The Traveller's Friend : Travel the Zambezi - Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Cresta Sprayview opens its doors

Cresta Sprayview, Victoria Falls, opened its door to their first guests after completing a USD1.5 million refurbishment. Zambezi Traveller popped in. Glenn Stutchbury, CEO for Cresta and Roddy Meiring, General Manager for Cresta Sprayview were smiles all round and it was quite obvious why. The ‘refurb’ is stunning, and this iconic part of Victoria Falls is looking pristine, modern and very welcoming. From the reception to the rooms, everything has a fresh, summer holiday feel. As one walks up the stairs one is greeted by smiling receptionists who are obviously very proud of their open, spacious work environment. Twenty rooms have opened to paying guests and bookings are pouring in. Victoria Falls, town definitely has a new and improved three star Hotel.

Read more from the latest issue:
Sprayview Hotel refurbished (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Great Enigmas - Linyanti, Savuti and the Chobe

By Peter Comley
From the current issue of the Zambezi Traveller available in print and online.

We take a look at how nature has contrived to bring water to one of the great wildlife areas of the world.

Elephants from the air (Image credit: African Bush Camps)

Janis Joplin may have put it more crudely, but when it comes to the rivers of northern Botswana “it’s all the same thing, man.” The Cuando, which rises on the slopes of Mount Tembo, flows out of Angola, across the Caprivi Strip and then, renamed as the Kwando, forms the border between Namibia and Botswana, before it abruptly becomes known as the Linyanti. Its languid course through papyrus-edged pools alters suddenly when it opens out into floodplains where it briefly changes its name to the Ichenge and then ends life, fat and happy, as the Chobe, before being swallowed by the Zambezi at Kazungula.

To compound the incestuous nature of these waterways, the Okavango is linked to the Chobe system via the Selinda Spillway and the remaining northern river, the Savuti Channel, is a spill-over from the Linyanti Marsh. They are all pretty much the same river but in their diversity they also provide not only the life source for one of the most remarkable game densities in Africa but also three of the great watercourse enigmas of the region.

Linyanti Marsh (Image credit: African Bush Camps)

The first of these enigmas is the Linyanti Marsh. The Linyanti, after following a smooth, gentle, south-easterly course, stumbles over a volcanic fault line and dramatically changes direction by 90˚ to flow northeast. It is here while the river struggles to realign itself that the banks overflow and create the Linyanti Marsh, a smaller but no less attractive version of the Okavango Delta.

The papyrus-lined pools, the crystal-clear waters that flow quietly alongside riverine forests of jackal-berry trees and beyond which lie open grasslands and dry inland wooded areas, are deeply reminiscent of its more famous big sister. Only a small section of this marsh is open to the general public where the Chobe National Park has a short slice of river frontage. The rest is taken by private concessions with strict controls on the numbers of guests that each camp can host. This ensures a low volume of visitors, keeping this area remote and pristine. The lodges offer game drives, walks, night drives and boat and pontoon rides. Through African Bush Camps you can take a truly unforgettable helicopter ride over this wild marsh.

Elephants, Savuti marsh (Image credit~: Peter Comley)

The second enigma springs from the Linyanti Marsh and is a beguiling one. Set in the west of the 11,000 sq km Chobe National Park lies a river that is called a channel and which for a few decades flows powerfully, disgorging itself into a vast marsh, and then it retracts its charms leaving behind a parched stretch of grassland, which with some irony is still called the Savuti Marsh. The early explorers, missionaries and traders who passed this way contradicted each other as they described their experiences. The diaries of some, like David Livingstone, drew pictures of a paradise of waterways and an abundance of game, while others who came later depicted the Savuti Marsh and its southerly neighbour the Mababe Depression as arid and inhospitable.

Those who visited Savuti from the mid eighties through to the early part of this century will carry with them memories of desert-like aridity because the Channel stopped flowing in 1979 and within three years the pools had all dried and the animals had moved on.  Then, almost miraculously, in 2008 the river started to trickle and then charge back down the Channel and flood into the marsh. Five years later large herds of buffalo and elephant luxuriate in the abundance of grass and water that the marsh provides; predator numbers started climbing steadily as their food base grew, and species like waterbuck returned, having been totally absent for the past 30 years. Now, within the last month or two, the channel has again stopped flowing and the Marsh has dried. Optimists predict that the flood is still on its way and the Marsh will refill this year. Others are not so sure.

