South Luangwa’s Dynamic Diversity

For my first visit to Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, I visited a number of camps and portfolios for a wonderful introduction to this storied safari destination. 

The big takeaway for me was that South Luangwa should be on more peoples’ lists, and travelers should consider really exploring the park with a 6-8 night stay visiting a few different areas. For me, I think a wonderful trip would start off in Livingstone/Vic Falls, then continue on to the Luangwa Valley for big game wildlife viewing followed by canoeing and river safaris on the Lower Zambezi, and maybe a nice city finish in Cape Town. 

The good news is that connections into and around Zambia are getting better every year. I flew directly into Lusaka from Dubai, and there are now direct flights from Nairobi to Livingstone to Cape Town, so Zambia can be easily combined with other destinations in East and Southern Africa.

Photos & Report by Jeremy Townsend


Early-November was an exciting time to visit Luangwa, right at the end of the dry season when all the guides and the animals are eagerly awaiting the first rains. I was lucky to visit some of the remote bush camps as most were getting ready to close in preparation for the coming rains, and it was fascinating to see the variety of landscapes and ecosystems at this dynamic time of year.

You can see the evidence of the park’s dramatic seasonal changes everywhere. It seems impossible that the vast sandy river banks, some half a kilometer across and 10 feet high, could fill and overflow during what is known as the Emerald Season in January and February. When the rainwater from the Muchinga Escarpment at the southern end of the Great East African Rift funnels into the Luangwa River and its tributaries, the area becomes a waterworld with boating safaris over what was parched open plains during the dry season of June-October.

With these seasonal fluctuations, the backcountry dries up, and an amazing diversity of wildlife congregates along the river and the oxbow lagoons scattered throughout the park. Over the course of 9 nights, I saw lion and leopard on almost every drive. I saw impressive numbers of zebra, Thornicroft Giraffe, Cookson’s Wildebeest, huge herds of buffalo and families of elephant making their way from the forests to the dry riverbeds and across the plains in search of water or mangos.

I saw 4 packs of wild dogs which was unbelievable, and a very rare sighting of wild pigs, a wide variety of antelope including eland, kudu, reed buck, bush buck, waterbuck and the first of the tiny baby impala and warthogs that arrive with the first rains. The night drives were especially exciting with genets, civets, hyena, lots of different mongoose and porcupines, twice!!!

There’s such an amazing contrast between the cracked dry earth and the busy waterholes. In one area, we watched a lonely hippo and a baby crocodile sharing a shrinking puddle with yellow-billed and saddle-billed storks, a hammerkop, kingfishers, egrets, spoonbills and a fisheagle awaiting its turn on the bank. 

Out near the hot springs in the Nsefu sector, I watched a five-minute boxing match between two Egyptian geese that will go down as one of my most interesting and exciting wildlife sightings as they locked their beaks and traded punches while the rest of the flock cheered them on!

And perhaps the best part was that we weren’t crowded or jostled by multiple vehicles; it seemed like we had the park all to ourselves… The guides are excellent, and they take special care to spread out into the park and give guests a great experience.

There are so many things that make Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park a special destination, but perhaps it’s best feature is that it is relatively unknown to the masses. In terms of wildlife viewing and the quality of camps and guiding, the park offers incredible value while avoiding the crowds that we find in more popular destinations.

I was struck by the intimate size of most of the camps and lodges in the park. Mfuwe Lodge, famous for the elephants who stroll through its lobby during the mango fruiting season, is perceived as being a big lodge, but, with only 18 chalets, it’s still pretty cozy compared to the safari resorts found in some other destinations. 

Once travelers get out to the more remote parts of the park, most camps have only 4-6 units which makes for a truly special and personalized experience. The small camp size has roots in the park being the home of the walking safari, and a lot of the camps still offer morning or even multi-day hikes so you can really immerse yourself in this wild environment. With a wide range of options from top-of-the-line luxury like Chinzombo and the new Puku Ridge Camp to comfy classic lodges like Kapamba and Nsefu to true backcountry adventure camps like Nsolo, there’s something for everyone at every budget. 

