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42 Travel Zambia May 2009 People People Vakacha Vakacha Habitat Habitat Nkani Nkani THE NORTHERN WATERFALLS CIRCUIT ( northeastern Zambia) A two- to three- week self- drive circuit from Lusaka is the only practical way to explore the stunning and remote areas of northern Zambia. Days 1- 3: Depart Lusaka on the Great North Road ( branch right at Kapiri Mposhi, or else you'll end up in the Copperbelt), and head for Serenje and the Kasanka turn- off. Purchase supplies and fuel here for your stay in Zambia's rapidly emerging ' bat park' ( bats in residence from October to January). Days 4- 6: Continue to the Bangweulu Swamps, located just off the Chinese Road, as you head north towards Mansa. The wetlands offer an opportunity to search for elusive shoebill storks and endemic black lechwe. Days 7- 10: From Mansa the badly potholed route north deteriorates steadily until it becomes a gravel road after Kawambwa. The northern waterfalls loop offers many rustic campgrounds, with sensational views. Ntumbachusi, Kabweluma and Lumangwe are among Zambia's fi nest cascades and each well worth a visit. Days 11- 14: Head to Ndole Bay Lodge on Lake Tanganyika for some well- deserved rest. Located on the edge of Sumbu National Park, it offers great beaches, fi shing, snorkelling, diving and excellent hiking in the neighbouring park. Days 15- 18: The route back to Lusaka ( via Kasama and Mpika) takes you to Mutinondo Wilderness. Enjoy a few fi nal days of hiking, swimming and generally kicking back at this delightful rustic lodge, perched on the lip of the Luangwa escarpment. But tear yourself away in time for your return fl ight from Lusaka. Road trips for the rugged Zambia's best- known attractions, such as Victoria Falls and South Luangwa, come laid on a plate for the visitor. But what of those many destinations that lie far from any airstrip? Stephen Cunliffe took to the road and discovered two excellent routes for those adventurous enough to explore Zambia under their own steam. THE WILD WEST CIRCUIT ( southwestern Zambia) A two- to three- week route west from Livingstone takes you across the remote western reaches of Barotseland and returns to Lusaka via Kafue National Park. Days 1- 3: Start with a couple of days acclimatisation in Livingstone, where you can marvel at the spectacular Victoria Falls and sample some of Africa's fi nest adventure sports, before tackling Zambia's ' wild west'. Days 4- 8: From Livingstone follow the excellent tarred road west to the Namibian border at Sesheke ( last guaranteed fuel until Mongu). Take your time on the shocking road to Senanga and break the journey at Mutemwa Lodge on the upper Zambezi - an excellent base for the neighbouring Sioma Ngwezi National Park ( see page 18). The new Sioma River Camp is 150km further on and provides access to the stunning Ngonye Falls. Days 9- 12: The long drive north through Senanga is bone- shatteringly brutal, but after a night's rest in Mongu you will be ready to head west via the Lului Pontoon to Kalabo and into Zambia's hidden gem: Liuwa Plain National Park ( see p30). Enjoy Africa's second largest wildebeest migration ( November is best) and prolifi c birdlife. Days 13- 18: Back track to Mongu and rejoin the tarred road. Head east, via Kasoma, into Kafue National Park, where a number of lodges and campsites are situated close to the main road. You could lose yourself for weeks in Zambia's largest national park, so be sure to make it to Lusaka in time for your fl ight home. Numerous car rental agencies offer 4WD vehicles in Zambia. The following are reliable companies with excellent reputations, who offer well- maintained vehicles for collection in Lusaka or Livingstone: Safari Drive ( www. safaridrive. com) UK- based company with over 15 years experience in African self- drive safaris. Offers fully- serviced Land Rovers with advanced food orders, satellite phones and 24hr back- up service ( in case of emergencies). Also provides maps, itinerary suggestions and a full briefi ng on vehicle operation. Hemingways ( www. hemingwayszambia. com) Livingstone- based company using Toyota Hilux double- cabs that are in excellent condition and fully equipped with two roof- top tents, long range fuel tanks, a fridge and all necessary camping gear. An experienced driver can also be provided on request. Livingstone Car Hire ( www. 4x4hireafrica. com) Hire fl eet of Land Rover vehicles ranges from standard unequipped Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagons to fully kitted Land Rover 130 Campers - all insured for cross- border travel. SELF- DRIVE SUPPLIERS All vehicle documents and owner's handbook GPS, maps and satellite/ cell phone Rooftop tents and fridge Long- range fuel tanks ( 100 litres/ 650 miles) Two batteries and two spare tyres Tyre pump and pressure gauge High- lift jack and wheel spanner Tow rope or snatch strap Spade, machete/ axe Top tip You will not be travelling with a guide, so don't forget your binoculars, camera and reference books. ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT STEPHEN CUNLIFFESTEPHEN CUNLIFFE

