Family Travel

Home/Family Travel

An Alphonse story from Seychelles

The Seychelles is the ultimate island destination in the Indian Ocean – and it’s crowning glory are the remote and pristine Outer Islands. When we were invited by Machaba safaris to visit the remote island of Alphonse to capture and experience their Blue Safari, my underwater camera, land camera, video camera and drone packed themselves. Mahe, which is the capital of Seychelles, lies 4 hours from Johannesburg and 90 minutes from Nairobi. It was another 400 kilometres to the Atoll which includes the  impossibly blue and white-fringed islands of Alphonse, St Francois and Bijotoue (below).

alphonse

People have been living in and around these islands for 300 years and much of the indigenous vegetation was stripped and replaced by coconut plantations to make way for guano harvesters. There is  a team of ecologists based on the island, which has identified some of the indigenous trees and are working to rehabilitate them. Also on the team are marine biologists who are specializing in keeping track of turtle numbers and also the movement of manta rays in and out of these waters. Despite its location the Seychelles does not escape environmental impact and there are frequent clean ups of plastics that drift in from distant shores.

alphonse

Fishermen the world over come to Alphonse to catch bone fish, milkfish, giant Trevally, triggerfish and other species. Some of the best guides in the world area on hand to help them get it right and the only rule here is that it has to be caught on fly and released. Fishing is mostly done on the sandbars of St Francois island and a maximum of six rods are permitted per day. I was very fortunate to be able to go onto St Francois on my final day. What a strong and thrilling fish to catch. My son, Liam, caught bigger fry including a majestic sail fish. I am glad to say that both fish, big and small, were released and swam away no worse for wear.  Sustainability of these fishing waters is fiercely protected by the lodge management team.

 

 

 

 

alphonse

 

For me a highlight was scuba diving off the southwest point of the island where the reefs drop off sharply to 50 metres and beyond. We had 15 metre visibility which is pretty poor by Seychelles standards but even so we saw were delighted by the coral gardens and steep drop offs which were forested with large Gorgonian fans. Snappers, soldierfish, goldies and large schools of trevally and tuna were our constant companions.

A sign goes up daily offering walks, talks, boat trips and kids activities. Of course the spa is also a popular spot to relax. Parked outside each of the villas were bikes – the kind that you would expect on a shopping trip – with high handlebars, back pedal breaks and baskets on the front. The island is perfectly flat and it was the best way to get around. We were able to pedal our way to and from the dining area, dive centre and through coconut groves to remote beaches, usually by-passing the giant Aldabra tortoises peacefully eating on the paths. Peddling out to the beach bar for sundowner cocktails was a real highlight, and weaving back to dinner in the dark a fun adventure. Often meals started with just-caught-that-day fresh sashimi dipped in soy sauce and ginger and followed always with fresh salads from their vegetable garden, grilled fish and seafood and their sublime homemade mango ice-cream.

alphonse

 

alphonse

We visited in the first week in December and had cloudless weather and flat seas but it was  humid and it no effort to work up a sweat. We stayed in a very comfortable A-frame house, which had a luxury bathroom and deliciously cold air-conditioning. I had to remind myself not to keep my camera gear in my room or it would fog up immediately when I went into the humid tropical air. The small luxury beach villas brand new four bedroom private villas on the island all have private pools.

A  highlight of our stay and of the Alphonse agenda was a Flats Lunch. It was timed for low tide when a shallow sandbar poked above the brilliantly blue seas and the  staff put up a barbeque and tables beneath blue umbrellas. Sitting with our feet in the sand and eating freshly cooked fish and chicken in this amazing setting was a pinch yourself experience.

alphonse

On my final day on the island we pedaled to Sunset Point. Hundreds of frigate birds wheeled this way and that coming noisily to roost in the forest. A turtle made its way slowly up the beach to lay its eggs in the cover of vegetation above the high water mark. Slowly the blue sky softened to orange and the blue, then stars pricked at the blanket We felt so far removed from the rest of the world in this tiny piece of paradise out in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

.

