Jump to content



Message to Guests.

Welcome to Safaritalk where we have been talking Safaris and wildlife conservation since 2006. As a guest you're welcome to read through certain areas of the forum, but to access all the facilities and to contribute your experience, ask questions and get involved, you'll need to be a member - so register here: it's quick, free and easy and I look forward to having you as a Safaritalker soon. Matt.

Photo

Zambezi Canoeing, Mana Pools and Chitake Springs Sept 2011


  • Please log in to reply
107 replies to this topic

#1 yeahyeah

yeahyeah

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (first-time visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 13 December 2011 - 02:55 AM

Background & Planning
My whole life I've wanted to go to Africa on safari. Based on SafariTalk members' input (http://safaritalk.ne...venture-safari/ - huge thanks to everyone that contributed!) and my own research, I settled on the following itinerary:

Sept 9 – Flight out of the US
Sept 10 – Layover in London
Sept 11 – Arrive in Lusaka
Sept 12-15 – Zambezi Canoe Trip
Sept 16-20 – Mana Pools National Park
Sept 20-23 – Chitake Springs
Sept 23-29 – Livingstone, Zambia / Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Sept 30 – Soweto, Joburg
Oct 1 – Fly home

While on safari I wanted to get away from crowds as much as possible, but still stay in an area with good game concentration. I had seen pictures of traffic jams in the more popular parts of Kruger and that's not what I was looking for. Paved roads? Forget that, I'm trying to spend some time in the wilderness. If I could sum up what I was looking for in 3 words it was WILD – REMOTE – ADVENTURE.

I also wanted to go somewhere you can walk. While I did want to go on some game drives, I didn't want to ONLY go on drives. In a vehicle you are somewhat separated, but when you step out of the vehicle you become part of the ecosystem, part of the food chain. Sounds are no longer drowned out by a diesel motor. You're able to notice things that you otherwise wouldn't whizzing by in a vehicle. You've left the comfort, safety, and confinement of the vehicle behind and exchanged it for vulnerability and freedom to move about wherever you please. When I'm in the States and want to experience nature, I don't go for a drive. I go for a walk, a hike if you will.

After doing some research, Mana Pools and Chitake seemed like the perfect place for me to go. Throw in the option of a canoe trip and I was sold. The location was set, now it was time to decide what camps to stay at.

I ruled out self drive early on. Being my first, and possibly only, trip to Africa I didn't want to miss a beat and I figured a guided safari would provide me an opportunity to see and learn as much as possible in my limited time. When I first started looking around to see what was available, I was surprised at how luxurious all of the camps were. This was not what I had in mind! I didn't want to stay in a tent larger than my bedroom complete with a nice big bed, or some place with a swimming pool (although that would have been nice at Chitake). I just wanted to stay in a regular, small a** tent and camp in the bush (lodges and fenced camping areas were also not an option). I wanted to “rough it” a little bit. Besides the cost, I thought doing without all those luxuries would add to the experience. The image that was in my mind of the typical African safari sure seems like it is not very typical at all. While I know that the “budget” and “rustic” safari camps exist, they seem to be outnumbered and require a little more digging. I thought it would be the other way around...

I narrowed it down to a handful of operators and sent them all emails requesting info and rates. I decided on Kavinga Safaris. There was one other company that provided me with a slightly cheaper quote (and believe me, budget was an issue) but Kavinga just gave me a better impression.

Sept 10 - London
After an overnight flight I arrived at Heathrow airport in the morning. When I was looking at flights, most of them had 5-8 hour layovers in London (At the time I was trying to avoid any layovers in countries for which the US requires a Yellow Fever shot, only to find out later that South Africa requires the shot if you've been to Zambia, oh well). I chose an itinerary with an 11 hour layover in London. After all, this wasn't only my first trip to Africa, it was my first trip outside of North America. Rather than just sit in an airport for hours, the long layover allowed me to get out and see London. I took the tube to... well I don't remember exactly but somewhere where I could get on one of those touristy double decker buses. I took the tour all around London and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The architecture in the city is beautiful. I got off the bus near Big Ben, got some fish and chips and a cask ale, and then spent some time walking around the area. Took the tube back to the airport and tried to contain my excitement for the overnight trip to Africa.

Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image


Coming up in my next post, something you might actually care about, like pictures of animals.

