Our Africa Trip

In Adventures, Articles, Gallery, Places, Vehicles by Andre Van VuurenLeave a Comment

Yes, we have eventually departed on this Leisure Wheels safari to Zambia after what seems like three years of preparation. Jeff had by this time packed and unpacked again about 20 times, bought so many gadgets to make our trip comfortable I recon we could do our own Kingsley Holgate for a year! We have had 4 stops already and haven’t reached Modimole yet…..  So now on the open road at a comfortable speed heading for the SA / Botswana border.

Reaching the border was the easy part, moving through the SouthAfrican side was pretty easy. But the fun and games started once we had moved through the Botswana customs, thinking we were home and dry, when we were pulled over and searched. I proudly hid a packet of biltong away, only to be mortified seeing my baby Rosa tomatoes, Israeli cucumbers and nurtured Avos being confiscated and dumped on a heap of other salad goodies(must be one hell of a party coming up!)

Nothing a gin and tonic or two could not rectify as well as a hearty dinner prepared for us on the deck overlooking the Limpopo River at KwaNokeng Lodge. We met our tour leader Andre van Vuurenfrom Explore Africa Adventures and his “side-kick” Ken Smith and the rest of the party. Andre welcomed everybody, handed out info packs and two way radios. He did the briefing and explained why this specific safari is called “Zambia with Zest”…..mmmmmthis is going to be an interesting trip.

Kwa NokengLodge was the first stop and luckily we didn’t have to pitch tents on the first night. Bungalows weregreat, clean and snug.

Tomorrow morning at 7:00 we hit the road again to go approximately 750 km to Chobe Safari Lodge in Kasane.

 

Day 2:

Early rising after poor Jeff saying he didn’t sleep too well having to fight off our first squad of Mosquitoes ……me ……thank heavens for sleeping tablets. Didn’t hear one sound of the battle that took place. Fortunately hubby was the victor as he lives another day to tell the tale.

On the road and first day on convoy driving – 9 vehicles all linked via 2 way radios. The main roads mediocre and the local drivers are no better than the SA taxi drivers! The longest haul on road today is 750 kms as we make our way to Chobe Safari Lodge in Kasane. Lots of donkeys, goats and cows on the road and we are getting good at riding “dodgems”

Temperatures are hell hot…..12:00 midday and 31 degreesCelsius.

Gone through a couple more police / veterinary road blocks – my gosh these Botsies are “panicked”.

After along road and being treated to seeing numerous elephants just next to the road “whoops” of exuberance could be heard from front to back of convoy.

Finally arrived at Chobe Safari Lodge, pitched camp alongside the Chobe River, saw the most amazing elephants and birds basking in another perfect African sunset. The silence as we gazed on this splendor was only slightly disturbed by the passionate clicking of cameras.

A “geselige” evening around the campfire sharing near misses and chicken murder stories, drinking various versions of whiskey, dodging bat crap and finally all retired to the first real evening in the bush!

 

Day 3:

Woken up to the glorious sounds birds heralding the start of a brand new day. The smell of coffee and the chit chat of some of our party – and that on a Monday morning – was a wonderful “feel good” feeling.

After a healthy breakfast, fighting the little monkeys who successfully further depleted our carefully planned supplies; we set off on our game drive on the river bank route (Andre referred to the Blue Route) through the northern part of the Chobe Game Reserve. What a treat to, first up, have a close up sighting of the elusive Chobe lions . There were many more visual treats in the form of elephants, giraffe, impala, waterbuck, kudu, baboons, plenty birds of prey, and not to forget the many “phumba’s”

An hour siesta is now the order of the day in preparation for the exciting river safari on the Chobe………

Well …what can I say but spectacular! That was the afternoon sunset cruise along the Chobe River. So many elephants it was surreal! What a wonderful experience to view elephant, buffalo, crocodile, hippos, red lechwe and an array of birds through the camera lens simultaneously! But the clincher was sitting on a cruiser between Botswana and Namibia and watching the fireball sun slowly dipping and dancing downwards behind the stark bush veld trees. And so another beautiful day bows down and gives rise to an enchanting evening.

This was celebrated with a scrumptious buffet concluded with decadent desert treats!

As we slowly meandered back to our rooftop tents and off-road trailers you could hear the satisfied sighs of the 17 people now becoming well acquainted.

