Toka Leya Camp
Climate and Landscape
The wet season is nearing its end although we experienced quite a rainy fortnight at the beginning of the month. We now have beautiful blue and starry skies, the norm in Africa’s dry season. Once again it has been wonderful to be out in the evenings looking at the stars, though most of all we enjoy being able to sit around the fire and catch up on the day’s happenings without fear of being caught by the rain.
The Zambezi River came down with very brown water for a while before the colour changed. We noticed a very rapid rise of the levels and this has created a fantastic new habitat for the waders. The mighty Zambezi is currently the perfect place for birders – all of whom have all come back to provide us with very healthy lists of both new and old sightings.
Not only is the river the place to see feathered characters but all sorts of different species have also been recorded on the game drives, either perched in the lovely, lush green trees, flying around or in the multitude of newly-formed waterholes which are still brimming. Coming back to camp from an afternoon sundowner stop on the Zambezi, guides were amazed to spot a huge crocodile, way inland from the river. This was a great learning lesson for some of the young guides who had never seen a croc away from the river. Although this seemed unbelievable these creatures do frequently move from one water source to another and several sightings have been recorded.
Whilst we have not seen too many elephants around Toka Leya this month, we have recorded some of the most sightings ever of elephants crossing the river or moving from one island to another. Many guests actually expressed concern about the strength of the current relative to the size of some of the elephants that braved the strong currents and crossed from one side of the river to the other.
What we didn’t see in elephant numbers around the camp has been more than compensated by the number of giraffe sightings recorded at Toka Leya. These beautiful animals have been very cooperative, allowing some great photographs without bothering too much about our presence. As usual the hippo sightings on the Zambezi are arguably amongst some of the best in the country.
The news of Toka Leya sightings would be incomplete without the mention of the wonderful baby rhino which we couldn’t get a great view of last month as the mother was so protective. With time she has become much more relaxed and cooperative and we had some of our greatest moments with this little beast who we are all wishing long life in the park.
As usual we have had a few guests who have been on safari for a couple of weeks and seen all the cats and elephant, etc., but buffalo have eluded them somehow (possibly due to the tall grasses at this time of year). The size of the park works in our favour as most of these travellers complete their sightings at the end of their trip here with probably one of the best buffalo sighting of their safari as the buffalo herds here are very relaxed and used to the vehicles. The park also offers a wonderful opportunity for white rhino sightings.
White Wildebeest – Guide: Gareth Broekhuizen
During an airport transfer we spotted a single white Cookson’s Wildebeest in amongst a herd of 45 individuals. An albino adult is rarely seen let alone a herd of 45 wildebeest so the transfer was put on hold to enjoy the great sighting.
Many thanks to Heather for the super images.
Tafika Camp – Action in the Air
We’ve had some great game viewing this past week – both in the air and on the ground. John Starr has generously shared some of his spectacular images with us from his stay at Tafika Camp.
- A Lilic-breasted Roller mobs a Martial Eagle
- An immature Fish Eagle attempts to steal a meal from a Yellow-billed Stork
- A Marabou Stork zooms in for landing at the Yellow-billed Stork colony
- A Tawny Eagle devours a Slender mongoose posted by Jennifer Coppinger
- A Lilic-breasted Roller mobs a Martial Eagle
An immature Fish Eagle attempts to steal a meal from a Yellow-billed Stork
A Marabou Stork zooms in for landing at the Yellow-billed Stork colony
A Tawny Eagle devours a Slender mongoose
Kaingo camp, South Luangwa, wildlife photography, wildlife safari, zambia safari
By return guest Phil Branham.
A friend of mine from The Netherlands told me that he liked the Zambia animal articles I have been inserting in my company’s newsletter and did I have any hippos, well the answer is yes and this is a hippo story!
In July of 2012, Patrick and I were on the bank of the South Luangwa River watching hippos when two of the males started fighting in the water. They went at it pretty hard until the larger male jabbed the other one under the jaw with his two large teeth that face forward.
They then separated and went to the sand bank away from us. Patrick and I went down and into the great hippo hide that Shenton Safaris has there because Patrick thought they might keep on fighting. We were only there a few minutes when they started fighting again and it was amazing. I took 35 shots of the land fight and pulled out a couple to show you.
They charged each other with wide open jaws and went at each other. The hippo on the left was the main aggressor and left his feet three times during the fight.
Their jaws matched up fairly well and if you did not know better, it looked like they were kissing
The energy from their fight is incredible since they are fighting for mating rights and a spot on the river.
The tusks are long enough to puncture organs if they attack from the side. The photos below give you a little idea of the ferocity of their attacks.
They separated for the third time and after a couple of minutes they started back for each other again. Only this time it was not to be. A small female that had been lying next to the fighting males jumped up and struck the aggressor in the neck under his jaw.
When that happened the fight was over the male on the left that was attacked by the female turned around and left. We were speechless; I could not imagine that happening, another incredible moment! Look at the small baby hippo on the right side watching. After this happened the hippo on the right turned and stared at me almost like he knew I was there! Another incredible shot!
