So 2017. Thanks to a wind in the pacific our main area got flooded! Joking apart, the end of 2016 and early part of 2017 were forecast to be “La Nina” (Spanish for little girl) conditions. These are conditions that follow the more known “El Nino” (little boy) conditions. How does that flood the bar? Well, La Nina conditions are stronger than usual easterly trade winds in the pacific. These winds move warmer water to the west (shallower water near the west coast of South America is warmer) allowing the warmer water to be replaced with cooler water. A couple of degrees change in temperature of a large area of the pacific then has a huge effect on the global atmospheric circulation (which you may as well just call weather!). This basically means you then have different than normal distribution of thermal energy to the earths surface. La Nina conditions means higher than normal rainfall patterns in Southern Africa and that was for sure this year. El Nino is the exact opposite in cause and effect.
So it rained and rained and rained… Now lets be honest, Zambia needs a decent raining season to fill up the dams and provide relief what what has been 3 fairly dry rainy seasons. The river just kept rising up though. Now normally this is not that big a deal – the Luansanza and Shishamba rivers often rise over the bridges and make access impossible, but generally it is over in 24hrs and they have subsided below the bridges. Not this time! We were left with no choice but to boat guests down from Chunga all the way to the lodge. Its either that or four hours around the GMA/ITT road and I know which I would prefer.
Once in camp the guests had the unique experience of seeing the waters slowly rise through the deck, over the deck and eventually into the main thatched area and up to the bar.
Interesting times indeed. We made a plan and used the Finfoot house deck for lunch and then for dinner we used the guides nkuta – fortunately last year we built a new one and the special curved cooler box storage area could do duty as a bar. It actually looked really good we thought.
Fortunately the waters stopped just below the guest tents. Although most of the tents we had to place mukwa planks on breeze blocks to allow guests to keep their feet dry.
Game drives were definitely not on the menu, the car park in the National Park was completely under water. In fact our game drive vehicles were marooned on the only bit of high ground. JohnD, Kaley and myself took a boat through the car park and halfway down the track to the spinal road – totally surreal experience.
Almost as surreal was taking a boat up the river, up the Luansanza and over the bridge. To give you an idea here is two pictures, one with the river at its peak and then one last November when we were clearing and burning the storm debris that builds up at the bridge.
When it came to departure time for the ‘flood group’ we elected to drive the guests around – there was not too much enthusiasm for punching upstream into the heavy current and up the Chunga rapids! We then had about a weeks dry weather and the main area dried out and we were finally able to get a vehicle out of the car park. Fortunately we did that day as German guests then had a fantastic sighting of a huge Pangolin as we were heading down to the Kaindabaila hills.
The very welcome week of dry came to an end though with more rains. Just as we were gearing up for the arrival of some big groups. This led to some very sleepless nights – these group numbers were such that driving them around was just not an option. The river started to rise again and it was a real deja vu moment. Fortunately the bridges stayed clear and we were able to get our groups in an out.
While the river is still really high (most rocks and islands are still totally submerged, as is our jetty) it is finally receding fast. No doubt that the rainy season is over now and we are all breathing a sigh of relief. We were really chuffed to still be getting good guest feedback even at the peak of the flood. But we are really glad that not every camp opening is like this one was!
Great stay despite the unseasonal “High Tide”. Everyone did their utmost to keep the show on the road and our walking trips through the velt learning about the “smaller things” like butterflies, snakes, scorpions, spiders and trees was FANTASTIC. The knowledge of the guides was outstanding and the friendliness of the owners – staff was magic.
although the river Kafue had risen and the camp was flooded, the staff were very good and looked after you very well in the circumstances.
there was other activities to do like walking,canoeing, fishing etc. all told a different but enjoyable experience.
We got away lightly. A lot of other camps were badly affected. Its a bit of a distant memory now and with a good clean up things are totally back to normal and everything is lush and green. Getting a bit chilly in the mornings too. Roll on winter!