Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chiawa Camp and Baby Elephants

Travelled down river today to Chiawa Camp which is the oldest and most established camp in the park.  Set off on an afternoon game drive with our guide Spencer and 2 fellow travelers from America.  It was clear that this area was very rich in terms of game.  The night before I arrived they had 6 lions at the entry to camp.  Within 2 minutes of leaving we encountered numerous elephant and herds of impalas.  Lots of cute baby elephants (my favorite) and protective moms so we gave them plenty of space.  The scenery is stunning with open ground shaded by tall trees all along the river bank.  

We spotted some elephant tracks that had little dripping marks between the strides.  This indicates a male elephant in musk which makes him very aggressive and dangerous.  A few minutes later we came around a corner and met this individual.  He immediately started to display his strength by pushing over a nearby tree and destroying a huge termite mound.  Spencer wisely repositioned the vehicle facing away and after a few false charges he made a serious charge at us.  Spencer was quick to react and punched down on the throttle as we to away down the road at 40 Kim's per hour.  The elephant is an amazing animal and incredible quick - much faster than one would expect.  He was actually able to stay up with our speed for over 1/2 a kilometer - this guy was not fooling.  This was the first time that I had been charged in a vehicle and it was quite exciting.  Glad we were not on foot!  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Canoe Adventure in Lower Zambezi

We boarded our canoes at the entrance to the park and floated down a side channel of the river.  The silence was so calming it felt like a meditation session.  We passed elephants grazing in the shore, floated past bee eater nests in the red clay river bank, and watched a fish eagle hunt. The shore featured magnificent green 100 foot cibo and sausage trees with a mountain range in the background.  The big excitement came when the channel narrowed and a 15 foot monster crocodile slid off the beach and into the water heading our direction.  Our guide said croc attacks are rare but let me tell you when you see a giant reptile coming your way it gets your heart rate going.  

Needless to say we picked up the pace of paddling and around the bend was a pod of hippos.  The hippos waited until we were within 30 feet and then submerged in the water.  You could read the ripples to see where they were hiding. Again, our guide, BBasake, said hippo attacks were rare...hmmm.  Starting to see a pattern here. Once safely past the hippos we entered a narrow channel and were met by about 7 grazing elephants which turned in our direction and spread out their ears in warning.  We passed peacefully under their watch and finished our journey about 2 miles downstream where we reconnected with the main river.  Our land rovers were waiting for us with the traditional "sundowner cocktail" which we felt we earned.

Then it was a night drive back to camp where we were fortunate to see a solitary male black lion, 2 porcupine, several white tail mongoose, a few elephants, and a hippo heading towards the grass to feed.  When we arrived back at the Royal Zambezi lodge the staff had a surprise in store for us.  We we're ushered onto the larger motor boats and taken across to a sandy island in the middle of the river where lanterns were placed in a semi circle around a huge crackling fire.  We were treated to a fabulous meal out under the stars featuring butter nut squash soup, garlic bread, vegetable skewers, sautéed spinach in squash, and various grilled meats such as tasty lamb cutlets.  My fellow travelers shared their stories.  A European couple living in Zambia for a 4 year contract had come down to bid farewell to their favorite camp before moving on to their next contract job in Liberia.  Another couple from NY were a Dean of Economics and the former head of the ACLU who both new several of our past Blue Odyssey guests - small world.  Now I am back in bed listening to the hippos serenade me as I head of to sleep on my first night on safari...a blissful day all around and I feel blessed.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Just arrived in Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

This summer, we will be blogging first from Africa and then from Turkey. 

Here is Perry's Africa blog.. 

I will be escorting a private trip in Zambia, Botswana and Namibia... We will track rare desert rhinos and elephants, raft the Zambezi, and canoe in the Okavanga Delta....It should be an epic trip... Stay tuned...

Met at the airstrip

I just arrived in the Lower Zambezi National Park (Zambia) and already the park is living up to its reputation for wildlife and scenery. I just checked in to my room at the Royal Zambezi Lodge when an elephant came to greet me outside the door. He was happily munching on the sweet Tamarind fruit and then rambled down onto the path for a stroll towards the main lodge. In my opinion, it is always a good sign when an elephant meets you at camp! I did not even have time to pull out my camera yet! Oh well, I am sure there will be lots of other opportunities. The lodge is stunning - set on the river with sweeping vistas across to Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe.

We will have lunch on the deck overlooking the hippos in the river. Then we will set off on a game drive....more soon!
Presidential Suit

Luxurius bathroom
Private plunge pool and day bed on river