This guy was the winner but it had to hurt! This is one of my favorite moments of all my trips! You don’t see this every day!
Sausage Tree Camp & Potato Bush Camp
Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
As Sausage Tree and Potato Bush Camp are ready to open for the season; we want to again share my impressions of the Lower Zambezi National Park and these charismatic, family-owned and operated lodges.
The Lower Zambezi offers an amazing diversity of unique experiences. In addition to excellent game viewing, there are also night drives, walking safaris, boat trips, canoeing, superb fishing, and even picnics in middle of the river. Its a perfect spot to kick back for three or four days (or even a week) without running out of things to do!
Incredible Value with Rates starting at $625 pppn, Low & Shoulder Season Pay3/Stay4 specials, High Season 4+ night discounts and no single supplement all season.
Variety of Activities:
Day and Night Game Viewing by vehicle (great location deep in the park) Walking Safaris with an armed scout Canoeing (we're right at the start of the renowned Chifungulu Channel) Boat Excursions Fishing (bait or fly, all catch-and-release) Bush Dinners and Breakfasts Lunch in the mighty Zambezi
So much to choose from!
Sausage Tree Camp:
A classic in safari circles, Sausage Tree Camp has one of the most secluded settings deep inside the Lower Zambezi National Park. Highlights include the large herds of elephants and buffalo, several prides of lion and good leopard sightings.
Elephants essentially pass through camp daily, while the unique islands in front of the lodge constantly play host to elephants, buffaloes and hippos. Guests are already viewing animals, even before leaving on a game drive.
There are five Signature Tents, two Honeymoon Suites and a two-bedroom family suite.
Sausage Tree Camp also has a new beautiful 25-yard swimming pool with views over the Zambezi.
Potato Bush Camp:
A perfect balance of elegance, space, understated luxury and exclusivity with only four tents. Great for FITs or for a family/small group to take over for private use.
Potato Bush is self-contained with its own entrance, lounges and hosts, yet is close enough to Sausage Tree that, if needed, you can combine the camps for larger groups.
There are three spacious Safari Tents and a unique two-bedroom Family Tent (pictured). Each tent also has a private plunge pool.
Logistics: Easy to get to!
International carriers like Emirates fly directly into Lusaka, or clients can take a short regional flight from Johannesburg. From Lusaka, its a quick 35min flight to Jeki. From Livingstone, Proflight delivers seamless service via Lusaka.
Zambia Itinerary: The Lower Zambezi is an excellent combination with South Luangwa, Livingstone (Victoria Falls) and other Zambian safari areas like Kafue and North Luangwa.
Add on to South Africa Itinerary: Adding the Lower Zambezi at the end of a typical Cape Town, Kruger/Sabi Sand, Victoria Falls itinerary adds a whole different dimension to a client's safari experience.
Add on to Botswana Itinerary: Nowhere in Botswana do you have a big river system like the Lower Zambezi, making it an interesting (and affordable) add-on to a Botswana itinerary.
Weather and Landscape
February started out quite dry for the first two weeks but in the third week the heavens really opened. Initially the rain was slow and steady, becoming heavier after a few days and sending the small streams into full spate once again. Grasses have continued to grow, much to the delight of the wildlife in the area, not to mention the park rangers and local farmers who at one stage had lost hope when the grass started withering again.
As expected at this time of year, sunsets on the Zambezi are greatly enhanced by the cloud cover that gives them so much more character. Photographing the sunset has become an addiction for guests as well as staff and many, many sunset pictures have been taken by all of us as it always looks like the next day’s sunset is going to be better than the previous day’s spectacle!
Victoria Falls’ water levels have continued to rise and the Smoke That Thunders has increased its roar. The level of the spray is unbelievable, prompting many comments from guests who felt that they had never seen anything like it or that it greatly exceeded their expectations.
Unlike most parks in the region, the change in vegetation levels does not seem to have an impact on what will be seen in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. The size of the Park combined with a well-thought-out road network makes it very viable for visitors to see many different species.
Several great sightings have been recorded this month, amongst them a herd of buffalo that has been seen several times in camp near Tent 12. Over a number of days the buffalo have come in at the end of the day, had a drink at the river and spent the remaining daylight hours in the shade around the camp grounds.
The best of our news this month though is the arrival of a new addition to the white rhino population, born in the second week of the month! We have not yet figured out its gender as we are giving the mother and baby space to settle with minimal disturbance for a while before we try to get closer. However a lot of guests have had a chance to spot the two from a distance without upsetting the new mother.
As always the boat cruises are a favourite activity at Toka Leya, as they not only showcase great game but many guests recommend it as the perfect way to wind down after days of travelling.
Watching elephants crossing from one side of the river to the other is always amazing. Several of these herds have babies with them and it is incredible to see how protective they are as they guide the little ones across the river.
