After a long morning spent getting a Zambia phone number and withdrawing cash in Chipata, I was finally on my way to South Luangwa National Park. Everyone I spoke to was amazed by nature and wildlife. I arrived early afternoon at ‘Zikomo Camp’ right next to the Luangwa River. A herd of elephants arrives, the first giants to appear in front of my lens. Fabulous start.
I pitched my tent along the dry overflow area, Impala and warthogs were happily pottering around.
The open space of the dry riverbed was covered in tracks and footprints, adding to the setting sun over the Luangwa River. Bliss.
I walked back to camp, enjoying tranquility and serenity, standing next to a chalet watching the sunset when I heard an American twang yelling! ‘Go away from there, this is private. Go stand there or somewhere else’. I wasn’t sure who she was talking to and kept staring at the sun. As she repeated the same words, I looked around to see who on earth would be so annoying in this peaceful environment. Turns out, she was talking to me. Looking in disbelief and a ‘whatever’ reply, I walked back to Zimba.
No one else was camping here, just us and the grazing impala. A bit annoyed, I cooked dinner and had a hot shower, before I walked over to the common porch area. Reading up on this amazing park on my iPad, I heard that same annoying voice again. ‘If you are using wifi, tell me, so I will charge you for that in the morning’.
Wtf is going on here??? I thought and didn’t reply. A few minutes later she said she doesn’t like my attitude. ‘I am not the one with an attitude problem’ I said. ‘I am the managing director and I want you to go back to your camp.’ Still wondering where the hidden camera is located, I just kept reading. ‘I don’t want you up there and I don’t want you to stay. You best pack your things and be gone in the morning. Just go, I don’t want your money.’ She called out to get someone to remove that ‘idiots from the porch.
When the Zambian manager arrived, looking with remorseful eyes saying ‘Sorry boss, can you please go back to camp?’ No worries I replied and walked off. I was a bit suspicious on arrival, that in this high season, I was the only guest on the whole property, greeted with juice and a wet towel to wipe off the dust. I was the only paying guest here, which she just scared off in such tactless manner. It really is hard to believe why, or how she got this job and hasn’t been sacked yet.
I thought I was in heaven, I ended up in hell. If anyone, or if you know anyone who wants to visit South Luangwa National Park, DO NOT bother camping at ‘Zikomo Camp’. Don’t waste your patience and extra money on this inhospitable environment, caused by the managing director. ALL others workers were friendly as expected, the price for camping twice as much as in Mfuwe.
I stopped at the office the next morning to have a chat with the local manager. I didn’t have to say much to him, he knows more then anyone else what’s going on here. And these were my last words I spoke to anyone all day. The northern section, east of the Luangwa River is called ‘Nsefu sector’, and as I found out, not very popular with other tourists. I spent all day navigating Zimba effortlessly through this few signposts maze of tracks, thanks to maps.me. This app is just fantastic.
Flooded in the wet/rainy season, where torrent rivers combine lagoons in one huge wetland paradise. A haven for migrating birds and most other animals.
In the dry season, the water wonderland shrinks to a minimum.
Dry riverbeds, rock hard and bone dry salt pans and most lagoons are a fraction of their actual size. Some completely dried out, some just a puddle of deep mud. Only The Luangwa River is still flowing, largely shrunken from his torrent size.
Leaving Zikomo Camp somewhat irritated, it appeared that the animals were irritated too. One could think that the negative energy sent out scared all animals off. It was ghostly quiet all along.
The gusty winds from the last few days dropped, but clouds covered the early morning sun, all day long. First up in front of my lens were the old faithful elephants.
A smaller herd foraged a dried lagoon, leaving the tiny ones free to roam.
Without the intense heat of the sun, it seems the youngsters are full of beans.
Visiting Aunty, before running back to mom.
Elephants were encountered in different locations here. This single elephant lady was alone. I am sure her family wasn’t too far off.
Baboons sift through elephant piles for insects, a tasty meal it seems.
Most of the tracks followed along the Luangwa River, which is home to hippos.
All along the river are little families or herds dotted on their own territory.
Crocodiles laze on the banks as well and are often scared off by my appearance.
Some hippos prefer a mud bath.
Territorial as they are, this lagoon is on his last drop of moisture, before the rain returns.
They didn’t seem to mind the mud, not as much as my appearance.
Back on the river, I got into another elephant roadblock. These seemed to just have crossed the river, as they climbed the steep river bank.
Another group came along and crossed the river, dodging hippos and crocs.
To my surprise, it came to a Mexican standoff between these two groups, which I thought was one herd.
The first group wouldn’t let the second one climb the bank as they did.
They came towards me and Zimba, slightly irritated. I had to reverse for them to climb another section off the bank.
Happily, they disappeared into the bushes.
Further inland at the hot springs, a huge herd of water buffaloes came my way. I couldn’t even guess how many there were, even if I tried.
What an impressive sight.
Rather calm and suspicious,
they weren’t sure what to make out of this oversized zebra.
I moved on to give them entrance to the lagoon.
Being surrounded by hundreds of these colossal buffalo wasn’t on my bucket list, not today.