle
Oops! That didn't work.

 

Worked for me. Enjoying each instalment.

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Safaridude

Thanks everyone for your comments. My last entry:

 

Busanga Plain

 

The Busanga Plain in the very northwest of Kafue National Park must certainly be one of the most intriguing places in Africa. This seasonally waterlogged plain sits imperceptibly higher than the miombo woodlands to the south. The Lufupa Channel bisects the plain and generally drains from north to south. But the Lufupa, upon meeting up with the raging Kafue River, breaks its banks every wet season, and the water backfills upstream, spilling onto the Busanga Plain, only to slowly recede as the dry season progresses. Iterations after iterations have resulted in spreading fertile, alluvial deposits across the plain, providing nutritious grazing for the herbivores. Much like Serengeti or Okavango, Busanga is yet another of Mother Nature’s “perfect storms”.

 

This perfect storm, however, proves diabolically imperfect for the safari operators. Due to an unusually wet season, the supplies for the four camps on the plain, in some instances, had to be manually delivered for miles by teams of porters earlier in the season, because vehicles could not cross certain watery channels. The drying out of Busanga this year was a month behind that of last year, which was a wet year in its own right. Mallory’s “because it is there” is the only plausible explanation for operating a camp on the Busanga.

 

Thanks to someone else’s irrationality though, I am able to enjoy Busanga in luxury. Shumba Camp is over the top. Ordinarily not my cup of tea, but having “roughed it” at Musanza, it is diversion not unwelcomed. Shumba is the southernmost camp on the Busanga Plain, with easy access to the southern tree line (should one be into “tsetse break dancing”) but farther away from the wetter northern papyrus reeds. However, it should be noted that during the dry season, just about anywhere on Busanga is within easy reach. Wildebeests, zebras and roan antelopes are more prevalent on the southern half of the plain, while red lechwes begin to appear at Shumba Camp and increase in number to the north. A huge 500-plus herd of buffaloes have made themselves at home in the papyrus area in the north. There are three known prides of lions in the area. The “papyrus pride” in the north and the “tree line pride” in the south are only occasionally encountered. These prides are, if not fractured, certainly small in number. The Busanga pride, which roams the grasslands between Shumba Camp and Busanga Bush Camp, is hard to miss, as they are as relaxed as any lions in Africa. Recently, the Busanga pride has had a tough time in increasing its number beyond 10. It seems that because the pride hunts pukus and lechwes (small prey by lion standards) almost exclusively, the cubs often miss out on proper meals. Last year’s litter starved to death. There is a special lioness, however, who is successfully raising this year’s litter of three. She is the most experienced of the hunters in the pride. She has been seen killing a puku, leaving it for the rest of the pride to fight over it, then making another kill for her and her cubs.

 

The Busanga pride is seen every day around Busanga Bush Camp. One of the two pride males is seen mating with a female. More elephants are seen on the plain than last year. It appears that these formerly tormented creatures are learning that vehicles don’t necessarily mean harm anymore. The birdlife at Busanga continues to amaze. Huge flocks of crowned cranes and the endangered wattled cranes inhabit the plain, and open-billed storks are seen feasting on bilharzia snails. Other rare bird species at Busanga include white pelican, rosy-throated longclaw, and Wahlberg’s eagle. Busanga may be one of the best areas to see side-striped jackals. They are much more menacing looking than their almost cuddly black-backed cousins. And Busanga is without any doubt the best place to see roan. Several breeding herds roam the plain during the dry season, and we observe no fewer than eight mature bulls in three days.

 

With lions being so conspicuous on the plain, cheetahs and wild dogs tend to retreat to the tree line to the south and west. The tree line also happens to be the tsetse fly world headquarters. But we are prepared to try something we learned from Nanzhila: smoking out the tsetses with smoldering elephant dung. Rob, the manager of Shumba, is not so convinced that it will work, and he dubs our planned afternoon drive into the tree-line as a suicide mission. However, the smoldering dung, carefully placed in a tin at the back of the vehicle, does wonders. During the three-hour drive in the woodland, I receive only one bite. Not bad for a suicide mission. The tree line country is wild, and it contains some of the most beautiful woodland imaginable. Aside from elephant, buffalo, roan, warthog, wildebeest, and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, we see tracks of cheetah, leopard and sable.

 

We don’t have much time the last morning for a full game drive. We decide to just spend a few minutes out on the plain to photograph the sunrise. The haze this time of year partially obscures the sun on the horizon. The air seems thick. The coolness of the morning creates a two-foot layer of fog on the ground. Slowly and almost imperceptibly, the fog begins to lift and the sun begins to peer through the haze, revealing the vastness of the plain. There is not a trace of humanness anywhere. This is the essence of Busanga.

 

 

Nchila Wildlife Reserve

 

Tucked into the very northwestern corner of Zambia near the border of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is a quaint family-owned game ranch called Nchila. Although the Fisher family has owned the ranch for four generations, the ranch exhibits none of the grand “colonial” characteristics. Instead, the homestead exudes simple luxury. Pete and Lynn Fisher got it just right. It is reminiscent of Lewa Downs in Kenya twenty years ago.

 

At nearly 5,000 feet of elevation, the climate is pleasant. Being so close to the Congo, Nchila is much wetter than the rest of Zambia, and spectacular thunderstorms during the rainy season are common. In fact, a team of climatologists visited Nchila earlier in the year to study lightening. On our second night, we get a preview of the upcoming wet season as a frightening thunderstorm rumbles through.

