Visit Zambia!

Well dear reader, this week I have something of a confession to make. As many of you northern hemisphere residents were facing into the first weeks of cold Autumnal grey, I was swanning around in the sweltering heat, enjoying the many wondrous sights and sounds this host continent of mine has to offer, all under the pretence of showing my parents around.

Tourists to this part of the world fall broadly into two categories:

Type one is the ultra high end safari goer who considers the sighting of another safari vehicle on any given day an absolute catastrophe and thus spends extraordinary sums of money to transport themselves to highly exclusive camps, to enjoy amazing sightings with lots of very high class service in very small groups.

They have a point – somebody recently recounted a story of visiting the Serengeti, Tanzania to watch the massive Wildebeest migration. This majestic feat of the wild was temporarily brought to a standstill when the number of vehicles viewing the river was so great that the animals were left without a place to cross. As safari overcrowding becomes more common in the traditional destinations of Kenya and Tanzania, Zambia is growing its reputation for unspoiled wildlife spotting.

Low density, high value tourism is certainly a smart way to try and preserve the wilderness here but there are big bills to pay and unfortunately other forms of revenue are also needed. Curiously quite a few of the high end safari types enjoy looking at animals as much through rifle sighting ranges as they do through binoculars. So in order to keep paying the bills, the Zambian wildlife authority duly sells permits to shoot (in managed numbers and outside of the parks) anything from a bushbuck to a leopard. I’m not going to comment on the ethics of hunting wild animals here but if the $20,000 permit to shoot a leopard pays for the preservation of habitat for 10 more of the creatures, then I guess some kind of reverse preservation argument can be made for it.

The other type of visitor to this part of Southern Africa are back packing gap year student types (and Aussies taking the slow route home after all the jobs in London disappeared) all happily crammed together into an overland truck that will take them, their tents and a significant supply of beer across the region for a month or more.

Under normal circumstances, I would be happily throwing my backpack in with group 2 but a few factors made things a bit different this time around. First and foremost, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for my parents to see Africa in all its glory – not something for the back of a truck. Secondly, I have discovered the wonderful secret of ‘residents rates’ – a rather splendid idea that allows those with a resident’s permit (and their family) to enjoy fantastic lodges at a fraction of the price normally charged. Given these circumstances, it seemed rather churlish not to get out and take a swing at the kind of travel destinations you normally only read about in a glossy magazine at the dentists!

The week got off to an amazing start as one of my colleagues Sue put on a wonderful traditional welcome meal for my parents.

The folks get a first taste of nshima

The folks get a first taste of nshima

From there our first stop was South Luangwa, by reputation Zambia’s best park and it certainly didn’t let us down. I could try and describe the majesty of the animals we saw but I am sure it would be cliché ridden rubbish. Instead, I will share with you some of my photo’s which do an equally inadequate job but are at least prettier on the eye. Here are some of my favourites, there are loads more on this link:

Fighting for dominance apparently

Fighting for dominance apparently


Nothing like fish for breakfast

Nothing like fish for breakfast


Hurrying back to the river at daybreak

Hurrying back to the river at daybreak


Not happy with the shot, but very happy with the encounter

Not happy with the shot, but very happy with the encounter


This guy came VERY close

This guy came VERY close


Amazing birds

Amazing birds


If only they werent so damn flighty

If only they weren't so damn flighty


Fresh meat

Fresh meat


Well fed and happy

Well fed and happy

From here we nipped across the border into Malawi, and spent an amazing few days on the shores Lake Malawi – Lake of Stars (names for the fishermen’s lights you can see dotting the lake each night). We were spoiled at a stunning beach resort called Pumulani surrounded by monkeys, king fishers and even the odd otter or two. This place has to be seen to be believed and if you get the chance to stop by, you should.

Carlsberg dont do lake shore resorts...

Carlsberg don't do lake shore resorts...


... but if they did they might be called Pumulani

... but if they did they might be called Pumulani

On our way back from Malawi, we got an unintended glimpse of political pomp and pageantry as the Malawian president took his leave of the country in a beautiful gleaming private jet. To see him safely off on his travels there were 100 singing and dancing women, a full military band and a host of dignitaries from parliament. In the absence of cannons, there was a 21 sticks of dynamite salute which shook the whole airport to its foundations as he took the honour guard. I was very keen to capture a couple of photo’s of this incredible pageant that one of the poorest nations in the world is able put on every couple of months but a very young and inexperienced looking policeman brandishing a very loaded Uzi sub-machine gun convinced me that memories would have to suffice.

Finally, we rediscovered all those lovely truck tours as we nipped down to Livingstone to check out Victoria Falls. The place is a total building site at the moment as it prepares for the massive tourist influx around next year’s World Cup in South Africa but it doesn’t stop it’s main attraction taking your breath away.

Always stunning, Victoria Falls

Always stunning, Victoria Falls


Regardless of the angle

Regardless of the angle


Oh and the 111m of this beautiful old thing...

Oh and the 111m of this beautiful old thing...


... had to be conquered

... had to be conquered

So what can I say? An unforgettable couple of weeks in the most amazing of locations. If you have the time and the resources, get on down here and check it out for yourselves (if you make it before March, I can even act as guide). The Zambian economy could sure do with your tourist dollars!

Full photo sets are on Flickr:
South Luangwa
Lake Malawi
Victoria Falls

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Comments
2 Responses to “Visit Zambia!”
  1. Alan says:

    That’s amazing ! Super photos, I am impressed and I really like the one of the leopard with movement. Very national Geographic !!

  2. sakhile says:

    Just so you know i have been here – impressive blog
    Cheers,
    Sakhile -Robin Pope Safaris

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