#2 ZaminOz

ZaminOz

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 2,360 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Perth, West Australia
  • Category 1:Born in Africa
  • Category 2:Conservationist/Naturalist

Posted 13 December 2011 - 03:45 AM

Good start so far ;)
*******
Warning, if any safari camps wish to employ me as a guide, I expect a salary far, far, more commensurate than my actual experience!

#3 twaffle

twaffle

    Order of the Pith

  • Moderators
  • 7,614 posts
  • Local time: 02:29 PM
  • Gender:Female
  • Category 1:Wildlife Photographer/Artist
  • Category 2:Resident in Africa/Former resident

Posted 13 December 2011 - 07:39 AM

First trip out of North America and you chose to walk in the wilds of Africa … fantastic!!!!!!

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#4 Atravelynn

Atravelynn

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 6,876 posts
  • Local time: 11:59 PM
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:USA
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 13 December 2011 - 04:14 PM

WILD – REMOTE – ADVENTURE--your itinerary delivered on those goals. I am impressed with your courage to do something like this for your first trip to Africa. I am also impressed with your day in London, the first time out of North America. You really go for it!

Your selection of photos to illustrate your hours in London is brilliant and they are very nice shots.

This will be a gem of a report!
When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#5 Sangeeta

Sangeeta

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 2,156 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 AM
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Washington DC metro area
  • Category 1:Tour Operator
  • Category 2:Tourist (regular visitor)

Posted 13 December 2011 - 06:41 PM

I remember your questions when you were planning this trip, yeahyeah. Sounds like you got exactly the type of rugged adventure you were looking for. Hope you've got the next installment lined up and ready to go :)

Zindagi na milegi dobara... Chalo Africa
You only live once...Go To Africa

www.chaloafrica.com


#6 Super LEEDS

Super LEEDS

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 878 posts
  • Local time: 05:59 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:Tourist (regular visitor)

Posted 13 December 2011 - 08:00 PM

Fish and chips!! Stop the report, doesn't get any better than that!!

Just kidding, fish and chips down south are not the real deal :D your safari on the other hand........ can't wait

#7 yeahyeah

yeahyeah

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (first-time visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 13 December 2011 - 11:17 PM

WILD – REMOTE – ADVENTURE--your itinerary delivered on those goals. I am impressed with your courage to do something like this for your first trip to Africa. I am also impressed with your day in London, the first time out of North America. You really go for it!

Your selection of photos to illustrate your hours in London is brilliant and they are very nice shots.

This will be a gem of a report!


Go big or go home I think someone once said. Thanks for the confidence that it will be a good report.

#8 yeahyeah

yeahyeah

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (first-time visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 13 December 2011 - 11:28 PM

Just kidding, fish and chips down south are not the real deal :D


South London, is that what you mean? I don't know the first thing about the UK.

Regardless of what any local can tell me, I thought the fish and chips were good :P . The pub I stopped in was a nice little quaint spot. The booth-like seats had huge indentations in them, obviously very old. Two older ladies told me that members of Parliament like to frequent the pub. It was right across the street from Big Ben, anyone know of it? It's called St. Stephen's Tavern.

#9 yeahyeah

yeahyeah

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (first-time visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 13 December 2011 - 11:57 PM

Sept 11
I arrived in Lusaka to a red setting sun and the sharp smell of smoke. There are two distinct smells that I seemed to encounter throughout my travels: smoke and BO. Anyway, everything I had read said not to travel by car at night so I got my bag and left the airport as soon as I could. Took a taxi to Lusaka Backpackers where I had already booked a bed in a dorm room. Got to the hostel well after dark and I'm told that it's all booked up and they don't have me down for a room. They recommend me to another hostel around the corner, Broads Backpackers I think it was. The taxi driver thinks he might know of it.

The street that the backpackers is supposed to be on is all torn up and barely driveable (turns out it's being torn up so that it can be repaved). As we're driving down the street another car comes from the other direction. At this point I'm worried that the whole thing is a big set up and I'm about to get robbed as there would be no way to escape on this road. Turns out to be a false alarm and we make it to the hostel which has room for me. Everything at the hostel is nice enough except for the bathroom/showers. Most people I know would have been pretty upset about it, but I really didn't care. I didn't come all the way to Africa to live like an American after all. My only real qualm about the hostel was that there was no place to lock up my valuables. I was staying in a shared room and was concerned about my camera gear and all the cash I had brought with me for Zim. There was a group of locals drinking at the bar and I didn't know who all would be staying in the room with me. I used a cable lock to lock my bag to the bed post and slid it under. It was getting late and I had to wake up early to catch the first minibus to Chirundu the next day.

