July has been a busy and eventful month. The campsite has been wonderfully busy and the chalets full. We have had a wide selection of guests, mainly international visitors from Europe and Dora’s language skills have been a huge help to all. We expect August to be equally busy but do still have some availability in the last week.
The road in from Petauke is open but still not in great shape and the roads though the South Park and the North Park are both open and many guests have done this self drive route this last month. I would however still advise two vehicles traveling together.
Game viewing has been at an all time high and the weather has warmed up but if you are coming to us in August please do still bring some warm clothes for the night drives. The walking safaris have been very productive and the bush-camp has been getting great reviews.
I have been putting together a few packages for guests wanting to see some more remote places of Zambia and went on a wonderful trip to see what would work out as a good itinerary.
Day one started with lunch at Moondog café, submitting the flight plan to Kasanka and taking control of the plane! I have wanted to fly for a while and Edmund has taken up the challenge to be my instructor. My first flight was in the left seat of the 337. I did an uneventful take off and we flew across the valley and after a 40 minute flight I landed at Kasanka National Park. Kasanka is North West of Luangwa Valley and is one of the most picturesque parks in Zambia, containing a rich diversity of animal, bird and plant life. Several rare species are abundant in the park, including sitatunga, wattled crane, Ross’s Lourie and Blue Monkeys. Kasanka is also host to a unique and spectacular congregation of several million straw coloured fruit bats every November and December. Despite being one of Zambia’s smallest parks at 390 sq. kilometers (39,000 Hectares), Kasanka has a wide variety of habitats, each hosting their own associated wildlife. It is run by the Kasanka Trust.
The next day I took off at first light and the sunrise over the clouds was inspiring, we put on some great classical music and as we neared Shiwa all we could see was the mist over the lake, after a low level flyover to ensure there were no animals on the strip I touched down and completed my second flight. The road transfer to Kapishya hot springs is only 30 minutes and breakfast was waiting for us on arrival.
There are not many places that are as tranquil as the springs – they are natural springs and the temperature must be around 40 degrees Celsius. One can sit in the hot water that gently bubbles though the white sand for hours. We also did some river rafting and hikes and visits to Shiwa Ng’andu are also possible. Mark (Harvey) and Mel also run Buffalo camp in the North Park and many evenings were spent reminiscing about the early days in the parks and our friendship goes back many years.
After three wonderful days we then flew to the Bangweulu wetlands. The area is divided into 3 main habitats, open water to the North West (near Samfya), huge swamps in the middle and around the southern and eastern fringes, seasonally flooded grass plains. It is particularly this latter habitat and the swampy Lukulu river flowing through it which are of interest to visitors.
The wetlands support an incredible diversity of water-birds and plains-birds including the Shoebill Storks and are home to massive herds of the Black Lechwe, and attractive species found only in the Bangweulu. Elephant, Buffalo, Tsessebe, Reedbuck, Oribi and Sitatunga have also adapted to life in this wetland environment. You don’t have to be a birding fanatic to love Bangweulu!
Bangweulu is a great draw for birdwatchers attracting a profusion of waterfowl. Wattled crane, Saddle-billed stork, Spur-winged goose, Sacred Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron, White-cheeked Bee-eater, Swamp Flycatcher, Pink- throated and Fulbourne’s Longclaw, Denham’s Bustard and numerous ducks live here.
The papyrus swamps along the Lukulu river are also the breeding ground of the Shoebill, a massive grey, do-do like bird found nowhere else in the sub-region. Bangweulu is probably the best place remaining in the world to see Shoebill storks in the wild, we walked over a reed bed and at times had to wade though water to find them (knee deep for most people but I managed to go thought the reed bed and was waist deep!) The water lilies were incredible and this is definitely a place I will return to.
On the route home we flew via North Luangwa and I can see great possibilities of doing a circular trip to these places and would be very happy to give anyone more details or put together a fly-in itinerary (this can start and end in Lusaka and include all of the above places as well as a few nights in Luangwa Valley or be done as an add on from Luangwa) Sky Trails is a charter company with a few planes based here in Mfuwe and Edmund (Farmer) kindly arranged all the flights for me
……The skies are no longer as quiet as they used to be…..