Wilderness Safaris as a group has always been committed to its people and it is our belief that our people form the most important part of this business. The people are not only the staff working in the camps, but also the communities in the areas where we operate, most of which are in one way or another our operating partners.
In nearby Sinde Village, we completed the teachers’ accommodation as well as two water plants, both projects made possible by donations from guests of Toka Leya Camp. We officially handed them to the community and the school respectively in the last week of the month. Before we handed over the water plants we constructed a drinking trough for the central pump to take care of all the runoff water – water that will come in very handy for the livestock in the dry season. The one at the school will be used to catch more running water and this will be used for watering the garden at the school.
Staff in Camp
Petros and Gogo Guwa – General management couple
Amon Ngoma, Cynthia Kazembe Evidence Musabi – Assistant Managers
Rhonnex Malasha – Executive Chef
Weather and Landscape
The majority of the month was dry with very little rain experienced in the southern province – a worry, as we thought we might be heading for a dry summer season. Happily things shifted in the third week of the month and the rains came down in buckets, bringing much relief to us as well as the game, as the grass had started withering. The whole place is back to its lush summer green and pools of water have formed throughout Mosi-oa-Tunya Park with all the small streams now flowing heavily. Of note is the hanging white foam of the southern foam-nest frogs that are seen along the streams and waterholes.
The Zambezi River is also looking great as the water levels have started rising – we are always amazed to see how a few weeks of rain affects the levels of this mighty river. However it is still very clear that we will need a lot more rain than this to see the Zambezi break its banks, given that the water is much lower than in previous years.
Our resident young male hippo has become a Toka Leya Camp feature and this chap definitely feels he owns our camp surrounds as he takes it upon himself to entertain the guests. The text books would have to be rewritten if we were to rely solely on his behaviour: Moto Moto, unlike other hippos, spends almost all his life out of the water, creating confusion among guests whose guides have described hippos as having sun-sensitive skin. The wet days we have been experiencing are certainly in his favour, allowing him to stay out of the river for extended periods of time. There is never has a dull moment when he is around as he is always doing something every time you look at him. One such incident made a young guest describe him as a dancing hippo!
There is a lot of excitement amongst the guides and the Park rangers at the moment as the news circulating is that we should be having another new addition to the white rhino population soon! Each and every one of the guides and rangers is keeping their eyes wide open and hope they would be the first one to break the news. The arrival of this new baby will bring the number to 10 and would mean five baby rhinos will have been born in the park, a great sign that the animals have settled in and are clearly not under any form of stress. Guides, as much as our guests, look forward to the rhino walk every day, and this activity is definitely one of our best now.
Birds and Birding
As always, the wet season is great for birders and there have been some tremendous sightings recorded by the guides around the camp this month. Early mornings are beautifully melodious with several different calls heard throughout the camp and surroundings. A considerable number of summer migrants are amongst the birds that have been recorded, both on the river cruises as well as on game drives. It also seems that the increase in the water levels brings the African finfoot to the water in front of our reception area every year, much to the excitement of our birding guests and guides who have a thrilling chance to see this otherwise very elusive bird.
No matter how many times one has seen the indescribable Victoria Falls, one is awed by the volume and the sound of the Zambezi River as it cascades down into the zigzag gorges before continuing on to Lake Kariba and finally along the Lower Zambezi – home to Mana Pools National Park, a Ramsar site – before heading down to the Indian Ocean. From quite a distance now one can see the spray of the Victoria Falls and a visit at this time of year requires a rain poncho and an underwater camera to capture the magical moments of the ‘rainy’ spray.
“Fabulous experience, great staff and great food and we even had a visit from the hippo Moto Moto. Thank you all so much.”
“Commendable efforts and sustaining the environment. A fun filled informative break. Excellent all round.”
“Absolutely fantastic. So much to see and do. Highly recommendable. Attention to detail beyond expectations.”
Staff in Camp
Pete and Gogo Guwa – General Management couple
Jacqui Munakombwe – Relief Manager
Evidence Musabi – Relief Manager
Amon Ngoma – Activities Manager
Muchelo Muchelo – Junior Manager
Weather and Landscape
The rainy season has finally arrived and we have had some amazing bolts of lightning and really dark cloudy skies. However the actual rainfall has not yet reached the levels expected at this time of the year. The exciting thing though is that even with the little rain received so far, the bush has taken on a completely new hue and is looking very lush and green – much to the delight of all the game that had been struggling to get decent food of late as it was so dry. The low rainfall received so far has really been a blessing as the temperatures are always so much more pleasant after even a few drops of rain.
Although the vegetation is so green, visibility is not lost at all as the undergrowth is yet to come. We had some really brilliant game sightings during the month. Most exciting and definitely worth mentioning is the herd of elephants that has become resident over the last three years. We have once again seen this herd coming from the Zimbabwean side before they move on to the islands in the river in front of the camp.
