photo by courtney alexanderson

Courtney & Christian’s Honeymoon Safari

Just stunning…there is a constant parade of animals coming down the hill and you can see the vastness of the flat, open landscape. — Courtney, SF


Honeymooners Christian and Courtney wanted a special kind of adventure, a honeymoon safari, to celebrate their wedding. They connected on their own with a non-profit organization to volunteer in a rural area of Zimbabwe, and Next Adventure linked a custom safari with our partners at African Bush Camps including a visit to spectacular Victoria Falls. They raved about the seamless operations, the quality of the camps and guiding, and the perfect order of diverse experiences in the safari designed by Kili.

After a week of volunteer work and rugged accommodations, the happy couple flew out to Mana Pools National Park to start their honeymoon safari at Zambezi Expeditions on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. Upon landing in Mana Pools, they were greeted by a herd of ostrich and Lovejoy, their guide. Lovejoy, like all the guides and staff Christian & Courtney encountered, was excited to show off his country and was friendly, knowledgable, attentive, and far exceeded any expectations of hospitality. Lovejoy even went out during the midday siesta to search for a pack of wild dogs that Christian & Courtney hadn’t yet spotted. Of course, he found the pack of wild dog and brought all of the guests out to see them. From canoeing and walking safaris to driving in the park, each day was full of wildlife sightings at a nice pace.

Zambezi Expeditions

Moving inland to Kanga Camp in the remote wilderness of Mana Pools, Christian & Courtney continued to search for the elusive leopard. They were in awe of the constant progression of animals to the ‘pan’ or water hole just in front of the lodge. Surely, a leopard would be prowling around the area… Well, during dinner, their guide Bono spotted a leopard near the pan and set up a scope so they could view it better in the darkness. This proved to be a highlight of their stay at Kanga along with the bush BBQ and the platform sleep-out under the stars. Courtney remarked that, “the skies were so clear that Venus, Saturn, & Mars were all visible to the naked eye and the blanket of stars made it easy to feel small in the universe”.

Kanga Camp

Our intrepid honeymooners then flew to Hwange National Park, where they were guests of the team at Somalisa Acacia. They described camp as ‘Just stunning…there is a constant parade of animals coming down the hill and you can see the vastness of the flat, open, barren landscape’. In Hwange, they saw Jericho of Cecil’s pride gnawing on a buffalo carcass and cubs frolicking around. Elephants wandered through camp, and they saw so many birds with their guide, Calvet, that Courtney confessed, ‘I could easily become a bird nerd!’ The food at Somalisa Acacia, like in all of the camps they visited, was varied, fresh & delicious. They loved hearing about the local culture and tribal customs from their guide who donned his traditional dress one evening to tell stories, answer questions and laugh.

Somalisa Acacia Camp

Finally, Christian & Courtney said goodbye to the bush and spent two nights at the historic Victoria Falls Hotel for a luxurious end to their honeymoon safari. Rising early to head into the park, they saw tons of rainbows and had quiet trails to themselves. From their hotel it was easy to explore the bustling town and enjoy an absolutely fantastic evening on the night train ride for dinner. Now back at home, they cannot stop saying ‘sundowner’ and dreaming of their next trip to Africa!

Let’s start planning your custom safari!


Courtney & Christian’s Honeymoon Safari Photos

Hwange Sunset on walking safari

Walking in Hwange with the Johnson Family

So much of what we do here at Next Adventure is getting to know each client and pairing them with just the right selection of destinations and experiences. The Johnson Family, a group of 7 travelers, was looking for something unique and adventurous, an active safari for the whole family. After considering a lot of options, we crafted a customized tour of Zimbabwe that featured extensive time in Hwange National Park including a 3-day walking safari with specialist guides and platform sleepouts and 2 nights at the luxurious Linkwasha Camp followed by 3 nights on the Zambezi at the spectacular Ruckomechi Camp near Mana Pools.

One of the many highlights of their trip was their specialist walking safari guide Themba who wrote this report of their time walking in Hwange.

You can read more about their trip on their excellent travel blog:

The Walking Safari
Hwange National Park
Mana Pools

And, here’s some of the highlights from their trip. All photos are courtesy of the Johnson Family.


ITINERARY IN BRIEF

28 June: Arrive in Victoria Falls, transfer and overnight at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (2 nts)

29 June: Full day to spend at your leisure or choose from many activities in Victoria Falls

30 June: Shared light aircraft transfer to Hwange National Park, Davison’s Camp (1 nt)

01 July: Begin your Hwange Walking Safari, Scott’s Pan Platform (1 nt)

02 July: Continue exploring the environment on foot, Ngamo Plains Platform (1 nt)

03 July: Conclude walking safari at Linkwasha Camp (2 nts)

04 July: Full day of game viewing activities in the Linkwasha concession from camp

05 July: Shared light aircraft transfer to Mana Pools, transfer to Ruckomechi Camp (3 nts)

06-07 July: Wildlife viewing in the Mana Pools area from your base at Ruckomechi Camp

08 July: Shared light aircraft transfer to Harare International Airport in time for your international departure


Learn more about custom safaris in Zimbabwe

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.