 

All you need to know about visiting Victoria Falls

The worlds widest waterfall at 1.7km wide and one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

Time of year: Heaviest flow is April/May when flood comes down. Expect to be completely wet when visting at that time. Rain coats can be hired, but cameras will need cover.

Which side is best: Don’t worry about what side of the falls ( Zim or Zam) is best – you can walk over the bridge and visit both sides. In fact it is recommended that you visit both sides as well as walk over the bridge to watch the mad folk bungi jumping.

Visas: At the time of writing ( 2019) the single entry visa costs were US$30 in Zimabwe and USD50 in Zambia. There is a KAZA univisa *50 US which allows you movement between Zimbabwe/Zambia and Botswana (day trip only and via Kazangula only)

Malaria: Victoria Falls used to have high incidents of malaria, but in the recent years the cases have dropped significantly and they are predicting the town and region to be free of malaria in the near future. Cover and spray and you will be fine.

Temperatures: Very hot in summer months ( Oct – March). Temperatures in April – August are milder, but rest of the year is extremely hot.

Cost to get in to the Falls National Park – both sides: ( cash only)
Zimbabwe: International tourists: 30 US / SADC passport holders: 20 USD
Zambia: International tourists: 30 USD / SADC passport holders: 20 USD
Opening times: 6:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m

Top activities:

1..Walk the falls: When you enter the falls gates, staff at the front gate will advise you to take a path to your left which is the start point of a self-guided tour encompassing 16 viewing points. The first view points is beyond the David Livingstone statue, and then you loop back to follow the path to the remain 14 viewing points. You can go as slow or as fast as you like with the average visit between one and two hours. Its well worth walking across the bridge too.

2..Helicopter or microlight flip over the falls. Best done early morning when the mist-tower is highest and sky clear. Can be done both sides of the river. https://www.photosandafrica.com/photo-travel-workshops/photo-experiences/…

3.. Livingstone Island to swim in the devils pool. A wonderful trip – only done from the Zambian side and involves a boat ride to a tiny island on the lip of the falls. You are then walked to a couple of amazing view points on the very edge and can swim in the devil or angels pools. Arranged by Tongabezi and can be done for tea, lunch or sundowners.

4..Victoria Falls Hotel for high tea – from 3 to 5 every afternoon. Pull up a chair on the Stanley terrace of the hotel and enjoy the afternoon tea and cake stand tower, which is famous in the town and well worth the colonial experience with epic views of the falls

5..Lunch at the Lookout café: this was being rebuilt when writing this blog, but will be ready again in October 2019.

6.White water rafting – there are a few operators who do this. You are driven to a point on the Zimbabwe side of the river where you have a comprehensive briefing. We did this in June when the levels of the river are mid-level but it is most exciting when the river is lower between July and November.

7..Sundowner cruise. We find sunset is a busy time on the stretch of river above the falls and we suggest finding a smaller more exclusive experience with a boat the RAIKANE boat offers a great small cruise with meals or try the new Dhow experience by Jenman.

8..Game drive in to the Vic Falls National Park combined with a half day of canoeing. The park is 23Ha of wild bush and open to Hwange National Park creating a massive wilderness area.

9..Bungi jump/zipline/bridge swinging: There is a great multi-adrenalin activity package with Wild Horizons for the thrill seekers.

10..Shopping: Elephant Walk open market behind the Ilala hotel is great for wooden carvings and curios. Ignore the shops and visit teh markets to ensure your money gets where it should. Often jeans and sneakers can be traded for wooden carvings. There are markets near teh entrance to the falls as well as on the Zambian side.