We’re so grateful to see Zambia staying true to its wild African character as a leader in conservation and ecotourism with exceptional guides, spectacular wildlife and so many possibilities!!!




A Writer Left Astounded For Words

“I always cry when the small plane lands on a dirt airstrip, and I always cry when I leave.” — Gayle


Gayle Lions

Photo by Gayle

I’m a writer, but I would have to be a poet to be able to describe what it’s like for me. This was my fifth trip to Africa, and it still takes my breath away to see my first elephant. But it’s more than the animals, and it’s more than the remarkable Zambians, Botswanans, and South Africans I’ve met.

It’s the sensuality of the place – the way it looks, smells, sounds, and feels. It’s the light and the sense of pre-history I feel when I first set foot in the bush; a sense of having returned home to where we all began. I always cry when the small plane lands on a dirt airstrip, and I always cry when I leave.

Gayle’s Wish is Granted

Photo by Gayle

Three lions attempted to separate a buffalo from a small herd. The lions took turns going in for a buffalo, only to be chased out by the large bulls. It was a game of cat and mouse, and mouse and cat, for several minutes.

The dust was flying, the buffalo were freaking out, and I was hoping to NOT see a kill. I ended up getting my wish when the buffalo made their escape across the river.

I had a skilled tracker and expert in animal behavior. He read the warning behaviors of different animals such as baboons, impala, and birds in order to successfully locate this leopard (pictured to the left).

Learn more about Gayle’s trip

Diving In Day One – A Surprise Southern Africa Safari

“We’re a gay couple that has traveled the world all on our own, from the Galapagos Islands to the Bosphorus Strait, but, given the vastness of the African continent and the remote, seasonal safari areas, we benefitted greatly from Kili’s expertise and thoroughness. We found the whole experience rewarding and truly, not one person missed a beat.”  — Rick S.


This was our very first trip to Africa, and the first thing we noticed was the vastness of the continent. Even though we conceptually understood the size, and Kili had certainly prepped us, we truly had no idea how big Africa was. I mean, as we were flying over Morocco, we still had 9 more hours before landing in Cape Town. We just didn’t really get it.

Botswana Game Drive in Okavango Delta

Enjoying an open-vehicle game drive in the Okavango Delta

What was impressive was that immediately upon landing, we were in a jeep and transferring to the lodge while incredible wildlife was running all around us. We were instantly ‘in the experience,’ and we were giddy like two kids on Christmas Eve. There are so many stories from our trip that it’s impossible to identify a single favorite story. It’s interesting – we used to say that about the countries we’d traveled to (that we couldn’t identify a favorite), but now we say that about Africa…that there really isn’t one story that stands out. The entire trip stands out.

I still vividly remember the first night, falling asleep while listening to lion roars and hippo grunts. One day we woke up from our siesta to an elephant staring into our tent…maybe 15 feet away. We had another, similar experience where we woke up, and we heard rhythmic crunching. It turned out there was a hippo eating in the daytime, which was rare, right outside our tent. He was essentially mowing the grasses.

We watched a cheetah eating an Impala – it sounds gruesome, but it wasn’t. They kill quickly and methodically. We were so close that we could hear the crunching of the bones. We watched the Cheetah lick the blood off its face. We were that close! It really sounds gruesome, but it honestly isn’t. It’s also odd because we cheered for the predators. It isn’t like the TV programs you see where you hope the prey gets away. You simply understand the order, and see that there are millions of Impalas, and only a handful of lions. They have to eat, and they work incredibly hard for a meal.

Deepening Our Ecological Awareness

The other impression, too, is what a closed ecosystem it is. Every animal has a little niche to play. It’s why you can get behind the predators. We thought there would be smells and bones everywhere, but there isn’t. It was an ecological lesson; it really was. We try to do our bit in terms of reducing, reusing and recycling and our footprint – but this really helped us realize what a puzzle of a world we live in, and how each thing plays its part. You just kind of see how it all works. It was a very sensory experience – very visual. There were smells, but they weren’t bad. The kills didn’t last long, so there was no rotting meat. There is a sort of pecking order of everything and it all just goes away.