I laid in bed, finding it difficult to sleep and wondering whether my dad was right. He had tried to talk me out of the trip. He was concerned because I had planned everything all by myself and was going alone as an inexperienced traveler for the first time to a third world country. He was sure that I was going to get robbed, kidnapped, detained, or something. He even went as far as to offer to pay for my entire trip if I would cancel my current plans and go as part of a tour group (He's a huge worrier and overreacted big time, knowing nothing about Zambia and Zimbabwe. He's traveled extensively for work having spent plenty of time in India, China, Mexico, South America, etc. but not all developing countries are the same eh?). I had an uneasy feeling, and hoped that I could pull this whole thing off...

Sept 12 (morning)
I woke early and one of the hostel workers helped me flag down a taxi to take to the bus station. I told him specifically which bus station to go to (the minibus one) but he took me to the wrong place (the charter buses) probably assuming that since I was a Mzungu that that's where I had meant. I told him no I need to catch a minibus and he then tried to get me to pay him more money to take me there. Again I told him no, you took me to the wrong place it's your fault, besides the bus stations aren't THAT far apart. We arrived and the taxi driver dropped me off at the minibus going to Chirundu.

Ahh the minibuses.
Posted Image

My first experience I was worried because I didn't know what to expect. The bus had makeshift seats, 15-17 people crammed in it, and I'd heard horror stories of crazy drivers. After my first two rides I felt comfortable traveling this way though, and I never had any crazy drivers. The whole thing is actually kind of interesting. Each minibus has a driver and what I'll call the hustler. The driver drives and the hustler gets people on and off, exchanges money, etc. It was clear that each minibus is not an independent operation by the way that I was switched between buses and drivers and hustlers sometimes changed mid-route. When nearing a stop, the driver will knock on the bus. If you want to get off, you knock back. Food and drink are bought and sold through the window at various stops along the way. But back to the story...

As I sat and waited to depart, I studied my surroundings. I'd say 3/4 of the buses have some sort of Christian slogan on the windshield like "Pray Hard", "Jesus 4 Life", "Blessed", and "God is my Judge". The other quarter were decorated with stickers of soccer teams, the most popular being Man U. When the bus was about half full we took off. By the time we actually got out of Lusaka the bus was full. I took notice of a sticker on the inside of the windshield, "Sit back and relax. We all make plans, but God is the decision maker." I somehow felt a little better than I did the previous morning.

About 2.5 hours and several herds of goats later, we arrived at Chirundu [Along the way we had actually passed a man walking on the side of the road wearing a t-shirt supporting a youth American football club from a town 15 miles from where I grew up! Small world! I had always wondered how the various t-shirts ended up in Africa until I saw this documentary a couple years ago]. I took a taxi down a dirt road to Zambezi Breezers which would serve as the launching point for the canoe trip. I was about an hour earlier than I needed to be and having not slept much the past few days I took a nap in the shade. A German couple and another solo German traveler who were part of the canoe trip showed up. Eventually the guide showed up, about 2 hours late. I never found out the reason why but assume that the reason is “it's Africa”. That was our whole group, nice and small. We got in the canoes and we were off...

I lied. No animals this post. Next post. I promise.

Edited by yeahyeah, 13 December 2011 - 11:58 PM.


#10 twaffle

twaffle

    Order of the Pith

  • Moderators
  • 7,614 posts
  • Local time: 02:29 PM
  • Gender:Female
  • Category 1:Wildlife Photographer/Artist
  • Category 2:Resident in Africa/Former resident

Posted 14 December 2011 - 01:40 AM

Intrepid indeed. What a great start and I love the photo of the mini van. I collect photos of some of the slogans on the Kenyan matatus (mini buses) and should dig some up, very inventive.

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#11 yeahyeah

yeahyeah

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (first-time visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 14 December 2011 - 02:10 AM

Sept 12 (afternoon) -Sept 15 – Zambezi Canoe Trip
The canoe outfitter was Riverhorse Safaris. This was a participatory safari so we were expected to help set up camp and wash dishes and such. Each night we camped out on an island in the middle of the river. We carried everything with us in our canoes as we traveled and slept on mats about 1.5 inches thick. The food was pretty good. Not gourmet, but about what I expected. Going to the bathroom involves digging a hole with an oar, doing your business, and then covering with sand.

