Canoeing down the Zambezi

After spending time on the river boat seeing the many hippos and crocs, we were ready to canoe down the Zambezi. The lead up is nerve-wracking as the intensive safety briefing goes over the things that can go very wrong. Hippo flipping a canoe, crocs getting you, hitting a hidden tree stump…Anyways lots of things to get your adrenaline up.

Once we got in the canoes though I felt fairly relieved as our guide leading the trip had canoed the river over 2500 times over the past 20 years. We would not encounter any hippos but we knew they were around. After 6km of paddling, we would stop to watch the stunning sunset while sipping on a cold gin and tonic with a hippo family nearby. A very enjoyable experience.

Heading to Sapi Springs

Today we headed inland where we had the opportunity to experience a different area. Located away from the river looking on a spring, the camp is small and intimate with only 3 rooms. The beds are on the roof, only covered by a net, making for a very unique stay and a very neat experience as you look up at the stars while falling asleep, listening to the hyenas calling.

Meals at the camp were cooked over the bush fire, including margarita pizza which was fantastic! The eggs benedict was a treat as well.

Walking the Sapi River we stopped to play sausage throw, which you win by getting the sausage from the sausage tree closest to the target. Several rounds later, it came down to Alex and I in the championship playoffs.

Chikwenya

After a quick 15min flight I would land in a place called Chikwenya…a legendary safari area that has been revitalized after a 15-year hiatus. The area is known for its exceptional wildlife thanks to a natural floodplain and its location on the river. On a private concession, the area is exclusive to the camp giving you your own private safari.

After some time at Chikwenya, I would meet 5 other agents from around the world to experience the newly opened Great Plains camps Sapi Explores and Sapi Springs Camps. Our guide for the trip was Humphrey Gumbo… a legend in the Zimbabwe guiding industry as he is one of the youngest to get his guiding licence and is known as one of the top guides in Zimbabwe.

The journey would start with a history lesson on the area including some of the Baobab trees (my favorite) which are estimated to be over 1500 years old. Some say the gods planted the tree upside down as the branches look like a bunch of roots. One of the trees we saw had pots said to hold the remains of Chief Chikweyna (who was a lady). After passing by the baobabs, we headed for the river where we enjoyed a cold gin and tonic taking in the classic African sunset. We drove back to camp using a spotlight to try and spot animals. The light gives a reflection (similar to red eye in photos) of the animal’s eyes. We would see a small serval cat and an unidentified snake slither across the road. On arrival to camp, it was magical with oil lamps lighting up the paths and the staff singing a welcome song. The sky was stunning with millions of stars and the only thing lighting up the camp was lanterns. For dinner, the chef was preparing a beautiful meal using only traditional cooking methods – fire! We would have full chickens cooked in the ground. A fine meal paired with fine South African wines followed by a delicious desert.

Arriving in Zimbabwe

After 36 hours, 21 hours which were flying (4 different flights) I would land in Mana Pools. I spent 1 night at the beautiful Ruckomechi Camp located on the Zambezi River. Almost immediately, on our way from the airstrip to camp, I was rewarded with my first lion sighting of the trip. A female lion was resting, as lions do, with a full belly. The guides figured she’d just feasted on an impala. Even with my little to no sleep I was excited to be back in the bush! Once at camp, I would enjoy an ice-cold beer taking in the sunset.

Kylan’s Off to Zimbabwe!

Mana Pools is located in the northern part of Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River, it has been highly talked about as one of the best wildlife areas in the world in terms of both numbers and how WILD it truly is. Due to intense training programs and the diversity of activities offered in Zimbabwe – game drives, true walking safaris, canoeing and river boating – many of the best guides in Africa are from this incredible country. The area of Mana Pools I will be exploring is so wildlife rich in fact that Mugabe (past President) had reserved the area for himself. It is special due to its remoteness and plains as well as a natural spring that attracts wildlife. The area has recently welcomed 4 new camps that I will be inspecting.

After Mana Pools I’ll head to Victoria Falls for a couple of days, before spending 5 days in the beautiful Cape Town where I’ll meet with our local partners and lodge owners/operators from all over Africa.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Ol Pejeta Conservancy – 90,000 acre private wildlife conservancy in Kenya’s Laikipia district with Mount Kenya in the background.  We were fortunate to be able to do a chimpanzee “behind the scenes” at their Chimp Sanctuary set up by Jane Goodall as a method of saving several Chimps that had been in captivity, as well as a special Rhino Encounter with the endangered white rhinos.

The Chimp sanctuary was established between Kenya Wildlife Service and the Jane Goodall Institute to provide refuge to orphaned and abused chimpanzees from West and Central Africa.  They now have 39 chimps that have been nursed back to health in 2 different family groups, each with very large territories of natural enclosures separated by the Ewaso Nyiro River.

After the Rhino Encounter we joined Zachary, one of their long time caregivers, for an educational visit to the rhino burial site for a somber look at where about 13 sites are marked for rhinos that either died of natural causes (such as Sudan) and sadly many others who died from poachers.  However, Ol Pejeta is doing a fantastic job with their anti-poaching and conservation efforts. They have grown their rhino population significantly and have kept their ecosystem intact with a wide variety of game.

Kenyan Arrival & Eating Stone Orphanage

Once I arrived in Nairobi, I met our partners Liz, Tenai, Geoff, and Albert.  We went out for a visit to the orphanage we help support, Eating Stone.  The kids are well fed, clothed, and are going to school – they are doing great work there.  We were impressed to hear the children’s little stories of what they would like to be when they grow up – we had some aspiring to be Doctors, Engineers, Pilots – the sky is the limit!  Next project will be to help them get access to a soccer field and some game type activities to keep them active and engaged.

Leaving Tanzania, off to Kenya!

Travelling through Tanzania with Lemala Safaris was the very best way to experience this wonderful and diverse country!  The Serengeti is aptly named, as it means “endless plains” which we certainly felt.  Miles and miles of vast tracks of land. I was able to experience top camps in wildlife rich areas and also get some excellent cultural experiences.  It was everything and more that I could hope for.  From Tarangire to Ngorongoro to Northern Serengeti – I got just a small taste of what Tanzania has to offer.

Samburu Village Visit

We had a great visit at a Samburu village outside Samburu National Park before continuing on a game drive. Liz and I were able to partake in a conversation with Joseph and Steven about their tribe – their struggles and their successes.  We were welcomed in with the ladies to their dance and song and a visit in one of their huts to see how they live.

They have very little but are pretty happy people – water seemed to be their main concern.  It is so hot and dry in Samburu – the river bed is dry right now, the rains should come soon but in the meantime, they rely on a water tank that was donated to them that they fill every couple of months for the whole village.   As they say “water is life” … so Liz and I were able to do a little donation to pay for their next water tank to be filled and they were extremely grateful.

Check out Steven with the Buffalo horn that they use when they are calling the tribe in for a meeting or if there is a warning of some sort.  They can hear it for up to 10 km!

 

 

Ngorongoro & Ndutu

We spent a morning in Ngorongoro Crater, the largest intact caldera in the world. Here you’ll find hippos taking mud baths, prides of lions lazing in the sun, and one of the highest density of hyenas in all of Africa’s parks.

After brunch on the crater floor we continued our game drive west to Ndutu, the southern area of the Serengeti Plains, translated as “endless plains” from the native Maasai language. Here special sightings are possible through off-road driving. I’ve seen almost everything except leopard and rhino 😊 there’s even a bit of the wildebeest migration going down into Ndutu.