Happy Lion near Selinda

Happy Lion, Selinda, Botswana

The main predators kill, say, an Impala, and eat the main parts of the animal. Then, the Jackals and Hyenas take what they need, and then the vultures come…and nothing is left. I mean absolutely nothing. We did find some hippo skulls, which was fascinating…with the jaw…because we got a real sense of just how powerful they are. But, that was about it.
The guides were fantastic – every day was like one long school day in the best possible way. We watched a pack of wild dogs hunt, and try to spook a herd of Cape buffalo. There is a strategy to the hunt. The dogs were on the track, and we were following. Their strategy was that they worked as a group, and they tried to spook the group so they’d run, and in the panic, the dogs could single out their prey.

At one point, we also found some lionesses that had climbed into trees, which is rare. There were only a couple prides where this was happening. Our guide said that it was only the second generation of lionesses that were doing that – climbing into the trees. One was calling to her cubs, but they couldn’t find her because it didn’t occur to them to look up. It felt like we were watching an ecological shift in real time.

Emerging with a Thirst for More

In our planning phase, we gave Kili our wish list of animals to see – which didn’t include birds (we aren’t birders), so she designed our trip around our wish list. And unbelievably, we saw them all.

The food was excellent. We didn’t really have expectations. We did a lot of research once we decided on places, but we weren’t there for the food, if that makes sense. The camps were really luxe. We were really pleased with that. I mean one of the places was off the charts; just the presentation of their food alone was impressive. This was a surprise because it’s so remote. They don’t have access to a lot of stuff, food and otherwise, and they don’t even have a cell signal, so they have to fly everything in. We were confused as to how would they begin to understand the levels of luxury that they did. It really was excellent.

We are very well traveled – we started out hesitant to take a trip that was all planned, and we don’t do group tours. We’re a gay couple that has traveled the world all on our own, from the Galapagos Islands to the Bosphorus Strait, but, given the vastness of the African continent and the remote, seasonal safari areas, we benefitted greatly from Kili’s expertise and thoroughness. We found the whole experience rewarding and truly, not one person missed a beat. Kili had designed the itinerary for us to see a wide variety of species and surroundings. We usually saw elephants, but each time, it felt different. We never got bored. We were always a little sad to leave, but eager to see the next place. Kili had the camps build upon each other – the first one was nice, but unbeknownst to us, it was the least special. She was very thoughtful.

We are definitely going to go back to Africa, but we are going to go to different countries. We’ll go back and to Kenya and Tanzania, and we might go to Namibia, and certainly Rwanda. Some places you travel to see the terrain, and others you go to see the buildings and the history. I see now that traveling to see history and architecture means having a more static experience. When we go back to Africa, it will probably be completely different. It’s dynamic; always changing. You can never go and have the same experience twice.



Zambia Migration Safari – November 2018

Next Adventure is excited to announce an opportunity to travel with our Managing Director, Kili McGowan, on a truly unique small group itinerary to experience some of Zambia’s most remarkable wildlife destinations.

This Zambia Migration Safari for November/December 2018 begins after Thanksgiving 2018, which hopefully is a nice time for everyone’s calendars. We’re especially excited as this itinerary will satisfy first-timers with excellent big game wildlife viewing as well as repeat travelers who are interested in visiting lesser-known regions.

With the unusual addition of walking to see migrating fruit bats in Kasanka and the chance to witness first-hand a phenomenal conservation & wilderness rehabilitation project in the very remote Liuwa Plains of Western Zambia, this is a one-of-a-kind itinerary.

See some of Kili’s photos from her scouting trip to Zambia’s Liuwa Plains last year.

We’ve currently got a few interested parties, and space is limited. If you’d like to learn more about this unique opportunity or custom safari options, don’t hesitate to get in touch.


