Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Memories of KAFUE NATIONAL PARK





Several years ago, while i was living in Zambia with my family in Mongu, the Capital of the Western Province, we decided to take a holiday to Kafue National Park.

We hadn't planned much about this trip, and the trip would probably would have been uneventful had it not been for our interaction with  the Games Ranger, of the Park.. Thanks to him, it turned out to be a real adventure, and till today i remember him as someone who had a great passion for his work -  promoting and preserving the Zambian Wildlife.

Kafue National Park, set up in 1924 by the legendary Norman Carr is a huge Park, the second largest in  Africa, covering an estimated area of 22, 400 square  Kilometers. It became an Official National Park in 1950.  The Kafue River, a major tributary of the might Zambezi river runs through the Park.

We set forth in the early morning on the well maintained and tarred  Great West Road, stopping by at Kaoma ,a  town midway  to  Kafue, for  refueling.  The Great West Road  which runs all the way to Lusaka from Mongu, bisects the Park in two.

We were headed to stay in the Southern part of the Park, very close to the Great West Road at CHUNGA SAFARI VILLAGE.

While we were about  four kilometers away from reaching the Park, we met with a most unexpected yet delightful  sight. The trumpeting of the African elephant!  I t was a great start to the holiday and we proceeded further with gusto to explore more of the wild animals  in the famed park.

After crossing the Hook Bridge over the Kafue river, we reached CHUNGA.

Chunga Camp,  run by Njovu Safaris is a campsite /self catering chalets ,  just off the Lusaka-Mongu road on the west bank of Kafue River,  inside the park and near the Park Headquarters.

As  we entered the camp we were greeted by a sight of colorful tents hooked up all over the safari  village, beneath the shade of trees.  After having been on the lonely road for over four hours, it was a good feeling to be a midst other tourists.

We had gone in the dry season , which is recommended as during the rains many roads are inaccessible.  It  was the peak season and the weekend.  We were politely told by the Park officials that no tents were unavailable for  rent.  Even as we digested this piece of information , with the possibility of having to spend  the night curled up in our car, a young , well built native Zambian walked towards us and introduced himself as the Games Ranger of the park. His name was Christopher.

On realizing our predicament, he came out with a suggestion which surprised us no end.

" I can offer you my official residence.   But for a maximum  of two nights".

This sounded like music to our ears and without bargaining about the tariff etc,  we  nodded  in agreement.

From that moment onward he became our dear friend and guide. 

Post lunch, Christopher recommended that we take a  boat trip on the river Kafue.

 So we headed towards the banks, and sped on to explore the river on a speed boat.  The far reaches of the river were bordered by luxuriant ,  evergreen, riverine forests as  the Kafue river provides a permanent source of water.


The Kafue river is also an excellent source for fishing.


 A little while later we stopped at an island and explored the area.  There were several cottages built on stilts  to  escape  onslaught of  insects.  They were named as "Rabbit", " Hippo" etc.  Very well decorated , complete with all basic amenities including mosquito nets to avoid the dreaded Tse tse fly, whose bite  causes African sleeping sickness.

On returning back from the boat ride, Christopher took us to his bungalow , which was a bit in the interior of the Park.  Post resting, it was time to prepare dinner.  Christopher played the perfect host, offering  us the entire kitchen and the grocery. That night we had fish curry and rice for dinner.

The next morning, post breakfast, Christopher invited us to experience the surroundings of his bungalow.  As he took us around the bungalow and  told us about the vegetation growing there.

Most of the Kafue  National Park lies in the Central Zambezian plateau which comprises of Miombo woodlands ecoregion characterized by savanna grasslands with Miombo tree species, growing thickly in some patches.   

Miombo is the plural name of 'Muombo', in  Bemba , the most widely spoken native language ,  for Brachystegia longifolia,

 Brachystegia longifolia,
a tree which dominates extensive ares of the Zambezian Plateau.

The second  type of  flora in the Kafue National Park comprises of  few small Dambos , Grasslands which become marshy in the rainy season, interspersed among them.

 We were surprised to see a group of monkeys skipping around. We enjoyed some happy moments, though keeping a safe distance . 

 Christopher had arranged for a Field guide to accompany us for our Safari.

So, finally, it was time to explore the Zambian bush.  The park  has been earmarked in loops where specific game can be spotted.  We first went to the Lion loop.  We had barely landed at the spot ,when there was a loud roaring sound and in a flash of second we scrambled back  to the safety of the car.  We waited for about twenty minutes and when nothing was in site, proceeded to the next loop.

As we traversed  the park , the most common site was of ant hills.  something Christopher had asked us to be on the look out for.  He had told us that many of them were centureis old.

We spotted a few game like  herd of antelope,

Antelope
 the jumping Impala,  herd of buffalo and also some Warthogs


Warthog
which  make an annoying , grunting sound as they scamper around for food in groups. At first glance warthogs look like a pig that has been given the dracula touch :).

We had carried food with  us, and there in the middle of the bush we had our lunch followed by more  exploration of the wilderness..  By the time we reached the bungalow, it was  evening. Done with boat cruises and safaris we just wanted to end the trip on a relaxed note.This was to be our last night at the bungalow.

