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page 68 - www.chongwe.comZambia, the real Africa ... Chongwe, the real ZambiaLOWER ZAMBEZI NATIONAL PARK ~ ZAMBIA

November 2007 Travel Zambia 31 Green Season Returning from the stork colony, I noticed something moving in the river that was clearly neither crocodile nor hippo; in fact, it looked more like the serpentine head and neck of the Loch Ness Monster. Levy nudged the boat gradually closer, and to my amazement this mystery object turned out to be the very tip of an elephant’s trunk. Bobbing up and down, several metres behind, came the hairy tip of his tail. Levy smiled at my open-mouthed surprise. ‘Not many people know that elephants are actually very good swimmers and can easily cross a deep channel of water,’ he explained. He cut the engine and we drifted nearer. Inch by inch the glistening form of the elephant emerged. And what an elephant he was! An enormous fully-grown bull, tusks gleaming in the sun, he moved slowly through the shallows towards the steep muddy bank. We held our breath as he levered his massive bulk up the slippery slope. Finally, with an ungainly heave, he hauled himself onto dry land, then stood a while to catch his breath before ambling slowly into the bush. The rains explained Rain in Zambia falls between November and April, when the sun is at its zenith. Eastern and higher areas generally receive more than western and lowland areas. The precise timing and duration is determined by the water-bearing ‘Congo’ air-mass, which normally brings rain when it moves south into Zambia from central Africa, reaching northern areas first then working south by end November/early December. As the sun’s intensity diminishes, the Congo air-mass returns north, leaving southern Zambia dry by mid-March and the north by late April or May. Most areas receive their heaviest rainfall in January, though northern areas – in common with central and eastern Africa – have two peaks, one in December and one in March. Zambia’s rains drain into two major river systems: the Zambezi Basin system to the south and east, and the Congo Basin system to the north. This makes Zambia one of the most important sources of fresh water on the continent. Why visit in the emerald season? Excellent photography – gorgeous light, no dust Baby boom – young animals on view Birds, birds, birds – migrants, courtship, breeding colours Cheaper rates – most camps offer off-season bargains Fewer tourists – have the bush to yourself ‘We held our breath as he levered his massive bulk up the slippery slope.’ ANNA DEVEREUX BAKER My last night at Mchenja brought one final breath-catching moment. Having splashed my way back to my tent, I shone my torch into the sausage tree above to find myself looking straight into the mournful, chocolate-brown eyes of a Pel’s fishing owl. Perched on a branch no more than three metres away, his chest feathers ruffling in the breeze, he regarded me solemnly, then raised his head and called – a sound sometimes described as ‘a lost soul falling into a bottomless pit’. As I stood transfixed, his mate answered from deep in the ebony grove and with a gentle swoosh of wings he was gone, leaving an empty branch and a lasting memory. The ‘Rivers and Rainbows’ tour comprises four nights at Nkwali ( or Kapani (, followed by three nights at Mchenja Bushcamp. Find out more at: Victoria Falls in full spate at the end of the rains.