This herd has not been the only group seen wandering between the islands as guides have reported a great amount of elephants and a whole lot more game along the river – including giraffe, rhino and herds of buffalo which have been seen either drinking or heading down to the river for a drink of water.
An unusual sighting was reported by one of the guides and his guests on a boat cruise. They saw what they thought was a hippo fight but upon closer inspection they realised that a large crocodile had caught a baby hippo. Everyone watched this tussle in great surprise and finally the croc and its prey went under water… never to be seen again.
The game drives have been very rewarding as almost every guest that stayed with us had a chance to see rhino. This has really been a highlight for all our guests which have come from safari in Botswana and Zimbabwe. The successful conservation and protection of this species in the area is paying off.
Our resident hippo as usual is one of the most photographed pachyderms in the area as he seems to enjoy being the centre of attraction. Moto Moto, as he is famously known to everyone, is a great actor and definitely knows exactly when to make his appearance.
A few guests this month have captured excellent photos of the sable which have recently been reintroduced into the area. Wildebeest, puku and a whole lot more of the plains game have been recorded on both game drives and boat cruises.
Birds and Birding
On the birding side, the list this month was very long given that most, if not all, of the summer migrants have arrived.
One of the avian highlights for the month was enjoyed from the camp on most mornings, in the form of a western-banded snake-eagle perched right in front of the main area almost daily.
African finfoot and rock pratincole continue to provide our guests with great sightings, especially on the river cruises. As we reached the peak of the dry season, we were amazed when we found a huge flock of marabou storks wading through a shallow pool along the Zambezi…gorging themselves on stranded fish and other aquatic organisms.
The low water levels have created another experience at the camp. We discovered a shallow sand bank which has become a great sunset and lunch spot. This activity really went down well with our guests and has been a firm favourite for sundowners. Click here for images of the ‘Toka Beach’.
This month saw Toka Leya hosting the annual Children in the Wilderness camp. We closed the camp for around a week and filled it up with children from Sinde Village. These camps are always inspiring and provide the children with a tremendous opportunity to learn life skills and gain exposure to the conservation and tourism industry.
Another highlight for the month was the completion of the solar pump project in the village. This means the villagers don’t have to constantly walk to collect water. This project has been funded by generous guest donations.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros and Gogo Guwa, Ondyne Dobeyn, Cynthia Kazembe, Amon Ngoma and Muchelo Muchelo
This month it was all about lions. We had more lion activity than ever in the Busanga Plains and enjoyed lion sightings every day of the month! The big dominant male Mr Busanga had serious competition from two new males trying to take over his territory and with the temperatures rising the lions decided that it was time to catch a cool breeze by climbing up into the fig trees or on top of the Shumba deck.
All our guests had a wonderful time and enjoyed every minute of their stays. Highlights mentioned were the hot air balloon, the friendly staff, the meals, the lions, the boma dinner, the wilderness, the remoteness, the birdlife, the boat cruise and many more.
Weather and Landscape
The temperatures really climbed up during this month, with the average daytime high reaching a sweltering high of 40 °C. The mornings and evenings were still quite comfy however. We did receive temporary respite on some days when a cooling breeze blew across the plains. Of course the camp swimming pool offered the best comfort during the siesta time.
As mentioned above, this month the centre stage performance was stolen by the lions. As many of these felines took to climbing the trees for shelter, our guests were treated to some incredible photographic opportunities, especially when the young cubs decided that they would try and climb up the tree as well. Clumsy as they still are, the youngsters were not able to climb up Big Fig Tree. After several failed attempts they decided to climb into a small shrub next to the big iconic fig tree. It was a hilarious sight to see the three small cubs hanging in the small shrub, when their mother and aunties were fast asleep in the fig tree above them.
These same lions climbed onto the Shumba Camp deck a number of times. Luckily the lions have only visited the decks of the empty rooms...
With so much lion activity and sightings, it was only a matter of time until we witnessed several kills. Most of the action took place during the daytime which was great for us, giving our guests the opportunity to catch this incredible occurrence on camera. The mother of the three cubs is a really good hunter and on one occasion while she was dragging her kill into the shade, the three cubs decided to try and help mum. It was so funny to watch as the cubs tried to pull the carcass in the opposite direction to their mom.
During one of the hunting forays, an adult lioness really tried to avoid getting wet and sprang across a water channel in a spectacular leap as you can see in the adjoining picture. We have tree climbing lions, swimming lions and now flying lions on the Busanga Plains.
During the month the two Musanza Males started to mark the Busanga Plains as their territory. They even chased the resident male, Mr Busanga, across the water and we thought for a few days that he would not dare to come back. Towards the end of the month we found him together with the Busnaga Pride again. We are not too sure who is ruling the Busanga Plains at the moment as the big male and his younger counterpart and the two Musanza Males are all present in the Plains at the moment. During the night the roaring of the four males is exciting to listen to.
Not only the Busanga Pride was seen often, we also had good sightings of the Papyrus Pride and the Treeline Pride.
