False 48 Travel Zambia May 2008 Nkani Nkani Vakacha Vakacha White pelicans and Kafue lechwe at Lochinvar National Park ZAMBIA NATIONAL TOURIST BOARD Know Your National Parks Did you know that Zambia has 19 National Parks? Most visitors head for at least one of the ‘ big three’ – South Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi – while a few smaller parks, such as Kasanka, receive a regular trickle. But many others hardly see a visitor from one year to the next. In some cases this is because they are virtually inaccessible, or so badly neglected that little wildlife remains. But there are also many hidden gems awaiting the discerning traveller. Blue Lagoon National Park: northern Kafue Flats, west of Lusaka; flooded during the rains; excellent bird life; one lodge. Isangano National Park: east of the Bangweulu Swamps; no facilities, little wildlife. Kafue National Park: western Zambia; country’s largest park, and divided into north and south sections; exceptionally wide variety of habitats and wildlife; many lodges, but less developed than South Luangwa. Kasanka National Park: small park south of the Bangweulu Swamps: birdlife, bats and sitatunga; one lodge. Lavushi Manda National Park: east of the Bangweulu Swamps; no facilities; hilly and wooded terrain; wildlife scarce, but good potential. Liuwa Plain National Park: remote far west; few roads or facilities, but under development; one campsite; large herds of wildebeest in season. Lochinvar National Park: wide floodplains beside the Kafue River; prolific bird life and lechwe; floods in season; one lodge. Lower Zambezi National Park: east of Lusaka; great wildlife viewing by land and water on the Zambezi River; several lodges. Luambe National Park: small park close to South Luangwa; long neglected but currently under development and wildlife returning; one lodge. Lukusuzi National Park: east of Luangwa Valley near Malawi border; no facilities but great potential. Lusenga Plain National Park: east of Lake Mweru, no facilities and little wildlife. Mosi– oa– Tunya ( Victoria Falls) National Park: small park on the edge of Livingstone ( plentiful accommodation); includes a small ‘ safari park’. Mweru Wantipa National Park: on the shores of Lake Mweru in far north; neglected, with no facilities and little wildlife, but great potential. North Luangwa National Park: remote northern sibling of South Luangwa; temporary bush camps only; focus on walking safaris; excellent wildlife, notably buffalo and lion. Nsumbu ( Sumbu) National Park: on shore of Lake Tanganyika in far north; needs redevelopment, but has good wildlife potential and lakeside game viewing; three lodges. Nyika National Park: in far east, along Malawi border, and best reached from Malawi side; highland scenery; excellent flowers and birdwatching; one lodge. Sioma Ngwezi National Park: in remote far southwest; wide variety of wildlife; no facilities but currently under development. South Luangwa National Park: eastern Zambia; nation’s premier park, with superb game viewing, especially walking safaris; numerous lodges West Lunga National Park: in northwest; neglected, with no facilities or easy access, but good potential for redevelopment. National Park or GMA? National Parks are administered by the Zambia Wildlife Authority. Most are surrounded by large Game Management Areas ( GMAs), which contain local communities. GMAs are designed to provide a buffer between the pristine national park and the developed land beyond. In theory they offer the same habitat and ecosystem as the park, but in practice there is usually less wildlife due to illegal hunting and pressure for land. Conservation projects aim to reverse this trend by regenerating game resources and helping communities live sustainably. Controlled hunting is permitted in GMAs but not in National Parks.
False May 2008 Travel Zambia 49 Nkani Vakacha Downstream with the lion man Looking for something different on safari? Philip Dickson ventures out on the Kafue River with Chris McBride, Africa’s legendary ‘ white lion’ man. VISA VALUES On 26 January Zambia’s tourist visa policy changed overnight, reports the African Travel & Tourism Association ( ATTA). The visa fee waiver policy was abolished with immediate effect and, at the same time, the price of visas was raised. The cost of single- entry visas is now as follows: UK nationals: US$ 140 Other EU members: US$ 50 USA nationals: US$ 135 Canada nationals US$ 55 This decision has caused some consternation in the travel and tourism industry, which at present is lobbying the government for change. ‘ The cost of these new visas is high and the lack of a visa- waiver for bona fide tourists is a real hit,’ says Chris McIntyre of leading UK tour operator Expert Africa. ‘ Sadly, it may put visitors off safaris in Zambia, and be self- defeating.’ Details at: www. zambiaimmigration. gov. zm ( Zambian Immigration Department) or www. atta. travel ( ??????????????????????????? African Travel & Tourism Association). As the cool early morning haze hangs eerily over the Kafue, we drift silently downstream in a boat reminiscent of the African Queen, listening intently to avoid an unwelcome collision with any of the imposing pods of local hippos. Our vessel, the Fish Eagle, is as bizarre as its name: an ancient banana boat, seemingly built from tin and thatch, that takes us right into the intimate lives of the riverine wildlife. ‘ Look,’ exclaims McBride, pointing to the river bank, as crocodiles devour the underside of a half- submerged hippo carcass, surfacing only to gulp down large chunks of rotting flesh before diving again for more. Meanwhile squadrons of skimmers swoop low over the river scooping out fish with their trailing bills, while on the bank a skittish leopard laps hypnotically and elephants graze amongst the shadowy papyrus beds. Lion expert and author Chris McBride, best known for bringing his extraordinary discovery of South Africa’s rare white lion cubs to the outside world in the late 70’ s, has since relocated to Zambia’s Kafue National Park. Here, with his wife Charlotte, he runs the rustic McBrides’ Camp in the northeastern section, an isolated wilderness characterised by its maze of oxbow lakes and vast floodplains. Now 65, McBride is still obsessed with lions, and there is a charming – almost Victorian – character to his energetic eccentricities. Puttering downstream to a remote fly camp close to the ‘ golden’ pride’s territory, we pass sluggish crocodiles basking benignly on the sandbanks beneath the warming sun. Fly camping in Zambia is wild and intimate and the Fish Eagle delivers us right into the raw heart of the bush. The only concession to civilisation here is a long- drop loo and a bucket shower, and the local wildlife rarely encounters humans. Bushwalking through the crackling miombo woodland and open savannah soon lulls you into nature’s own rhythm. At night, under the colossal black vacuum of a moonless sky with only a campfire for solace, deep chest- heaving lion roars both terrify and tantalise for the day ahead. The Fish Eagle at dawn DID YOU KNOW? The number of tourists visiting Zambia is estimated to have increased by 6.4 percent to 805,059 in 2007. Chris McBride DAVID GODNY Game viewing and access is best during the dry season from June to October. Details at: www. mcbridescamp. com SAFARI DAVID GODNY FOR THE RECORD We apologise for the following two omissions in Travel Zambia 2: The photograph of lions on page 1 was taken by Juliet Shenton. McBrides’ Camp ( www. mcbridescamp. com), not mentioned in our ‘ Rainy Season round- up’, does remain open throughout the rains.