 

Day 4:

We were on the road by 7am to get on the “ferry” at Kazangulusooner than later…..and what a bargain…..all 9 vehicles first on. Then we arrive at Zambian border – oh my soul! Chaos and “schmokkeling” of note! Thank heavens for 3 experienced tour leaders from Explore Africa Adventures otherwise we would have been conned out of dollars at the rate of knots. This little procedure only took us 2 hours – good timing….mmmmmmm.

Now the exchanging of US Dollars to Zambian Kwacha so interesting. I am a millionaire….  (700 = K3, 4 million.)There is a new law in Zambia that forbids the use of any other currency except their own.

Then on the way to Lusaka where our next night will be spent…..and were we can purchase fresh supplies and good meat.En-route we also encountering the Zambia “Big Five” …..goats, cows chickens, pigs and potholes…..plus not to forget the umpteen trucks and those were the ones moving not forgetting the numerous broken-down ones. I wonder what and where the R1,200 road tax, carbon emission tax, toll tax, insurance and goodness knows what other tax was paid over at the border.

 

Day 5:

After a good night’s sleep and an hour later start, we were on the road. Another long day dotted with some beautiful African vistas. Interesting enough was the fact that even though we were traveling on a main road we still traveled through all the little towns and villages only to have traffic controlled by painful speed bumps. In hindsight this did allow us an opportunity to take in the natural living style and community habits of the wonderful Zambian people. Andre knows quite a bit of African languages and quickly learned us that “Zikomokwambili” means thank you very much.

After lunch at Bridge Camp, we crossed the great Luangwa River over a beautiful suspension bridge, yet another chicken killed (this time by Andre) we arrived at Mama Rulas just west of Chipatafor the evening. Very chilled, a good couple of laughs and drinks, everyone retired for the night.

 

Day 6:

We stopped at the lovely SPAR (owned by Andrea and Wynand Breytenbach) to stock up supplies. Oh my word…..the 120 kilometers from mama Rulas to Mfuwe felt like forever!!! The sand road detour was not the greatest and we lost the front vehicles…..eish! But luckily all roads lead to Luangwa. We did some extensive retail therapy at Tribal Textile Factory. Shopped up a storm (even in the dry season)!

After that we made our way to Wildlife Camp where we have set up camp for the next 3 nights on the banks of the Luangwa River. Arriving in temperatures of 34 deg C and setting up tents we were having our own private detox saunas. Once done, scurried to the pool to enjoy a relaxing drink, watching elephants, hippos, monkeys and mongoose whist wallowing in the cool water. What a privilege to scan this awesome view and what a picturesque sunset with an ice cold sundowners drink in hand! I don’t know whether it is experience, but Andre and his team just have the gift to select the most beautiful campsites and surroundings.

 

Day 7:

Waking up with my ‘window’ of our trailer top tent facing the Luangwa River, rolling over and  with bleary eyes surveying the morning scenery….what a privilege. A game drive through the park with some of the convoy in serious tow and others getting hopelessly lost all in search of the elusive pride of lions that only a certain, lucky few got to see. However, we were spoilt to see numerous elephants, waterbuck, kudu, hippos, crocodiles, Thorneycroft’s giraffe and, and ,and……12h30 we decided to call it quits as the cool waters of the campsite’s pool was calling as well as the snack cupboards. After a cool down and liquid as well as dietary replenishment, a group chatters with much laughter we readied ourselves for an evening night drive. Well…..what can I say but awesome!!!!!! We were blessed with sightings of the most graceful leopards, mating lions (who clearly seem to have been quite long in the tooth), hyenas, bush baby, Scops owl, and all the already mentioned list of game we have seen on prior outings. This certainly was of the highlights of the trip thus far.

Meandering back to our campsite 4 hours later, we were all ensconced with a feeling of total euphoria just warmly smiling at each other because that was enough said. Andre made a lovely camp fire on the river bank and after a sumptuous dinner we bid each other night andmelted into the bush back to our individual places of abode.

 

Day 8:

“Slept in” for the first time on the trip…..woke up at 08h00 . Not a sound but the gentle hum of our fridge charging and the odd whispered conversation. How magnificent to sit with your feet up, sipping our Zambian coffee percolated on an open flame and nibbling on homemade buttermilk rusks……..mmm another day has started.

