12 Feb 2014

Monkeying Around

Zambia: Chimfunshi, Livingstone
Botswana: Kasane, Chobe National Park, Nata, Rakops

In Northern Zambia there are very few tourist attractions, but one we had been looking forward to was a visit to the chimps, especially after our first encounter with the slightly larger primates in Uganda.  We had a great guide who explained the chimps were rescued mostly from the DRC, but also from as far afield as Israel and Moscow, but have now been integrated in family groups. One particularly sad case was an old male who was found in a bar in the Congo. He had spent 17 years there, and had been trained to drink beer and smoke cigarettes with the customers. He was alcoholic when he arrived, and had to spend a long time in the "naughty pen", away from the others. But he has since cleaned up his act and is part of the family. Unfortunately none of the chimps here have any prospect of being released into the wild, partly as they have lost the skills necessary to survive in the wild, but mainly because of the continuing trade in bushmeat. Chimps which are habituated to humans make particularly easy targets for hunters. We were lucky to be there during feeding time so we saw all the chimps get their mangoes, nsima and vegetables.  It was fascinating watching them taking the food from the crates themselves.

We also saw a cute chimp that was still potty training and living indoors in a small play pen.  He was very soft and also very shy.

When we visited Livingstone in October 2013, we were pleased to have an opportunity to visit the “Devils Pool” and “hang” over the Victoria Falls. However, now the falls are in their element.  We were not quite prepared for the “cloud that thunders” to deliver such a high intensity of water, and so we got completely soaked – so drenched that we had to dry ourselves with towels and change clothes!  We were transfixed by the amount of water – a million litres of water per second gushing over the side of the falls – a fascinating and very loud experience. 

Retracing our footsteps from earlier on in our journey, we crossed the border at Kasungula with the ferry – this time able to dismiss the touts as we knew exactly what we were doing.  We headed straight to Kasane once we were in Botswana, and stopped at *Chobe Safari Lodge*.  As they were fully booked the following night, we moved to *Chobe Marina Lodge* and discovered that this was a much better and much better value lodge – we were delighted, and upgraded to a room as a treat. 

We spent a morning and an evening in Chobe National Park.  It was a different experience to last October.  There was much more vegetation, making it more challenging to see game.  But, there were an immense number of elephants.  They seemed to be slightly more wary, as were we, as the high density of vegetation meant that you only saw one another when you were practically face-to-face when rounding a bend.  Not ideal – and slightly unnerving.  On the other end of the size scale, we watched fascinated as a dung beetle pushed his load across the ruts in the road while his companion enjoyed the ride! 


During our morning drive, we happened upon a kill and a group of lionesses with lion cubs.  We decided to head back to this spot in the late afternoon, but amazingly by that point the carcass was nearly completely gone. On the way back to the lodge, a rainbow gave us a lovely final glimpse of the national park and that evening a beautiful sunset lit up the sky.  The sunsets were still as amazing as our first visit - beautiful shades of pink and blue reflected in the river - a stunning end to the day.

After a lovely stay in *Chobe Marina Lodge* we headed to new territory in Nata.  It turned out that the Nata Bird Sanctuary was by their own admission “not worth a visit” as the Makgadikgadi pans (the salty remnants of a long-gone inland sea) were flooded by the seasonal rains and the birds had already migrated.  So we pressed on to Botswana’s second largest city - Francistown.

In Francistown we spent a day preparing for our expedition into the Kalahari.  The city provided everything we needed to stock up and prepare for our journey, and after a good night’s rest at *Digger’s Inn* - an old mining haunt – we headed towards Rakops – the gateway to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

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