Besides all the lion activity, most guests had good sightings of serval.These elusive cats are not that shy in our area and often come out in front of the game drive vehicles either during the day or the night drives.
Leopards are normally seen in the woodlands, but sometimes a leopard shows up in the middle of the Plains. One of our guides was very surprised to stumble on a leopard on the drive!
With so many different antelope species present in the Busanga Plains, most guests comment that they see antelope that they have never seen before. This month we had very good sightings of sable, with a herd of over fifty individuals being seen often. The roan and sitatunga were seen close to camp. The game drive would be completed with sightings of reedbuck, red lechwe, puku, bushbuck, oribi, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, elephant, water monitor, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, crocodile, water mongoose, terrapin and many more.
Birdlife has been amazing, especially the sightings of huge flocks of crowned and wattled cranes. The flocks seen in the Busanga Plains easily reach 100 cranes altogether!
Whilst staying at Shumba Camp the guests experience different activities. A walking safari on an adjoining island makes you appreciate the sounds and smells of the bush.
The boat ride on one of our trips to Hippo Pools brings you up close and personal with the hippo and birdlife around and in the water.
The hot air balloon takes you gliding over the Busanga Plains. Watching the elephant, hippo, buffalo and various antelope from above – it gives you a total different perspective of the Plains and the animals in it.
Of course the game drives are successful and show you everything the Busanga Plains has to offer.
“Everything was superb! Just a perfect place with wonderful staff and great game viewing. It feels like home. You made our stay very special. Thank you.”
“My return to Shumba (Sept ’09 and Aug ’08). What a surprise it was to find Rob, Ingrid, Isaac, Aaron and many staff members still here. How nicely this place has matured. For me one of the iconic places in Africa. Thanks all!”
“Amazing experience at Shumba! Excellent hospitality all around! Loved getting to know your lions. Idos is an expert guide, and has our highest recommendation. Thank you for everything!”
TOKA LEYA CAMP
Weather and Landscape
Temperatures continue to increase but are still very bearable. The vegetation has taken on all sorts of beautiful colours as spring swings into full force. The shaving-brush combretums are all in full flower showing why they have such a name. We had a few drops of rain towards the end of the month but not enough to wet the ground. It was literary ten drops ten metres apart, but the smell of the rain was really beautiful. Frogs and toads have come alive in the evenings, an indication we are getting closer to the rainy months.
As usual the Zambezi River at this time of the year is visibly dropping and this has created a few isolated pools where we have seen huge numbers of birds such as African fish-eagles and marabou storks catching the stranded fish and other aquatic creatures. On one outing we watched a beautiful African fish-eagle come down and pick up a desent-sized bream which it took to the nearby rocks to devour. He was clearly tired as the feasting didn’t start for a while. Unfortunately he tried to take his meal up to the nearby trees after regaining his breath and dropped it.
The dropping water level on the river has created some really lovely marshy areas along the river which have turned out to be the greatest birding locations and we have also noticed that some of the migrants have started arriving in the area, making the river excursions and birding in general such a pleasure for birders. The colony of the white-fronted bee-eaters is as always one of the most amazing and probably one of the most photographed sites on the river excursions as these beautiful birds come and go or line up and pose for a photo on the trees nearby.
Although the trees have started to get new and fresh leaves, the grass is still so dry and the huge numbers of wildlife we have been having around has continued to trample it down making visibility even better. This month we have seen quite a number of common duiker, which would usually be quite hard to view with high grass.
Huge numbers of elephants have also frequented the camp where they have been feeding on the ana tree pods at the main area. This has entertained us all as there is always some action and activity all around the camp, but the destruction on the trees has also been tremendous which in most instances has made our two guides Donald and Histon complain as most of their trees they have seen grow have also fallen victim to the elephant.
Besides the elephant activity, other game has also been really great with a lovely journey of giraffe seen drinking one day just a few metres down river from the camp. In normal cases they would be very shy and take off at the first approach but they really cooperated and we did manage to spend a long time with them and also managed to take some excellent pictures. Buffalo, waterbuck, wildebeest as well as kudu bulls with beautiful horns were amongst some of the outstanding sightings the guests have talked about after their activities, all producing good photographic opportunities.
After the huge donation of trees to Green Pop a couple of months ago, the camp nursery has been very busy germinating new seeds of the local indigenous trees for another planting programme as the rains start. They have set a new target of 2 000 trees for planting around the camp as well as planting some with the children when we do our community children camp at the end of the year - as well as donating once again to Green Pop if they do have another tree planting session next year.
On our community side, we had a very successful meeting with the community leadership as well as the Twabuka School where we looked at areas of concern as well as prioritised the help that should be given to the community going forward. We have put down a plan together with the community leadership and the school management which will see us in future donating what will be of need to the community at a given time.
Staff in Camp
Managers: Petros Guwa, Ondyne Dobeyn, Cynthia Kazembe, Amon Ngoma and Muchelo Muchelo.
