Firstly our sincere apologies for being so late with our March news.  We are writing this at the end of April!  I think subconsciously I wanted to see the end of the rains before we started talking about camp opening and the start of the season and all that.  Why?  Well I am not going to dress it up… last year March was horrendous.  We had stuck vehicles, we had stuck guests coming to us, we burned out winches, we ended up changing the entire fuel injection system in one of the game viewers, our main generator failed.  Our standby welding/generator seized.  It just went on and on and on.  While some of it was bad luck and things just wearing out, the fact is also that trying to operate in major late rains was a big factor.  Let’s compare the difference between last March and this March:

The road into our car park March ’18

The same road. The same location but March ’19

This difference made our opening tasks incredibly easy.  Roads were dry and the camp was dry.  It all just flowed smoothly.  In fact we had our game driving loops slashed and drivable by the end of March which is absolutely unheard of.   Of course the reality of all this is that it is a disaster for local communities.  Twenty six kilometers south of us the protected Game Management Area gives way to farmland. Indeed all of our staff from the villages are small scale subsistence farmers.   The whole local economy is hinging on maize production.  And this year it is a disaster.  There is going to be a lot of hunger this year.  Its times like this that makes us think and at least be grateful of how many people we now employ and how much difference tourism (and decent wages) can make to people’s lives.

Junior’s (kitchen porter) in-laws maize field. Not good.

Back to the camp though and I have to say the dry weather and super-easy opening meant that we had a bit of time to enjoy the place we live it.  Last year it was so frantic and so fraught with drama we hardly had time!

On top of Mpamba rock after a serious rain storm – one of the few of 2019.

The river levels (despite the local drought) are actually pretty high.  Now this time last year we couldn’t see a single exposed rock (and the river was lapping the deck!), but there is still a decent volume of water flowing.  And of course it’s beauty is unchanged!

Sunset skies a little bit North of the lodge.

As I mentioned, we didn’t have much in the way of big storms in March.  But we did managed to capture one big one.  It was absolutely stunning.  The clear skies (in terms of atmospheric haze; dust and smoke) help.  The early months of the season are certainly beautiful.

Where else!?! Mpamba rock…

The power of such a bolt is unreal. Illuminating the whole cloud and allowing us to see the cloud texture.

Our first guests were on the 8th of March and everyone was fired up.  The camp was looking beautiful and everything so green and lush.  The chefs were raring to go and Benny’s front of house team were as keen as mustard to do some out of camp dining.  The only problem was that our usual spot by the rapids was under water.

Rapids dining spot completely submerged!

Fortunately we have our high water alternative at the stunningly beautiful Chief’s campsite.  This spot is unreal.  Lovely green lawn and a view out over the most incredibly scenic boulder strewn pool.  And the big advantage is that the unique ‘baobab bottle’ restroom is right there….!

Ready for our first guests!

Wish you were here?

Oh and seeing as how we mentioned restrooms – here you go.  The loo with a view at Chief’s campsite!

Talking of camping there is some fairly important news that we wanted to share.  The D769 (Itezhi Tezhi road) which is the alternative way to reach us (the other way being through the National Park to our car park and then across by boat to the lodge) has finally been upgraded.  What used to be a 2nd gear grind for two and a half hours is now tar as smooth as cream cheese!  This makes coming out for a weekend far far more doable.  We have also done a LOT of work on the last 40km through the miombo woodland on our track, so that is also good going now.  And its also worth pointing out that our three campsites are fully private (so no shared ablutions) and of course no park fees and vehicle fees.

The D769. A once infamous nightmare of a road. Not any more!!!

Meanwhile over in the park…   Now the early part of the green season (lets say March, April & May) are not exactly known for great sightings in Zambia.  The grass of course is extremely high.  Basically if any animal steps off the roads it is gone from sight.  But the grass also looks absolutely beautiful.  If you don’t expect October levels of animal sightings the green season can be captivating.

Green season grass!

The ‘parrot pool’ in March is invariably a Jacana nursery!  2019 was no exception with this father and his three chicks absolutely thriving in the pool.  They were also completely unfazed by our presence.  We were pleased to see that this pool at least had a decent water level despite the lack of rain.

However our first guests were actually very lucky with what they saw on their drives.  Two separate sightings of two packs of wild dogs.  Not bad for March!

Dogs! Made much more high profile after all the BBC Dynasties hype.

The first guests also got to be the first canoeists of 2019.  Kaley and I had a great trip down the river with them.  As experienced Canadian canoe campers it was great to see them enjoy such a different but also equally beautiful area.  Good light and well behaved hippos made it even more memorable.  In fact the only problem was that it was over so quickly: The high water and fast currents meant that a trip normally taking 3hrs plus took less than half that!

Dodging storms and chasing rainbows on the way down the river.

And then the late afternoon light as we almost reach home.

This time of the year we also do quite a lot of walking on this side of the river.  Exploring the river banks and lesser known spots such as the amazing zhibakamwale pools is incredible.

Exploring the river south of the lodge. Clambering and exploring in the late afternoon or early morning is always fun in this landscape.

The secret pools and channels of Zhibakamwale is another area that we take keen guests to. Incredible what is literally on our doorstep.

More from ‘Zhibaks’ as Kaley calls it. What a place!

So that’s about it.  We will leave with a few pictures of Chalet 1.  This time of the year with the clear air, the green and lush vegetation and the camp ‘sparkling’ after opening cleaning, creasoting, canvas painting and wood oiling means that we were very happy with how everything looked at the end of March.

Nestled into nature.

Chalet 1 sparkling in the late afternoon light. Literally!

Chalet 1 outside shower. All our guest accommodation has both indoor and outdoor showers.

So from here we will get straight onto working on April’s news!  So as not to be as late as we were for this one….    Until then we will leave you with a random picture of us airing our dirty (actually clean) laundry in public.  See you!

Kaingu napkins.