Longer excursions:

  1. Hwange day trip. This is quite a long drive and we would recommend a fly in package and stay a couple of nights. It’s a long drive for a day trip and its a wonderful park to explore.
    2. Chobe Day tour: Many folk do this day trip and it can be done in a day, but tends to feel a bit commoditized. It usually involves the 1.5 hour drive to Kasane, a 3 hour game drive in Chobe National Park, Lunch at Mowana Hotel followed by a boat cruise on the river , and back to your hotel pretty late. We would recommend rather taking a few days to enjoy Chobe at leisure as it offers amazing river experience of the elephants and great birdlife. We love Chobe Game Lodge as it is INSIDE the park, and the house boats Zambezi Queen is a good way to experience the river.
    3. One of the best thing we have done is canoe above the falls on a multi-day fully-catered canoe trail: This can be arranged by wild Horizons – check out our video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYnFrNnYCDA&t=153s

Secret Activities:

  1. Lunar Rainbow:The Victoria Falls is one of the only places on earth where this natural phenomenon exists. Victoria Falls National Park remains open during evenings when a full moon is visible, and volunteers in Vic Falls can gaze upon the rainbow that is created even in the evening light.
    2. The Victoria Falls Rainforest, on the Zimbabwe side of the falls, is the only place on earth that experiences 365 days of rain! The spray emanating from the falls has created a unique, lush forest, which can be explored by visitors to the park
    3.Village tour: Visit Makuni Village in Livingstone. Same village where the Chief Makuni lived who showed Livingstone the falls. Trained guides will show you around the village.
    4. Vulture Culture Hide: Vultures at Vic Falls Safari Lodge. Join feeding time in the hide and listen to the lecture on these fasctinating animals. follow this with lunch at the Buffalo Bar and enjoy a buffalo burger while watching the hotel waterhole for visitors

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

 

Accommodation options for :

Adventure and remoteness : Sindabezi Island, Stanleys Lodge
Luxury: Matetsi, Mpala Jena and Tongabezi
Accommodation with great Wildlife viewing: Elephant Camp and Matesti
History: Vic Falls Hotel
Walking distance to falls: ILodge
Great Value: Bayete

Places to eat:

Lookout cafe – best for views
boma finner at safari lodge – great evening event with dancing and show.
Sampan dinner at tongabezi – float on the Zambezi and get your food served by boat.
Steam train dinner – steam train chuffs out of the falls a way and serves an elegant dinner
Three monkeys – great for pizza and burgers right in town.
The elephant cafe – an experience where you share dinner with elephants.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Exploring Hwange with Machaba

The road to Hwange

Leaving the rushing waters of Victoria Falls behind, my family and I followed a road fringed by twisted boababs and teak forests that glowed red and orange in their autumn foliage and into the dry and isolated heart of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. For the next week, we would be hosted at Machaba’s three classic safari camps and discover an authentic safari experience that I thought was long forgotten.

Geography and history of Hwange

Hwange is the largest national park in Zimbabwe covering 14600 square kilometres. It butts onto the Kalahari and is part of single and magnificent, unfenced ecosystem that extends into Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. Hwange’s natural pans and river systems are filled with water in summer, but it is essentially a dryland area and the game here relies on waterholes.

Originally the hunting grounds of Lobengula and Mzilikazi what game was found in the region was hammered during the early colonial times, but it became as a game reserve in 1928 and was placed under the stewardship of Ted Davidson. He was to Hwange what Stevenson Hamilton was to Kruger, and what Norman Carr was to South Luangwa, and helped the park take its first baby steps to become one of the great tourist parks of Africa.

Davidson drilled 60 or more waterholes in order to keep the natural pans topped up during the dry season and the effect was dramatic. From a population of just 4000 elephants, the herds swelled to more than 40 000. Buffalo also swelled in numbers and so did the prides of lion and other species.