Guides: Evans Hangooma, Godfrey Mungala, Histon Samatamba and Donald Lisama.
BUSANGA BUSH CAMP
September continued with the lion-themed activity of the Busanga Plains. This time our gaze was poised on the two new males from the nearby Musanza Pride as they slowly took over the territory of the older resident male. Initially the visiters were spotted mating in the area and then this escalated to fighting with our local boy. Needless to say we are all in support for our prized black-maned lion “Mr Busanga” but the new boys seem to be tough to beat and now our much-loved lion is on the run.
The rise in temperatures gave us a special sighting of a lionesses climbing up a tree to cool down and her young cubs simply lying down under a dead tree. This was such a highlight for our guests, who were fortunate enough to witness these adorable moments. Even more amazing for a lucky few was the sighting of a serval which was seen on several days taking a stroll in the beautiful Busanga Plains.
As the September heat continues, most of the dambos (open swamp areas) in the woodlands are drying up. This has in turn led to an increase in sightings of our rare antelope species, such as sable and eland as they move to the more permanent water sources.
The resident birds continued to show how majestic and beautiful they are with big flocks of pelicans also being joined by a few of the rare birds such as red-billed teals, comb ducks and Hottentot teals.
The heat has also brought some great advantages to the reptiles which have begun to breed; water monitor lizards have been spotted on dry land by most of the guests on game drives enjoying the heat from the sun.
“We have already been on several safaris but never have we been so spoilt. The Busanga Bush Camp “Family” were very kind and professional. We shall never forget our stay in this camp and the wonderful drives we had with Isaac.”
“Loved the serval sightings - my first in Africa, also the male’ lions of the area. The balloon ride was special.”
“What can we say – Everything was wonderful from our arrival till the sad hour we had to leave. Wonderful people and excellent service - the food was out of this world. Thank you all so much.”
TOKA LEYA CAMP
As it becomes drier, the bush is clearing up more and more and the general colours are turning from green to multi-colour hues. This as usual makes for good sightings as visibility is better than in the wet months. Weather-wise, we have seen a continuous drop in temperatures after sunset and in the mornings with a little wind in the afternoon, but the days are still really beautiful and our night skies are full of stars.
We have noticed that most guests arrive here with one thing in mind – the Victoria Falls. When they eventually get on to game drives they are astounded by the wildlife variety - and the animals are also so relaxed making for great photographic opportunities - that all come back raving about both guides and game. They really cannot believe how productive their drives are in such a small Park.
Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is well known for its Rhino Breeding Project that has become a success, with three babies having been born in the last few years. We are all delighted that there are two other females that are expecting again in the not so distant future. This clearly proves that these animals, when left alone and under no stress, can actually multiply. We also feel that small parks like the Mosi-oa-Tunya, where these animals have 24-hour protection, are the only solution now to the survival of these giants whose population is under such persecution. We are really proud of the commitment of the wildlife police officers in our park who never seem to tire at all, their desire being to preserve the small population of rhino that we have in this part of the world.
Our boat cruises are always so much appreciated by guests. Allowing for only small parties, it is the personal touch and knowledgeable guides which make these river cruises second to none. This and the general beauty of the mighty Zambezi is a memory that will live forever in all our guests’ minds.
With the mainland drying out, the traffic of elephants to the islands is building up by the day and it’s always an unbelievable sight to see these massive mammals go from one end of the River to the Island or at times crossing borders from one country to the other.
Birding is best on the River, with a variety of birds ranging from bee-eaters to African finfoots, skimmers and other wading birds that frequent the waterways. On a few occasions guides have come back and reported the unusual sightings of a Pel’s fishing-owl which definitely is a highlight for anyone who has been birding or has an interest in birds.
With the winter here, we have also seen an increase of crocodiles lining the banks of the River as they try and catch the warmth of the sun. As usual we have seen that as the water levels drop, the concentrations of hippos rise in certain channels and we have been seeing some amazing sizes of hippo pods on the river.
“Believe in Africa and keep stewarding the environment. Wonderful service and hospitality. Keep doing what you doing. Can’t thank you all enough.”
“Our very first stop was magical! Such beauty, amazing adventures you made us feel so welcome, safe, well cared for and well fed. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We will always remember you and hope to see you again.”
“A perfect start to our honeymoon. Gorgeous location and superb staff. Loved everything.”
BUSANGA BUSH CAMP
Busanga Bush Camp, on the Busanga Plains, looks out on a landscape of open savannah grassland which extends for many miles. The camp gives you an ambience that gets you closer to nature and an opportunity to learn and share cultural diversities with the warm and friendly camp staff.
Sunrise & Sunset
From your bed you will wake up to a beautiful misty morning with the sun rising through the mist giving a spectacular golden light while the abundant lechwe nibbles the soft grass of the plain right in front of camp.
In the evenings another spectacular spectrum of colours can be witnessed as the sun sets on the western side of the camp. From both the afternoon activity as well as from camp one can take in this impressive African show.
