Thursday, September 26, 2013

South Luangwa, Zambia (part 1)

Our third and final safari stop was in an area we'd never visited before: South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia. We kept hearing great things about it everywhere we went in southern Africa, including the fact that this area has the largest concentration of leopards of any place in the world. Since it had been nearly a decade since we'd seen leopards in the wild, we were really excited about that.

We flew from Livingstone to Lusaka and then on to Mfuwe on small prop planes.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Livingstone, Zambia

We had a road transfer between Chobe in Botswana and Livingstone, Zambia. The border crossing is at Kazungula, where the Zambezi River provides the border between the two countries. Actually, there are four countries that meet at Kazungula: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia. The river at this point is about 400 meters across, and there is no bridge. The only way to cross is on the Kazungula Ferry. This is also one of the major trucking routes of southern Africa, and the ferry is only large enough to take a few tractor-trailers at a time.

As we approached the border, the queue of tractor-trailers was at least a mile long. We asked our driver how long they would have to wait for their turn to board the ferry, and he said as long as a week! As we drew closer to the border, we could see that a small town was set up on each side of the river, with shops, food stalls, bars, and all sorts of things needed to keep the truckers occupied while they waited.  We also saw many prostitutes, of course.  We got our passports exit-stamped and then took a small passenger boat across the river. I wish I'd taken photos of the ferry and the lines of trucks and the stalls along the side of the road!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chobe, Botswana

On our first trip to Africa over 15 years ago, Doug and I did an overland camping safari. Our trip took place mostly in Chobe National Park in Botswana (which is huge enough to spend a week in, easily), and our first campsite was near the banks of the Chobe River. We stopped by the famous Chobe Game Lodge while we were there, and I always thought it would be a great place to visit someday. It turned out to be one of the three places Doug found in southern Africa that would accept five-year-old children, and so we decided to pay it a visit.

The lodge was made famous in the 1950s as the place where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got married for the second time. (There's even a framed copy of their Botswana marriage license on display.) It fell into disrepair in the 1970s, but was refurbished and reopened in the 1980s. It's very special because it's the only permanent structure allowed in the entire park.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

On our first trip to Africa in 1997, Doug and I stopped in Victoria Falls. When the Zambezi River is high, this waterfall becomes the widest curtain of water on the planet. Even when the water isn't high, it's a spectacular sight. The falls lie on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, and on our very first visit all those years ago, we started on the Zambian side. Livingstone was a very quiet town then; there was really one hotel set up for tourists coming to see the falls, and we were among just a handful of guests staying there. The Zimbabwe side, in contrast, felt like spring break. The town was full of backpackers there to party and go whitewater rafting and bungee jumping before they headed off on safaris. The streets were full of locals and tourists alike, all with big smiles on their faces.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Madikwe, South Africa

In 1997, Doug and I traveled to Africa for the first time, and on that trip we did an overland (i.e. camping) safari in Botswana. We spent nine days with a small group of people and a guide exploring northern Botswana and the Okavango Delta. It was an amazing experience, and we immediately decided we wanted to do it again. Two years later, we were back, this time staying in a variety of tented camps and lodges throughout the delta, and we loved it even more. Over the next decade, we returned to southern Africa five more times and explored camps in South Africa and Namibia as well, but the Okavango Delta was the place we loved the most.

We always planned to bring Carter to Africa as soon as he was old enough to go on safari – which is generally considered to be 8 or 9 years old, and in some places, 12. But we couldn't bear the idea of traveling through Africa and not having some sort of safari experience, and so last fall Doug began a long search for camps and lodges throughout southern Africa where we could realistically and safely take a five-year-old on safari. He found a total of three that said they would take small children, and we decided to go to all of them. Jaci's Camp in Madikwe, South Africa, was the first of these.