No worries, we had marvelous wildlife experiences daily, especially elephants. The best came when we were on a boat cruise and parked ourselves on the riverbank right next to a mud hole where a big family group of eles were enjoying a spa. 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. After the mud bath came scratching on trees as only elephants can do: straddle a fallen tree trunk and rub the belly, back up to a tree for the bum. Then the inevitable dust bath. Two young males tangled trunks in a perpetual sparring contest. All this was happening at once. Sure, I’ve seen it all before, but it is always fun to watch. A privilege, really.

On the Busanga Plain in Kafue National Park, we were at the higher altitude of Zambia’s central plateau. Nights were chilly here, but nothing that hot water bottles and cozy duvets couldn’t cure. I expected top notch lion watching here, but, alas, the resident Busanga pride– for years a large and reliable group– had fallen on hard times. The old males died or got pushed out by new guys, and a succession of litters were casualties in the war for territory. It’s a rich one at the marshy center of the seasonally flooded plain. There are always abundant lechwe and puku– both large enough antelopes to make a meal for a couple of lions. A buffalo kill is a feast for an entire pride, but the big herds of black bovines are highly mobile. Many mouths to feed necessitates changing pastures. This time the buffalo were away. Busanga is one of those places where lions regularly climb trees, but we missed it this year, and we could not find the resident cheetah. Not to fret, we had incredible up close (like under the boat) hippo experiences on the swampy little river at the center of the plain and got plenty of cats at our last park, South Luangwa, where we spent a week.

 At Shumba Camp, we found two male lions who were resting. There were vultures on a nearby tree… but we didn’t investigate. When we went back to checkup on the lions in the afternoon, we found they had eaten a male puku. We conjectured that a leopard had killed it and had been there when we first arrived (hence the vultures were off the ground) but had left because of the lions. Of course, we could have been wrong, or the leopard may have left before we arrived. Unsolved mysteries… and who does’t like a good bush who-done-it?

Yup, we were short on kitty shots by the time we got to Luangwa Valley, but we made up for that every day. Between Tena Tena and Kaingo, I think we saw 8 different leopards, with multiple sightings of Malaika, a resident female, and her almost grown daughter. Malaika is a relentless hunter. We watched her stalking, then trying to grab low-flying Guinea fowl from the air. She also attacked an adult male bushbuck. We followed the local lion pride as they began an evening hunt. We could have stayed with them, but we opted to return to camp rather than continue into a night safari. We caught up with the lions again the next morning as they were devouring a buffalo bull.

One of the safari highlights was provided by an unfortunate hippo who had died in the Luangwa River. Its swollen carcass was continually gnawed on by a cauldron of crocodiles (my own collective noun). Hundreds of crocodiles fed on that hippo. They were much more polite to each other than the lions, which growl and fight for their place at the table. With crocs it was more simple. The big guys took turns using a spiraling roll to tear off chunks of meat. Then it was time for a sunbath on a convenient sandy beach, allowing the females and smaller crocs to come in. Someone counted 187 crocodiles there at one time. This croc banquet continued the entire length of our stay at Kaingo Camp. Grisly, gruesome…fascinating.

Zambia never lets me down, and I’m looking forward to returning in June and October of 2017.


ITINERARY IN BRIEF

11 June Arrive in Johannesburg, AtholPlace Hotel (2 nts)

12 June At leisure in Johannesburg, AtholPlace

13 June Scheduled flight to Lusaka, meet Allen Bechky, Latitude 15 Hotel (1 nt)

14 June Scheduled flight to Lower Zambezi, transfer to Chiawa Camp (3 nts)

15-16 June Activities in Lower Zambezi, overnights at Chiawa Camp

17 June Charter/scheduled light air transfer to Kafue via Lusaka, transfer to Shumba Camp (3 nts)

18-19 June Activities in Busanga Plains, Kafue; overnights at Shumba Camp

20 June Light air & scheduled flights to Mfuwe (via Lusaka), transfer to Tena Tena Camp (3 nts)

21-22 June Activities in South Luangwa, overnights at Tena Tena Camp

23 June Game drive transfer to Kaingo Camp (4 nts)

24-26 June Activities in South Luangwa, overnights at Kaingo Camp

27 June Scheduled flight to Lusaka, transfer to Latitude 15 Hotel (1 nt)

28 June Departure from Lusaka


Get in touch to learn more about specialist private guides, safaris in Zambia, or traveling with Allen Bechky.