Elephants of Hwange

Verney's Hwange, David Rogers

Elephants are the star species in Hwange. If you visit any waterhole from about 3 pm during the dry season  all you need to do is crack open a beer and watch as family after family take their thirsty turns. It’s not uncommon to see 200 elephants at a time and its a photographers delight to see the  thirsty youngsters arrive leading the dusty charge. Manga one, two and three waterholes were very close to Verney’s where we spent our first three nights and these became our popular sundowner spots.

Elephant slurp upwards of 20 000 litres a day so the waterholes take strain during the height of the winter months as do the forest which become victim to their enormous appetites.  The matriarchs never learned the long walk to the winter watering points and if  it were not for Zimbabwe Parks, Friends of Hwange and other donor groups  pumping the elephants would die.

Verneys Camp and the people

Verney's Hwange, David Rogers

 

Verneys has enormous canvas tents, luxurious linen and sophisticated fittings and the most delicious food. We loved sitting at the fire under the stars listening to the sounds of lions, hyena and elephants, cooking pizzas with the friendly staff and watching animals come to drink at the waterhole. The experience was typically Machaba  — a company that has  hand picked teams with years of experience and a cabinet already full of awards from their tented camps in Botswana.

In Zimbabwe they have an additional asset. For here in Zimbabwe, from customs to park officials, from professional guides to the those newbies lighting lamps, it’s hard to match the people for their with warmth. And their guides are among the finest in Africa.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″ last=”no” class=”” id=””]Verney's Hwange, David Rogers[/fusion_builder_column]
[fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″ last=”yes” class=”” id=””][/fusion_builder_column]

What you will see in Hwange

Verneys  is set in a teak forest in a remote area of the park and despite being just 12 months old, roan antelope, giraffe, zebra, elephants, kudu, lion and other game are finding its waterhole in increasing numbers. Hwange has 107 species of game (more than any other park in Zimbabwe) and and if you stay put at waterholes towards August and September when the dry season sets in who knows you might encounter. Wild dog, aardvark, serval and pangolin are among the special species found here.

Deteema Springs

It was a 5-hour drive through the forested heart of Hwange to reach our next camp at Deteema Springs. Here water gurgles from the rocks right in front of camp and, from late afternoon through the night, thirsty elephant bulls could be seen sipping at the source, like old boozers at a bar. The tents were a shade smaller than Verney’s but just as comfy and the location was amazing.

[fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″ last=”no” class=”” id=””][/fusion_builder_column]
[fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″ last=”yes” class=”” id=””][/fusion_builder_column]

One morning, the deep booming roar of a male lion stalking its territory woke us in the early hours.  At dawn, we followed his saucer-sized spoor right through camp along the edge of the Deteema waterway where we found him with females and cubs lazing on the dam wall. Apparently it was a fragment of a pride of 32.

We also had some of our best birding in the area around Deteema. The are 420 species of birds found in this IBA (important bird area) and these include martial eagle, racket tailed roller, southern ground hornbills, innumerable yellow-billed hornbills and good numbers of pearl spotted owlets.

Robins Camp and Deka

[fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Deka, Hwange, by David Rogers

Deka

Machaba also runs Robin’s Camp which lies a 30 minute drive from Deteema and was  previously Zimbabwe Parks Board accommodation. It has been rejuvenated with big lawns, great rooms, a swimming pool, a friendly bar and restaurant, and a campsite all of which are ideal for self-drivers.

Yet another Machaba creation lies to the west of Robins at Deka. From the deck we could hear lions calling from Botswana and if we looked beyond the pool over the scrubby plains we could make out buffalo crossing the Deka River into their territory. How I would have loved to spend longer at this remote and wonderful camp.

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″ last=”no” class=”” id=””][/fusion_builder_column]
[fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″ last=”yes” class=”” id=””][/fusion_builder_column]

A great investment in Zimbabwe

While wildlife and parks appear to be in great shape in Zimbabwe, the countries economy is under the cosh.  Consider visiting one of the community projects which Machaba support and to realize that supporting tourism here is supporting the people in Zimbabwe who need it most.

