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

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Gorges and Bomani Combo

Gorges and Bomani Combo - Stay for 6 pay for 4

Usual package rate (Rack): US$1890 per person sharing

Special package rate (Rack): US$1430 per person sharing – a saving of US$460

This special package rate includes 3 nights at Gorges Lodge in Victoria Falls and 3 nights at Bomani Tented Lodge in Hwange National Park.

- Return airport transfers to Victoria Falls Airport
- Return road transfers between Gorges and Bomani lodges
- Accommodation, all meals, drinks and laundry at both camps
- Usual activities whilst at Gorges, choose from black eagle viewing with - sundowners, traditional dancing display, a visit to see the mighty Victoria Falls or a local village and school visit
- Return transfers to Victoria Falls town for each night of your stay at Gorges Lodge
- All safari activities at Bomani, choose from morning and afternoon game drives, game walks, ‘pump runs’ (a full day out in Hwange National Park) or village and school visits all with the service of a qualified guide whilst on safari
- Hwange National Parks entry fee at Bomani and Victoria Falls Park entrance fee

Valid until end 2014

Zambezi Traveller Directory
Imvelo Safari Lodges

Monday, 28 April 2014

The story of a lion called Goose

By Julian Brookstein,
Camp Hwange, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

With thanks to Julian Brookstein and Camp Hwange for allowing us to repost this story.

The story as I know it of Goose….

Anybody that stayed with us at Camp Hwange last season would have surely heard of or been lucky enough to see Goose. Goose is a male lion that was resident on our concession for much of last season. He was named Goose when he was first darted and collared by the Hwange Lion research team in 2005 at around age five. He was darted at Dwarf Goose pan which happens to be on our concession. After this he more or less took up residence in the Nehimba area which is to the east of Camp Hwange.

Goose....this photo was taken end of last year behind Camp Hwange Zimbabwe. He was over thirteen years old here. A pensioner in the lion world.

Hwange is blessed with a very healthy lion population. Almost at its carrying capacity, so with this in mind it tells us that all the good lion “real-estate” is taken. Goose held this Nehimba area for around seven years on his own as far as I know. This is a massive achievement considering that there are always other lions looking to take over your area. He was still holding that area at age thirteen which is basically very seldom done in the lion world. Generally a male lion has around three years between the ages of five and eight to make the most of things as this is when he is in his prime. There are cases whereby older lions are kicked out and may become nomadic and them team up with other males possible younger than them and try and hold a territory again.

Goose in his time as King of the Nehimba area sired many cubs. The ones that are most known to us at Camp Hwange are Daniel, Day and Lewis. Of which we now have Day and Lewis left after Daniel was shot. He is also the father of a lion called Vusi.

Last year in August two new lions that we had never seen before appeared on our concession. One looked much older than other and had a collar. We contacted lion research and they told us these two were called Naxha and Vusi and had come from an area about fifty kilometers away.

Naxha and Vusi when they first came onto the Camp Hwange concession.

Those of you that have read my stories will know the circumstances of how Daniel was shot. After Daniel was shot his two Brothers Day and Lewis stopped coming into our area and moved towards Masuma. I believe that this is what opened the door for Naxha and Vusi to enter our area. They soon realized that there were no dominant male lions in this area patrolling and calling so moved in. They spent a bit of time here and I think realised that to go west meant to go where Day and Lewis were and that going east was to where Goose was. They went east and after a big dust up chased Goose from the area that he had held for all that time.

From left to right...Day, Lewis and Daniel.

After this Goose came to our concession, when we first saw him he was in bad shape after the fight and we were not sure if he would make it. He pulled through though. Then not long after that we found him again looking thin and in a very bad way after he had decided to kill a porcupine and had lots of quills in his chest and face. We though he would not make it. Luckily for him at the time it was the dry season so there were elephants dying from lack of water. He managed to find some of these dead elephants and put weight back on and the quills worked loose and again he bounced back.

We were very happy to have Goose on the concession as we could just about find him daily within a few kilometers of the camp. He hung around for some months and all the time acted like he owned the place. Defiantly roaring and scent marking as if to remind the two that kicked him out that he was still around. He was always known as an angry lion. Lions have personalities as do most things. His was just plain angry. Despite having seen vehicle for most of his life he would still charge the car, sometimes after you had been sitting with him for half an hour already!

At the end of the year Naxha and Vusi again came into our area and this is when Goose left our area for good. Obvioulsy not wanting another fight as by now he was basically a pensioner in the lion world. He left and ended up heading towards the main camp area. However he was constantly on the move as wherever he went there were younger fitter stronger lions that he had to stay out of the way of.

Sadly Africa is not what it once was and these magical animals don’t have the territory that they need to roam in. Recently Goose left the park and went into the communal areas that border on the park. The lion research team made the surrounding villages aware that there was a lion in the area. He was I am sure looking for an easy meal in the way of a cow or donkey.

