How do I convey and express the amazing things I saw and experienced on my month long adventure in Northern Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia?
I guess I start with where it all began, how it all came about and the weeks before stepping on board a rather old looking ATR 42–500 with 13 other passengers and heading to the beautiful Kasane. I was embarking on a two week photographic internship to prep me for what was to come.
That first afternoon, I was already thinking about how lucky I was, sitting in a boat on one of the best rivers in the world for wildlife photography and I have another two and bit weeks (boy did they fly by) of time to spend here with a talented photographer on a specially designed photo boat (could a man get luckier?).
It’s safe to say the next two weeks was filled with some truly unforgettable experiences such as a beautiful young leopardess high up a tree in a fish eagles nest eating the chick, coming around the corner and watching two crocodiles go through their courtship and mating rituals, driving from Kazungula to Kasane only to have to stop and let a hyena cross the road, the time spent in the underground elephant bunker at Senyati, waking up to the absolutely breath taking iTezhi tezhi dam, listening to lions roaring as they get closer and closer to where you are sleeping in a tent and being startled by the sound of a leopard calling as you are starting a fire to cook dinner.
I then moved on to Hwange National Park, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, from what I had read it had been wrecked by poaching and it was only in the northern private concessions that game was still plentiful. I could safely say that Hwange in its day must have been an absolutely amazing place. We managed to see many elephants (all very skittish though), a lioness and later that afternoon an absolutely stunning big blacked manned lion and apparently just missed seeing a leopard on our second day. It seems that if Hwange is managed correctly and maybe improved on a little, it will certainly become a major tourist attraction and a beautiful place to visit in the future. We heard lions around us every night and had ellies around the lodge quite often.
After spending almost four hours at the border sorting out paperwork, which you need to get from quite a few buildings, and paying a ridiculous amount for different fares, and not really understanding why you have to pay them, I was finally heading towards Livingston and my final destination – Kafue National Park. I reached Livingstone, expecting smooth sailing only to be confronted by a wall of cars with people sticking out of them, drinking and hurling insults at us and going as far as to push us off the road by swerving towards us and away from us at the last second, to say this fried a few nerves is an understatement. We later found out it was because they had a funeral for someone obviously quite important in the community. Thankfully everything seemed to go a little smoother from here on out except when we came around the corner only to be confronted with a truck stuck on a single lane bridge with massive donga’s (large trench caused by erosion) on each side, but thankfully the community (which came out of nowhere) helped and soon we have pushed the truck backwards and out of the way. Something I learned that first day in Zambia is that you cannot measure distance and give an ETA; you do not know what the roads will be like and how long it will really take to get there.
We finally arrived and nothing can be said about the greeting we received at the camp site with a lion roaring rather close to us while we scrambled to get tents up and dinner made. I spent a few days exploring the central area of Kafue and had some nice sightings of porcupine, civet, genet, hyena and a few birds which I have added to my life list but we missed the lions that were in the area and had a very brief encounter with a truly terrified elephant.
It seems that elephant poaching has taken its toll on the elephants in the area and they are truly scared and terrified with human interaction, to the point where if you are lucky enough to find an elephant they will either flea or charge, there is no sitting and admiring their beauty. We decided for our fifth and last night in Kafue we would try head up towards to Busunga plains which we had heard so much about but we ran out of luck when at five thirty we had not found accommodation or reached the gate and it was at this point that we stopped at one of the camps to enquire about staying and to ask whether it would be possible to get to the gate, only to be informed that the gate was still flooded and not reachable at this current time, staying there was also a no go as they were unable to offer any space.
We were then able to find another lodge which will remain unnamed, as we were only allowed to stay there after we negotiated to pitch out tent up as there was no ways we were going to pay there nightly fee (close to 600 dollars a night). With our tent set up in their staff quarters we were prepared to spend a chilly night on the floor.
The real fun and games came the next day when we left the park through North Gate and headed towards Solwezi and Kitwe (our final unintended destinations). Leaving the park, the 110 kms we had to travel took us close to 5 hours. Driving from Solwezi to Kitwe was one of the most nerve wrecking experiences of my life, we were travelling on extremely bad roads with countless potholes with drivers who did not care about their own lives or the lives of the people sharing the road, as they hurtled passed us doing absolutely extraordinary speeds on these terrible dangerous roads. We even had a truck pulling acid mine waste come past us and had to squeeze into a very small space to avoid the oncoming traffic. Certainly an interesting experience, one I will never forget and one that I never want to experience again.
This is also the day our adventures in national parks ended, yes, it was a very sad day but Luanshya awaited us. My father, uncles and aunt were all born in what must have been an extremely beautiful town in the 50’s and 60’s but unfortunately today it is just a shell of what it once was. It has seen better days and hopefully one day it will return to those beautiful times. This was the first time my father had been back to the little mining town he was born in and will most likely be his last, places he remembered as a kid or places he had been told stories about were none existent or in extremely bad condition. We can only hope that things will improve. Locals love the little town; it is now just a question of trying to get it back to where it used to be.
Thus ended an absolutely amazing time in three different countries with many memories I will cherish forever. It absolutely flew passed and I am looking forward to the next adventure. I would love to share my amazing experience with others one day and lead a group up into Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.