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May 2007 Travel Zambia 37 January/February: orchids, Nyika Plateau The rainy season is the best time to enjoy the floral splendours of the Nyika Plateau. Over 200 different species of orchid, together with irises, gladioli and proteas, make the rolling grasslands of this high-altitude reserve a botanist’s paradise. Other highlights include a dense population of roan antelope, and many rare and localised birds, including blue swallow and bar-tailed trogon. Much of Nyika National Park lies in neighbouring Malawi, where Chelinda Camp (www.nyika.com) offers access, activities and accommodation. May: shoebills, Bangweulu May is the best month to see Zambia’s most enigmatic bird. At this time the floodwaters of the Bangweulu wetland have receded a little, making access easier, and shoebills are often seen in the vicinity of Shoebill Camp. These large birds feed mostly on lungfish, which they catch with a lightning-fast strike of their capacious, hook-tipped bill. By July, as the wetlands dry out, the shoebills retreat towards the permanent water of Lake Bangweulu and become harder to find. July: Umutomboko festival, Luapula province This annual festival celebrates the victories of Chief Mwata Kazembe, whose Luunda people migrated en masse into Luapula from the neighbouring Congo. It is held in a specially prepared arena, close to the N’gona river. The grand, two-day ceremony includes ritual, semi-mystic performance, pounding drums and long speeches. Women bring tributes of beer and food to the chief who, smeared with white powder, pays homage to his ancestral spirits and is carried back to his palace to the beating of drums. September/October: game viewing, Lower Zambezi The end of the dry season is peak game viewing time in the Zambezi Valley. As the heat and drought intensify, animals descend from the escarpment to the better grazing and water of the riverine floodplain. Small groups of buffalo coalesce into large herds, and other grazers such as impala, zebra and eland steadily increase in number. Predators follow the herds and become much easier to see, while elephants are everywhere. When the rains finally come, usually in November, the game begins to disperse. SAUSAGE TREE CAMP JULIET SHENTON, SHENTON SAFARIS August/September: carmine bee-eaters, Luangwa Valley Carmine bee-eaters arrive in the Luangwa Valley in August, having migrated from their wintering quarters in central Africa. They quickly resume occupancy of their crowded riverbank nesting colonies, creating a dazzling blur of colour and motion that is one of Africa’s most impressive avian spectacles. By the end of the rainy season the birds have headed north again, leaving the riverbank to the resident species. December: emerald season, Luangwa Valley Much of the Luangwa Valley becomes inaccessible during the rainy season. However, some operators (including Remote Africa: www.remoteafrica.com) now offer ‘emerald season’ safaris, which include boat trips up the flooded channels and tributaries of the Luangwa. Game is less concentrated at this time of year, but the bush is teeming with birdlife in its breeding finery and most animals have new-born young. The lush landscapes and dynamic skies make a refreshing contrast to the burnt-out dry season, and tourists are thin on the ground. LUSAKA Kitwe Ndola Chipata Isoka Kasama Mpulungu Chirundu Kapiri Mposhi Mkushi Mfuwe Mpika L. Tanganyika L. Bangweulu L. Mweru Wantipa L. Mweru L. Kariba Zambezi River Luangwa River Lower Zambezi NP Kasanka NP South Luangwa NP North Luangwa NP Luambe NP Sumbu NP Lusenga NP Lukusuzi NP Blue Lagoon NP Lochinvar NP

38 Travel Zambia May 2007 N kaniNkaniVakachaVakachaNkaniNkaniVakachaVakacha Best of birds and beasts For the first-time visitor or seasoned safari-goer, Zambia’s top three national parks offer an unbeatable wildlife experience. Days 1–4 South Luangwa National Park Spend four nights on the banks of the Luangwa River, two at a safari lodge and two at a bush camp. View wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, hippo, giraffe and lion, on drives, night drives and walks. Highlights include excellent leopard sightings and teeming carmine bee-eater colonies. Days 5–8 Lower Zambezi National Park Transfer to Lower Zambezi to explore the river and its backwaters, by game drives, on foot and by canoe. Highlights include large numbers of hippo, elephant and buffalo, plus all principal predators, including possible wild dogs. Rich birdlife and dramatic scenery. Days 9–12 Kafue National Park Transfer to Kafue for two nights in the southern sector and two in the north. Explore the varied habitats, from riverine forest to open plains, on game drives, guided walks and riverboat trips. Highlights include numerous antelope species and frequent predator sightings, notably cheetah. Birdlife is prolific. Days 13–14 Livingstone/Victoria Falls Transfer to Livingstone to visit Victoria Falls and relax beside the Zambezi after your safari. Zambia off the beaten track Leave the tourists behind at these lesser-known destinations, which cover a wide spectrum of nature and culture. Days 1–3 Kasanka National Park Explore the varied vegetation zones, from evergreen forest to papyrus swamps, in search of unusual wildlife. View shy sitatunga from a unique tree hide and meander the waterways by canoe, spotting a rich variety of birds. Days 4–6 Bangweulu Wetlands Transfer to the comfortable simplicity of Shoebill Island camp. Explore this vast wetland wilderness on foot, by boat and dugout, and – water levels permitting – on game drives. Wildlife highlights include abundant birdlife, notably shoebills, and huge herds of black lechwe. Days 7–9 Shiwa Ng’andu Relax in the colonial elegance of a grand English manor house and explore its fascinating history. Activities include game drives in search of unusual wildlife, superb bird watching, lake cruises, hill walks and nearby hot springs. Days 10–14 North Luangwa National Park North Luangwa offers the ultimate bush experience. There are only two camps in this remote wilderness, and with few roads, most exploring is done on foot. Track lion, elephant and buffalo in the company of expert guides. There are many ways in which to explore Zambia. Experienced tour operators will tailor-make a tour to suit your level of interest and experience. Here we recommend three possible two-week itineraries. Active Zambia For adrenalin thrills and a chance to stretch your legs, Zambia offers some more strenuous safari alternatives. Days 1–4 Zambezi canoe safari Follow the great river downstream on a four-night canoe trail from Chirundu to Lower Zambezi National Park. Pass pods of hippos and herds of game along the waterfront. Explore the islands on foot and camp beside the river. Days 5–9 Mountain biking on Nyika Plateau Transfer to Chelinda, at 2,200m on the Malawian side of Nyika National Park. Explore this rugged high-altitude wilderness on a three-night mountain bike trail, returning afterwards to the log-fire comfort of Chelinda Camp. Cycle past herds of game and stunning scenery, and discover unique flora and birdlife. Hiking trails and horse-riding also available. Days 10–14 Livingstone/Victoria Falls: adventure sports Transfer to Livingstone for five nights at the adventure sports capital of southern Africa. Choose from a wealth of adrenalin-fuelled activities, including white-water rafting, bungee-jumping, microlighting and quad biking. Or relax on river cruises and elephant-back game walks, and simply enjoy the spectacle of the Falls. Itineraries CHIAWA CAMP At Chiawa Camp on the Lower Zambezi, wildlife has right of way. Three reasons to safari in Zambia: 1. National parks allow night drives, walking and open vehicles. 2. Long training and rigorous exams mean top quality guides. 3. Small safari companies ensure a personalised experience.