NA Zambia Migration Safari 2018 One Sheet

Join Allen Bechky in 2017

Next Adventure is honored to offer an India Wildlife Safari in February 2017 and two exclusive small group departures to Zambia in June and October of 2017 with Specialist Safari Guide and Naturalist Allen Bechky. Each itinerary is uniquely designed around prime seasonality and excellent wildlife viewing activities. Read more from Allen below, and get in touch if you have any questions.

 


 

Greetings from Africa!

I write from the shores of Lake Victoria. Many of you know that I now base myself between a home in Uganda and Villa Gorilla, my little lodge in Rwanda. I do continue my migrations around Africa and the world, with safaris as far afield as Borneo and Brazil.

In the last few years, I have been exclusively doing tailor-made private departures. In June 2016, I guided a couple on a comprehensive tour of Zambia’s best wildlife parks, and it was a truly spectacular experience. Based on the success of that private departure, I will be offering two scheduled safaris in Zambia in conjunction with my friends at Next Adventure.

I’m also excited to offer an India Wildlife Safari focused on tiger viewing in February 2017.

Check out the itineraries below and be in touch with the team at Next Adventure to learn more.

Zambia June 2017

Zambia October 2017

India Wildlife Safari February 2017

Looking forward to seeing you in the bush!

Allen

Lions in South Luangwa, Zambia

My Private Zambia – On Safari with Allen Bechky

Elephants of all sizes were splashing in the mud, rolling in the goop, lying in it from side to side, splashing with their trunks. A less than one year-old calf was the only one who didn’t go in. She just ran about, ears flapping, trunk lolling, without a clue how to use it. — Allen Bechky


In June Allen Bechky led a couple on an extensive, privately guided safari to Zambia’s finest wildlife viewing destinations. Read Allen’s trip report below to see why he keeps returning to Zambia! All photos by Kili McGowan.


Busanga Sunrise

Busanga Sunrise

Another fantastic trip in Zambia. June is the start of winter down there, so the weather was Goldilocks-good. Not too hot, not too cold. Travel was easy as we flew from park to park. Guides, vehicles, accommodation and food were all exemplary.

After a night at Latitude 15 in Lusaka, we started at lovely Chiawa Camp on the Zambezi River. This year is drier than normal, so we were constantly dodging elephants in camp– something that is an every-day occurrence from September through October. My clients, Missy and Clint, are very serious photographers so we focused on game drives, with a few boat cruises on the river. We did not avail ourselves of the opportunity to walk or canoe, or to go fishing.

Read More
Wildebeast ,Tubu Tree, Botswana

Mike & Trina’s Sensational Anniversary Safari

It was clear to us as our safari unfolded, that Kili listened carefully to us and, through a couple of phone conversations, teased out nuanced information that ultimately translated into specific experiences designed to delight us. Next Adventure nailed it. –Mike R., Fresno, CA

Mike & Trina wanted to celebrate their 30th Wedding Anniversary with a memorable trip to Africa, and Kili connected with them to craft just the right combination of experiences to suit their interests and style. Read their trip report below to see just how Mike & Trina felt about their Next Adventure anniversary safari! All photos are courtesy of Mike and Trina.


Mosi Oa Tunya Falls, Zambezi River, Zambia

Mosi Oa Tunya Falls, Zambezi River, Zambia

Our anniversary safari began after a restful night in Johannesburg and a morning flight to Livingstone, Zambia. Toka Leya Camp, on the shore of the Zambezi River, is a perfect starting point for a safari. We had the chance to walk with Zambian Rangers to locate and observe a rare White Rhino in Mosi Oa Tunya National Park and stand in the soaking spray of the stunningly beautiful and powerful flood-stage Victoria Falls.

Read More
Zarafa Zebras - Selinda Reserve - Botswana

Grant & Miriam’s Grand Tour of Southern Africa

Grant & Miriam’s three week trip in August of this year included some of our favorite destinations in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa, and they have the photos to prove it… (click thumbnails to enlarge images)

It wasn’t easy culling 4,000+ shots, but here’s a glimpse into some of the things we saw. What you won’t see are the places we stayed, people we met and many, many other pictures of the wildlife and surroundings where we traveled.