Hwange felt like the African parks some of us were lucky enough to grow up with – along with Mana Pools, South Luangwa and Kruger Park. You cannot experience better elephants anywhere in Africa and if you spend time you will discover its myriad other secrets. The trees in the park alone are incredible – in addition to  teak forests, there are  star chestnuts, giant camel thorns, Jackal berries, marulas, twisted baobabs, cathedral mopane and much more.

Find out more.

You can find out more about Machaba on www.machaba.com. For bookings please contact david@davidrogers.co.za as we are an agent for the company. You will never pay more by working through us. David Rogers is a lodge photographer and photo guide.

Verney's Hwange, David Rogers

You can see more pictures on these links

https://www.photosandafrica.com/photo-lodges-we-love/zimbabwe-lodges/hwange/deka-camp-machaba-2/[/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

How to buy the best travel insurance?

“I’ve just broken my arm.”

“I  had an accident, my leg is in plaster.”

“My mother died. I need to be with my family.”

“My employer has insisted that I cannot travel.”

“The airline I was using has gone insolvent.”

“My wife fell off the game viewer and need emergency medical treatment.”

These stories are real. When people should be concentrating on recovery or helping their loved ones to recover, it’s awful to start worrying about losing money too.

Nobody wants to cancel their travel arrangements, and we always do our best to help people recoup their losses.  It helps being a small company, with a very close relationship with our suppliers and we have been very successful in rolling over trips for clients who have not taken out travel insurance, or who have had insufficient cover for the value of their trip. However, we have no control over airline cancellation fees and for group departures or for travel during busy seasons, travel companies are not always able to be flexible.

It’s so much cleaner, easier and safer for clients to have travel and medical insurance. In fact, most companies now insist that clients are covered to protect themselves. Here is a checklist of ideas to get the best possible policy.

  • Does the policy offer cancellation and curtailment which is sufficient to cover the value of your trip including flights and ground arrangements? Many companies, such as TIC allows you to increase your cancellation limits.
  • Does the policy offer 24-hour medical evacuation, assistance and repatriation? These services are usually offered by a company such as Europ Assistance which have international toll free numbers.
  • Does the policy cover baggage, personal accident, electronics and compensation if the hotel or airline you are using goes bust.
  • Are you covered for your age?
  • Do you have any preexisting conditions that need to be specified?
  • Are you covered if you are if you are called up for military duty, jury duty or a work crisis?
  • Are you covered if your travelling partner becomes injured or is unable to travel.
  • Are you covered if the lodge or airline you are visiting goes insolvent?
  • Are you covered for the duration of your trip and for the area that you are visiting?

There are a number of really great products in the market and many of them have pretty easy to navigate online application forms. First prize is to ask your broker if he can recommend a product or discuss this with your travel agent booking flights in your own country.

We put in a 10-day travel period for a United States Citizen aged 65 visiting Zambia for June 2020 and this is what we came up with. These figures are in US dollars

We did the same 10-day period for a South African Citizen. These figures are in rands.

Some misconceptions about travel insurance. 

  • Usually there is some electronic insurance but this is usually quite limited. We suggest that you cover your electronics under your domestic or all risk insurance policy.
  • The fact that you have medical insurance does not mean that you can pop into a clinic for a check up. It is there for emergency treatment and evacuation and you will usually need to get authorization.
  • Don’t assume that your credit card or medical insurance offers you all of the above. Credit cards usually offer basic travel insurance perks and very few offer the emergency medical coverage or robust cancellation protection for the duration of your trip.

Please note that the above are mentioned as recommendations to buy the best travel insurance and we cannot be held responsible for your insurance choices.Insuremytrip.com is an aggregation site and gives a wide range of products to help you buy the best travel insurance.  It’s very good for senior travel and allows you to set the value of your trip quite accurately. Also, have a look at this useful blog on the subject.

We would be very interested to hear from readers about their travel insurance recommendations and suggestions.

