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November 2007 Travel Zambia 49 The heart-pounding sight of a leopard padding silently through the beam of a spotlight, the dramatic theatre of lions on a kill, the childlike awe at seeing an elephant for the first time: these are what safari memories are made of. But no matter how captivating the sights, it is often the subtle sounds that best capture the intimacy of the bush. Bird song, baboon chatter, the rumble of elephants: all tell stories that our eyes may never witness. Derek Solomon has set out to capture these sounds by designing and installing a special sound system in a safari vehicle. A highly sensitive parabolic microphone is linked to an amplifier with headphones attached for all the guests. Instead of hunting for images with binoculars or spotlight, Derek scans the land for sounds. When he picks up something of interest his phenomenal knowledge means guests have the language of the bush translated for them. Bird song is no longer merely a pretty tune, it is the contact call of a red-billed oxpecker flitting over the backs of buffalo, or a white-browed robin-chat proclaiming its territory deep in the heart of a thorn bush. And it is not just our understanding of birds that is illuminated by sound: the lives of mammals take on new meaning too. ‘Listening to elephants is most magical,’ says Derek. ‘We can’t hear the infrasound, but we can pick up their low rumbles. Sometimes a group of elephants will all suddenly walk away for no apparent reason; with this sound system you can hear the matriarch telling them to move.’ Such insights bring a new dimension to a safari and a deeper understanding of Safari Solomon’s sound safari Derek Solomon, one of South Luangwa’s best known guides, is an expert in wildlife calls and communication. Huw Williams joined him on a novel new safari to see how he shares this knowledge with guests. Taking your own wheels into the wilderness? Tricia Hayne offers a few tips for first-timers. Maps tend to show tantalising short cuts that could save you hours, but the smooth gravel surface of the first 1km rarely lasts. Ask yourself why it’s not signposted, then take the longer route. life in the African bush, even for the most experienced visitor. Contact the Bush Camp Company to arrange a sound safari with Derek: Remember that a GPS works in a straight line; it doesn’t do corners – even if you’re apparently heading 180° in the wrong direction. A map, of course, does recognise bends. But whoever worked out the distances might well have been using a GPS, which explains why you drove 250km when the map said 210km. If you must drive off road, remember that rocks lurk beneath that tall grass, ready to gouge a hole in your sump. Zambia burns throughout the year, somewhere. And that might just be the road you’re trying to negotiate, so watch out for your tyres. Wherever you are going, work out how long it’ll take you, then allow at least another hour; you’ll usually need it. Minimum impact code Don’t forget to take your binoculars on night drives. They work perfectly well in the beam of a spotlight, and you will need them for a proper view of smaller nocturnal creatures, such as owls or bushbabies. Top tip Don’t feed wild animals: This breaks down their fear and encourages dependency. ‘Problem animals’ may have to be destroyed. Stay on the road: Don’t chase off-road after wildlife or short cuts. Tracks cause soil erosion and retard plant growth. Also, you may well get stuck – or worse. Hygiene: Dig your pit toilet deep and fill it in when you move on. Burn used toilet paper. Never wash with soap in a river or lake. Rubbish: Remove all your waste and any other waste you find. Keep a supply of bin bags. Burn and bury biodegradable waste. Firewood: Bring your own, if possible, or buy wood from camps. Never chop branches from living trees. Local community: Be respectful and sensitive. Ask permission to camp and pay fees where required. Don’t take photos without consent. Self-drive self-help When travelling independently, always aim to minimise your impact on the environment. ANNA DEVEREUX-BAKER MIKE UNWIN Pearl-spotted owl and white-browed robin chat (below): both prominent voices on a sound safari. WILDERNESS SAFARIS

50 Travel Zambia November 2007 NkaniNkaniVakachaVakacha New suites at Kafunta After completing a programme of refurbishments, Kafunta River Lodge, in South Luangwa, has added two luxury two-tier suite chalets. Each has a spacious ground floor bathroom, a large open bedroom and a sitting room leading onto a verandah. On a mezzanine floor (open at the front), a second double bed allows guests to sleep closer to nature. This second bed can be exchanged for two singles, to allow for families. An upper floor balcony overlooks the river. Bats and beach Two new offerings from Robin Pope Safaris. This November the Kasanka Bat Safari will take guests to .....witness the phenomenal migration of straw-coloured fruit bats in Kasanka National Park, where millions congregate to feed for a short six weeks on seasonal fruit. The safari also includes a day visit to Bangweulu Swamps to see black lechwe, and is combined with a stay at Nkwali. Meanwhile, looking forward to next July, RPS will be opening a luxury lodge at the southern end of Lake Malawi for those who want to combine bush with beach. Pumulani will have ten luxury villas and will offer snorkelling, swimming, boat trips and sheer relaxation. New bush camps The Bushcamp Company will open two new walking trails camps in June 2008. Zungulila and Gwala are situated in a remote section of South Luangwa National Park. All activities are conducted on foot, and guests will follow the Kapamba River through a genuine wilderness area. Despite their remoteness, the camps boast all the comforts of home, including en suite facilities and private verandas. In addition, Bilimungwe bush camp will remain open during the green season, becoming one of only two bush camps in South Luangwa to do so. Photographic safari Luangwa River Lodge has joined forces with acclaimed wildlife photographer, film-maker and author Robin Taylor to offer a seven-night photographic safari workshop in the Luangwa Valley. The practical, hands-on workshop is designed for photographers at all levels, with plenty of time spent in the bush. The group will have exclusive use of the lodge for the duration, thus ensuring individual attention for each participant. The emphasis is on working together, learning how to take great wildlife pictures and having a relaxed ‘bush’ experience. Expert guides accompany the eight-person group at all times. Trips depart 29 March and 5 April 2008. Bookings at New camps for Wilderness Safaris Wilderness Safaris will open two luxury safari camps in Zambia in 2008. Set to open in May, Toka Leya will be located on the banks of the Zambezi River close to Victoria Falls in the eastern sector of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. The camp will comprise 12 en suite safari-style tents, will have a spa onsite. Set to open in July, Kwena Lagoon Camp will be Wilderness Safaris’ second camp in the South Luangwa National Park. Situated in the Luamfwa Concession in the park’s southern sector, it will comprise eight safari-style tents, Guests will be able to enjoy day and night game drives and walking safaris. Safari Cycle South Luangwa Remote Africa is the first operator in South Luangwa National Park to offer cycling safaris. Four mountain bikes are available at Tafika camp, from where gusts may enjoy two-hour afternoon rides, accompanied by an armed scout and guide to ensure maximum safety and enjoyment. Routes are tailored to riders’ abilities and interests, and include trips into the national park or to the nearby village. Rides are generally combined with the afternoon game drive, meeting the vehicle at sunset to continue with game viewing activities. New with a view: suites at Kafunta KAFUNTA SAFARIS REMOTE AFRICA SAFARIS