Click here to see images of the Botswana leg of the KAZA trip
So how do you start a story about the #KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area in Namibia? That’s pretty straightforward: you just tell people how you got revved by a pissed-off hippo bull on the #Linyanti River. Yup. Really.
Anyone who knows this area on the #Caprivi Strip also knows it is often referred to as the ‘Little Delta’. This rates as one of Namibia’s undiscovered tourism gems, right on par with Botswana’s #Okavango, and is an integral part of the #Kavango–#Zambezi TFCA.
Now, the Linyanti is a river of three names: it starts off as the Quando in #Angola, then becomes the Linyanti where it slices through the Namibian pan-handle, before finally assuming its role as the Chobe River at the headwaters to Botswana’s iconic wetland system.
Our #KAZA trip coincided with the very end of the dry season, and this means narrow channels winding via waving stands of papyrus and other aquatic sedges. We left Nkasa Lupala Tented Lodge – an Italian-run establishment oozing quirkiness and earthy continental style – on a combo game drive and boat trip just after dawn, and launched our double-decker boat onto the river a couple of hours later.
Soon we were chugging along at a leisurely pace, with leaf-hopping jacanas, sedge warblers and Goliath herons in a flutter all round. There were hippos, too, loads of them, languishing in lazy pods in the lily ponds lining the main channel. In a particularly narrow section of the river, two bulls surfaced ahead of us, and a bit of a cat and mouse situation began to develop.
Every dozen metres or so, they would surface to check our progress, snorting in disdain before scudding below the surface again. This Mexican stand-off continued for about 15min as our guide slowly pushed forward, until both hippos disappeared to leave a clear way forward.
Or so we thought. I was perched on the photo deck, approximately the size of a large double bed and 3m or so off the water surface, and scanning forward to see if I could spot them, when the one bull hit the boat from behind. He did so without any warning and with brute force, launching from the water like a 3-ton bewhiskered behemoth, and exploding a couple of metres from the water to hit the rear roof support with metal-crunching impact.
Fortunately, his gaping jaw connected with the metal pillar, leaving a gouge in the alloy and dangerously rocking the boat, but missing one of the passengers by centimetres. If the bull launched even 30cm to the right, he probably would have launched right onto the seat row, and in all probability overturned the boat.
As it was, the top deck rocked wildly through a good 30 degrees, and we scrambled to grab kit and also see if the hippo was preparing for a second charge. Annabelle, who basically stared straight into the murderous maw, was handling the situation pretty well, despite being in an acute state of shock, and we continued onwards in a state of high alert.
The rest of the cruise was uneventful in comparison, but with some exceptional bird sightings, including wattled crane, open-billed stork, rufous heron and long-tailed shrike. Large herds of semi-aquatic lechwe roamed the swamps, while kudu, wildebeest, impala and the full assortment of smaller mammals dotted the arid interior of the #NkasaRupala is a g of the National Park.
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Five days into our #KAZATransfrontier Conservation Area Media Trip, and about to leave #Zambia, Africa’s ‘Sleeping Giant’. Once you start tripping this vast interior, you soon understand why locals refer to to it as such: only 15 million people in a country the size of mainland Europe, with Kafue National Park alone bigger than Belgium.
This means you often feel as if you’re lost in terra incognito, with no other tourist for hundreds of miles. The exception, of course, is #Livingstone and the incomparable #VictoriaFalls. Here the mighty #MosiOaTunya – or the ‘Smoke that Thunders’, if you will – spectacularly plunges into the basalt maw of the #BatokaGorge.
From our Livingstone adventure, we fast forwarded via a bumble bee-like ‘bush caravan’ plane to @GreenSafaris #IlaLodge. Situated on the edge of the langurous #Kafue River, you will literally feel life slowing down while you gaze out over this incredible waterway.
Hundreds of hippo laze in the cool water, and watch you while you spin for African pike and tilapia amidst rafts of river grass. Or you can cruise Kafue in a #greensafariselectrical boat while you scan the riverine forests for the more than 225 species of bird occurring naturally here.
