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A Return to the Zambezi

Jun 26 2013 Written by: Richard Field

My first job in the safari industry was building and managing a small safari camp in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park. It was 1996 and I was a very green 22 year old who had just finished university and really didn’t know very much about anything at all! I lasted 6 months before the daily challenges of living and working in such an isolated and remote place eventually became too much. The job required someone more experienced and I needed to somewhere that I could be trained and mentored.

In May this year, I returned to the Lower Zambezi for the first time in 17 years, and I can honestly say that I was totally blown away by the experience. I had really forgotten how diverse and beautiful the area is, with mountains, woodland, open plains and of course the mighty and very beautiful Zambezi River. I saw great wildlife encountered two safari camps which are now high up in my list of favourites. Chiawa and Old Mondoro are owned by the Cumings family, who had a steady presence on the Lower Zambezi for over 25 years.

Both camps are phenomenal, but I found Old Mondoro particularly wonderful. It is a simple little camp, with only four rooms. The rooms are all set apart, so sitting on your deck in the middle of the day, the only noise you hear comes from hippos and birds and you could be the only people for miles. The game viewing in both areas is excellent. Whilst May isn’t the best time to be there I saw mating lions in the first 5 minutes of my drive at Chiawa, and an enormous male leopard within 5 minutes at Old Mondoro. In fact, we saw 3 leopards in total on my afternoon/evening drive and it seems that leopards are probably the dominant carnivore in that area at the moment.

The great thing about this area is the diversity of experiences available. Canoeing on the Zambezi is a highlight as are afternoon boat cruises and fishing expeditions (it is a great spot for Tigerfish). Added to this are excellent day and night game drives and walking safaris. I would suggest mixing up the two camps for a minimum of 5 nights down in this wonderful area.