What causes the Channel to ebb and flow on such a regular basis? Northern Botswana lies along a branch of the Great Rift Valley and geologists measure very regular, if imperceptible, earth tremors. Some believe that larger quakes could cause the ground to shift and block the flow of water. Surely, however, it is no coincidence that the average rainfall between 1972 and 2004 was the lowest on record and that when the rainfall again climbed, the Kwando and Okavango spilled over into the Channel once again. Last season’s rains were poor in comparison to recent years.

Rainfall figures rise and fall in reasonably predictable cycles and we now appear to be set for a dry spell. If the Channel flows again this year it will indeed be the right time to visit the marvel that is Savuti.

Buffalo on the banks of the Chobe River (Image credit: Tom Varley)

Which brings me to the third enigma; even when the Kwando is reduced to a stream, the Linyanti Marsh is but a stagnant swamp, and the Ichenge is nothing but a dry riverbed, the Chobe River itself is fat and happy. This abundance of water downstream of a dry river course is only part of the Chobe’s enigmatic status. It also flows both ways! This was discovered by some loggers who were based at Serondela before the National Park was declared. They were in the habit of pushing their logs into the river and floating them downstream towards the market in Livingstone. One windless day they threw them into the river and watched in amazement as their livelihood floated upstream.

The reason for this is that a fault line forms a rocky ridge across the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers, acting like a dam wall. The Zambezi when it strikes this ridge, pools and overflows down what is known as the Kasai Channel until it enters the Chobe where it dams against the ridge and backs upstream. As the flood ebbs the Chobe stops flowing and then slowly, as the levels drop further, it starts flowing in the expected direction towards the sea.

Whichever way the river flows, there is water in abundance and in the dry months it attracts game, especially elephants, from the drier areas. In turn these animals attract many tourists from around the world, making the Chobe the hub of the region’s tourism.

A game drive on the shores of the Chobe River (Image credit: Tom Varley)

With thanks to Shelly Cox of African Bush Camps for descriptions of Linyanti.

Editors note :  It is hoped that in the near future these ‘great enigmas’ will join the ranks of the world’s RAMSAR sites.

Other articles in this series:
Paradise unveiled
A short history of the Falls
The sacred hills of the Matopos
The smoke that thunders
Valley of abundance
Superlative and unexplored
The great enigmas
Africa’s grand anomaly
The Middle Zambezi
The Zambezi’s final triumph

Friday, 26 July 2013

New bush camp in Kafue

Mawimbi Bushcamp is an eco-friendly tented camp situated on the riverbanks of the stunning Kafue river in the Kafue National Park in western Zambia. Currently three luxury large canvas tents are being constructed and the first guests are scheduled to visit in July 2013. The views are spectacular and this accommodation will be a perfect resting place after an exciting day canoeing on the Kafue River.

Luxury tents with beautiful views

Each of the tents has its own en-suite bathroom consisting of an ecologically ‘green’ toilet, a washhand basin and shower with hot water all day.

View from the entertainment area

All of the rooms are mosquito proofed, with two beds in the main area of the tent with a covered entrance verandah overlooking the river for perfect game viewing and relaxing.The tents are tastefully furnished with all basic necessities and decorated in subtle African themes.

View from the tent

From Lusaka to camp it takes four hours.

Photos : Mawimbi Adventures and Mawimbi Bushcamp

More from the Zambezi Traveller website:
Mawimbi Bushcamp

Read more about the region in our destination guide:

Charity Art Event, Harare

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The sacred hills of the Matopos

by Paul Hubbard
Photographs by Christopher Scott

From the latest issue of the Zambezi Traveller.

It is difficult to know which world record held by the Matobo Hills World Heritage Site I should focus on when writing about this unique area. As an archaeologist, I like to point out that the 3,500 rock art sites recorded in this tiny area outnumber all of the sites known in Western Europe. And we still find so many unknown sites each year.

Thanks to my involvement in the Black Eagle Survey, run by volunteer members of BirdLife Zimbabwe, I know that the area hosts the largest known population of these endangered birds, while the survey focusing on their breeding success is the longest such study ever done anywhere in the world. More species of raptor breed here than any other single place on the globe.

