Places: Southern Kafue National Park

14 December 2023

By:  Tendai Bushe

As the hustle and bustle of the peak period came to an end and seasonal camps got ready to close, I ventured out to Southern Kafue. The trip was organized by Ever Wild as a pre-tour for Africa’s Eden. I have not done much exploring in Kafue so I was keen to visit Musekese and Kaingu as we do work with them a lot. However, Emma and I were particularly excited to finally have someone from the team experience the Nanzhila properties - Plains and Lake Camps! Mid-November rolled around and we (myself and 4 other lovely ladies) were off! We flew from Lusaka to Lufupa on Sky Trails plane with Dusty at the helm. One of the ladies challenged him to make the flight more interesting and he did. He gave us a nice scenic flight over the river - a little bumpy but that added to the adventure for me! It was a lovely way to start the trip - seeing the vast landscape and the river meandering through the plains from above added perspective to what we were about to experience.

Musekese Camp

On arrival we were met by the Musekese team and transferred to the harbour where we jumped off the vehicle and onto a boat across the river where we met another vehicle that drove us through to camp! We were warmly welcomed by the management team and lead straight to lunch for some yummy chicken curry and salads. I must say this right now - every meal was delicious and the chef was very good at catering for the different dietaries in our group. After lunch we had our camp orientation and made our way to the spacious open plan rooms. Our classic safari style tent was beautifully made up and the view out into bush made the possibility of seeing anything walk past feel endless. On our afternoon game drive we saw a lot of beautiful Puku’s with glossy coats looking very plump and healthy. We spent a lot of time birding because we had a little challenge within our group. We wanted to see 150 different species during our 6-night Kafue trip. We did not quite hit the target but we came close with a whopping 137 including a Pel’s Fishing Owl and quite a few Black-cheeked love birds which are endemic to Kafue. Okay, back to the drive- after sunset we started our night drive and the other vehicle spotted lions and kindly shared that special sighting with us. We did not see the full pride but went back to camp for dinner with happy hearts having seeing one full grown female and 2 cubs! The next morning, half of the group went on a walk and the other half went on a drive. On the drive with James we actively tracked the lions. It was great fun to follow their tracks get thrown off, go about with other game viewing and then somehow spot tracks again! The hard work paid off and we found the lions enjoying their morning in the shade. The other group joined us and we were all able to get better view of them and saw 2 females and 2 cubs relaxing in the shade. One cub was particularly cute scratching on the tree, giving us big yawns and paw licks! After that excitement we went back to camp for lunch and then had some time for a much needed siesta. Musekese is a remote camp and without Wi-Fi so you are enticed and expected to slow down and connect with nature. We spent the afternoon out on the river and had so much fun learning more about birds and taking amazing golden hour shots on the river – gin and tonic in hand. After another delicious meal and a good nights rest we woke up ready for the 5-hour road trip to Kaingu.