 

The list of plains game at Nchila is impressive: the biggest privately owned herd of sable in Africa, roan, eland, impala, puku, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, common reedbuck, oribi, Kafue lechwe (from the Kafue Flats), tsessebe (from Bangweulu, just declared a separate sub-species, exhibiting very dark features), waterbuck, forest sitatunga, bushbuck, Angolan duiker and blue duiker. The sable at Nchila is particularly interesting in that they appear to share some physical traits found in the Angolan giant sable. Many of the males carry enormous horns and have facial markings resembling those of the giant sable (the white facial stripes do not extend all the way down the face). It is quite possible that there were genetic exchanges between the two sub-species thousands of years ago. The forest sitatunga, as its name implies, is more of a forest animal than a swamp dweller. Each morning, a few would stray out into the open.

 

A limited number of trophy hunts are conducted at Nchila every year. Even though Nchila is privately owned by the Fishers, there is a strict sharing arrangement with the surrounding communities with respect to the trophy fees. It is an exemplary game ranch model if there ever was one.

 

More so than the game, Nchila is about the Fisher family. Originally from missionary roots, generations of Fishers have been enhancing the livelihoods of the surrounding communities for over a hundred years. A nearby orphanage and school are both products of the family’s work. Pete still meets regularly with community leaders once a month to share information and discuss future community developments. A public road goes right through Nchila, and we meet many villagers passing through during our game drives. As Pete and the villagers exchange niceties, one can sense the mutual respect and admiration. Merely a stone’s throw away from the conflicts in Angola and the Congo, Nchila is a most improbable enclave.

 

 

“In One Lifetime”

 

Homeward bound on the South African Airways flight, I am staring at the route map again. I am trying to hone in on Busanga, where Benson and I parted ways. “In one lifetime”, reflected Benson as we were saying goodbye. He was referring to the fact that only 30 years ago he would walk to school in bare feet in his native Zimbabwe and that now he routinely uses his laptop computer to send emails his clients in the U.S. and Europe. “In one lifetime” is also the story of Kafue National Park: from its official designation as a national park in 1950, to its rise, to its spiral downward, to its current resurgence. Can Kafue get back to its former glory “in one lifetime”? It’s incumbent on us travelers and conservationists to ensure that it does.

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Safaridude

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Wild Dog - Nanzhila Plains

 

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Benson and Robert - Lufupa Area

 

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Malachite Kingfisher - Lufupa River

 

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Roan - Busanga Plain

 

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Sable - Nchila

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However, it should be noted that during the dry season, just about anywhere on Busanga is within easy reach.
I wouldn't count on that. Let's say beginning with mid-August during a normal season.
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madaboutcheetah

Safaridude,

 

Great report! Thanks for sharing.

 

I met Benson on a couple of Occassions in Bots. Sounds like a great trip!!!!

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Atravelynn

Although this is really a report about Zambia, I am impressed with the Rietvlei hint and have saved that part of the report. I'll get to Zambia in the future.

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Atravelynn

What a professional travelogue! The renaissance of Kafue gives me hope for more of Africa. Great sable show at Nanzhila.

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Atravelynn

The python in the box and the wild dogs is a great story! I bet the python's version of it is interesting too. An 18-foot croc! Wow! What a place!

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Atravelynn

Your Busanga installment is enchanting. Nchila appears to be an intriguing place. Love the "one lifetime" final thoughts and hopeful note. Thank you for sharing this enriching safari, Safaridude!

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Safaridude

At Nchila, as I mentioned, there are a couple of herds of Bangweulu tsessebes. The Bangweulu tsessebe has recently been declared a separate species (Damaliscus Lunatus Superstes), as opposed to the regular tsessebe (Damaliscus Lunatus). Here are the photos -- the Bangweulu tsessebe from Nchila and the regular tsessebe from the Okavango Delta taken last year:

 

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Notice the difference in body color... but that's about it.

 

Where art thou Nyamera?

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Thanks, Safaridude. Your report takes me back to Busanga once more. Are the lions still climbing trees? I first

 

met Benson at Little Makalolo, and caught up with him at Savuti. He's an old pal.

 

Jan

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Safaridude

Jan, the lions are still climbing trees, but I didn't see them doing it. They seem to only do it in Sept - Nov. Last year, I was there in late August, and this time I was there in mid- September. This year, they had begun to climb trees just before I arrived, but again, I was unlucky.

 

Interestingly, as you know, the Busanga lions stay out on the plain during the rains... so, they are definitely swamp dwellers... much like the lions at Duba. I have seen photos of Duba lions who have developed thick chests as a result of all that swamp walking. I don't detect that in the Busanga lions.

 

Benson is remarkable.

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Safaridude,

 

Thanks for sharing everything with us, what a great read!

 

The pic you posted of the dog, I assume was one of the two males you saw at Chilenje Pool.

It appears he has been well fed from a recent meal, did both male appear to be the same size?

Did Benson expand on their size? ;)

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Safaridude

Tracker,

 

Yes, that was one of the two males at Chileje Pool. They were approximately the same size. The pack in that area is around 8-10 animals, and we saw their tracks every day (especially right around camp) until finally seeing the two dogs on our last morning. It is very plausible that the pack was denning, though there had been no proof of that.

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Interestingly, as you know, the Busanga lions stay out on the plain during the rains...

 

Are you sure of that?

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