Blessed with one of the seven natural wonders of the world and an abundance of wildlife, water and vast open spaces, Zambia offers unforgettable holidays exploring the real Africa.
Blog: Annie returns to the wild in Zambia
Zambia is home to the walking safari and offers one of Africa’s premier wildlife experiences. Here, our Zambia expert Annie experiences the unique Luwi River Trail walking safari – a true wilderness adventure away from the crowds and up close to nature. Accompanied by some of the best guides on the continent, with some of the best wildlife viewing that Africa has on offer, Annie tells us why the Luwi River Trail is one of her favourite safari experiences…
Falling asleep to the calls of lions or the whooping of hyena under a star-strewn sky – away from the light pollution we associate with progress – and awakening to a chorus of uninterrupted birdsong is my idea of wilderness. The development of the safari since the early pioneers means that this wilderness experience is becoming ever harder to truly capture… To me, Zambia is one of the few accessible places in Africa to still retain this. In fact it truly thrives on it. The idea of returning to the wild was first instilled by a young game ranger in the 1950s. His name was Norman Carr and his aim was to recreate the traditional safari of old – tracking big game on foot. The home he chose for this was Zambia’s Luangwa Valley – a haven for some of Africa’s most impressive concentrations of wildlife. Norman Carr’s primary goal was not tourism but in fact securing the future of this pristine wilderness by making the local people stakeholders in conserving it. His success is undeniable; 60 years on, Norman Carr Safaris are still walking. South Luangwa National Park lends itself to walking; not only is there a high concentration of game, but the bush has a beauty, richness and diversity not experienced elsewhere. This ever-changing landscape makes it an ideal area to explore on foot.
Whilst enjoying a good country walk and even day long hikes, this was my first full-on walking safari experience. Before putting on my boots, I was wary of whether I would enjoy it and see the benefit of leaving the Land Rover behind. Having done game walks on safari before, I knew I found it enjoyable for a couple of hours, but would it really be worth risking blisters and getting out day after day on foot? Of course it was! Despite a rather unforgettable show down with an elephant at close quarters which I would perhaps rather forget, nothing can beat seeing the flora and fauna of the bush at such close quarters! For one thing, no matter how good your eye sight or binoculars, you see so much more than you could from a vehicle. This is no route-march either, rather a gentle 8-10km (3 hour) meander through the bush from camp to camp with nothing more to carry than a camera or pair of binoculars. You walk at a slow pace, to keep to the speed of the slowest in the group and of course so that you can track game undetected (well except in the case of that elephant!). Even when the blisters did begin to rear their uncomfortable heads I wasn’t perturbed. In fact, the experience only became more invigorating as the days went on.
As a child I thrived on Sunday afternoons spent in the woods, loved mud and water in equal measure and spent each summer camping (albeit in our garden). What then could better this wilderness experience than embarking on the Return to the Wild Sleep Out? Norman Carr’s bush camps, including Luwi, may be simple in style and in touch with their surroundings but they certainly don’t lack the luxury of a hot shower, which is of course most welcome having walked from your previous camp to get there. What, then, would it be like to sleep out under the stars with nothing but a roll mat, blanket and mosquito net? Not to mention just a few fires encircling the camp to dissuade predators from coming for a sleepover, or midnight feast…
Fancy a more luxurious stay in the South Luangwa but with the same high standards of guiding?
Check out Chinzombo – Norman Carr’s flagship, uber-swish camp.
The afternoon of the sleep out we set out from Nsolo Bush Camp to follow the Luwi River system to our carefully chosen spot in the sandy river bed. Arriving late due to the aforementioned elephant altercation it was a bit of a rush to gather firewood, raise our nets and of course dig the vital bush loo. Of course it didn’t match the comfort of a Norman Carr camp, but I still slept, and what could be a more welcome treat than falling asleep to the calls of lions, with just a mosquito net separating you from the star-strewn sky above, and waking as the sun rises to uninterrupted birdsong? Well, perhaps the shower on arrival at Kakuli Bush Camp...!
The Luwi River Trail is the perfect itinerary to fully immerse yourself in a wilderness experience in Zambia. It focuses on being as close to nature as possible, with options to walk from camp to camp, but also with day and night game drives. Listen to the wildlife whilst the ranger and guide keep a watchful eye, and submerge yourself in a true Zambian adventure.