'The Green Season' Zambia


| June 19, 2007

Africa Tour Consultant Anna Flood recently travelled to Zambia in the Green Season.

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For the discerning African traveller, Zambia has it all: national parks teeming with wildlife, historical manor houses built in the 1920s, and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. What’s more, it is possible to see all of this in an unforgettable two weeks that will leave you hungry to come back for more.

Walking gingerly across a dry riverbed trying not to disturb a lone bull elephant was one of the most exhilarating bush experiences I have ever had. Robin Pope runs a series of ‘Mobile Safaris’ guided by Debs and her team. They are not only exciting, engaging and enjoyable, but also incredibly comfortable. Leaving the car behind means you are one step closer to the animals and to understanding what life in the bush is like.

All the main Robin Pope camps are exquisite in their own way: the opulence of Luangwa House; the history at Nsefu (the very first camp in the park); and the superb tented Tena Tena. The attention to detail, the staff and the superb settings over the Luangwa River are second to none. Despite this, camping by a dry riverbed and sitting round the fire talking to Debs about her life and the park was definitely the highlight for me. The tents are spacious and, with a hot shower and proper facilities, it is a far cry from the images camping usually conjure up. The walking is easy going, the guiding faultless and, with tea-breaks and the knowledge of a back-up vehicle on the end of a radio should you get tired, everything is taken care of.

South Luangwa is famous for, amongst other things, its high concentration of leopard. If you are in search of this elusive cat, this is the place to go. The BBC did not spend two years here filming a leopard documentary for nothing. Even in the lush green season when these cats are much harder to spot, we had two excellent sightings and saw evidence of much more activity in all areas of the park. Watching this incredible predator slink her way through the grasslands was mesmerising. The movement of her body was so fluid and graceful and the balance of the long tail is quite incredible - my first leopard is a moment I shall never forget.

Leaving behind Robin Pope, I set off to John Coppingers camp, Tafika, in the far northern section of the park. John and his wife run a great camp; here you really get a sense of going back to nature. The accommodation is constructed from locally-sourced reed and thatch huts that John and his team re-build ever year, and along with that come a few natural friends. All beds are covered by mosquito nets to stop any creepy-crawlies getting too close for comfort. Occupying another majestical river setting, it was sometimes hard to drag myself away from the strategically placed sun loungers scattered around the grounds.

The quality of the kitchen’s garden and chef was evident at every meal as we were spoilt with homegrown vegetables, freshly made quiches and desserts. You really get a sense of community involvement in the camp - John’s hard work over the years has evidently paid off. Another of Takifa’s attractions is John’s micro-light. He will take you out to see the bush from a different perspective. Swooping down over the Luangwa River is the one time you will witness the mighty crocodile running for cover, and to see the game from above is a truly memorable experience.

I left South Luangwa and headed north to Shiwa Ng’andu. Shiwa is an English Country Manor in deepest darkest Zambia. It tells the story of one man, his love and his struggle to create his dream in Africa. In the 1920s, Sir Stewart Gore-Browne began creating this estate and by 1935 it was a thriving lifeline for the local community. Unfortunately, Gore-Browne’s life was not the fairy tale he had wished for, and over time the house fell into disrepair due to tragic circumstances. Today, however, the dream is alive once more, as his wife Jo and grandson Charlie have taken over management of the estate.

With the monumental task of rebuilding the manor, you cannot help but admire the determination and energy of these two people. In a house large enough to have 27 fireplaces and several wings, the work will keep them busy for years to come. They are re-building dilapidated parts of the house using the original method: by hand making all the bricks on the estate. It is really is an incredible place with a thousand stories to tell and, thanks to the work of Charlie and Jo, Shiwa once again has a bright future. We climbed one of the peaks behind the house that Livingstone climbed when he first arrived in Zambia. Seeing the bush stretching out below I realised why Gore Browne fell in love with this part of the world and made it his home.

Leaving this incredible piece of history we flew down to Victoria Falls, ‘The Smoke That Thunders’. You will never truly be able to understand this phrase until you see this monumental sight for your selves. As we approached, our pilot flew over the falls for us and we could see the snake-like rock formation that has been produced over thousands of years of erosion. The sheer power of the water forces its way through the weakest parts of the rock, and ends in this mighty drop.

I stayed at Tongabezi, where the contrast to the falls is quite striking. The calmness and tranquility of the Zambezi River, gently meandering down to the falls, is a stark contrast to the frenetic activity and movement of the water further downstream. Sitting on the veranda of the garden cottage, or dining on the deck by the river’s edge, it is hard to imagine that further downstream 500 million litres of water are crashing down a 108 metre gorge every second. With numerous activities available, such as sunset cruises, island dining and trips to Mosi-os-Tunya Game Park as well as more adrenaline filled ones, you can choose to be as relaxed or as active as the river, depending on your mood.

 

Cox & Kings offers the following options in Zambia, which use Robin Pope camps in the South Luangwa: Zambia: A Robin Pope Safari, Classic Zambia: Two Rivers Safari and Zambia & Lake Malawi. Cox & Kings can also arrange tailor-made tours throughout Zambia.

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