Let Zim be your guide

Zimbabwe has long been a favorite destination for us at Next Adventure. I was first there as a two year old in 1981 less than a year after the country became independent. In the mid to late 90’s almost 90% of our safaris included Zimbabwe since we received so many requests for it. In the early 2000s, Zimbabwe went through a tumultuous transition politically, but continued to draw loyal safari-goers who cherished the country’s unique offerings.

I was honored to be asked to be one of the first travel professionals to take part in Wilderness Safari’s new Hwange Walking Safari, which is now offered in June, July, and August as an expertly guided small group departure on set dates. Having both traveled and lived there, my love for Zimbabwe was only rekindled during my latest exploration in November 2015 when I took a small group of select clients on an exploratory walking safari through Hwange National Park and Mana Pools National Park.

Our scouting safari was in November and it was much hotter than expected — nearly 50 degrees Celsius (that’s about 122 Fahrenheit). Due to the extreme heat, Wilderness Safaris suggested we modify our itinerary for the best experience while keeping the integrity of the walking safari.

The group trip differs slightly from my exploratory and will have no more than 7 guests (sorry no children allowed unless you book a private departure) staying at Davison’s Camp, Linkwasha Camp, and a fly camp (dome tents, mattresses, and separate shared toilet & shower facilities) in Hwange National Park’s Linkwasha concession. This is an ideal choice for those who want to feel the land under the soles of their shoes and have time to observe the daily struggle for survival of the region’s unique flora and fauna.

We flew into Harare and connected by light aircraft transfer (about 1.5 hours) to Mana Pools National Park in the Northeast of Zimbabwe. Famed for canoeing safaris and excellent walking, Mana Pools is right on the Zambezi River. We were based at Wilderness Safaris’ Ruckomechi Camp, open during the dry season (April 1-Nov 15). We loved the camp as it was but with a complete relocation and renovation for the 2016 season, it’ll be even better!

Everything at Mana Pools is focused on the Zambezi. You can paddle a canoe, ride a pontoon boat, zip along in a speed boat, cast a line for fishing, set out on foot on the shore, or explore adjacent areas by 4×4 vehicle. It was refreshing to be on the water in that heat. Our canoes held 2 or 3 people, one of whom was a guide. There were intense moments with hippos as the waters were so shallow; our skilled and confident guides handled mock charges so well that we felt safe enough to be exhilarated. There was amazing elephant and buffalo viewing along the riverbanks and dense concentrations of game on all of our activities.

On our morning walk, we rounded a corner to find an entire herd of elephant fast asleep in the shade! It was a gentle reminder that extreme heat is brutal on the wildlife, and they have to seek relief too. Sundowners were spectacular along the river, and one evening we had a very exciting encounter with a leopard. Mana Pools is everything you could want in a wilderness and so a great place to begin our safari.

We next flew to Hwange National Park. Upon arrival at Little Makalolo Camp, we immediately were impressed with our guide’s knowledge of the area.  He asked us to meet him at hide in front of the camp—which is a famous spot for wildlife viewing. It was mid-afternoon and we were all wilting from the heat, but, moments after we settled into the hide, a huge breeding herd of elephant showed up. Our guide knew exactly when they would appear and how long they would stay! We gazed in awe at the babies frolicking in the water. We were so close to the elephants that we were sprayed by elephant snot—it was awesome (and a little gross)! Our game drives through the woodlands of the area were prolific, and the diversity of wildlife near the pans was remarkable. After a few days of luxury camp life, we were ready to walk!

The following morning, we set out on foot across the Linkwasha concession—with sprawling pans and wildlife great and small sharing our journey. Walking is at a moderate pace, and the day’s routing is tailored to the guests’ abilities and interests. Our expert guide, Lewis, read the landscape and interpreted local wildlife stories while we ambled. Packed lunches and siestas beneath shady trees were welcomed breaks before we arrived at our modest fly camp. The attentive staff of steward, chef and waiter catered to every need while we settled in for the evening of dinner, campfire stories and stargazing.

We finished our walk at Linkwasha Camp set amid the Ngamo Plains. The contemporary tents were a perfect end to our meander through Hwange. Despite the heat, we were able to enjoy the natural splendor of the park and see spectacular game including the rare sable antelope along the way. What clearly makes a walking safari in Zimbabwe superior to those offered in other countries is the guiding. Still collectively the finest guides on the continent in my opinion, all of our Zimbabwean guides showed a caliber of knowledge and training that are superb.

Book your walking safari to Zimbabwe for 2016 or 2017 and experience this guiding for yourself!