Kaingu Camp

On arrival at the meeting point with Kaingu we got into an open vehicle and headed to camp. We drove through the park to a harbour where we met a boat that took us along the river and across to camp. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking with the water flowing between big boulders. This is truly a unique area of Zambia. On arrival into the owner- run camp we were warmly welcomed and ushered to our rooms. I was staying in the family room which is essentially a 2-bedroom house with a kitchenette, lounge and big deck with outside seating area. It is a perfect spot for families and I think Kaingu is a wonderful soft safari experience for families. With that said- we saw some amazing game so stay tuned for that! After lunch we had a little break which most of us used to get online and catch up with family, work and anything else. I had a very nice deep nap with the solar fan cooling me off in the heat of the day and then we were off on a boat cruise. We were all very excited for the cruise because we wanted to see and explore more of the unique scenery! Our guide Israel, saw a Nightjar on a rock- none of us believed him and so he docked and had us view it in the binoculars. We half believed him but by the end of our 2-night stay we all fully believed and fully saw the nightjar that was always laying on the rock. Israel explained she probably had eggs there which was sweet to imagine! The cruise was perfect for birding, we saw and heard many different species happily ticking off our list! We stopped next to a high boulder for sundowners, and after a few steps up we were spoilt with a vast view of the river, rocks and palm trees! We had our tasty snacks and refreshing drinks while chatting and laughing through the orange light and setting sun. We learned to say SAN-GA-LA-LA, which means joy but can be used as cheers! We carried our conversation on through to dinner and woke up the next day refreshed and ready for a game drive! Kaingu is across from the mainland so we hopped on a boat and cruised to the harbour then jumped onto a vehicle and started our ride. I was hoping to see Sable and guess what- we came across a gorgeous herd! They are such majestic creatures, generally shy but we were lucky enough to get a good angle and Michelle Craig – our resident photographer (by virtue of her having a real camera not a phone) was able to get some great shots which you can see below. We drove along, carrying on with our bird list and enjoying the various antelopes including Kudu, a few monkeys and other usual suspects when BOOM our guide spotted cheetah (pun intended) under a tree. We all agreed we would not have seen them without our guide! We were driving past at a good speed and the light was not exactly great for spotting but Israel saw them! Unfortunately, it was too late for the other vehicle to join us as they were already on their way out but we got to enjoy the special sighting of 2 cheetahs by ourselves. We maintained our distance to keep them comfortable and chilled as they relaxed and enjoyed the shade of the trees. As if that sighting was not special enough when we got to the harbour to get back on the boat, we saw an elephant on the banks of the river. Luckily, he was not too close so we could quickly get in the boat and approach him from the river. He was a big bull, majestic and mighty. We watched him for a while until he let us know he wanted us out of there with a big trumpet sound! We cruised along and then stopped on an Island where we found the Kaingu team had set up a beautiful island brunch for us- very special! After our brunch and a little rest at camp we went out for a short walk where we learned more about the little things – ant hills, the small 5, different trees and what they are used for by local communities and then we got to 2 big rocks. Our goal was to get to the top for our sundowner and enjoy our last sun set with an aerial view of the area. I must repeat myself and say this area is stunning, I think Kaingu is absolutely magical!

Nanzhila Lake and Plains Camp

The following day we made our way to Nanzhila Lake Camp - a new and very intimate camp. It only has 4 tents including 1 family tent so the total capacity for the camp is 10 people. The main area is set on a plain which gets flooded during wet season. I would love to see that but I am so glad I got to see what it looks like during the dry months as well! Picture this - lush green grass, the biggest warthogs you have ever seen, healthy glowing Puku and Impala dotted all around. It is like a backdrop out of a wildlife cartoon- but real! We were told that Wild Dog often come through camp to hunt and unfortunately for us - they did that when we we were out for our game drive so we missed the thrill. We drove around the lake which reminded me a little of Lake Kariba with the dead trees in the water and lush grass around it. This area is fully of happy and healthy animals- we saw Kudu, Defassa Waterbuck (which is different to Common Waterbuck that I am used to seeing), Puku, Impala, Buffalo and lots of warthogs! We looked for leopard, which are known in the area for hiding out in the rocks while they make their calculated move but we did not see them. We did see some very small and cute rock rabbits all scurrying away as a group. We enjoyed another beautiful sunset and headed back to camp for the most delicious dinner which started with some pre-dinner drinks around the fire. We spent some quality time chatting with Cindy - owner of Nanzhila Safaris which is a family run business and she told us we would meet her husband Steve at Plains Camp. When we sat down for dinner, we had no idea what was in store for us – the most delicious lasagne I have ever had and it was vegetarian! It was so rich and divine my mouth is watering right now! After our dinner we went to bed to prepare for our final day at Plains Camp which is Nanzhila Safaris first camp and the start to the Smith family’s Southern Kafue love affair.

We were transferred to Plains Camp where we met up with our Guide Albert. He was very dapper dressed in his best safari gear and he had a wealth of information to share with us. I really enjoyed our time with him, he is very passionate about his craft and very knowledgeable. On arrival into camp, we were met by Steve who gave us a brief orientation of the camp. We went out on a game drive with a lovely couple who were very enthusiastic about everything we saw which made the drive that much more interesting. We saw a variety of antelope, added more birds to our list and had one last sundowner together. Overall, my experience was full of surprises, special moments and a wide variety of species to see and learn about. Cindy said it best when she told us that sending people to Southern Kafue is not for them to check off big herds and predators but rather for guests to immerse in a true wilderness experience and have a well-rounded and diverse safari.

Wildlife Images Credit: Michelle Craig

Musekese Camp Kaingu Safari Lodge Nanzhila Lake Camp Nanzhila Plains Camp Sables Eagle Kudu Owl Cheetah Lions Lion Cub Buffalo Zebras Leopard Tortoise Hartebeest The Group

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