Read More

Andy & Melinda’s Zambia and Botswana Safari

Andy and Melinda’s first trip with Next Adventure was three years ago to Tanzania and Kenya. For this year’s trip Kili put together a 17-night safari including Zambia’s renowned South Luangwa National Park, Victoria Falls, Botswana’s Okavango Delta and a day tour of Johannesburg exploring South Africa’s history.

We had a spectacular time! Our camps in Zambia—Kaingo and Mwamba—cater to photographers and each has a hide (blind) from which we got stellar opportunities to see a leopard kill and photograph hippos and elephants.

We got an overview of Botswana’s ecological diversity, from the watery Delta to the barren Kalahari. Selinda was probably our favorite camp (though it is nearly impossible to choose) where an intrepid guide led us to wondrous sightings of African Wild Dogs, cheetahs, and a pride where a lioness dragged a roan antelope to feed seven hungry cubs.

Read More
Mekoro at Sunset - Botswana Migration Routes Safari

Five Friends’ Flying Safari

Earlier this year, we put together a private group camping safari for five friends. The trip started with everyone meeting up in Johannesburg and then moving on to Livingstone for a visit to Victoria Falls. From there, they embarked on a 9-day “Migration Routes Safari” with private air charters to three different mobile camps throughout the Okavango Delta, a great introduction to Botswana’s diverse ecology.

Read More
Chindeni Veranda Zambia

Small Safari Camps for Groups & Families

Traveling with your family or a small group of friends can be complicated: making restaurant reservations for a group can be tough or impossible, getting around isn’t easy with tourist maps and a couple of rental cars, and hotel arrangements for groups are expensive and inconvenient. Families and small groups of friends can avoid those complications and experience some great benefits by teaming up on an African safari.

Safari Houses can be a great choice, but one of the most authentic safari options for families and small groups is to buy-out or exclusively reserve small tented camps or private mobile safaris.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Chindeni Bushcamp – Zambia

Sublime, peaceful, tranquil and perfect are just a few of the words guests use to describe Chindeni Bushcamp. Located on the edge of an oxbow lagoon in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, Chindeni Bushcamp accommodates up to eight guests in classic canvas tents with vaulted ceilings and private verandas that reach out over the lagoon.

Spend the day watching birds, hippo and elephant visit the lagoon, or go deeper into one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa on a guided walking safari or game drive.

Naibor Tented Camp – Kenya

Somewhere in the middle of the vast Masai Mara Game Reserve’s 1500 square kilometers sits a small collection of luxury tented camps called Naibor. With three separate camps, Naibor is a great choice for a group or family to explore the Mara. It is perfectly situated to experience the wildebeest migration crossing over the Mara river, plus cultural visits to the nearby Masai communities just outside the reserve can be arranged.

Of course, spectacular sundowners are on the menu, but guests can also enjoy a “bush meal” far out in the rolling grasslands.

Wilderness Dawning Mobile Safaris – Botswana

Wilderness Dawning offers the adventurous family or group 10-day & 14-day overland safaris that “endeavor to enrich our guests and enhance their love of Africa.” Days are spent with some of the best guides in the business game-driving through Botswana’s renowned wilderness areas including Nxai Pan, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango and Chobe National Park.

Experiencing diverse habitats and a tremendous variety of wildlife while relaxing night after night in a rustic camp under the stars makes Wilderness Dawning’s mobile safaris the ultimate adventure.

Selinda Explorers Camp is also a great tented camp option for families and groups. Read about it here as a Featured Destination.

Get in touch to learn more about these or other safari options for families and small groups.

Photos are courtesy of the camps.

Chongwe House - Zambia

The African Safari House

When our clients come home from safari, they usually say, “We’re going back?” followed by, “Next time, we’re taking friends.” Increasingly, families and small groups of friends are taking advantage of the benefits of sharing a safari. Traveling as a small private group opens up a world of value and possibilities unavailable to couples or solo travelers.