From here, we departed for the #Sioma#Ngwezi Community Park on #zambia‘s western border with #angola. Tourism in this section of Zambia is nearly non-existent, but if there is one man championing the ‘Western Province, it is @GavinJohnson. He immediately whisked us away to the #Sioma #Ngonye Falls.
A sketchy canoe trip and rock-hopping scramble gets you to the base of at least a dozen different cataracts, as the Zambezi splits into multiple channels here. The main falls are around 50m wide – in the dry season – and the piece de resistance is a perfect pool to swim in a la #DevilsPool!
Dip into the mighty surge of one of Africa’s greatest rivers here, and feel the visceral tug as you drift amidst the rocks while river crabs nibble your toes. Then retire to the world’s most perfect beach camp and enjoy an ice cold #mozi lager!
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The ‘Sleeping Giant’. That’s what many local people call Zambia, and once you start traveling into the vast interior, you soon understand why. Only 15 million people in one of Africa’s largest countries – think the size of mainland Europe and you get an idea – with Kafue National Park alone way bigger than Belgium, for example.
Tourism has become the 3rd biggest income generator in the country, but yet you still feel as if you are lost within some great blank space on the map. After our first few days here on the #KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area Media Trip, I’ve come to realize this is unarguably Zambia’s greatest selling points: space.
Unlike neighbouring Tanzania or Kenya, you will have the national parks and conservation areas pretty much to yourself. No game viewer traffic jams; no elbowing into the line-up to get a photo; no queue-jumping rage at the lion kills … Sure, you may have to work a bit harder for your wildlife experiences, but they will be 100% uniquely yours.
The landscapes are pretty diverse, too, with everything from vast swathes of #miombo woodland and arid savanna, to big-ass gorges, World Heritage Site waterfalls, gargantuan rivers and shimmering wetland lakes the size of inland seas. And the main entry point, unsurprisingly, is at Livingstone, on the edge of the world famous #MosiOaTunya, or the ‘Smoke that Thunders’.
If you are planning a visit to #Zambia this is a pretty good place to start, with excellent tourism infrastructure, jaw-dropping views, countless lodges and adrenaline experiences, and of course one of the world’s ‘Seven Natural Wonders’. And in my opinion, the best way to experience the full might of the tour de force of Mother Nature is from the #DevilsPool.
An early start from @ahahotelslodges and a zig-zag boat trip darting downriver amidst rocky islands and somnambulent hippos get you to the edge of the the falls, where the mist billows skyward from the belly of #Batoka Gorge. Even in dry season, it is an awesome (in the real sense of the word) sight to see one of Africa’s greatest rivers cascading over the edge of the plunging cliffs separating Zambia and #zimbabwe.
Once there, you don your board shorts and swim through an eddy stream to an outcrop overlooking the falls. A short scramble gets you into the ‘Devil’s Pool’ proper, with the full might of #VicFalls thundering by you a few meters to your right. Imagine a natural jacuzzi whirlpool, separated from a 100m odd drop onto the razor sharp rocks on the gorge bed, and you may get an inkling of the aqua adventure awaiting you here in the heart of the Lower Zambezi National Park.
And breathe. Then fast-forward via #bushcaravan aeroplane – with Ignatius dodging the odd cumulonimbus stack – to the @GreenSafaris #IlaLodge, situated right on the edge of the langurous #Kafue River. Here life slows down while you gaze out over pods of hippo lazing in the cool waters, on sorties to spin for African pike amidst rafts of river grass, or while cruising the banks as you scan the riverine forests for the more than 225 species of bird occurring naturally here.
We had a park the size of #Kruger to ourselves, give or take a couple of other tourists at our lodge. There are of course a few other establishments, but if you compare the 15 lodges here to the 3000 around #KNP, you can but shake your head in amazement.
And so day flowed into night, with the baritone hippo chorus and deep base UUUUMMFF of distant lion punctuating the dark-time hours. Morning morphed into midday heat beating down, with unreal magic hours making for sunsets beyond compare.
Tomorrow we head for #SiomaNgwezi Park on the border with #angola, and a whole new set of wilderness experiences here in the #KavangoZambezi#TFCA, the largest of all the TFCAs in southern Africa. Kudos to @USAID_SAfrica, @Boundless_ZA and @Peace_Parks for their massive support of the #KAZA Project
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