Spent most of the day chilling at the very refreshing pool – chatted, dozed, swam……. We also made friends with the most adorable black and white spaniel “Sam” who is totally blind but has a much defined hearing and followed us around all over.

Then came an absolute spoil, Andre organized a delicious massage for me at a neighboring camp ……wow, wow, wow! Lying having the most relaxing back massage and looking up into the face and trunk of an elephant just separated by the gauze of the spa room! Two hours later, totally relaxed we returned to yet another magnificent sunset!

 

Day 9:

Breaking camp and departing at 09h00 we travel in convoy to Luambe National Park, neatly nestled in between South and North Luangwa. Today was a real test for the 4×4 trailers. We journeyed through numerous dry river beds, over makeshift wooden roads across some of the trickier ones. And then, believe it or not, we had a deserted, broken down vehicle blocking our route on one of these narrow wooden bridges.  Andre used all his 4X4 experience to find a traversable detour through the river bed and up the bank on the other side. Serious fun and “playing in the sand” was had by some.

On our way to Luambe we were treated to beautiful oasis of natural hot springs just bubbling out the ground. This allowed us to observe hundreds of grey crowned cranes, puku, vultures and even a juvenile Martial eagle. Following that we saw many spotted hyenas …..and go use Andre’s phrase “die plek is vrot van die hyenas”! Each section of each new park has a different variety of game…..and each specialize into an independent setting.

The temperatures went climbing horrendously today hit a maximum of 45 deg C! At 16h30 the car still recorded a temperature of 42 degCelsius,,,,,,phew!

On arrival at Luangwa Wilderness Camp, everyone one was in awe. What a sight to behold! The river so populated by hippos that it was impossible to count. As we sat on the bank of the river, watched the frolicking, snorting hippos in the molten orange waters colored by yet another spectacular sunset. Slowly edging between these large animals was the lone makoro and occupant setting up the ideal spot to accomplish the days task fishing,

As night falls and the beautiful picture fades to dark, the sounds continue to remind us of these large animals just a few meters away from us in the water….this is truly apolitical land

 

Day 10:

Woken up early by the grunts and boisterousness of the hippo who are literally a stones throw away….another beautiful day begins. After a bush shower in a reed enclosure overlooking the Luangwa, we meander to a section of the river to take in a last view of the hundreds of hippo tussling, wallowing and grunting. Words don’t seem to be able to explain the magnificence of this.

We left at 08h00 for the entrance to North Luangwa National Park. On arrival at Mwanya pontoon, and after all the “red tape” we have now become accustomed to at every entry or exit of ANYTHING here in Zambia, Andre told us that the water level in the river is to low for the pontoon and that we could drive through the river. After the convoy meanders down to the river we tackle the water….. Heeha! The water was an adventure and a synch …….but then came the hot, midday, soft, deep river sand. Bummer……we got stuck, trailer and all. There were a couple of close calls with some of the other vehicles, but we did it good and solid. No amount of rocking or digging could get us out of this one. Then came the cavalry……Tony Dakyns in his LandroverDefender  to “snatch rope” us ( a Toyotanogal ) and the trailer respectively out of our sandy quagmire. Yay……the day was saved and we pickled on.

After a tad of very rough terrain and plenty dust we arrived at a stunning bush camp – Buffalo Camp in North Luangwa, one of the very few wild, untouched as nature had intended it be, areas.

We were welcomed by a pride of lions on the opposite bank basking in the sun after a kill that morning. And then to our amazement and delight, they started crossing the river about 80 meters in front of us – backwards and forwards – what a sight!

After a couple of drinksand  yummy food, we retired to fall asleep with the roar of the lions and complimenting bush sounds in the background.

 

Day 11:

Waking up to another perfect morning and only with a mosquito net covering you. I can truly say that I do not have an ounce of “corporate crap” left in me and I am so relaxed………and the best thing is we are only halfway through our Africa adventure. One could become quite easily accustomed to this! After a hearty breakfast, we settled down for a morning chill in the shade of the huge Natal Mahogany. But in Africa things can change in a spilt second and we were bustled into a game vehicle to view and photograph a pride of 12 Lions. Oh my word……, please let me never become complacent and always feel like a 5 year old at a candy-filled party. What a sight to behold……this is their country, they own the stage and we are but the audience…..again wow !