We all gathered in the living room including Christopher who was keen to know about India.  One thing led to another and soon the evening turned musical.  We sang songs and Christopher happily reciprocated by  entertaining  us with Zambian songs, accompanied by his  drum. It didn't matter that  Christopher didn't understand Hindi songs.  Nor  that we understood his native songs.  The common factor was bonhomie.

And then, Christopher walked to his room and came back with a portable cassette player. He inserted a cassette of Bee Gees.  And then everyone was dancing to 'Staying Alive'. It was the perfect ending to a great experience at the Kafue National Park. Only, God had some different plans.....

 Post dinner we retired for the night,  hoping  to start early on our way  back to Mongu, least  expecting the drama which was to unfold later at night.

I woke up to the sound of breaking glass.  Even as i rubbed my eyes, trying to figure out my bearings, i realized we were in Chunga. In the  bungalow. So, who could be crashing the door? A thief? Most unlikely.  In a few moments everyone was up and in the living room. 

Christopher stood in front of the broken glass door and signaled us to be quiet.

" Please switch off all the lights except for one bedroom.  It is a group of baby hippos.  They have lost their way.  Must have come from the Kafue river.  Keep calm".

We digested this bit of news and rushed to the window to peep.  Sure enough there were three baby hippos grunting and running around in confusion.  


Our curiosity aroused to no end , we watched in awe as they ran around in circles, aware that they had strayed away from their familiar habitat.


 Five minutes minutes later, they  calmed down and slowly sauntered away from the bungalow towards the bush.



We heaved a sigh of relief.  It was 3 in the morning. After this unexpected commotion sleep was the last thing on our minds.  So we settled down  in the living room.

'Did you see any hippos while you took the boat trip on the Kafue"? Christopher inquired

''No", we replied

"Well, then they were God sent just for you", he laughed.

" In my four years of stay, i have never encountered something like this", he added.

We finally relaxed and waited for  sun to rise.  Our  bags were already packed.  

The sun rose, and it was dawn.  It was time to bid adieu to the wilderness and go back home.

Just before leaving, as we thanked  Christopher for his hospitality,. He brushed it aside casually saying,

" It is part of my job. And the training.  We are taught to be  guide, teacher. game warden, story teller, doctor, all rolled in one. It is  our  endeavor  to make sure that Conservation and Tourism remain sustainable so that the future generations may appreciate our natural heritage."


And as we drove away from the village, i recalled  the sign post at the entrance of the Park:


"Take nothing but photographs. Leave nothing but foot prints. Leave for others to enjoy."

To this day, he remains  an integral memory of my stay in Zambia.

Travel is not only about discovering exotic locations and experiencing new things.  it is also about the people you meet in your journey, who impact you, and broaden your  outlook on life, making you a better person having encountered an experience that stays with you for life .


I end this post with a quote  by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

" Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not".

 I enjoyed recollecting this post.  Hope u did too :)







This Post is an entry for the  Indiblogger's 'Around The world With Expedia' Contest.


Contest sponsor: Expedia India.

19 comments:

  1. Lovely! Enjoyed my virtual visit to Kafue :-) Thanks.

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    1. Thanks a lot for the appreciation Ravin. And welcome to my Blog! Keep visiting. Keep commenting!!

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  2. I really loved this. Did not know you were in Africa. I spent some time in Kenya. The flora and fauna of the place is so lush. I think the African continent is God's own country ... truly

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    1. Thank you so much Ritu! Gr8 to see you in comment section. Well, thanks to blogging we discover things about each other. If you have lived in Africa, you can relate to this post. It is the most unique continent in many ways.

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  3. I have never been to Zambia but I had a school friend who had lived there for 15 years of his life, he used to tell me stories about Kafue, glad that I found another person to see it virtually now.Keep writing Abha...

    ~Arnab
    www.arnabmaity.com

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    1. Good to know about your Zambian school mate. And thanks for the encouragement. It is a small world isn't it:)

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  4. The visit to the Kafue National Park through your words and lens... wonderful!

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    1. Thank you so much Shilpa. Glad u liked it and could relate to it :)

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  5. It looks like a wonderful place. Thanks for sharing your trip...:)

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  6. Hi Abha, wow, I've never seen a hippo in my life however I'm told they're very dangerous animals.. nice to now that u've seen a bunch of them together :)

    Christopher comes across as quite a helpful guy.. I'm sure he added to to make ur trip even more cool :)

    Nice post, Abha ji :)

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    1. Hi Raj, Thanks for dropping by. Yes the whole holiday as narrated was a gr8 Zambian experience. Now hopping to you blog to leave a comment :)

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  7. After reading your post, I can understand why this trip and Christopher is so special and also why you wrote about it. Good luck for the contest :-)

    BTW, thanks for the virtual safari trip that I got via this post.

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    1. Thank u so much Sudha. I am SO glad that i was able to put across the personality of Christopher. He was a remarkable young man. And u r welcome about the virtual safari :)

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  8. It must have been scary, i could almost not imagine.. the thuds on the windows.. This surely has to be a special memory and the bonding between you people and Christopher was so much evident as I read through the post. Wonderful read and my virtual safari was a treat too! Thanks Aabha and Good Luck for the contest. :-)

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    1. Thank you for the wishes Arti! glad u liked it :)

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  9. That was one amazing experience!

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  10. Christopher was truly the perfect travel companion! loved your narrative :)
    Do read mine and share your thoughts please :)

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