Lower Zambezi National Park
On July 14th Jos and Thea visited us in Zambia. It was there first experience being on African soil and also there first experience travelling overland with a 4x4 with rooftop tent.
After an extensive walkthrough and inspection of 2 hours with Herman, we where ready to have our first night on the campsite which was just around the corner.
The next day we left Livingstone and drove towards our first destination, Lower Zambezi NP. The long tar road towards the north looks good and we make quite the speed. Potholes appear in the road: big craters that jolt the car and instantly scramble any eggs stored in the on-board fridge.
These potholes are all the more difficult to dodge when you’re distracted by all the road traffic along the way. Homecoming schoolchildren shuffle along the roadside, while dad is managing his heard. Occasionally a cow thinks that the grass on the other side of the road is better and heads for it, not minding the traffic. Black marks on the tarmac clearly shows that this happens often, maybe too often as we hit the brake multiple times, just barely missing a goat. Due to this traffic we stopover at a farm and spent the night there before we had out the next day.
There are 20 national parks and 34 game management areas in the country. South Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi rank among the finest game parks in the world.
The Park is still relatively undeveloped and although the park covers an area of 4.092 m2, most of the game is concentrated along the valley floor where the mighty Zambezi
river flows. The diversity of animals is less compared to the other parks, but the opportunity to get close to lion’s, elephants, buffalo’s and other animals are spectacular. The Park lies opposite the famous Mana Pools Reserve in Zimbabwe, so the whole area on both sides of the Zambezi River is a massive wildlife sanctuary.
After extensive studying wild animals’ behaviour and watching many Youtube video’s of how not to drive in wild parks, Jos and Thea where ready for the real deal. Luckily, they missed the big elephant that came charging at us while we passed, or they would have never set foot in the park. Even we where spooked as we had never seen such a big elephant up close, maybe a bit too close.
Before entering the park, we had to cross a small river while hippo’s and crocodiles where waiting on the side line, ready to enter the water if we would fail to get across. Although the front of the car submerged, we managed to keep our feet dry and safely crossed it.
At the entrance gate we where welcomed by 2 armed guards and after some formalities we where ready to go into the park, but not before we asked them everything they new about where to find the wild animals.
Lions where spotted not far from the entrance. The only problem was that we had to go off the regular track and drive through a dry river bed to get there. On your first self-drive through a national park this can be a bit too much excitement. Jos and Thea, on the other hand, had full trust in us and followed us. There trust was strengthened as a few safari cars where coming our way. They were signalling us that lions where just around the corner. We couldn’t wish for a better start. We found 5 lions, of which one was still a cub, laying in the grass and taking a rest of their hunt during the night.
Lions “sleep” most of their days, up to 20 hours. (deze tekst mag wel onder de foto)
Back on the track the bush became more dense and branches were scratching our cars. This wasn’t our main concern as we were on the look-out for a bigger problem, which would be an elephant on the road blocking our way. And without setting rules with Thea and Jos or having a walkie talkie, it would be hard to tell them that elephants weren’t letting us pass by. Just when we went around the corner a big herd of elephants was blocking our way and was coming for us. We stopped immediately to give them space and time to do their business. One after the other came out of the bush and crossed the road. A few big guys stayed on the road and watched our every move while pushing forward. Ten minutes passed by while we were holding each other in a stalemate. Eventually we turned the car and drove back.
On the way back, we came across more elephants. Luckily, they weren’t blocking our way. Even though, we had to be careful cause a wrong move could make the elephants get angry. Especially when they have kids around. This was clearly made to us when we passed a few elephants and they made a charge. A big fallen tree stopped them from getting close. If this tree wasn’t there, god knows what could have happened. Although we passed them, Jos and Thea where still waiting in fear until the elephants calmed down. After 10 minutes where passed, Jos saw a gap and charged passed them, back to safety. After this small incident we had enough fun for the day and went back to the campsite to talk about our experience around the campfire while enjoying the river.
Each day on safari is a harvest for tales around the campfire as everybody has their own experience and see different things along the way. Keep in mind though that it is an unspoken rule that the element of danger is allowed to be exaggerated for maximum storytelling effect 😉. Don’t exaggerate too much as a restless sleep can be the result.
There aren’t many campsites in the vicinity of the park. The closest is Mvuu Lodge, where you pay $28 pppn for garden view and $30 pppn for river view. It is still 1 hour to get to the entrance of the park, but along the way you will already see wildlife. A cheaper option is Kiambi where you pay $15 pppn. From the campsite to the park is about 2 hours drive.
There is 1 route which goes all the way through the park. Keep in mind that your car has a high clearence and take enough time as it will take around 6 hours to get from gate to gate.
--------------------------------- Best Chris & Inge --------------------------------------------------------