Of course a stay in the bush is never complete without reminiscing about the day over a good bottle of wine and listing to the interesting stories that Andre had to tell. Off to bed and once again were lulled to sleep by the enchanting bush lullaby of the lions and hyenas.

 

Day 12 :

We leftBuffaloCamp and head out of North Luanga towardsKapishaHot Springs…..this is paradise. Entering a campsite with green grass, rustic thatches and a cheerful river. Once the “pitching camp routine” is completed we head off in a search of the hot spring pool. Words fail me to describe the “Utopia” that emerges in our vision. A tranquil, natural warm spring with a variety of indigenous palms and “tropical” trees surround this inviting pond. This is where we spent the next two hours just chilling and soothing our joints and muscles. We managed to peel ourselves away just long enough to feed our tummies, but to return soon again with a bottle of caramel vodka to sip in the tranquil pool for another hour or two……

 

Day13:

Early up, shampoo and soap in hand, back to our pool in Eden. I am definitely a fish with two legs. Morning ablutions completed and yum cooked breakfast is the order of the day. Spent most of the day relaxing at the pool next to the river, having ice cold beer shandy’s catch the wonderful Africa sun rays and discussing how beautiful Africa is.

 

Day 14:

Pack up day and time to move on. After final briefing from Andre (who at this stage I need to say is an AWESOME tour guide), we head out on to the road. The day is not too eventful, apart from dodging trucks, cyclists, pedestrians and all the usual domestic game. Heading south for our overnight stop at Forest Lodge I doze off being lulled by the car engine. There is so much to smile about and so much more to come.

A relaxing night around the braai with chit chat and laughter is enjoyed by all.

 

Day 15:

Yes please….today we head to Lusaka! Ladies we are going to the mall to shop! I have been deprived……hahaha!On the road we notice there seems to be a festive spirit as many Zambians are dressed in the colors of their national soccer team, their vehicles are adorned with flags and hooters and cheers trailing. We ascertain that there is a big soccer game happening today between Zambia and Uganda……should be interesting.

Game over….Zambia beat Uganda 1:0…….plenty frivolity! SA lost to Australia, but the Lions beat the Blue Bulls!

Now that everyone is happy they watched their sport for the day at our stop-over camp Eureka, stocked up on supplies, we settled down for rest the night before heading of to North Kafue Zambia’s largest game park, to spend 3 nights. Plenty exciting things awaiting us…..

 

Day 16

Another early start today……

On our way to McBride’s camp in Kafue. The tar road was ok ….then we hit the sand road! When we finally arrived, we pulled in to the “rustic” bush camp on the Kafue River.

McBride’s’ Camp is situated inside the more than 1 million hectare Kafue National Park in Zambia and is located in the North East section of the park. The camp is found in one of the last true wilderness areas in the Park, where there are no roads and virtually no signs of humans. This intense wilderness quality, so hard to find nowadays, together with the full complement of various forms of life is what McBride’s’ Camp offers.

Chris and Charlotte offer a personalised service which ensures that you will depart as friends.

 

Day 17:

After a 06h30 game drive, a gloriously refreshing bush shower was followed by a yummy breakfast of bacon and eggs . “Now what next?” was our thought until we received co-ordinates from Andre for his discovery of yet another warm spring pool. Dashing there in haste we were not disappointed. What an oasis!

After spending 2 hours in the perfect pond and watching pukhu and impala come down to drink, the monkeys frolicking in the trees we made our way back to prepare for a “double decker” boat ride up the Kafue River. Kitted out with sundowners and snacks we meandered along . Absolute tranquility. As we float peacefully we are rewarded with visuals of hippo families, ferocious crocodiles and amazing reflections of all the flora on the banks mirrored in perfection. Then came the stunning sunset again……Africa seems to have them perfected!

 

Day 18:

There is something very enchanting that grabs a person and holds on, almost in quite an addictive manner, about the untouched African bush!

Puttering along on a game drive found us once again at the tranquil warm springs pool. Wallow, wallow, float and wallow. Drinks in the pool, chatter and wallow again. And so another afternoon is enjoyed.

Post a mini siesta an evening game drive is on the cards which was very pleasant. We were also introduced to the bush remedy for keeping tsetse flies and any other pesky insects at bay – a metal bucket hanging at the back of the clamped up game vehicle filled with burning elephant dung. My greatness we were nearly asphyxiated but not a single bite.