Research done on the leopard population has indicated we have a higher density of these wonderful, secretive animals than any similar area. The granite rock, so warm beneath your bare feet, is some of the oldest rock yet found on this planet. I could go on and on, but one thing the Matopos landscape does inspire is a mixture of awe and humility. It is a pleasure to travel in this area and an even greater privilege to live here.

The National Park and surrounding areas have a long history; the Matopos is the oldest National Park in Zimbabwe, declared as such in 1926, two years ahead of Hwange. The populations of white and black rhino are among the most important in the country and there is a new project in the works to re-fence the entire park to help protect these splendid beasts.

Several species of plants and birds are specially protected while as many are found almost nowhere else in the country including the corn crake, MacKinder's eagle-owl and the boulder chat. The names for the creeper, Strychnos matopensis and the herb Barleria matopensis and the Matopos honeysuckle tree Turraea fischeri ehlesii are common phrases in the local guiding lexicon, heard nowhere else in the country.

Sites and places in this craggy, majestic landscape evoke tempestuous passions. The grave of arch-colonialist Cecil John Rhodes, located as it is upon one of the most sacred hills in Zimbabwe, prompts frequent calls for restitution within history's flow. To a few, his is a visionary resting place that continues to draw curious visitors in a steady stream, providing much needed tourist revenue.

Some people want Rhodes’ grave removed; once this is accomplished, they argue, the rains we sorely need will return and voices of our ancestors, voices that inform and inspire, will once again be heard from the shrines scattered across these hills.

And what shrines we have. Njelele is the most famous. The home of a god, the centre of the Mwali faith and the most revered place in the country (even ahead of Great Zimbabwe), Njelele remains a bastion of what the Matopos is all about – spirituality.

Other articles in this series:
Paradise unveiled
A short history of the Falls
The sacred hills of the Matopos
The smoke that thunders
Valley of abundance
Superlative and unexplored
The great enigmas
Africa’s grand anomaly
The Middle Zambezi
The Zambezi’s final triumph

Monday, 22 July 2013

Low water rafting season to open

Get ready for the biggest, wildest, most exciting White Water Rafting experience on the planet - the mighty Zambezi River! Take on the Grade 5 rapids and pounding white water of the Batoka Gorge below the Victoria Falls with Wild Horizons - Africa's Greatest Adventures.

Low water Rafting from rapid No 1, below the Victoria Falls, is expected to open on the 24th July (high water rafting runs a shorter stretch of the river). At this time of the year the water is clean and warm and at the perfect level for the best one day white water experience on planet earth. We also offer fantastic multi-day trip options for those wishing to savour more of this fantastic outdoor experience.

Zambezi Traveller Directory:
Wild Horizons Activities

Wild Horizons

Victoria Falls Fun Enduro

More details will be coming soon on the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust website.

With the seasons in Hwange

Text and Images by Mike Myers. From the latest issue of the Zambezi Traveller, available in print and online.

As a photographer for Wilderness Safaris, I am privileged to work in most of the prime wildlife areas in central and southern Africa. In the last few years, much of my time has been spent in the Makalolo and Linkwasha concession areas of Hwange where Wilderness has camps. I have seen it through all the seasons of the year; from the abundant lush green of summer, when many young animals are born, through the coming of winter browns, yellows and reds, to the harsh late dry season, Hwange is magnificent and produces the unusual.

Two weeks in late January this year were breathtaking for the sheer abundance of wildlife: elephant, buffalo, eland, zebra, giraffe and warthog. We saw lion and wild dogs and my first-ever striped polecat in 35 years of working in Africa! Drives through woodland that breaks out into open grassy wetlands are the perfect habitat tapestry in which all these animals are found.

Lions seen in January, Hwange (Image credit Mike Myers for Wilderness Safaris)

Wildebeest and their young during the rains, January in Hwange (Image credit Mike Myers for Wilderness Safaris)

I have just spent another ten days at Little Makalolo and Davison’s camps and in the short space of three months I’ve seen the green replaced by the muted tones of autumn. We saw all the same animals, but in a different setting. This time though we also saw leopard and even sable, including two bulls fighting right in front of camp.

