First Full Day at Chongwe River Camp
Have you ever thought you might like to be a safari guide in Africa? It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? What a great life, you take people on drives a couple times a day, tell them about the wildlife, eat meals with them, it’s all fun . . . right?
These guides work hard. First, in order to qualify as a guide, you have to take – and pass – a national exam, an exam in three parts. If you don’t pass any one section, you have to take it again. You have to know the common name for animals, birds, trees, bushes and flowers, and you also have to know the Latin names.
If you are a guide, people will ask you the craziest questions, and expect you to answer. If someone gets sick on the drive, you have to know basic First Aid. If something goes wrong with the car, as a guide, it is your responsibility to fix it, or to get the people you are responsible for back to camp.
If you are a guide, you can go back to where the leopard ALWAYS hangs out, or to where another guide spotted mating lions, and today, with your guests, they won’t be there, and you won’t see any sign of them. If you show them two prides of lion, they will be elated until they hear that the other guests saw mating leopard, and they will be mad at YOU, the guide, because they didn’t see them. If the day is too hot or too cold, you have to find a way to make your guests comfortable.
At the end of a long day driving and trying to make people happy, you have to sit with the same people at dinner, making polite conversation, answering their questions, and you’d be surprised how often it is the same question.
We really admire the guides. They work hard. They can make or break a guest’s perception of a camp. It’s hard work.
Our guide at Chongwe River Camp, Victor, knocks himself out. Although we didn’t show up until after four the day we arrived, he had us out on the river by five
Early the next morning, we have a campfire by the river, with a pot of porridge, home made hot muffins and a glorious sunrise:
We head out on a game drive, passing the waterbuck once again, and spot a stork fishing for his breakfast:
The morning light is achingly beautiful; we can’t stop taking pictures:
Victor is leaning over the side of the car; that is always good news. He’s spotted a lion print:
The Cape Buffalo are still sleepy and a little slow, so we get some good photos:
We get to the entrance to the Lower Zambezi National Park:
And we see a jackal! The only other jackal we saw as at the salt pan, and that at a distance!
We are driving around looking for lion when suddenly Victor stops the car and backs up. There, on the grass, under a tree, is a leopard, just waiting for us!
Now here’s the thing – I probably took about fifty shots of this leopard, but I am not happy, and this is normal for trying to shoot leopard, or lion – many times they are in grass. Sometimes it can confuse your camera, you think you are shooting the leopard, but your camera focused on the shoot of grass just in front. Or you think you’ve taken the perfect shot, and there is this leaf, or grass, just marring the perfection of your shot. Or the leopard is facing away from you. Or the leopard is walking into the brush! Oh no!
This nice little female leopard put up with us for about half an hour, then leisurely walked away, all of us still snapping, snapping, snapping . . .
I love this elephant, I love this elephant’s ear. We’ve taken a lot of elephant photos, but I really love this elephant:
We can’t believe what a wonderful morning we are having, and just as we are feeling life can’t get much better, Victor spots two young lions. He says they are part of a larger group, but the larger lions have gone off hunting and these have been left tagging behind:
Just after the young lions have wandered off stage, we see this big boy coming down the road, and he is terrifying. He has one thought on his mind, find that lady elephant, and we do NOT want to get in his way:
I know, I know, this is a family blog . . .
It’s been quite a morning, and we head back to camp, but we are all too excited to sleep after lunch. I intended to wash my hair, but there is a cold breeze blowing in off the river, and our wonderful open air shower is just a little too shivery for me today.
We take a walk into the main camp – here is the main camp lounge:
And the dining table overlooking the Chongwe River:
And overlooking a huge pod of sunning hippo:
We run into Chris, one of the Chongwe River Camp owners, with whom we flew from Lusaka to Royal, the airstrip for Chongwe River camp. He talked about the new direct flight from Dubai to Lusaka and how he wants to market to expats in Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait, etc. to get them to come down to Chongwe for their holidays. We tell him we did most of our Africa travel from Kuwait and Qatar, that it was a piece of cake with a time zone change of only an hour, not 8 hours, and travel time usually just overnight, and the price is a lot cheaper from there, too. It’s a great trip out of the Middle East, and we think he has the right idea, to market the camp to expats and locals there.
After tea, we head back out on the river, three of us, while one goes fishing. What we love about Chongwe is that there are so many things to do, and so much fun!
Victor finds a spot near the White Fronted Bee Eaters for sundowners, and we meet up with the fishermen, who, alas, did not catch anything:
Back at the AlBida Suite (the Family Suite) Steve-the-Butler has laid out a beautiful campfire to welcome us back.
It has been a perfect day. Victor joins us for an early dinner, and as we finish up a chilly breeze starts blowing and we all say goodnight, knowing morning will be coming early once again.
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