Our last evening in the unspoiled bush was celebrated around a fire enjoying braaied pork fillet and pot bread, wash down with a crisp Chardonnay.

 

Day 19:

Our alarm clock of roaring lions (very close) woke us up at 06h30. We quickly enjoyed coffee as it is camp pack up time as we leave the intoxicating Mc Brides bush camp.

The road out was nerve wracking and we were traveling at a snails pace. It was long but dotted here and there with some game sighting. We were on our way to iTezhi-Tezhi dam. On arrival we were quite “gobsmacked” at the size of this dam and the engineering and the mechanics at the wall……sponsored, designed, built……and whatever else by the Chinese….mmmm

The campsite for the evening was beautiful. Situated on the bank of the dam, it supplied the calming effect we all so needed after the “Hair-raising” road! Watching the big red sun set over the water and alone with my thoughts the night sky enveloped me. And….just as a bonus, serenaded to sleep by a choir of frogs.

 

Day 20

Camp breakdown routine now perfected to 20 minutes, we embarked on our final (self drive) national park safari through the south of Kafue before we get back on to tar towards Livingston – Vic Falls

A quick vehicle inspection and tyre inflation revealed some “bush-wacking” damage. Lionel’s rear canopy was totally smashed (stones from the car) and Rob’s rooftop tent rack cracked on one of the connecting joints. Otherwise all good.

We arrive in Livingston, pull into the BushfrontCamp site, unhitch the trailers and shoot off to Victoria Falls. Even though the falls weren’t the full strength that I believe they should be, they were still magical. Unbelievable to stand looking at one of the world’s heritage sites…..breath-takingly beautiful. Then of course, I have to do some curio shopping. What a”bargaining” treat. My goodness, I don’t even know if all the stuff is actually made in “our village Madame , just down the road”. It was fun at any rate and family will be treated with some of my purchases.

That done, we head back to camp to braai all our remaining meat as we are not permitted to take back down south across the borders.

 

Day 21:

Our last day of collapsing camp, folding away an ultra dusty trailer tent (hallelujah) and enjoying our (what has become a morning ritual) peculated coffee. After 70 Km’s  we arrived at the Zambia / Botswana border. Unless you experience the paperwork,protocol, money changing, bartering and attempted conning, you have no idea. Only in Africa!

The “ferry” ride back to Botswana was quick and painless. Then all of the above again on the Botswana side.

On the open road again. Then, as if it was so planned, we saw elephants along the side of the road, bidding us farewell. It touches the emotions and is very special.

A quick “pit stop” at the lodge “Touch of Africa” and we are ready for the road works and detours of 150kms.

We arrived at Nata Lodge! Absolute luxury after 3 weeks being in the bush and in parts of Zambia that is so “untouched” that few have had the privilege to experience. Once checked in (yes checked in NOT pitch trailer tent) I find the swimming pool in true Des style and wallow like my chunky hippo friends I made on the trip. I also managed to squeeze in one final shopping spree! Then came…..THE BATH! Oooo what bliss!……and I didn’t have to share it with any creatures of nature.

Sadly, all good things need to come to an end. Thus our “Zambia with Zest” trip draws to a close as we all share in a goodbye dinner together. Lots of reminiscing, photos, hugs and “we’ll stay in touch” brings this wonderful experience to a close.

On behalf of the group, we want to thank Leisure wheels for a very well planned and executedsafari to Zambia – we thoroughly enjoyed it and certainly realized how much there is to see in this beautiful country. Andre and his crew made it very pleasant and went to great efforts to make sure everyone was accommodated as best as possible.

 

Some statistics noted:

  • Each vehicle traveled just over 6000 km
  • 1 flat tyre
  • 3 “stuck in sand” episodes (the McDonald’s claim 2)
  • 1 broken window
  • 1 loosened leaf spring bolt
  • Very dirty cars and trailers
  • Trailer tents pitched in 15 mins and packed in 10 mins

 

“God bless Africa…..guard her children, guide her people”

About the Author

Andre Van Vuuren

Website

Explore Africa Adventures is a privately owned safari enterprise, specializing in Guided Self Drive Safaris to Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Botswana. We also offer safaris to destinations in South Africa, that people know little about, and do not want to go there on their own.

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