Zambia’s Secret Season

Zambia’s Secret Season

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 16.38.01

David Rogers article about travel in the Emerald Season to South Luangwa

Safari rules say the dry season is best for spotting game. But if you visit the Luangwa Valley when it rains, you can explore by boat when the river is high, the flowers are blooming, the wildlife teeming and there’s no one else around.

By David Rogers published in Getaway Magazine, 2017

When it rains in eastern Zambia, it rains properly. Voluminous cumulonimbus clouds build tall above the landscape and unleash deafening cracks of thunder and flashes of lighting that explode across the wide African skies. With up to a billion litres of water in a single cloud, the deluge is tremendous, filling tributaries and grassy plains that all drain into the Luangwa River. These rains transform it overnight from a dry stream into a torrent that sweeps for 800 kilometres along the southern arm of the Great Rift Valley and into the Zambezi.

 

200703_south_luangwa_1196_davidrogers_col

For most camp operators in South Luangwa National Park, the rains mean the end of the season. It’s not that it rains all the time (the storms are short-lived and there are plenty of sunny days) but the rains turn the hard, sun-baked black cotton soil into sticky mud, which makes it impossible to drive and sludgy underfoot. Most lodges and all the bush camps close at the end of the dry season (October). However, there are two operators that celebrate the coming of the rains in style, launching their boats so that guests can explore the flooded lagoons and waterways and reach some of the most remote areas of the park. Along the river, with its textbook meanders and oxbow lakes, there are only two bridges and landscapes that have changed little since the first travellers set eyes on them in the 1800s.

For the past 12 years, I have led photographic trips each wet season. It’s possible to shoot right through the day, as the clouds act as a diffuser of light, highlighting the green landscape at its lushest best. The air is clear of dust, and the vivid outline of the Muchinga Escarpment forms a dramatic backdrop. It’s fascinating how much more relaxed animals are at this time of the year. The impala and puku are fit and strong and have the upper hand against the predators. And then there are the birds. Many of the little brown jobs become resplendent in colourful feathers for the breeding season, and migrants flock in from all over northern Africa and Europe.

From the gateway town of Mfuwe, its an hour’s drive to get to Nkwali Camp. It’s just what you would expect from an old-school safari outpost: the bar is built around an ebony tree and the open-sided thatched rooms all have spectacular views. Anyone who has been here in the dry season, when the Luangwa is a mere trickle, will be astounded by the flooding river, which is 150 metres wide and four metres deep. It moves past the camp silently carrying its load of orange mud, fallen trees and foliage washed out from the channels. At night, we lie awake listening to the grunt of hippos and barking baboons, a sound that suggests big cats are on the prowl. Days at Nkwali begin with the rhythm of a drum

at 5.15. As the skies start to reflect orange in the river, we head out on a drive. Guests are ferried by boat directly across the river to the vehicles, stored at a small natural harbour inside the park. We explore the network of all-weather roads that stretches for about 30 kilometres from Chichele Hills to the Luangwa Wafwa. Usually we will see our first lions, leopards and wild dogs as well as the endemic Thornicroft’s giraffe, the pale Cookson’s wildebeest, which occurs nowhere else, and the vividly striped Crawshay’s zebra.

After two or three days at Nkwali, we set off on our river journey, heading north-east. I tend to keep the group small, five people max, which leaves space for the boatman, my guide Jacob Shawa, and the fundi, an armed scout from the Zambian Wildlife Authority who keeps us safe from dangerous game. After bumping around on a vehicle, it’s blissfully relaxing being on the water and watching spectacular scenes flashing by. The river flows at nearly 10km/h, and its power is evident from the scores of century-old trees that lie fallen in the water. Some of their relatives teeter on the banks, holding on by just a few exposed roots. As we proceed upriver, we are heading into an area that has been entirely cut off by the rains. The only other people we see are weather-beaten local fishermen in dugout canoes.

