Lake Kariba

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:57 pm
Sep 052011

Ferry trip Lake KaribaWith some trepidation we turned up at 8am as instructed. If we did get on we had visions of crammed, smelly bodies; horrible toilets; what would the food be like; how would everyone sleep. As it turned out it was perfect! There were only 3 cars making a total of 6 passengers with 10 crew to look after us. It was like having our own private yacht to cruise down the lake. We spent a very pleasant day chatting to the other passengers, reading, playing games and spotting wildlife when we came close to some islands. The food was simple but excellent and plentiful. We had morning and a

We needed to get from Mana Pools in the north of Zimbabwe to Hwange National Park in the south and there were 4 options.

1. Go back to Zambia, drive south and enter ZImbabwe at Vic Falls. This way I think was the shortest but it meant we would need visas again for both Zam and Zim and at $50 each we decided against it.

2. Drive to Harare, then to Bulawayo and then up to Hwange. This was the way the locals advised as it was easy tar road but was quite some distance. Naturally we didn’t like this option.

3. Drive down the eastern side of Lake Kariba through Zimbabwe. This was a viable option and would take us 2 long days (hopefully) over some roads of unknown status but it would be more interesting than sticking to the tar.

4. Take the ferry down the lake from Kariba to Milipizi which would then leave us a short drive to Hwange. This was expensive ($420 for 2 people and the car), dependent upon when the ferry left and also whether it had a space for a car over 2m as it has only 3 such spaces but was also a viable option.

We arrived in Kariba on a Sunday and tried to find out about the ferry. After asking at one of the camps without success we decided to find the ferry terminal. The terminal was down a back street and there was just a guard at the gate. He informed us the ferry would leave the following day and gave us a phone number to try. The guy we rang was fairly certain it would have space for our car and told us to turn up at 8am the next morning. So we decided what the heck, we will spend the money and have a relaxing 24 hours on the boat leaving us just a short drive to Hwange. If there was no space we would travel the eastern side of the lake.fternoon tea, snacks before dinner Ferry trip Lake Karibaas well as breakfast, lunch and dinner so we definitely did not go hungry. The boat even had showers and clean loos. To sleep you had a choice of a thick mattress on the floor or a fold out chair bed. We had planned to sleep out on deck but they had to leave the navigation lights on and it was just too bright so we slept inside. We opted for the mattresses which were quite comfortable but the engine noise made it a little difficult to sleep. All in all it was quite a pleasant way to travel the distance although it would not be so good with more than 15-20 people even though the boat is reasonably large.

Kariba was much smaller than either of us expected and was more like a ghost town. Whilst there we tried to find some food to stock up with before we hit Hwange. There are 2 small supermarkets, neither of which had a great deal in them, the veges were not particularly good and there was no way I was buying any of the meat. We found the local market which was much better quality although there was not a lot of variety – tomatoes, potatoes, onions, spinach, avocados and bananas were pretty much it. I wanted some pumpkin and some lettuce. One lady sent a boy home who then brought back a huge pumpkin, cutting a chunk for us for $1. Another man said he had some cos lettuce on his farm and if he gave me an hour he would get it for me. I asked him how far away it was and seeing as it was only 3km, offered to take him there (I couldn’t ask him to walk there and back for a lettuce that cost a whole $1!). So he rode on the side steps of the car and directed us to his farm which he proudly showed us around when we arrived. He cut us a huge lettuce as well as a few small leeks before we took him back to the market. Just like shopping at home!

Mana Pools

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:21 pm
Sep 032011

After stocking up and spending the night at Pioneer Camp in Lusaka we headed for the Zimbabwe border. Neither of us were particularly looking forward to the border crossing at Chirundu as we had heard it was busy and were likely to get hassled. What a pleasant surprise we had! Chirundu is a one stop border post so you do everything to exit Zambia and enter Zimbabwe all in the one building rather than 2 separate borders and numerous buildings to find. The one stop building is actually on the Zimbabwe side and the Zambian buildings are still there, just not in use. There were heaps of trucks parked but when we entered the building there was not a soul there – could we be that lucky? There were also clearly marked counters and even a sign telling you what order to do things in – both of us were stunned! We quickly completed everything with no hassles whatsoever, not even a problem with Interpol which we had heard horror stories about and were out of there quite quickly. If only other borders could be so simple. When we got back to our car the damn baboons had got on the roof of our car, undone an ocky strap, unclipped the lid of our washing bucket and taken it off and then went through everything in the bucket. Nothing was missing but they are a nuisance.

So the border crossing sorted it was on to Mana Pools. We arrived at the gate to be told we needed a permit however the office was only a few kilometres away so it was no problem. This permit is a free one, is handwritten and we are not quite sure what its purpose is but anyway it seemed to make everyone happy and we entered the park headed for Nyamepi Camp.