During the month of July, the minimum temperatures fluctuated between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius, however temperatures rose each day to the warm mid-twenties. Though generally characterised by winds, the month of July was less windy compared to most seasons.
The month brought with it much excitement as the Busanga Pride presented us with three brand-new cubs. This is great news as the pride’s numbers have dwindled over the last few years. After losing a brother, the surviving Busanga male lion adopted a young male to form a coalition, which seemed like a good idea to protect his territory. However, another male has been sighted and has been heard calling on several occasions within the Busanga Pride’s territory. When he calls, the two Busanga males respond but have never made an effort to find out who is in their territory. The questions we ask ourselves are: where did this stranger lion come from? Is he going to join the two Busanga males to form a bigger and stronger coalition? We are all waiting to see what is going to happen in the coming months.
Staying at Busanga Bush Camp does not confine you to the Busanga Plains. We schedule full day trips to the tree line area at the bottom of the Busanga Plains. It gives our guests the opportunity of seeing and experiencing different landscapes and, what’s more, in the previous months has produced great sightings of leopard and cheetah.
The huge herd of buffalo has continued to pay us visits at the camp. Guests always enjoy seeing these huge beasts grazing right in front of the camp’s main area. The Kafue lechwe and puku also patronise the camp premises. With all this game right at our doorstep it almost means that one doesn’t need to go out and look for it.
“What a lovely place, I must have had the most exciting boat ride of my life. I still cannot believe how close we got to the hippos. Amazing” EG from New York
“Thanks to all you guys!!! We had a great time in BBC. What a wonderful staff, excellent food and never giving up drivers who wanted you to see all this beautiful wildlife thanks again” AR from Netherlands
“Sandy your knowledge of the plains was spectacular, Chips, Ned, Isaac the service was beyond our expectations. Thank you for sharing 3 days in paradise.”ES from Michigan
As usual the winter months are characterised by clear blue skies, making it such a pleasure to be outdoors. As temperatures start to drop, we have noted that the fire place has once again become the main hub of the camp evenings, with more and more guests sitting out by the fire and admiring the star-studded skies. The river water levels are starting to drop but it will still be a long while before one can walk through Victoria Falls without a rain poncho. The Falls are still living up to their reputation of “the smoke that thunders” and can be seen from miles away before one actually gets into Livingstone.
As usual the dry season brings a lot of different animals through the camp and amongst the regular visitors are the large elephant herds who are now frequent visitors. It’s wonderful to see their numbers increasing daily and seeing the different herds passing through camp at all times of day to go down to the water. We have also started to see herds braving the current of the river and crossing to the island for some feeding sessions as well as taking dips in the mighty Zambezi. This always surprises the guests who never expect these bulky animals to be able to swim.
The white rhino are starting to frequent the area near Tent 12, seemingly attracted by some beautiful lush grass. On several occasions a female and her baby as well as the dominant male have been seen in the vicinity of the camp much to the excitement of our guests. Many have heard of the Rhino Breeding Project in the park but never expected the rhino to be free ranging.
Our resident hippo, Motto Motto, is becoming an entertainment factor. For some reason his new favourite place to sleep during the day is next to a boat. We have noticed that if one boat moves away he literally moves over to sleep next to the other one - behaviour none of us can understand.
The river experience is still one of the activities guests talk about for a very long time after they leave here. Most are amazed by the sheer size of the river whilst the abundance of the birdlife and the variety of game seen along the river adds to the beauty. Our guides have come to know all the corners of the little and large islands which make for the great sightings we have been recording. The colony of the white-fronted bee-eaters is one of the great attractions of the afternoon cruises. The birds have become so habituated to the vessels coming in that they don’t seem to be bothered any more, which is making photographing the birds such a pleasure.
Another exciting viewing this month has been the regular sighting of a massive crocodile downriver who seems to have established a territory on one of the banks and has been seen at the same place daily sunning himself.
Our 4Cs this month
In line with emphasis on the “Culture” part of our 4Cs we have been sampling a few different cultural dance groups from different tribes that make up the Livingstone population. It has clearly shown that Zambia is very rich in culture and traditional dances. Different age groups starting from the young to the elderly take pride in their culture and partake in these dances.
We have also taken a great step towards our “Community” relationship this month. On 28 May we flicked the switch for the solar pump at Twabuka Basic School in Sinde Village, much to the amazement of the kids and teachers as well as the PTA who clearly were touched by this kind donation from our guests at Toka Leya. A discussion that started as a general talk finally became reality and the school staff were very thankful for this. Going solar also contributes to the “Conservation” side of our 4Cs together with our intention to start growing trees at the school.
The staff and management this month also felt it was a great month in working towards the “Commercial” C of the 4Cs when we learnt that the camp was among the few places that was awarded a certificate of excellence.
“What a very beautiful camp you have. Very well designed and thought out. The staff are all lovely too”.
