No hippo in sight, but elephant and mongooses roam free at Kafue

By Myrtle Ryan Time of article published Jan 14, 2020

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Hippo Bay in the Kafue National Park, Zambia, certainly did not live up to its name. With the drought, the waters of what was normally a shallow inlet in Itezi Tezi, a man-made lake, had receded dramatically, and we never heard even one grunt, let alone a hippo chorus.

Still, there were other exciting brushes with nature. A herd of elephants moved at random through our camp site, and sometimes flapped their ears slightly belligerently at us.

Then one morning in the ablution block I became aware of a gentle scuttling around my feet. A family of mongooses had nipped in, possibly to cool their paws in the showers, which they now found invaded by a cheeky, intruding human. It was delightful!

There are two options in this area - camping at Hippo Bay, or staying in luxurious Konkamoya Lodge, run by a charming Italian man. For me, camping is always king.

We took several drives, encountering various species of game as well as birds, despite the lack of water, and generally just enjoyed being in a wild place with no fences to keep the animals at bay. Such places are becoming harder and harder to find.

Kasabushi camp (otter in the local dialect), further north in the same park, was our next destination. Set on the banks of the Kafue River, it overlooks deep pools where otters no doubt flourish, but we, sadly, never saw any of these delightful but shy creatures.

The owner-designed showers in the public ablutions were oh so romantic, while the gentle trip down the river on a flat-bottomed boat was pure pleasure. The roots of many of the trees on the river banks are exposed, interlocking in dramatic patterns. Even so, we were told that they hold firm, with no sudden collapsing of the banks.

African Parks, a South African outfit, is apparently at present in the throes of negotiating to administer Kafue National Park. Local operators say they are waiting with bated breath, wondering what this will entail for them, but agree African Parks have an impeccable record and are great administrators.

Interestingly, outside of the capital, Lusaka, much of Zambia still has mud huts with thatched roofs. The villages are neatly swept, no plastic adorns the fences, and many of the mud walls are fetchingly carved and painted.

As we passed one village, while driving along a tar road (with no potholes!), I spotted a spanking new school... but the children had chosen to take their lessons under the trees, leaving the classrooms deserted.

Local businesses have some enterprising names, such as Needs Will Always Be With You, Investment Company and From Zero To Hero Hair Salon.

It all adds to the laid-back charm of Zambia.

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