Days 23 to 25

September 14, 2012 - Kasanka National Park, Zambia


We left the community education centre after we had met the manager and had some of their projects explained to us. Their problem is the same as that of many conservation areas, in that the local people who are mainly subsistence farmers cannot see the value of using the land for conservation when they are struggling to feed their families. So they are trying to teach them about sustainability and the value of conservation areas to them. They were training them in fish-farming and bee-keeping as well as showing them about composting and sustainable farming. The park itself employs about 1000 workers, who seem to travel enormous distances by bike to get to work. Kingfoot, for instance, worked 25 days on and 5 days off and had to travel for about 8 hours on his bike to get home for his days off, and then, of course, 8 hours back again.

So we were back at the gate at 8.30 am and checked into the park. Long delays as the ‘Commercial Officer’ at the gate messed up the calculation for our entry fees and had to redo the whole thing – and it’s all very laboriously hand-written.

But eventually we were in the park. What a beautiful place and what a warm welcome! We arrived at the main camp which is beautifully situated on a large lake with lots of birdlife and hippos grunting away in the water. We were met by Sam, a young bat ecologist from Norwich who, with his partner Heather, is now managing the hospitality side of things here. He is here for at least 18 months, in which time he is managing things and has to train up a local person to take over from him when he leaves. He sat us down, offered us a lovely cup of coffee and a biscuit and proceeded to tell as all about the park – what to do, where to go to see game and birds, and what is available in terms of food, etc.

From the main camp we drove about 10 km to our campsite at Pontoon Basic Camp which is on the Kasanka River. The campsite itself, which is all ours, has huge trees, a thatched kitchen/dining area, a bucket shower and a ‘long drop’ toilet. Our view is framed by large trees onto the river which is slow-moving and winds through large stands of papyrus grass which shelter all sorts of wildlife. Our camp attendant, Warren, asks what time we want to shower and what time we want our fire made up and arrives with hot water at the appointed time or else with his sidekick and loads of wood and our fire is made!

The first morning we woke up very early and took a river boat ride. What an experience! We had to drive some distance to Luongwe camp where Boaz takes you on a little dingy with an outboard motor, puttering up the Luongwe River. We moved gently through the forest, watching the early morning light on the trees and the water, seeing loads of birds – bee-eaters, kingfishers, turacos, but NO Pel’s Fishing Owl (not seen for the past week or so). This was another of those magical experiences that we hadn’t expected. How lucky we are! Back at camp we watched puku (seems to be the local equivalent of impala), bushbuck and the shy Situtunga come out of the reeds to drink at our stretch of river. The rare situtunga is a speciality here and often not seen. This morning very early, we watched a mother and very young calf suckling just across the river from our campsite.

We also visited Fibwe Hide which is not for the faint-hearted. It is a platform 18m up in the top of a giant tree overlooking the flood plain of the river where the wildlife come out of the papyrus grass to feed. The platform itself is pretty rickety and one has to climb up a very roughly made ladder to get there. Add a bit of a wind and I can’t say I enjoyed the experience. However, the view from up there is stupendous.

Then last night we went over the Main Camp for a pizza which is the chef’s speciality. We went over early and had a beer and watched the birds and hippos and climbed up to their viewing platform – not quite as bad as Fibwe Hide, but scarey nonetheless. Coming down, Terry, who was above me on the ladder, managed to drop his tripod onto my hand. No damage done, thank goodness, just a slightly bruised left hand, and at least I stopped the tripod from falling to the ground and breaking! We had a delicious pizza and a lovely fresh salad made with veggies mostly from Sam and Heather’s veggie patch. Especially nice after we have been eating mostly out of tins and the odd bit of fresh meat when we can get it. Fresh veggies are not easily found in the African bush.

Today, very early, we did what they call the River Drive along the Kasanka River. Up at sparrow fart and all along the river we watched huge herds of puku and smaller groups of other buck grazing on the green, green floodplain of the river. The pools were full of storks and other birds, while vultures and fish eagles circled and called overhead. A sublime experience. We did keep our car windows closed and the aircon on, as the horseflies and bugs are a problem. I must say, I am becoming a bit worried about my husband who now says he is sure the flies are following us as they know he is in the car.

Tomorrow, we leave here and head for Lusaka. We are looking forward to driving on some good roads for a change.


1 Comment

Rufus:
September 16, 2012
My word but you two are having Adventures Of Note. Enjoy every minute! xx
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