It was a long travel day to Lafupa Camp from the Okavango Delta in Botswana, but the folks at Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) took care of every detail. We rose early, had a quick breakfast before driving to the landing strip where we flew back to the Kasane airport, then drove to the Kazungula Ferry crossing which took us across the Zambezi River into Zambia. From the ferry crossing we drove to Livingstone and then flew from Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport, in small single-engine airplanes, to a dirt landing strip not far from Lafupa Camp which we reached by safari vehicle. Whew!
Not only were we greeted at Lafupa Camp by the beautiful singing of the camp staff (and damp washcloths to wipe the dust from our faces) but by warmer weather as well. And our schedule felt a bit more relaxed at Lafupa, which was a welcome change after what seemed like a very hectic, fast-paced few days in the Okavango Delta.
The camp is located at the confluence of the Lafupa River with the Kafue River and has a lovely deck at the river’s edge. There were no raised walkways at Lafupa camp and our tented cabins were built on low platforms just at the edge of the Kafue River.
Our days and nights in camp were dominated by the grunting and squabbling of hippos and with the beautiful calls of the many kingfisher species that live along the river. Once again, elephants were a regular part of camp life. We often heard elephants just outside our tent at night and I watched one come down to the river for a drink just next to our tent one afternoon. Fascinating and frightening at the same time.
The first day we enjoyed morning and afternoon game drives through Kafue National Park, but at a more leisurely pace. We were able to sleep in a bit later in the morning and with warmer weather the drives were very enjoyable.
We had the usual “tea and pee” stops during the game drives to enjoy a cup of bush tea and a biscuit or two. We noticed cans filled with elephant dung attached to the corners of the game vehicles. It didn’t take long for someone to ask why. Tsetse flies are a potential problem in Kafue National Park, their bite is very painful, and burning elephant dung acts as a repellant. So, whenever a tsetse flies were around, the elephant dung was lit. The smell of burning elephant dung reminded me of incense.
Unique to this park is the seasonal burning of grasslands within the park. Sections of the park are intentionally burned to prevent a large wildfire from taking hold and moving across wide portions of the park. Thankfully the burning had taken place before our arrival, as visibility is poor during the burns. We noticed much of the burned grasses had already begun to sprout again, bringing game back into the burned areas.
Animal sightings during daytime game drives were not as numerous as in Botswana, but nighttime game drives were unique for us to Kafue National Park. We enjoyed two nighttime drives during which our driver used a large spotlight to sight game. Both drivers were careful not to keep the light on the animals for too long, so as to minimize stress to the animals. Needless to say photography at night was a challenge. We spotted a blue duiker, black civet, spotted genet (absolutely gorgeous), scrub hare, hyenas, hippos and bush babies (well, actually I only saw their eyes shining back at me.) With warmer evenings and slower driving speeds at night, these nighttime drives were really enjoyable.
I enjoyed my first gin and tonic of the trip one afternoon on the deck at Lafupa Camp. Having a gin and tonic a must for any visit to Africa, in my book. It tasted delicious and made me think of the safari stories of the past I have read.
On our second day at Lafupa Camp we toured via the rivers. We enjoyed morning and afternoon “floats” on both rivers. In the morning we ladies boarded one boat for game viewing and the guys boarded a fishing boat and tried their luck fishing along the Lafupa River.
We had great luck sighting many birds from the comfort of our “party boat”. It was a flat boat with rows of seats and railings all around. Our guide, Milos, captained the boat from the rear of the vessel. It was so relaxing to float along the slow moving Lafupa River taking pictures and watching the scenery.
In the meantime the guys were fishing for anything that would bite under the guidance of Boyd, who knew all of the good fishing holes. They caught silver barbel and African pike. Everyone caught fish and they all had a merry old time. Pete was so happy to have the opportunity to fish in Africa. It was something he was hoping to have the opportunity to do. He even caught fish with large teeth which pleased him even more!
In the afternoon we headed up the Kafue River to sightsee, and the guys motored back to the Lafupa River for more fishing. Milos guided our boat near the shore so that we could see and take pictures of the many birds, plants and animals along the the riverbank.
As we were floating along Milos spotted something very exciting off in the distance. He directed our attention up river to what through our inexperienced eyes we thought was a large rock in the river. Turned out it was moving — it was an elephant crossing the river. Even Milos was excited to discover the elephant and took out his own camera to take pictures.
While keeping a safe and non-threatening distance between us and the elephant, we slowly circled as he proceeded to cross the river. We all just wanted to keep watching, not wanting to return to camp. Needless to say the sighting really made our afternoon.
Soon after, Milos broke open the drinks cooler and poured wine or beer all around. We had the most relaxing float back to camp and to top off our elephant sighting we came upon a baby hippo along the riverbank. What a perfect afternoon.
One more memory of Lafupa Camp that will forever remain with me is the nursery rhyme I learned from Jeanne, one of our fellow travelers. We ladies practiced singing the rhyme as we returned to camp and offered our rendition, complete with acting from Kathy and Leslie, to the “cultural exchange” that evening. Let’s just say we received mix reviews. Here are the lyrics, maybe it is familiar to you.
I went to the animal fair
The birds and the beasts were there
The big baboon by the light of the moon was combing his auburn hair
The monkey he got drunk and fell on the elephant’s trunk
The elephant sneezed and fell to his knees
And that was the end of the monk
The monk, the monk, the monk.
Learning from your fellow travelers is one of the fun aspects of group travel. Thanks Jeanne.
Here are a few of the highlights from our time spent at Lafupa River Camp in Kafue National Park, Zambia. The slideshow begins with our travel to the park from the Okavango Delta. You will be able to see the colorfully painted houses along the road, and even a car wash. Also included are several videos. Watch carefully, and you will see one picture of two kingfishers later in the slideshow. One of the kingfishers has a fish in its mouth, the other is thinking about taking the fish away. Please enjoy.