23 Jan 2014

Nightlife In South Luangwa

Zambia: South Luangwa National Park, Lusaka, Kitwe

We had heard so many good things about South Luangwa National Park that, having missed out on it during our first crossing of Zambia, we were determined to visit it on our return journey. The historically bad road from Chipata to the park entrance at Mfuwe has now been completely tarred – so what could have been a 6 hour journey turned out to be a mere 2 hours! 

We stayed at *Croc Valley Camp* and made our way into the park as soon as we arrived.  The road was easy driving and we made our way around seeing a variety of animals including elephants, variety of birds of prey, the quite rare wild dogs and our first snake – a rather beautiful young puff adder.

In the evening we went on the highly acclaimed night drive.  As soon as we got into the car the heavens opened.  We were provided with de-rigour yellow ponchos – a fashion fate far worse than the alternative soaking.  But the open cab provided no shelter at all for the driver and guide…they got completely drenched.  

As the rain dried up we drove past a male antelope displaying his leaps and flicking his hind legs upwards as he bounced along the ground. This was followed by what looked like a competition amongst others who wanted to join in.

As the sun began to set, we stopped by the riverside for a sundowner.  It was a beautiful sunset, which was made more exciting by a hyena coming closer to inspect the commotion. 

Continuing our night drive in the dark and with a spotlight being expertly beamed all around us, we were lucky to spot a leopard heading off in search of some food.  Having seen both the front end and the back end of a leopard, this was the first full leopard we saw. Victory! 

Having had a wild night in the park, it was now time to head into the capital city for a wild night.  Well, being quite tired, wild was a curry and a trip to the cinema. 

Then we pointed Tonka North towards Kitwe where we were going to meet Henry and Joyce from Wukwashi Wa Nzambi – a charity which enables disabled children to reach their full potential.

19 Jan 2014

A Quick Transit

Malawi to Zambia

Earlier in our travels we had stayed at *Mushroom Farm* in Northern Malawi and we had enjoyed it so much that we wanted to visit again on our short transit back through Malawi into Zambia.  Being the wet season, it now looked greener and had also undergone some renovations since November.  It was also now living up to its namesake - the area was full of wild mushrooms.   

We took the beautiful forested route through the mountains the length of Lake Malawi to Lilongwe, before we made our way into Zambia to South Luangwa National Park where we had heard leopards were a likely sighting on a night drive. 

16 Jan 2014

Getting High In Tanzania

Tanzania: Usambara, Lushoto, Kilimanjaro, Pangani, Morogoro, Iringa
As we left Dar after the New Year Celebrations, we had added a new recruit in the form of Ida – the friend we had spent Christmas & New Year with.  She was taking some time out from her busy family life to accompany us first to the Usambara mountains on the Tanzania/Kenyan border and then to Kilimanjaro.  Three up front in Tonka is a bit of a squeeze, but manageable for a few days at a time. 

The Usambara’s are a much under-rated highlight of Northern Tanzania, lying just off the busy Dar-Arusha highway.  From the scorchingly hot valley floor, you get immediate relief from the heat as you climb 1,000m via a twisting mountain track that passes through the beautiful hillside village of Irente.  Boasting stunning views over vegetable terraces to the valley beyond, this is a perfect stopover en route to Kili.  Also very appealing is the great campsite at Irente Biodiversity Farm which stocks a selection of locally made organic produce.  Passion fruit juice, Mango chutney, Mulberry jam, homemade cheese, bread and local macadamia nuts were all added to Tonka’s pantry. 

After spending a day hiking the tranquil trails around Irente, winding through orchards of peach trees and fields of maize, it was time to continue west towards the roof of Africa…

The hardest part about climbing Kilimanjaro is trying to decipher the plethora of rules and regulations surrounding it.  If you ask ten different people you get ten different answers, and the greatest misinformation comes directly from the horse’s mouth – the National Park Headquarters at the Marangu Gate. 

1 Jan 2014

A Mafia Christmas

Tanzania: Dar Es Salaam, Mafia Island

We had arranged to spend Christmas on Mafia Island with Josi’s Danish cousin and family and some close friends of theirs who had moved to Dar earlier this year.  We would be 12 people in total and we were all excited to be heading to this marine paradise for the holiday season.

A small 13 seater plane brought us to the picturesque island of Mafia and we made our way to *Kinasi Lodge*.  The lodge was welcoming and, with freshly cracked coconuts on arrival, we knew we were in for a good few days.  Our room was also an upgrade from the many days of sleeping in the tent, and we were pleased to be having a break from driving!  The lodge was situated inside the highly acclaimed National Marine Reserve and we made plans for some snorkelling, cultural visits, swimming with whale sharks and even a private lunch on a remote island