FIRE IN THE KAFUE!

13/07/2012.

Mcbrides’ Camp, Kafue : 20 & 21 June 2012, Days 3 & 4

So, where were we? We headed North-NorthEast from Sioma for the approximately 1 hour flight to Mcbrides’ Camp in the Kafue National Park. This was an incredible stretch of uninhabited earth to see…mankind is still an outsider in this part of the world. During the whole +- 400km flight we didn’t see a single road, house, railway line or footpath. Only bush. It’s hard to think that there are still places on earth that are unspoiled by man’s relentless advance. This is definitely one of those places.

ZS-SRS overshooting due to Puku on the runway

We soon encountered the Kafue river and I was surprised by how big it was and how much water it had.  McBrides’ Camp is situated inside the more than 2.25 million hectare Kafue National Park ( a bit bigger than The Kruger Park (2 million hectare)) in Zambia and is located in the North East section of the park. Map of Mcbrides’ Camp location. Soon we saw the camp and circled to land at the strip only about 3km from there. ZS-SRS arrived 10 minutes later but they had to overshoot on the first landing attempt due to pukus grazing on the runway. Second time around they safely landed and we secured and covered the airplanes. Unlike Sioma, a jeep with friendly faces was already waiting to take us to the camp.

Sign to the camp at the runway.

Chilling in the shade.

Two kilometres or so from the runway on our way to the camp we encountered a young lion and two lionesses, escaping the mid-day heat in the shade. We arrived soon afterwards at Mcbrides’ Camp where we were welcomed by Chris Mcbride. He told us to be on the lookout for a hippo called Lukas, who was hiding in the camp after being ousted from the pod of hippos lounging on the water’s edge. It took me a second to realise that there was no fence around the camp. This camp was truly in the wild.

Mcbrides' Camp

Veld fire's smoke behind one of the numerous fish eagles we saw.

The accommodation was everything you could expect from a bush camp. Grass tied to a circular fence formed the wall of the hut and a grass roof was constructed over it, with a tent canvas in between to fill the gap.  My room’s door didn’t close properly (not that it mattered, the rest of the hut was open to the elements), so the alarm bells rang out loud and clear – this was snake country. I don’t know what I would have done had I encountered one, but I was a nervous cat in that hut for the rest of our stay. The bathroom was en suite. It also had a grass fence around it and was very spacious, with a tree and the wide open blue sky for a roof.

Cute Squirrel

We had a delicious lunch and then everyone retired to their rooms for an afternoon nap. I stayed on the couch, in the dining area overlooking the river, reading a magazine, when all sorts of birds and a squirrel came to feed at a tree close from where I was lying. This presented me with the opportunity to take my best picture yet of a squirrel. That ticked off my bucket list, it was time for afternoon tea and we were treated to the most delicious hot-out-of-the-oven lemon sponge cake. It’s hard to believe but the afternoon then even got better as we boarded the camp’s river boat for a sunset cruise. It must be stated that this is surely one of the best and most cleverly designed sunset-booze-cruise boats that I have had the pleasure to be on. I’ll let the photo do the talking as words can’t do justice to this magnificent vehicle. World class.

Booze Cruise River Boat

Soon the current took hold of the boat and we drifted peacefully down the Kafue River. It was bliss. With an ice cold Mosi Lager in the one hand and my camera in the other I thought of how incredibly lucky I was to be there at that moment. A few fish eagles made themselves heard and seen and we saw lots of hippo pods, a big crocodile, two massive leguane and numerous species of water birds and a variety of antelope. Nothing though could prepare us for the leopard sighting just before sunset. On the bank, in the clear, lay a leopardess, staring at us with those intense dark golden eyes. A few feet from her was her cub. Leopards are usually solitary by nature and a sighting is usually fleeting. Here were a leopardess and her cub, clear to see as daylight, except, it was dusk. I cursed the lack of light to take photos and hoped we could drift a bit closer, but she was weary and soon disappeared with the cub into the tall grass. A once in a lifetime sighting.

Sunset Cruise on the Kafue river.

Leopardess.

We made our way back to the camp and had a wonderful dinner. Chris’ wife, Charlotte, had arrived back from Lusaka  earlier the afternoon to pick up supplies from there and was in charge of the kitchen. The food throughout the two days was very good. Sitting at the camp fire afterwards we could see a big veld fire across the river  and the Mcbrides’ told us that poachers started it and would then set their traps afterwards. It made an eerie glow in the black star-filled sky and I tried to capture it by taking a long exposure photo. The effect was awesome and Chris asked if they could use it for their website. Fire in the Kafue photo on Mcbrides’ website.

Armageddon in the Kafue.

We then went on a very enjoyable night game drive. It wasn’t cold and although we didn’t see a lot of game, it was interesting to see the veld at night with the bright stars overhead and the veld fires glowing in the distance. We did however cross paths with a hyena. It sniffed the air and had a good look at us but soon realised that its efforts might well be spent better somewhere else. It’s definitely not a creature I would like to encounter alone at night in the bush.

I woke up during the night to what sounded like footsteps. It was very close by. I thought of the hyena we saw earlier and realised our door didn’t lock, but could be pushed open. After waking up properly I realised it was in fact our hippo friend Lukas, grazing very close to the hut. The whole night I could also hear how lions call each other, not too far from the camp.

After all the excitement and busy schedule of the past three days, day four’s activity came at exactly the right time. A full day boat cruise, 14 kilometres down the Kafue river towards the MCBRIDES BUSH CAMP and back again.  In the morning we had coffee around the smouldering camp fire and realised that each one of us were bitten during the night by some sort of pepper tick, as the Mcbrides’ call them. It didn’t itch too much but made us look a bit ridiculous. We had a scrumptious breakfast and boarded the boat. There was a light breeze on the water the whole day which kept us cool and also directed the forest fire towards the river. This is probably the only way and place the fire is stopped as it seemed nobody was bothered to try and fight it.

Kafue river pano.

The river’s water is exceptionally blue and of a high quality. What South Africa wouldn’t give to have such a mass of water run through it day in and day out. During the day we saw dozens of hippo, a lot of birds, antelope and two elephants. The river’s banks were lined with the most beautiful trees, including the odd and massive baobab. The bush camp was a welcome break where we were treated to snacks with tea and coffee. Soon again we were on our way back upstream towards Mcbrides’ Camp.

Baobab

My dad.

We had a lovely supper that evening and too soon it was the next morning where we had to say our goodbyes. Many thanks to Chris and Charlotte for their generous hospitality and for sharing their extensive and compelling knowledge of the bush. As much as I enjoyed the Kafue and Mcbrides’ Camp, I couldn’t wait to get to Royal Zambezi Lodge in the Lower Zambezi Valley. A bit of luxury lay around the corner.

A quick look at the map for our route to Lower Zambezi Valley.

View more photos here : Facebook photos

For more info on Mcbrides’ Camp : www.mcbridescamp.com


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