Elephant in Nyamepi Camp, Mana PoolsThe road in is not the best as it is badly corrugated and there is not much to see on the way in but it was more than worth it. Nyamepi Camp is situated along the banks of the Zambezi River with shaded campsites, hot water showers and flush loos. The camp was fantastic. Just about every animal we saw whilst driving walked right past us whilst we were in camp, most of them just a few metres from us. We had buffalo that in the end became quite annoying as they would frequently walk within metres of us making us get up and move until they had meandered past. The hyenas would also walk past us several times each night, but on one particular night after we had had a barbecue they were coming to our camp every few minutes and this time not walking past but heading straight towards us and the barbecue until we shone the torch at them and they diverted away. Elephants visited every day walking within metres of us as did warthog, kudu, baboons, impala and once even an eland came within a couple of metres of us which was very surprising seeing as they are near impossible to get a photo of as they run away. We had a hippo that came and ate very noisily right next to our tent every night. During the night we heard lions, hyenas, hippos and elephants. After 4 nights though we were both somewhat sleep deprived as we never got a sound night’s sleep!

Buffalo, Mana PoolsWarthog, Mana PoolsEland, Mana PoolsWarthog in Nyamepi Camp, Mana PoolsEland, Mana PoolsBuffalo in Nyamepi Camp, Mana Pools

Whilst there aren’t a great deal of roads to drive on around the camp you barely need to as most of the game walks right past you in camp. The highlight would have to be finding a pack of Wild Dogs for the first time on our whole trip. They were very lazy though and just laid in the shade. We have only seen Wild Dog one other time in Botswana last year so it was pretty cool. Our game sightings included: impala, baboon, kudu, buffalo, zebra, warthog, elephant, waterbuck, hyena, vervet monkey, hippo, eland, crocodile and wild dog.

Wild dog, Mana PoolsWild dog, Mana Pools

Mana Pools is definitely worth a visit. It is not expensive as your park entry ($70 total including the car) lasts 7 days so the longer you stay the cheaper it gets. The campsites are $100 on the river or $20 per person back from the river. We had campsite 19 which is back from the river yet we had a clear view of the river in both directions and were probably only 50 metres from the riverbank. It was a perfect place to relax for a few days and watch the world go by.

Elephant in Nyamepi Camp, Mana PoolsElephant in Nyamepi Camp, Mana PoolsWaterbuck, Mana Pools

Kafue National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:20 pm
Aug 292011

Having heard that the north of the park was the best place to visit we headed towards McBrides Camp. The road from Fringilla Farm to the north of the park was not the best although they are doing roadworks so maybe in time it will be ok.

Travelling through the north of the park to McBrides we were quite disappointed, there was barely an animal to be seen and a lot of the vegetation was burnt out or at best extremely dry. Reviews rave about McBrides, but again we were disappointed. Yes it is a great bush camp near the river, but you are probably 200m from the river and there is tall grass between it and camp. They have cleared it in front of the dining area but they need to clear it in front of the camp as well. The showers were hot but a little bit of TLC wouldn’t go astray. I also got bitten on my hand by a damn tsetse fly, so maybe that doesn’t help my thoughts of the place. We heard only a few hippos during the night, but a leopard left its scat and footprints not far from our campsite so there are definitely animals about.

Not wanting to give up completely on the park we headed towards the centre of the park and stayed at Mukambi Lodge for 2 nights. This is a great campsite on the river. Each site has its own thatched shelter and a fire pit. There is a communal kitchen, hot showers and a resident hippo. The hippo came through camp one afternoon, drank from one of the taps and then grazed not far from our tent until after dinner. He also comes and sits around the restaurant and reception area regularly.

Mukambi Lodge, Kafue National ParkMukambi Lodge, Kafue National Park

There still was not a lot of game to be seen, but there was a lot more than in the north. We did a night drive and managed to see a really big male leopard about 5 metres from our car which was pretty cool.  We also saw puku, impala, elephant, bushbuck, warthog, defassa waterbuck, hartebeest, crocodile, baboon, vervet monkey, hippo and kudu. I heard a lion during the night so they definitely exist there. I think South Luangwa is a better option than Kafue for both the animals and the landscape although Kafue definitely has less visitors.