Our guide is Martin, a 33 year old black Zimbabwean from Siavonga. He's been guiding for 9 years and shared with me that this will probably be his last. He's getting married this year and doesn't want to start a family and be away months at a time. He also said that being a guide has provided him with the income to be able to study to be an accountant, which is what he plans on doing. I wonder how much he'll miss guiding? It's funny how I have an office job, but dream about quitting to do something that I'm more passionate about even though it would mean making less money. Martin has a job that he's passionate about, but is going to quit for an office job in order to be home more and make more money. Perhaps it's a little bit of the grass is always greener? Nevertheless, it's apples and oranges. There's no comparison of our situations in life.

I don't remember the exact routine and didn't write it down, but the typical day goes something like this: Wake up. Eat breakfast. Do some canoeing. Stop for an apple or similar snack and to get something to drink. Do some more canoeing. Stop somewhere for lunch, and take a break for an hour or two. Canoe some more. Set up camp on an island. Eat dinner. Retreat to bed. Repeat.

Throughout the trip we see plenty of hippo, crocs, elephants, babboons, vervet monkeys, and some antelope and fish eagles. My favorite parts of the safari were the first day and last evening. The first day we paddled down a small channel with grass and reeds on either side. We passed a few elephants about 15 meters away.

Posted Image Posted Image

Zambezi River Canoe Trip by ru55ell14, on Flickr


The last evening we landed on an island with 7 elephants on it. Before dinner, I washed up in the shallows watching two elephants 50 or so meters away. I should have asked someone to take a picture for me. I love campfires (who doesn't?) and we built one for the first time this night. When we woke up the elephants were still around.

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image


A few different times during the trip we walked around on some of the islands in order to get a better look at some ele's and hippo. There was a big full orange moon each night and the sunsets were beautiful. At the end of the trip we drove back to Zambezi Breezers where I spent the night before heading to my next destination.

The canoe trip wasn't what I hoped it would be. The descriptions I've read and first person accounts from people I spoke to were much more adventurous than our trip. Depending on who you are, this can be a good or a bad thing. I never once felt unsafe at all. We stayed a good distance away from any hippos. We didn't get anywhere near as close as I've seen pictures. We didn't paddle as close to the banks as I would have liked, we were much too close to the middle of the river for most of the trip. I think this has more to do with the particular guide than the safari company. He mentioned that he's getting married and quitting after this year, why take chances now? He was also alone in a canoe with more supplies than the rest of us had so he was doing more work. A more direct route down the river is easier for him. My partner in the canoe (who may even be reading this :]) never wanted to stop paddling so we were constantly in front of the guide, a no no that was explained to us from the beginning. The guide may not have trusted us given that we didn't stay behind him at all times like we were supposed to. Regardless, I had a great time.

Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image


Posted Image
Sunset over the Zambezi River by ru55ell14, on Flickr


Posted Image
Zambezi River Canoe Trip by ru55ell14, on Flickr


Posted Image
Zambezi River Canoe Trip by ru55ell14, on Flickr

Posted Image
Sunset Over the Zambezi River by ru55ell14, on Flickr


Posted Image
Zambezi River Canoe Trip by ru55ell14, on Flickr


Posted Image
Sunset over the Zambezi River by ru55ell14, on Flickr


Posted Image
Sunset at Zambezi Breezers by ru55ell14, on Flickr


Edited by yeahyeah, 14 December 2011 - 03:55 AM.


#12 yeahyeah

yeahyeah

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (first-time visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 14 December 2011 - 02:31 AM

Intrepid indeed. What a great start and I love the photo of the mini van. I collect photos of some of the slogans on the Kenyan matatus (mini buses) and should dig some up, very inventive.


You definitely should!

I have a lot of pictures of animals and Victoria Falls, but I only got a few of the everyday Africa stuff. I decided to be safe rather than sorry so I didn't take out my DSLR. I think this was over cautious and if (when?) I go back I definitely will take lots of pics of everything.

#13 Raelond

Raelond

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 36 posts
  • Local time: 08:59 PM
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Canada
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:Tourist (regular visitor)

Posted 14 December 2011 - 03:51 AM

Enjoying your report and pictures and look forward to more, as I am going to Zimbabwe in August.

#14 dikdik

dikdik

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 3,073 posts
  • Local time: 06:59 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:South Africa
  • Category 1:Resident in Africa/Former resident
  • Category 2:---

Posted 14 December 2011 - 04:44 AM

Brings back memories. We did the canoe safari as a honeymoon trip. Recorded on Film camera. - I wonder where those photos are now.

