After a brief stopover in Kasanka National Park for the start of the bat migration and a few days in the city of Ndola to refuel, restock, recuperate, send some teammates home and collect some others flying in to join the trip, we gradually made our way towards Kafue National Park with a renewed spring in our step.
The good tar road from Lusaka ran straight like a dagger towards the east side of the park and was a welcome treat after some of our routes through Zambia up to this point.
Kafue is Zambia’s biggest and oldest national park, standing at a massive 22,400km2 (roughly the size of Wales in the UK). It also has an almost unrivalled diversity of habitats and wildlife, with more than 130 species of mammal (including some very rare species), 400 birds and a whole lot more besides.
We arrived at Mayukuyuku Camp at around lunchtime and were welcomed by a great lunch in the rustic open thatched restaurant and lounge that overlooks the beautiful Kafue River, with a number of hippos and crocs adding to the picturesque backdrop and a few vervet monkeys sizing us up from a nearby tree.
After lunch we were taken to our luxury safari tents. After almost three weeks straight of camping, I had been looking forward to this for at least a week, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The bed was big and comfortable, the décor and furnishings sophisticated but understated, the small deck had a beautiful uninterrupted view of the river and there was a well-positioned hammock out front.
But best of all was the bathroom, which was enclosed by a curved bamboo wall at the back and completely open to the cloudless Zambian sky above. The showerhead protruded from an old tree that arced up from the floor in the middle of the room. The floor itself was decorated with small stones.
After a quick nap we set out for a leisurely evening boat trip on the Kafue with Boyd, one of the camp’s guides. The river was wide and deep and the surrounding vegetation dense and diverse, even at this dry time of year.
Boyd was full to bursting with information about the local flora and fauna and had a uniquely Zambian passion for his work. We watched yet another perfect Zambian sunset with elephants eating peacefully on the banks beside us, before returning to camp for a hearty three course dinner and a few more bush tales from Boyd, and even a brief lesson in some of the local lingo.
The next morning we went for a guided bush walk with Mario, another of the camp’s exceptionally knowledgeable and experienced guides. Zambia is famous for these kinds of walks, in part due to the intimate relationship many Zambians have with the wild environment around them and the way in which they integrate that relationship into their guiding style.
Every time I have been lucky enough to go on a bush walk in Zambia I have learnt so much and can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the whole experience and the unique perspective it gives into this incredible wild world.
After getting back to camp we moved from the luxury safari tents to the campsite and set up camp right on the banks of the river. We made poitjie on the fire whilst trying to keep the monkeys away from our food trailer.
After dinner we heard a commotion in the camp next to us and torches flashing frantically through the bush. We went over to investigate. A Belgian man from the camp site next to us told us with wide eyes and a face white with fear that on leaving the ablutions block he had found himself face to face with two juvenile male lions. We grabbed our torches and went to investigate with the others. There were no lions to be seen, but fresh lion tracks were spotted in the mud by the borehole just a few yards away from the ablutions.
We returned to bed excited and nervous in equal measure and lay down to try to sleep, reminded, not for the first time on this trip, that around here the wild still ruled.