Here at NileGuide, we are all avid travelers, and there is no better place to share our adventures than right here on the NileGuidance Blog. Every few weeks we’ll post another travelogue from our travels.
Under African Skies (Part 1)
The sun sank low in the sky, a glowing orange orb floating above the dry, dusty plains teeming with zebra and antelope. The scene was Africa at its primal best — a setting that leaves one with that intangible feeling of “connectedness” to the planet, at once an insignificant speck and an essential part of the whole. The feeling was lubricated with a perfect gin and tonic. It was 5:30pm in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, and at least for a moment, all was right with the universe.
My girlfriend and I had been invited to stay at a new safari lodge built by his family, with a perfect location just inside the park beside a large watering hole, where more and more different kinds of animals gathered as the dry season progressed. By the time we arrived at the Mushroom Lodge in mid-September, the animals were forced to either find the ever-shrinking stagnant pools or come down to the Luangwa River to drink. The river’s permanent supply of water is one reason South Luangwa has earned a reputation as one of the premier wildlife parks in Africa. Not only are the sheer numbers of animals enormous, but the diversity is impressive as well, with so many different species that it’s easy to lose count. All of the Big 5 are present except for rhino (which, having been poached out of existence, are now being reintroduced in North Luangwa), and it’s also common to see large herds of zebra and impala, and large troops of baboons. You won’t find millions of wildebeest on the the open plain, but you will likely get a chance to see lions, elephant, buffalo, and maybe even a leopard without lots of other safari trucks around.
In addition to its diversity, several other elements make South Luangwa unique. First, along with a diversity of animals, visitors will find a diversity of habitats, ranging from mopane woodlands to dry, open plains, to beautiful ebony tree parklands, to riveside beaches. In addition, park rules allow for night drives until 8pm, enabling visitors to spot nocturnally-active animals out on the hunt. (If you spot lions or a leopard during the day, they most likely will be lying in the shade or in a tree). Moreover, the park allows walking safaris, so we were able to go on several half-day walks along with a scout, our guide, and an armed park guard. It’s quite a different experience seeing elephants from ground level than from a large Land Rover (although this is also great, since the park allows open trucks, which is a key improvement over being crammed into the backseat of a closed vehicle). Finally, there are a wide selection of quality lodges to choose from, including new ones like ours.
We found Mushroom Lodge to be a great value and the perfect mix between luxury and low-key, and were proud to be staying in the first black Zambian-owned lodge in the area. Our room was comfortable and spacious, and we often were treated to impressive displays from warthogs, baboons, or elephants just outside our door. The food was also surprisingly excellent; in past trips to Africa, this had been the one area that was lacking. And, the staff was friendly and courteous, without being embarrassingly obsequious.
To be continued in Travelogues: Under African Skies (Part 2)