The growing availability of “Safari Houses” is one of the most exciting new offerings for safari goers. These private, exclusive-use accommodations are specifically designed to allow for the privacy and personalized service families and small groups enjoy. Safari Houses can usually accommodate 8-12 guests, and they can come with exclusive amenities like customized activities, flexible schedules, private vehicles, specialist guides and a dedicated house manager, personal chef and dining team.

Here are three of our favorite Safari Houses:

Chongwe Safari House – Zambia

Located on Zambia’s Chongwe River near the Lower Zambezi National Park, Chongwe River House sets the standard for the classic African Safari House. This four-bedroom house looks like it has literally grown out of the riverbank. Earthen walls mimic the lines of the surrounding terrain, and the sitting room furniture was carved from a single fallen winterthorn tree.

Wildlife viewing doesn’t get any better than in the Lower Zambezi with hundreds of species of bird, large herds of elephant and lion and leopard viewing.

The Villa at Grootbos – South Africa

The Villa at the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve might be one of the most unique and distinctive Safari Houses in Africa. Located 2 hours from Cape Town in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, Grootbos is a luxury eco destination that has grown from one family’s passion for the unprecedented marine and botanical diversity found on the Southern tip of Africa.

The Villa offers spectacular views, stunning contemporary design and architecture, and exclusive opportunities to explore: guided fynbos nature tours, Milkwood forest walks, breathtaking coastal drives, marine safaris, wine tours and tastings and cliff-side cave excursions.

Singita Serengeti House – Tanzania

Singita Serengeti House sits on the slopes of the Sasakwa Hill, near the world-renowned Singita Sasakwa Lodge, with a wide, endless, unobstructed view of the 350,000-acre Grumeti Reserve and the wild Serengeti Plains. This private, exclusive-use lodge accommodates 8 guests with 2 suites in the expansive main house and a garden suite on each side.

The decor is a stimulating mix of contemporary European design with classic safari artifacts and details, and the world-class amenities include a private 25-meter infinity pool, a tennis court, an 18-horse equestrian center, and one of the most extensive wine cellars in all of Africa.

Each one of these Safari Houses boasts extensive children’s activities like tracking animals, star-gazing, flower-pressing, cooking and baking, young ranger programs as well as babysitting services and kid-friendly menus.

To learn more about these and other Safari House options, get in touch.

Click here for more safari options for families and small groups.

Photos are courtesy of the camps.

Pat and Charley’s Birthday Safari

Maybe our favorite thing is receiving detailed trip reports from our clients after they’ve returned from their custom safari, and this might be the best one yet. Pat and Charley celebrated his birthday on a safari that took them through Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Selous Canoe Trail and Kalahari Desert. We’ll let Pat tell you all about it:

Hi Kili, we had the most amazing trip, thanks to you and Louise. It was a dream come true, and Charley loved EVERY camp, even though he initially had concerns they would be too “fancy” (as I had expressed, he’s a real low-key guy).

He said many times that he was so impressed how you had responded to our discussions and came up with such a perfect itinerary. We loved the diversity of the locations, from the desert to the woodland and waterways.

Of course he loved the canoe trip best, as did I. It was a wonderful end to the journey and I’m glad the sequence worked out as it did.

Read More

Joan’s Last Minute Solo Safari

 

Today I had lunch with a friend and spent most of the time sharing about my trip and answering questions. When the inevitable “who did you go with?” arose, I said “I went solo” using an absolutely awesome travel agency “NEXT ADVENTURE”. With only a month before I wanted to leave, you listened to my ideas and questions, responding and asking several questions yourself. You reassured me that Africa was an easy place to go solo, but you weren’t sure my goal would be possible at such a late date. Still, you went to work and within 48 hours, the itinerary was pinned down, 80% confirmed (the final 20% all done within 4 days). You even included 3 days of canoeing, having picked up my enjoyment of paddling from our initial conversation, and you added the treat of your “favorite place” in Zambia.

Read More