They are very cautious of hippo. Things go wrong so quickly, and by that time its too late to take evasive action. We surprised a hippo once who come running out the reeds smashing into the water between the canoes. Lions roaring all night, and a pretty close encounter with an elephant. Our guide also caught a monster of a tiger fish.

That said, you have a pretty close encounter of elephant yourself. Ahhh and those sunsets - beautiful.

Cant wait to hear about Mana pools.

There's none so blind as those who will not see.


#15 yeahyeah

yeahyeah

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (first-time visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 14 December 2011 - 02:47 PM

Brings back memories. We did the canoe safari as a honeymoon trip. Recorded on Film camera. - I wonder where those photos are now.

They are very cautious of hippo. Things go wrong so quickly, and by that time its too late to take evasive action. We surprised a hippo once who come running out the reeds smashing into the water between the canoes. Lions roaring all night, and a pretty close encounter with an elephant. Our guide also caught a monster of a tiger fish.

That said, you have a pretty close encounter of elephant yourself. Ahhh and those sunsets - beautiful.

Cant wait to hear about Mana pools.


Look for the pictures and then write a trip report :) That sounds like an interesting honeymoon.

I understand being cautious and I'm glad they are, otherwise there'd be a lot more dead people. Another reason why the trip wasn't all that I think it could have been is that once we were in Mana Pools, we were paddling on the Zambian side of the river. I don't understand that unless we weren't allowed to be on the other side. Is there an invisible border in the middle of the river that guides are supposed to respect? We departed from Zambia but I think I remember hearing/reading somewhere that Riverhorse is licensed in both countries or something like that. Don't mean to complain about my canoe trip. I had a really good time.

#16 Paolo

Paolo

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 3,448 posts
  • Local time: 06:59 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 14 December 2011 - 02:54 PM

A bit odd. You normally see canoeing parties in Mana Pools (on the Zim side). Must have been a license matter, as you mention.

By the way, the first part of 2011 had an higher rate of hippo and croc attacks to canoes than usual, probably due to high water.

Edited by Paolo, 14 December 2011 - 02:56 PM.


#17 yeahyeah

yeahyeah

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (first-time visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 14 December 2011 - 06:20 PM

A bit odd. You normally see canoeing parties in Mana Pools (on the Zim side). Must have been a license matter, as you mention.


At one point there was another Riverhorse canoe trip ahead of us. We stopped to have a look at some hippos on an island while the other group paddled around the island seemingly continuing towards the Mana Pools shoreline although I can't confirm that. Also, I just took a look at the Riverhorse webpage. It states that they canoe along both sides of the river. Must have just been our guide. Doesn't make sense because I saw a lot of tiny animals on the other side of the river. I should have asked about it but didn't think to at the time, I was just going along with the flow.

By the way, the first part of 2011 had an higher rate of hippo and croc attacks to canoes than usual, probably due to high water.


Interesting. In Chitake I stayed with a couple that did a Mana canoe trip for the 4 days prior. Their canoe was bumped by a croc. The party behind them capsized on the first day (don't remember why) and decided not to continue with the trip. I'm sure their cameras were ruined. Glad I wasn't in that party.

#18 Super LEEDS

Super LEEDS

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 878 posts
  • Local time: 05:59 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:Tourist (regular visitor)

Posted 14 December 2011 - 06:44 PM

South London, is that what you mean? I don't know the first thing about the UK.

Regardless of what any local can tell me, I thought the fish and chips were good :P


Haha, no, south of England :D the fish and chips up here is so much better. But let's not allow that to detract from your report. I can't wait for more and really like your bluntness about the ins-and-outs of certain activities.

#19 Atravelynn

Atravelynn

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 6,876 posts
  • Local time: 11:59 PM
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:USA
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 15 December 2011 - 01:28 AM

Don't share that tale of the capsized canoe with your dad.

I would not have liked the hyper-paddler in your canoe.


Beautiful sunrise/set shots! Great eles.
When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#20 yeahyeah

yeahyeah

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 96 posts
  • Local time: 12:59 AM
  • Category 1:Tourist (first-time visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 15 December 2011 - 03:19 AM

I would not have liked the hyper-paddler in your canoe.


It's not that he was a crazy paddler, but we were going downstream the whole time and didn't need to constantly paddle. We were in no rush and we were constantly in front of the guide. I told him that as long as we were in front of the guide I wasn't going to paddle. He was good company though.





© 2006 - 2014 www.safaritalk.net - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.
Welcome guest to Safaritalk.
Please Register or Login to use the full facilities.