Leopard at Scotts pan May, Hwange (Image credit Mike Myers for Wilderness Safaris)

Lion near back pans in May, Hwange (Image credit Mike Myers for Wilderness Safaris)

In late September last year we were in the same area at the height of the dry season. The air was thick with the dust and haze that make for that classic red African sunset. The waterholes were inundated with elephant and you could literally stay in one place and have everything come to you. We had a sighting of a male cheetah at Ngamo which features dry open plains denuded of grass at this time.

Cheetah in the dry season September, Hwange (Image credit Mike Myers for Wilderness Safaris)

Sable in the dry season, September in Hwange (Image credit Mike Myers for Wilderness Safaris)

As a photographer I believe that using the natural habitat in composition is as important as photographing the animal itself. The seasonal changes in Hwange, and the sheer numbers of different animals, are my greatest creative tools and it is a true privilege to be able to work there.

Zambezi Traveller Directory:
Wilderness Safaris Little Makalolo
Wilderness Safaris Davisons Camp

Wilderness Safaris

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Earth Fest Feast

Greenpop provided a feast of musical entertainment for the Earth Festival, held in Livingstone on Saturday in celebration of Greenpop's Trees for Zambia 2013 initiative. (See also our recent blog post Planting the town green.) Here's a brief photo gallery of images from some of the performances - all links to external sites.

Opening act Pat McCay.

Trinity, lead singer from Yes Rasta.

Sinini Ngwenya of Tanga Pasi.

Mabel Zulu perfroms her song, The Beat is Here, the official theme song for August's UNWTO meeting.

Jeremy Loops.

Read more about Greenpop and their work in the Zambezi Traveller:
Planning to re-green a country (ZT, Issue 12, March 2013)
Planting for a greener future (ZT, Issue 10, Sept 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Victoria Falls


All Image Credits: Peter Roberts for Zambezi Traveller.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Vulture Restuarant Recognised

Vultures gather at feeding station. (Image credit: Peter Roberts)

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge was acknowledged this week for their vulture conservation work. The Lodge has a regular 'vulture restaurant' feeding station where they feed the vultures and where visitors can learn about them from the resident guide. The vultures are fed everyday at 1pm every day in front of the Buffalo Bar to give visitors the best view of these magnificent and often maligned birds.

Stefan Rust, of BirdsConTour, came from Namibia to award Victoria Falls Safari Lodge the award for the their work. BirdsConTour is an organisation that brings together conservation and tourism, with a focus on birds.

Nigel Frost, Financial Director Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Stefan Rust, BirdsConTour and Alec Zulu, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge vulture guide at the vulture restaurant. Well done guys!

Read more from past issues:
Vuture count shows increase (ZT, September 2012)
Counting heads at top eatery (ZT, December 2011)
Vulture Restaurants Attract International Clientele (ZT, June 2011)

Zambezi Traveller Directory:
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

Planting the town green

Over the last two weeks Greenpop have been in Livingstone as part of their Trees for Zambia project, planting trees at schools, community areas and even creating a future 'food forest'. Hundreds of trees have been planted in the month long event which reaches its climax this weekend with the Greenpop Earth Fest - find out more on the Zambezi Traveller website here (and also see Let's get this party started on this blog).

Trees for Zambia 2013 aims to plant 5,000 trees in schools, on subsistence farms and in reforestation sites, as well as hosting educational workshops for school children, subsistence farmers and volunteers. Everything from planting indigenous and fruit trees, working to set up micro-nursery enterprises in surrounding communities, implementing conservation education at local schools, promoting conservation farming techniques and fire prevention among small-scale subsistence farmers to raising awareness about deforestation, climate change, environmental sustainability and promoting alternative energy sources - such as solar cooking in order to reduce the region’s dependence on unsustainable charcoal burning.

Here's some photo highlights from their work over the past two weeks.


Team planting day to start Trees for Zambia - Mwandi Community school in Livingstone. Planted 20 trees.


'Uncle Ben' explaines all about charcoal kilns to the volunteers.


Zambezi Nkuku delivering trees for the project!


Finished planting another 40 trees.


And another great tree planting day at Palmgrove Basic - 30 trees.

