One of my first trips in travel was to Zambia, I had not really been anywhere abroad apart from Mallorca and Jersey, so to say it was a life-changing experience would be the biggest of understatements.
If anyone you ask about safaris will tell you, the best place to go is Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, maybe Botswana, these are all really good options, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa are all pretty good first-time destinations if you haven’t been on a safari holiday previously.
You then have second time safari’s as I out them, for the traveller who has stayed in the luxury lodge, and taken advantage of the western facilities, such as a spa, pool and wi-fi! One of these destinations I recommend is Zambia, it's not for everyone, it can be incredibly basic compared to the other aforementioned. However, what it lacks in finesse it more than makes up for in sheer excitement.
Zambia can appear chaotic, undeveloped, and it is, however that’s part of the charm for me, the wildlife isn’t just there on your doorstep, the big game doesn’t just appear as by magic as it perhaps does in say Kenya, you actually have to safari to find it, and when you do, its breath-taking, I stayed in the Kafue National Park, it’s a long drive, and my advice is to stay overnight in Lusaka before taking the transfer, you will most likely fly via Dubai or Nairobi, and arrive into Luska late afternoon, the transfer isn’t for faint-hearted, its at least 4-5 hours, which is long, however, it's very much worth it.
Kafue National Park is one of the remaining tracts of true wilderness in Africa and it offers some of the most rewarding wildlife viewing on the continent. Covering an area of more than 22,000 square kilometres, this park is the second-largest protected area in Africa. Such is the size of this enormous park that it encompasses an incredible range of habitats and we will notice dramatic changes whilst exploring the Kafue in search of fascinating fauna.
In the north, we find the undulating plains and swamps of the Busanga. The plains are well known for their pride of lion, but also cheetah which is rarely seen in other parts of Zambia. Spotted hyena and African wild dog can be observed here too. All the predators are attracted to this northern sector by the myriad of ungulates that tend congregate in the Busanga region. Large herds of blue wildebeest and zebra move across these plains and wetlands, and these are joined by a great diversity of antelope. In fact, the Kafue National Park is home to a quite astonishing 19 species of antelope including oribi, eland, grysbok and Defassa waterbuck.
The centre of the Kafue is dominated by miombo woodland and to the south, it is typically sandy plains. However, this is all interspersed by the evergreen woodland that clings to the banks of the Kafue River and its various tributaries that carve through the park creating a veined and intricate network. It is these forested areas that provide excellent habitat for leopard and during your time in the Kafue, the chances are good of seeing these alluring felines. I actually saw a night kill, which I had mixed emotions about, it was certainly something I will never forget, racing through the bush at night with just a searchlight, following the leopard as it stalked and then chased its prey, it was thrilling.
I stayed at Musekese Camp, Musekese is a small, atmospheric camp on the Kafue River, overlooking a permanent water-fed lagoon (known locally as a dambo), with prolific wildlife in direct view. It makes a fantastic base for exploring the Kafue.
Taking its name from the local Kaonde name for the area's most ubiquitous tree, the monkey-bread tree, this lovely intimate camp is surrounded by the sounds of the bush: leopard coughing at night, hippo snorting, and the eerie call of the scops owl.
Four simple but well-appointed chalets are constructed from wood and thatch, complete with comfortable beds, high-quality linen, and locally sourced wooden furniture. All enjoy views of the dambo in front, and have an enclosed en suite bathroom with running water, a flushing toilet and bucket shower. Water is heated on a fire and brought when required; lighting is by a solar lamp.
The main boma is a large area with a unique thatched roof that incorporates a large jackal berry tree and provides shade in the heat of the day. The two-tier deck overlooking the dambo, where wildlife comes to visit, is perfect for dining out under the stars near a warming campfire around which you can discuss the day's events and plans for the morrow. Experienced staff are on hand to do everything for you, and the talented bush chef prepares wholesome meals, accompanied by good wine and cold beer.
Activities include walking safaris in the wilderness area around the camp, boat excursions on the river, the use of a photographic hide strategically situated on the riverbank, and vehicle safaris. There is an extensive network of loop trails on the south side of the Kafue River, with fantastic wildlife and a resident lion.
The camp makes for a great twin-centre with another camp in the area, I stayed for 4 nights before heading off down the river, it took a good couple of days to adjust to the relaxed laid back atmosphere of the camp, if you have been to the Caribbean, you will know what I mean!
I took so many photographs, one thing that surprised me when I stayed was how quickly it gets dark, being almost on the equator, its bright sunshine at 4 pm, by 4.15 pm its pitch black, its also hot, really hot, most accommodations don’t have air conditioning, and many of the camps are off-grid, you will find solar power is used a lot.
TIME DIFFERENCE GMT +2 hours
CURRENCY Zambian Kwacha
FLYING TIME TO DESTINATION 14½ hours to Lusaka via Nairobi.
LANGUAGE English, Bemba, Chewa, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale and Tonga.
PASSPORT & VISAS UK passport holders need a visa to travel to Zambia, which is payable on arrival at approx. $50. Alternatively, visitors can apply for a UniVisa which allows entry into both Zambia and Zimbabwe, useful if you're visiting both sides of Victoria Falls and cheaper than buying both visas individually.
If you would like more information, please let me know, I love telling people about my travels.