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44 Travel Zambia November 2007 Lodge life camp, with the finishing touches being completed just hours before they arrived. Miles to the south, Steve Smith, co-owner of Nanzhila Lodge, was meanwhile facing a different challenge. Wilderness spent US$2.5 million on financing their Kafue camps. Steve had nowhere near that amount of cash. Nanzhila was thus obliged to be a tortoise to the Wilderness hare. The camp took nearly two years to build, with work starting as soon as it became dry enough and then stopping when the rains fell. With only five staff, 25 local labourers and a couple of 4WDs, building in the wet season was clearly not an option. A gruelling round of eight-hour round trips over punishing terrain became the only way to carry everything in, little by little. At the start this meant even water: before the site’s own source was up and running, the camp’s supply had to be sourced from thirty miles away. Life soon became an endless succession of arduous journeys and hard labour under a African sun. Constant concerns about cash flow didn’t help, with nights of lamp-lit calculation after recalculation to ensure the funds would stretch to fulfill the dream. Yet for Steve and his business partner there are no regrets. ‘It was lovely being out at the lodge when we were building it and the challenge of the whole project I have thoroughly enjoyed. There were the background stresses and pressures of juggling budgets. At times it was a month-to-month situation, but we are here, we are open and we are operating.’ But the stress didn’t stop when the construction did. The next mountain to climb was marketing. Wilderness has a huge client-base and a 24-year reputation for safari excellence. For them, attracting guests to Busanga would be comparatively easy. Not so for Nanzhila, a private operation and new venture in an area of Africa that has until recently been well off the beaten track. ‘Now the challenge is to get people to visit Kafue and to stay with us,’ says Steve. ‘We’re doing our sales and marketing from scratch and it’s been an uphill battle. But finally we have convinced some of the larger agents to send us guests. Now we just have to ensure that they have a fantastic experience, which in Kafue shouldn’t be too difficult.’ All this endeavour is good news for the park. Concerns have been expressed about the unchecked proliferation of lodges in other parts of Africa – including Zambia’s own Luangwa Valley – but there is no doubt that Kafue stood to benefit from an influx of development. It may be the country’s largest – and potentially its richest – but for years it had been neglected, left largely to fate and the slow, painful erosion of poaching. Each new lodge here is thus a significant force for conservation, breathing new life into the park. The signs are already looking good: local people are now being employed in tourism and can see a reason for conservation rather than poaching, while visitor numbers are increasing and the wildlife is recovering. The efforts of these enterprising lodge owners should thus help ensure that Kafue soon regains its position as one of Africa’s greatest natural jewels. ‘Life soon became an endless succession of arduous journeys and hard labour under a African sun. Constant concerns about cash flow didn’t help.’LUSAKALUSAKABlue LagoonNat ParkMumbwaNangomaSiavongaChirunduKafueMagoyeMazabukaMonzePembaBatokaChomaLivingstoneChongoLochinvarNat ParkLakeItezhi-TezhiKafue National Park This page: Nanzhila Lodge offers tempting views, both inside and out. Opposite: Building during the rainy season on Busanga Plains became a battle of muscle power against the elements. NANZHILA PLAINS NANZHILA PLAINS 1 Busanga Bush Camp 2 Kapinga Camp 3 Shumba Camp 4 Lunga River Lodge 5 Lufupa Lodge 6 Hippo Camp 7 McBrides Camp 8 Mukambi Safari Lodge 9 Puku Pans Camp 10 Kaingu Lodge 11 Nanzhila Lodge 1 3 2 8 10 11 6 9 7 5 4 30 km 015 Miles0

November 2007 Travel Zambia 45 Where to stay Today’s visitor to Zambia’s largest park now has a range of options. These are some of the best. Northern Kafue Wilderness Safaris: Lufupa Lodge – northern central Lunga River Lodge – northeast Busanga Bush Camp – Busanga Plains, northwest Kapinga Camp – Busanga Plains, northwest Shumba Camp – Busanga Plains, northwest Hippo Camp: McBrides’ Camp and McBrides’ Bushcamp: Southern Kafue Nanzhila Lodge: Kaingu Lodge: Mukambi Safari Lodge (plus Plains Camp up on the Busanga Plains): Puku Pans Safari Lodge: Key wildlife Kafue is home to over 150 mammal species – as many as any park in Africa. Lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena and wild dog are among Kafue factfile the plentiful predators, while an unusual diversity of antelope includes eland, roan, red lechwe, puku, tsessebe, sable and blue duiker. Birders will also find such rarities as black-cheeked lovebird, Chaplin’s barbet and Denham’s bustard among the list of over 470 species. When to visit Although some lodges are open all year round, most of those in the heart of the park only operate during the dry season, from May to November. See p29 for more about Kafue during the green season. Lodge life WILDERNESS SAFARIS (4) Wild dogs on Nanzhila Plains NANZHILA PLAINS