Read more about Greenpop and their work in the Zambezi Traveller:
Planning to re-green a country (ZT, Issue 12, March 2013)
Planting for a greener future (ZT, Issue 10, Sept 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Victoria Falls


All Image Credits: Greenpop

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Luangwa - Valley of Abundance

Luangwa - Valley of abundance
By Peter Comley
Image credits: Dana Allen for Robin Pope Safaris

Rated by those ‘in the know’ as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, South Luangwa National Park is host to perhaps the most varied concentration of wildlife to be found in Africa. This agglomeration is at its peak in the dry season along the Luangwa River and its ox-bow lagoons.

A Thornicroft giraffe cooling off with a drink.

The flood plains of the Luangwa have been recognised as being of international importance and have achieved Ramsar Site status. Considered the most intact major river system in Africa, the Luangwa River is the life-blood of the 9,050km2 of the Park. For the most part the river forms the eastern boundary of the protected area. When it floods it flows with the deep red colour of the rich soil upstream.

Some impalas who clearly should be in the high jump event at the next Olympic Games.

South Luangwa was declared a game reserve as far back as 1938 but was only awarded national park status as recently as 1972, which makes it one of the original protected areas in Zambia but a fairly recent national park.

Guests observing a group of yellow-billed storks on a walking safari.

Walking safaris, now widely practised throughout Africa, originated in this park under the pioneering leadership of legends like Norman Carr, Robin Pope and Phil Berry and have been taken to a level not readily found elsewhere. Being on foot in the wild is one of the finest ways to experience pristine wilderness and its varied inhabitants.

Elephants crossing the Luangwa River.

There are more than 60 mammal species (sadly excluding rhino, which were poached to local extinction in 1987 despite Norman Carr’s best efforts to save them) and over 400 bird species to keep you company on your walk. The Luangwa Valley has a number of animals not found elsewhere including Thornicroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s wildebeest and Crawshay’s zebra which are endemic, or very nearly so, to the valley.

Read the full article from the latest issue online:
Valley of abundance (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Luangwa Destination Profile

Zambezi Traveller Directory:
Robin Pope Safaris

Monday, 15 July 2013

Zambezi Regatta Cancelled

The organisers of the Zambezi International Regatta, due to be held this September in Livingstone, have announced with great regret that due to the economic climate which prevails the Zambezi International Regatta has had to be postponed for this year. It is very much hoped that this historic event, which was first held in 1905, will be back next year.

Let's get this party started!

This weekend Shoestrings Backpackers in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, hosted a warmup event for the forthcoming Trees for Zambia Earth Fest, organised by conservation awareness charity Greenpop, to be held in Livingstone, Zambia this coming weekend. Jeremy Loops, Chikenbus Band and Flint meet Spark all hit the stage to entertain guests and start a party that for some will probably last all week long! Big thanks to everyone who helped make it happen, and don't forget the big event is next week in Zambia.

Adelle from Flint meet Spark, who opened the evening with a beautiful set of songs.

Our very own Chikenbus band, despite the recent departure of their leading man, proved that the bus still rolls on.

The man himself, the multi-talented Jeremy Loops.

The festival proper starts off on Friday 19th July in the evening with a party Train Ride from Livingstone train station to the Victoria Falls Bridge (DJs and all drinks included). Fest goers can meet at the Livingstone station at 16:30 sharp.

On Saturday 20 July, the festival will move to the Greenpop Village at Livingstone Safari Lodge where, from 15:00, attendees can participate in sustainability workshops. They will have the chance to learn more about what Greenpop is doing in Livingstone and get a taste of a full week’s activities. Music starts from 18:00 and will include performances by Jeremy Loops, Chikenbus Band, Yes Rasta, Black Light Panda, Pat McCay, Tribute Mboweni and more.

Find our more details on Greenpop Earth Fest on the Zambezi Traveller website.

Read more from the Zambezi Traveller:
Planning to re-green a country (ZT, Issue 12, March 2013)
Planting for a greener future (ZT, Issue 10, Sept 2012)

Photos by Shay Varley - see more on the Shoestrings Facebook page.

Website Links:
Shoestrings Backpackers
Greenpop Trees for Zambia
Jeremy Loops
Chikenbus Band
Flint meet Spark