May 2009 Travel Zambia 43 People Vakacha Habitat Habitat Nkani Nkani SAFARI Asian elephants have been part of the working culture on that continent for centuries. African elephants, by contrast, have always been considered untameable. So are elephant- back safaris in Zambia really a good idea? And what's in it for the elephants? Philip Dickson clambered up to find out for himself. Lumbering through the tranquil African bush on the back of Liwa, a surprisingly agile three- tonne elephant, is a novel way to view the wildlife of Mosi- oa- Tunya National Park - just a few kilometres upstream from the Victoria Falls. And as we negotiate the tangled riverine forest along the banks of the Zambezi, the local residents appears distinctly bemused: bushbuck peer disbelievingly from a thicket as we pass, while baboons stare and mutter to themselves. I may be captivated by the wildlife, but Liwa careers off at full- throttle towards a juicy bough. Suddenly brittle branches are snapping and crackling around my head like Chinese firecrackers. " Leave it," commands Owen, our guide, and Liwa swishes off indignantly with a messy mouthful of tamarind tree, stripping the bark until it looks like a giant toothpick. Elephant- back safaris are a fast-growing development in African tourism, though not without controversy. Some have argued that such activities compromise the dignity and welfare of the animals. These particular elephants, however, are all orphaned survivors from culling and drought in neighbouring Zimbabwe - refugees from a far worse fate. Liwa now spends her days taking nature- hungry tourists into the Zambian bush with the rest of her family herd: Danny, Bop, Mashumbi, Marula, Madinda, Chavaruka and her own young calf Nandi. While they may look alike to us, each elephant has its own personality. Liwa, apparently, is a prima donna and hand- bag thief, and she appears to be flirting blatantly with Owen and the other handlers. What fascinates me most about these giant terracotta warriors, as we plod rhythmically through the bush, are the low subsonic rumbles that reverberate through my body as the elephant family communicate with one another - and the amazing texture of the huge flapping ears: hard and hairy on the outside; soft and rubbery on the inside. Meanwhile Nandi dodges and weaves her way through the forest of tree- trunk legs below us, as we wade out across the Zambezi shallows and onto the islands. Dismounting back at Thorntree, I stand nervously before the towering Liwa, holding out a handful of pellets. She stares down at me with her wise, beady eyes. Her inquisitive trunk gently caresses my shoulder before hoovering up what must seem like a pitiful reward, and part of me wants to kneel in reverence. I had agonised about an elephant-back safari, out of respect for these gentle giants. But having learned about their background and witnessed at first- hand the close bond between the elephants and their handlers - and also knowing that Liwa and her family are free to roam wild after we leave - my concerns have now evaporated. Jumbo journeys Elephant- Back Safari and Elephant Encounter at: Zambezi Elephant Trails Thorntree River Lodge, Livingstone Tel: + 260 332 0606/ 7/ 8; 0845 2930512 ( from UK) www. safpar. com/ elephant_ back_ safaris. htm Email: zaminfo@ safpar. com Book directly at The Waterfront Lodge in Livingstone with Safari Par Excellence. WHERE TO GO The Zambian Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources has teamed up with Grant Thornton consultants in a new scheme to safeguard standards in the hospitality sector. " The provisions of the act include the enforcement of reasonable standards, and the classification and grading of accommodation establishments," says Mwinga Chiluwe, principal standards inspector at the Ministry. Ms Chiluwe added that this would improve service, enhance quality and serve as an effective marketing tool for Zambia's tourism. Each category of accommodation establishment - from hotels and guesthouses to bush camps and backpacker hostels - will be classified and graded within a star system according to appropriate criteria. The Ministry plans to begin classifying establishments this year and follow with grading in 2010. Making the grade DAVID GODNY