I advise photographers to use fast shutter speeds when in the boat. That way they can capture the rush of hippos heading into the water and the massive crocodiles that slip off the banks. We also follow the path of black-headed egrets and fish eagles with our

cameras, trying to capture them in flight. This is the very best time for birding in South Luangwa, with summer migrants that include white-bellied Abdim’s storks, red-winged pratincoles and woodland kingfishers. Thanks to keen-eyed Jacob, we alwaysspot lions on these river trips too; seeing their wideeyed expressions, we realise they’ve probably not seen any humans for several months.

At Nsefu Camp, we are greeted by the same friendly team of cooks, waiters and staff that have met me here year on year. Nsefu dates back to 1952 and was started by the late Norman Carr, ‘godfather’ of Zambian conservation. The rondawels are on one

of the broadest sweeps of the Luangwa overlooking an elephant migration route. Sitting here beneath the thatch, you can almost sense the pipe-smoking explorers of yesteryear. On this most recent visit, I am surprised to note that the simple dining room where we’d had such fantastic meals and conversations over the years was gone. Nsefu is not immune to the erosion of the river; who knows how many years it will be before the camp is lost forever?

Fortunately, the bar is intact, the fridge is filled with cold Mosi beers, and a table has been set beneath the sprawling African ebony tree. We sit in the dappled shade and tuck into fresh salads, just-baked bread, cold meats and chilled white wine. Guests don’t need to go far to enjoy the wilderness here. While in camp we’ve seen elephant, buffalo,

lion, baboon and leopard. As the temperature cools in the afternoons, we gather for tea and delicious sticky cake before heading out. We potter up the Mwamba River, a narrow tributary of the Luangwa on the edge of the famous Lion Plain – always a magnet for animals. Cameras at the ready, we capture images of sunlit puku, zebras, giraffes and

elephants posing perfectly against the dark grey clouds, which often start to build at this time of day. It’s also possible to explore the Kaingo Forest, and driving our boat between the dark trunks of drowned African ebony trees is a haunting and awesome experience. At sunset, we park near a pod of hippos to enjoy our sundowners as they yawn away before emerging to graze at night. The highlight of a visit to Nsefu is the stork colony, one of the largest in southern Africa. It’s an awesome spectacle to watch hundreds of these large birds fly in with nesting material. It’s sometimes possible to

boat right into the colony, but mostly we make our way in on foot. If it has rained it can be a pretty muddy experience. I remember one woman who sank so deeply into the sludge that her shoe was lost forever. We always take it slowly, and on our last trip we were joined by an octogenarian – Jacob held his hand the whole way and carried a chair so he could take a breather.

After a few days at Nsefu, it’s hard not to leave a bit of our hearts behind, but as we boat downstream with the current, there is more excitement in store. We spend our last two nights at Luangwa River Camp, which has a pool, a wide deck and a taste of luxury after the remote experience upstream. It’s back into game-drive vehicles here to explore the extremely productive Mfuwe sector, including the Luangwa Wafwa (wafwa means ‘old’ and is also the local name for oxbow lakes). On our last visit, we saw 31 wild dogs in this area. The sighting took place after some heavy rain. That’s the thing about Emerald Season – when it’s very wet, the predators tend to stick to the high ground,

so their movements can be predicted. My movements are just as predictable – I have returned to this entrancing place, taken this journey into a forgotten part of Africa, in spring, summer, autumn and winter, more than 30 times. It’s my second home.

 

WHEN TO GO

For a boating safari, late January to early April is when the river is high enough to explore upstream and into flooded lagoons. June to October is the dry season, and high season. You can get good deals in November and early December at the lodges that are still open – incidentally, this is a great time, just before the rains, for predator action.

 

We can recommend travel in the Emerald Season to South Luangwa as this article about travel in the Emerald Season to South Luangwa featured in Getaway magazine reveals