Puku, Kafue National ParkKafue National ParkKudu, Kafue National ParkWarthog, Kafue National ParkLeopard, South Luangwa National Park


 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:06 pm
Aug 262011

At the last minute we decided we would visit Kafue National Park before we ventured back into Zimbabwe. Leaving Croc Valley in South Luangwa we made our way towards Lusaka. Once again we took the scenic route, travelling via Petauke rather than the more popular route through Chipata. It probably took us about the same time, but was a shorter distance and we did not have to deal with trucks, buses and potholes. It was a pleasant drive along a bush track through villages and over dry river beds. We stopped on the way at Luangwa Bridge Camp which is fine for an overnight stop with hot showers and free firewood but it was quite dusty.

From there we headed into Lusaka to stock up on money, fuel and food. We have been spoilt for so long now with cheap, fresh veges from the markets and reasonably priced food that it was a rude shock to venture into the supermarket and see the prices! The veges in the first supermarket we tried were terrible and expensive, as was the meat. We found reasonable products at Shoprite in the end, but the prices still hurt!

Food and money replenished we needed to find a tyre place as we had a very slow leak in one of our tyres. Finding the auto repair and spares street (Freedom Way) we picked out one of the numerous tyre shops and they proceeded to sort our tyre for us. For the total sum of $4 they took the tyre off, eventually found the hole, plugged it and put the tyre back on – definitely not worth the hassle of doing it ourselves (which we could have easily done as we have a repair kit). Our driver side mirror broke when a twig flung back and hit it so next mission was to try and find a place to replace the mirror. There are heaps of glass places there but we could not find one who could cut the mirror to size so we still have a cracked mirror.

Our tasks completed we headed out of town to Fringilla Farm for the night. This is a lovely, huge farm where you can camp for $5 each in a shaded, grassed area surround by the farm. There are hot showers and free wifi internet in reception. The farm has a restaurant, butchery (where we bought some excellent steak), I think a dairy and they make fresh bread, some of which the owner gave us to take with us and was very nice (we must be looking poor these days!) Next stop Kafue.

South Luangwa

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:05 pm
Aug 242011

Croc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkWe continued our scenic drive from Luambe to South Luangwa National Park. We checked out Wildlife Camp but we were not allowed to park the car on the grass which meant we would be camping in the dust and it was full of overland trucks. Next we took a look at Croc Valley Camp and this is where we ended up staying 3 nights. Our campsite was grassed, shady and right on the river’s edge with a great view both up and down the river. From the comfort of our chairs we could watch hippo, the elephants drinking, eating and crossing the river as well as a variety of other wildlife as they came down to drink. (The first 3 photos below were taken from in front of our tent). The camp is an excellent place with a bar, restaurant and pool and frequent visits from the elephants and hippo. Each day we were there the elephants would visit at one time or another, either a male alone or a family group that included a baby. As you can see in the photos below the elephants ate right around our tent, both during the day and night – and at night they kept waking us up! One night they even came into the bar until they were scared away. They look so cute and placid but you have to keep remembering these are wild animals and will trample you in an instant – in fact a woman was killed by an elephant in the rice fields nearby just a few days earlier. Unfortunately some people staying in camp seemed to think they were like pets and walked to within a few metres of them, just asking for trouble.

View from Croc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkView from Croc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkView from Croc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkCroc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkCroc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkCroc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National Park

Leopard, South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National Park was quite a nice park although we did not see the same concentration of game as we did further north, but it is definitely worth a visit. One of the highlights was finding a leopard eating a kill in a tree. The other was stumbling upon a lioness who in the morning tried to take on a waterbuck and then in the afternoon chased an impala and then found a buffalo who was weak and stuck in the mud. We sat there for some time watching the lion and buffalo eye each other off. The buffalo ever so slowly struggled out of the mud and once out the lion attempted numerous times to move in. At times they circled each other with the lion just waiting for a moment to attack, which it did once but Leopard, South Luangwa National Parkfailed. After about an hour unfortunately a game vehicle turned up, got on the radio and within minutes there were 10-15 vehicles surrounding the poor animals. The game vehicles harassed the animals, moving around constantly whenever one of the animals moved. In the end the lion half gave up and the buffalo managed to get out of the open and into the bushes. From then on it was impossible to see what was happening as they moved further into the bush. The lion probably won eventually if it had the patience, if not, the buffalo would surely be someone’s meal before long as it definitely was not well.

Lion, South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National Park

Thornicroft Giraffe, South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa also has the Thornicroft Giraffe which is a lot smaller than the other giraffes. We did a night drive that was pretty uneventful, although we did see 2 porcupines which we have never seen before, well we have seen a dead one but I don’t think that counts. Our game sightings included:

buffalo zebra puku warthog
hippo elephant kudu crocodile
leopard lion waterbuck Thornicroft giraffe
impala hyena genet vervet monkey
white tailed mongoose baboon bushbuck porcupine


Impala, South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National ParkPuku, South Luangwa National ParkZebra, South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National Park

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