“I love the camp very much as it is built in such a unique environment. The staff is extremely warm, polite and hospitable. I like their positive attitude. Much enjoyed their company and as well as their being so knowledgeable.”
“Fabulous place to begin our first African adventure. We were spoiled for the remainder of our trip. Entire staff and accommodation are five star.”
Weather and Landscape
In terms of temperature, we have experienced some fresh and chilly conditions in the early mornings and evenings, but the midday temperatures are still very pleasant. Despite the lack of rain this month, the landscape is still lush and green, with only a few areas starting to dry out and turn brown.
The ever-popular Munjila Band, who previously would arrive with their home -made guitars, moved to a more traditional entertainment with only drums and mesmerising balancing dances which amazed all our guests that had the chance to witness what most descr ibed as an impossible and most entertaining act.
The Zambezi boat cruises as usual are a talking point around the camp fire. Guests who went on the river cruises always come back raving about the sightings and the friendliness and knowledge of the guides.
Over the last couple of months, no elephants were seen swimming across the river to the myriad islands, but this changed in April as these mammoth creatures took to the water and were often encountered swimming through the currents while we were on boat c ruises.
We have once again set a target to donate 1 000 seedlings this y ear to Green Pop – an organisation that is doing outstanding work in the reforestation of Livingstone and the surrounding areas.
TOKA LEYA CAMP
After such a wet February, it turned out that March was a very dry month – we experienced an abrupt stop to the rains with a dramatic increase in temperatures which we did not expect. This increase was easily remedied with a visit to the Vic Falls, as the spray was quite spectacular this month.
The vegetation is still quite green and lush, but many of the waterholes have started to dry up and we are sure that the vegetation will start thinning out shortly.
Desp ite the fact that we didn’t experience much rain this month, further upstream seems to have received quite a bit, so the Zambezi River is still flowing strongly and the water level is high. March was also the month for Earth Hour, which we celebrated with the rest of the world. Although we always enjoy great sundowners along the river, we extended it into dinner under the stars, which went down really well with our guests who were all blown away by the experience. We also used this opportunity to give our guests a star - gazing session and talk. We initially thought that we would return to camp after dinner, but we were having such a good time that we only returned after midnight!
With the surface water starting to dry out in the bush, we have experienc ed great wildlife experiences right in camp as the wildlife makes their way to the river to slake their thirst. Moto Moto, the resident hippo, has continued to entertain our guests as he spends quite a lot of time out of the water during the day, calmly gr azing on the lush grass in front of camp.
Elephant herds have also come back into the area, and we had a herd of about 60 elephants frequenting the area. Whilst we have hoped to see them cross the river again, they have been quite sensible in avoiding the strong currents, a good call due to the small members of the herd. There is an abundance of
food on our side at the moment, so there was no need for this huge herd to move off.
Rhino sightings have been really good this month and our guides are always proud when they find these special animals – a great testament to the conservation efforts for this species in the area. Many camp staff got the opportunity to see the dominant male rhino as he passed close to the camp on one occasion.
Downriver, the white - fronted bee - eater colony is probably one of the most photographed scenes as these little colourful birds come in to roost and all pose by their nests, taking in the last light of the day. The colours on the bank are so stunning and it’s been noted that gue sts have been asking to go back to this site if they are staying another night.
'In Livingstone's footsteps'
200th Anniversary Safari
Available between May 11th to November 10th
14 nights combining the excitement of the Victoria Falls with Zambia's best game-viewing destinations plus the tranquility and beauty of Lake Maal wi.
During his historic explorations of the river systems of Molowi, the Zambezi Valley and the Luangwo Valley, David Livingstone declared "I WILL MAKE THIS LAND BffiER KNOWN TO MEN THAT IT MAY BECOME ONE OF THEIR HAUNTS.IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DESCRIBE ITS LUXURIANCE"
Norman Carr Safaris-another of the original pioneers of Zambia, together with Tongabezi,Chongwe River camp and Kaya Mawa are pleased to offer this exceptionall4 night safari taking in the most exclusive small camps in Zambia and Malawi allowing you to retrace Uvtngstone's footsteps in independent, owner-operated camps offering an unrivalled level of service and experience.
Combine four exciting and very different destinations and a variety of activities '¢ white water rafting at the Falls, canoeing and fishing in the Lower Zambez,i walking and driving safaris in the Luangwa Valley and SWlmming tn the crystal clear waters of Lake Malawi with outstanding food, award winning guides, remote wilderness and breath-takJng adventure to create an unforgettable safariexperience.
3 nights spent at Tongabezi and Sindabezi in Uvinptone, home of the Victor a Falls.
3 nights at Chongwe River Camp in the Lower Z.ambezi
5 nichts in Norman Carr Safari's camps in the South Luancwa
3 ni&hts at Kaya Mawa on Ukoma Island in Lake Malawi
For families and those looking for an truly exclusive and private trip,this itinerary is also available at Chinzombo, Tangala House, Chongwe House and Ndomo Point House.