Very sadly a child was sent in the night to get some matches and Goose killed the child. He was shot at the site.

What a very sad way for a child to lose a life and for the story of such a magnificent animal to end.

By Julian Brookstein,

Zambezi Traveller Directory:
Camp Hwange

Follow Camp Hwange on Facebook here.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Silent Trumpets


Ipomoea rubens

Colourful trumpets silently herald a new day: morning glory flowers unfurl at dawn, the tubes of fused petals remaining a little creased from their night of twisting in tight buds. These twining herbs and shrubs are found throughout the tropics, and in Zambia there are many species, some native and some visitors, flowering across the seasons. Thus, we can almost always find an example of the Convolvulaceae in bloom, even in winter.

Ipomoea shirambensis

Among the native species, Ipomoea shirambensis (locally known as lukuli) brings an astonishing burst of colour to the otherwise parched landscape at the end of the dry season, while I.rubens decorates riverside and swampy vegetation for months on end.

Convolvulus sagittatus

Ipomoea pestigridis and Convolvulus sagittatus, named after the tiger-foot and arrow-like shape of their leaves respectively, are also indigenous to this region of Africa. A non-native, but much-planted Ipomoea is the sweet potato, I. batatas, which probably originated in South America. Its leaves and tubers are highly nutritious and are among the most prominent of vegetables in Zambia, known locally askandolo, chimbwaliand ngulu.

Not only do the tubers taste sweet, they also help to balance blood sugar levels by reducing insulin resistance and thus alleviating symptoms of type-2 diabetes. Ipomoeaaquatica, found floating at the edges of the Zambezi, and other rivers and swamps, is biochemically very similar to the sweet potato, and both species contain compounds known to inhibit HIV replication [reference* given below].

Ipomoea tricolor

Ipomoea tricolor, a garden escapee originally from tropical America, may turn out to be one of nature’s gifts to help us fight the dreaded Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which have become resistant to a wide range of antibiotics: extracts from leaves and roots contain a range of compounds which act synergistically to disable the mechanism of resistance, thus allowing the active substances in prescribed antibiotics to take effect. Other than the species which are known to be edible, do not consume morning glory plants. Many of the seeds are poisonous, with effects ranging from mildly laxative (interestingly, since the other common name for the family is ‘bindweed’!) to psychosis. Ipomoea tricolor seeds, for example, were used by the Aztecs in shamanistic rituals to give their victims mind-altering horror trips.

However, literally hundreds of species of Ipomoea worldwide are known to have effective and wide-ranging medicinal properties, so perhaps we should promote research into our local species. After all, they can’t blow their own trumpets.

*[ref: Meira, M. et al. (2012). Review of the genus Ipomoea: traditional uses, chemistry, and biological activities. Brazilian Journal of Pharmacognosy, 22(3): 682-7134]

Read more articles from this issue:
Main menu (Issue 16, March 2014)
Full contents listing
Birds & Birding

More from the Zambezi Traveller:
Livingstone Destination Profile
Livingstone News

More articles in this series:
Christmas crackers (ZT, Issue 15, Dec 2013)
Don't eat the daffodils (ZT, Issue 14, Sept 2013)
Rainforest Riches (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)
Berry banquet (ZT, Issue 12, March 2013)
Marvellous Mangoes (ZT, Issue 11, December 2012)
Underground Forests (ZT, Issue 10, September 2012)
The healing powers of Aloes (ZT, Issue 09, June 2012)
Dogbane Drugs (ZT, Issue 08, March 2012)
Devil’s Claw (ZT, Issue 07, December 2011)
Elephant Toothpicks (ZT, Issue 06, Sept 2011)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Victoria Falls Big Tree

Victoria Falls Big Tree, 2011

The Victoria Falls Big Tree, 2011 (Image credit: Peter Roberts)

The Big Tree of Victoria Falls is one of the important heritage sites in the area. This massive baobab (Adansonia digitata) stands proud just off Zambezi River Drive. It is known throughout Zimbabwe and indeed across the globe, for over the last century thousands of visitors have seen this giant of the veld.

Victoria Falls Big Tree, 1915

Early visitors to the Big Tree, 1915 (Image credit: Percy Clark)

Along with photographs of the Falls themselves, there are countless historical images of the Big Tree. Those in my collection show surprisingly little change over the last century, other than the two stems towards the Zambezi. This suggests that on the whole the tree is no longer actively growing and expanding outward. There is a possibility that the main trunk actually consists of several fused stems, a not uncommon feature of baobabs.

