The picture above is how one well-known travel magazine described the ‘Kafue National Park’. Reading this article, I was really looking forward to some more wildlife encounters. To be quite frank, the number of animals spotted was rather pathetic. I understand the factors of being in the right spot at the right time and animal movement,
but seeing one kudu, one klipsringer and a small herd of elephants over 3 days whilst traversing the whole Park from south to north is just crazy.
The herd of elephants chased me and Zimba of from 300 meters distance. A nervous animal fearing being shot by poachers. Alarming signs. The usual Impala grazers not included, but even they were scarce. The always present and pestering Tse-Tse flies made a photo shoot or lunch break impossible. With no animals to feed on, cars quickly get covered with flies. To top it all off, this Park is major expensive. With your usual foreigner entry and car fees, you pay another 50 Kwacha per night for camping. This fee only allows you to camp in designated expensive private lodges/Campgrounds. The average camp fee is around 250 Kwacha. South Luangwa National Park and Lower Zambezi National Park offer a much better deal in all considerations.
The birdlife on the southern end off Lake Ithezi-Thezi was abundant though.
Kingfisher and Fish Eagles shared the fishing spots with Spoonbills and other waders.
This was even more impressive in the afternoon or very early mornings with the sun coming up over the lake. One step at the time.
I arrived at ‘Kafue National Park’s’ Southern Gate around lunchtime. A poster about an elephant orphanage near the small township of Ngoma hung on the wall. What a great way to start this National Park! Visiting baby elephants whose parents got poached, sadly enough. Despite all my efforts and hours of driving and asking where it is located, I couldn’t find it. I took the slow going inland route to ‘Hippo Bay Campsite’. Apart from a few waterbuck and Impala, no other animals were sighted. It was hot and dusty again.
Arriving at the resort, I was asked to pay and sign in. ‘But I already paid for camping’ I said. But these were only National Park fees, an extra 200 Kwacha are needed to pay for the camp. Slightly annoyed I set up camp on the southern shores of lake Itezhi-Tezhi.
A beautiful setting with plenty of birdlife. Elephant, hippo and Antilope tracks covered the dry and muddy foreshore. A great sign for wildlife, maybe a hippo or elephant wanders the lake early morning for sunrise? Wishful thinking.
I wandered along the lake to watch kingfisher diving for fish. It really is a skill to catch their fast movements.
The fish eagle was keeping an eye or two,
while the spoonbills settled in one of the dead trees in the lake, caused by floods after the dam was built.
Fishermen using nets to gather some fish, as expected.
It wasn’t long until I heard a familiar sound off Claudio’s Randlover. They took the ferry over and came a different way. The fire had been started already and it wasn’t long till I heard Emanuela’s shout ‘Ben! Spritzer!’ An evening around the fire with plenty of laughter, although my Italian hadn’t improved much.
A calm lake early mornings is just inviting for sunrise. The hippos or elephants never showed, I was clearly pushing my luck.
With so many waterbirds making this Lake their home, it wasn’t too surprising that they would steal the show.
Another early morning start for me, first one up is the first one gone. I stayed at the lake edge for a while but decided to move on, prime time for game viewing.
I came across a little lagoon, the sun coming up right behind.
Some flooded, dead trees are just perfect resting and warming spots for storks and heron.
As these trees were so tall, the sun meanwhile was right behind the highest point of the tree.
Like the Christmas tree star, a stork stood on the very tip of the tree.
What a view.
Other birds flying in or out, just added to the orange glowing sky.
A hippo enjoyed the morning sun on the other side of the road.
The sun reflections on calm waters sure are a breathtaking sight.
A lone stork seemed fascinated by the sun. A double banana boat fishermen were chasing some fish in the distance.
On the lookout for that elusive cat, I spotted some kudus in the thick bush. Shy as they are, they went deeper in the bush, apart from one female. A quick look, before jumping the road into the thickness. I sidetracked north towards the lake. Perfect environment for herbivores and carnivores. A herd of elephants caught my eye as I passed, one looked a bit agitated. I reversed to have a closer look and before I knew it, that elephant went trunk up towards me and Zimba. Lucky they were a fair distance away. However, I should have gotten my camera ready and returned. These would have been awesome photos, an elephant in full speed coming towards you. However, an elephant scared of a car from that distance points towards poaching.
Instead, I went to a tranquil place on the lake. Great spot for a coffee break.
Some more fishermen were paddling in the distance against the rising sun. No animals were sighted, apart from a warthog family and some Impala. In fact, the kudu was the last animal I took a photo of for the next 24 hours. In perfect habitat, this is not a positive sign. I passed the lake on the western side which took me all day. No cars, no animals, just plenty of Tse-Tse flies. It was hot and dusty, not many shady spots to pull over for a coffee break, even if you dared to get out of the car. I bumped into Claudio and co a few times before we rejoined just before the M9.
After a group photo, we went on to ‘Mayukuyuku lodge and Camp’. A nice setting by the Kafue River, but no wildlife around either.
I left before sunrise again. There was a path along the river plains hind the camp, but there was absolutely no wildlife. Rather disappointing. When I got to the Park gates, no one was there to let me in. Gates open usually at 6 am. A frustrating start all around and things did not improve. Driving along the rivers and waterholes was slow going and simply boring.
Dried and burnt land as far as the eye can see. Driving through Lusaka was magnificent in comparison. I detoured via a resort by the river with the same result.
With the mercury rising and those stinging biting flies getting more active, I just wanted to get out off here.
I was the first to arrive at our rendezvous spot; A dodgy handmade bridge crossing over the river, which we weren’t sure if it existed. Or if it would hold our cars weight.
A quick dip in the cooling water was soothing though.
A few crocs lined the shores, these were still resting.
It took a good hour for Claudio and co to arrive. All 5 cars lined the path to the bridge, and it was time for lunch.
Tin cans for some,
others put some more effort into their food.
It was a great opportunity for a few close up and family photos. This was definitely the highlight today.
Frederica enjoyed the carrot salad,
whilst watching her daughter Vittoria. Gianluca and son Riccardo had Parmesan cheese on a sandwich.
Papa knows how to use the knife.
Giovanni looked a bit more sophisticated as Loredana joined him.
An Italian version of ‘Croc Dundee’, these two were amusing to watch.
One lion did arrive in shape off Jasmine.
The bridge was inspected by all,
before we carefully crossed and drove out of the park.
A few fires were still burning, smoking through the meanwhile denser and lusher forest,
giving a great photo opportunity in smokey air.
Smoldering grass and leaves fueling the smoke.
The scenery outside Kafue National Park was more scenic.
Further north, plenty of termite mounds lined the grassy plains. Similarities to ‘Cape York’ in Australia. Once we got to the D181 road, things have gotten even dustier. I have not seen or driven through as many dust clouds lingering from previous cars passing, whilst stirring up my own dust clouds.
Forest and community houses were covered in talcum-like powder, so where the people living there. Amazingly, they were still happily waving towards Zimba. A fantastic photo opportunity in theory. Having a camera and lens covered in fine dust wasn’t practical. Eventually, I arrived in Kasempa. Claudio had organised camp and dinner already.