Victoria Falls Big Tree, 1950

The Big Tree, 1950s

The tree is just under 17m in diameter. Some have suggested, on the basis of data collected from growing baobabs, that this equates to an age of 1,500 to 2,000 years. Indeed this may be so, but for how long has this tree been in stasis, expanding no further? We will probably never know and all respect is due to this grand old lady of Victoria Falls.

While by no means the largest baobab in Zimbabwe, the Big Tree of Victoria Falls has been silent witness to centuries of human change. It was there when the first farmers started to till the soil in this area. It has seen shifting tribal groups and political alliances – Tonga, Leya, Lozi, Nambya and Ndebele.

Victoria Falls, 1863

The Victoria Falls, painted by Thomas Baines, 1863.

Being near to the Falls it was a popular camping spot for European travellers in the precolonial period. Not however David Livingstone. His travels were on the north bank of the Zambezi when he first documented the Falls, but others have camped here, like hunter James Chapman, artist Thomas Baines, trader George Westbeach and Czech traveller and collector Emil Holub. Could the large baobab illustrated in one of Baines’ paintings on the far left distance be the big tree? Dated to 1863 it probably is. It certainly appears on Holub’s 1870 map of the Falls.

It was near here that Albert Geise, the man who first pegged coal at Hwange, had a trading store long before the town of Victoria Falls existed. Also nearby was one of two south bank crossing points for those wanting to go north. Later the Victoria Falls Hotel used the spot when it had its own launches for early Zambezi Cruises. The now abandoned jetty was linked to the hotel by a narrow gauge rail track on which trolleys were pushed by human effort.

Sadly the Big Tree was scarred by many of its early visitors, as well as some more recent. What pride can one take in spoiling a tree like this? There is also concern that elephants, that have damaged this area that was once a thick forest, could smash it. Some years ago, no one can tell me just when, the local authorities fenced in the tree. This has never really worked for long and the fence is periodically replaced. It is an unfortunate visual scar spoiling modern photographs, while I see that it still doesn’t exclude humans.

Victoria Falls Big Tree, 2009

The Big Tree, 2009 (Image credit: Rob Burrett)

When next you get to pay homage to this old lady, remember her age and treat her with respect. Even the slightest scar can get infected and cause death. We will all be losers should we lose the Big Tree so that she cannot also be gazed upon by our children’s children’s children.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 13, June 2013)

Read more about baobabs:
The Big Tree (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)
Succulent folds of grey (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)
The baobab’s secret (ZT, Issue 13, June 2013)
In love with baobabs (ZT, Issue 09, Sept 2012)

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

Friday, 18 April 2014

Fungus Growing Termites

With thanks to Wildlife Camp, South Luangwa for this piece from their newsletter.

Termites. We’ve all heard of them, most of us have seen them, but very few of us know how fascinating they are! Fungus-growing termites (macrotermites) are the ones that build those massive mud mounds scattered all over Southern Africa. They produce a certain type of fungus within these nests which allow them to process cellulose without a gut-parasite commonly found in other primitive species. But did you know that within these mounds, magic happens? You see, just like people, termites prefer their homes air-conditioned. The mounds inside consists thousand of small tunnels, a central chimney, a food store, a royal cell, fungus combs and a nest chamber. It’s inhabited by a single queen, a slightly smaller king to fertilize her, workers to do all the daily jobs that termites need done and soldiers to protect the nest. Seeing as the queen can lay 25 000 eggs each day and live for up to 20 years, you can imagine that millions of termites live together in one such mound.

Macrotermes michaelseni

Air in the nest chamber, heated and depleted of oxygen from all the various activities that take place, rises up through the central chimney and into ventilation flues, just below the mound’s surface. Here, a carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange takes place and the air cools. Heat flowing from below pressurizes this air and the cooled down, oxygen-rich air follows another passageway into a cavity below the nest chamber, passing though specially constructed veins kept damp by the worker termites. This cools the air further, before it rises up again into the nest chamber. Amazing, isn’t it! And other animals think so too! Monitor Lizards (Varanus niloticus) are known to lay their eggs inside these mounds to ensure a constant incubation temprature. Baboons often use these nests as lookouts. And speaking of baboons.

Source: Wildlife Camp, South Luangwa, News March 2014.

Zambezi Traveller Desitiona Profile

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Epic wildlife interactions in South Luangwa

Source: Daily Mail (UK).

When two tribes go to war: Incredible moment legion of hippos turn and flee after stand-off with more than 100 crocs in epic Zambian river battle

They are some of the most fearsome creatures to stalk the waterways of Africa.

But when a army of crocodiles got snap happy with a herd of hippos, it seems that the mammals were in no mood for a fight.

Wildlife photographer Marc Mol witnessed the ignominious retreat in a river at Zambia's South Luangwa National Park, where hungry crocs were preparing to rip one hippo to shreds.

For more images and full text visit original article in the Daily Mail.

Zambezi Traveller Destination Profile