Ron Zamarin Old Mondoro Puppies

The Best of Zambia

Natural World Safaris

Ron Zamarin

21 Oct 2021

Read the first-hand account from one of our US clients who recently returned from Zambia and his experience of travel during a pandemic.

We’ve been to Africa more than twenty times and loved every trip. But, this Zambia trip was exceptional. The wildlife was amazing, and Ellen Cantle put together a spectacular combination of three quite diverse landscapes and terrains. We went in September, toward the end of the dry season. It’s a great time to go.

After overnighting in Lusaka at the Latitude 15 hotel, we were transferred to the airport for a small aircraft flight to Mfue. On arrival, we were met and driven to Tafika Camp, located in a remote area in the somewhat northern region of South Luangwa National Park. Tafika consists of six open plan natural grass chalets set on a grassy peninsula on the Luangwa River. Family owned and run, I doubt there’s anything owners John and Carol, their daughter and son-in law Jennifer and Nick, and the staff would not do to ensure the safari ambitions of every guest are realized.

While there are some trees, they are scattered and the landscape and terrain is mostly open plain and salt pan. While walking safaris were an option, during our three night stay, we opted for game drives. The wildlife sightings were amazing! In addition to bushbucks, waterbucks, elephants, impala, zebra, leopard, hyena, mongoose, puku, giraffe, hippos, tree squirrels, genet, kudu, lions (including a pride eating a recently killed hippo), monitors, crocodiles, baboons, and tons of birds, we also had a sighting of the shy and elusive bush baby. The number and variety of wildlife were almost dizzying.

Ron Zamarin Chindeni Leopard

On the morning of our fourth day at Tafika, we were driven to Mfue Lodge for lunch and to meet our new guide for our onward journey to Chindeni Bushcamp. (It
didn’t take long for the new adventure to begin. Less than twenty minutes into our drive to Chindeni, our guide/driver spotted a leopard in a tree.) Chindeni is south of Tafika, in the southern region of the South Luangwa. It consists of four luxurious “tents” and is located on an oxbow lake lagoon amidst landscape quite different than that at Tafika. It was greener and there were more trees, which were scarce at Tafika. Although the terrain and landscape were different, the eagerness and willingness of the guides and staff to ensure our needs and wishes were met was the same. And, the abundance of wildlife was similarly undiminished.

At Chindeni, we saw bushbucks, waterbucks, elephants, buffalo, impala, zebra, hyena, mongoose, puku, giraffe, hippos, leopards (including one in a tree eating its impala kill), tree squirrels, genet, kudu, lions (including a pride eating a recently killed buffalo), lion cubs, warthogs, crocodiles, baboons, vervet monkeys, and lots and lots of birds. As at Tafika, we really didn’t have to search for the wildlife – it was abundant. We also took a walking safari. While we had been on many night walks, those were in search of wildlife. This was different. We were introduced to tracks, scat, insects, flora, lore, and their meanings – all up close and extremely interesting. It was a wonderful experience and we highly recommend it.

After our four days at Chindeni, we were driven back to Mfue for a light aircraft flight to Jeki airstrip in Lower Zambezi, where we were met by our Old Mondoro Bush Camp guide. After a thirty minute drive to Old Mondoro, we were immediately struck by the dramatic change in landscape. It was much, much greener. And, there were many trees – forests of Winterthorn. Located on the Zambezi River, and with a channel running through the camp, Old Mondoro is smack dab in the midst of the wildlife. Each of its five chalets has an outdoor shower, an outdoor soaking tub, and a raised deck, all overlooking the channel which was constantly filled with elephants, buffalo, monkeys, warthogs, and birds. Of the many dozens of camps and lodges at which we’ve stayed during our travels, Old Mondoro is by far the most ideally situated. Everywhere you looked, it was like a Doctor Doolittle moment! Spectacular is the best way to describe its setting. And, once again, the manager Madelein and her husband, manager/guide Mark, as well as the other guides and staff were absolutely fantastic.

Ron Zamarin Old Mondoro Bee Eaters

The setting, landscape, and terrain weren’t the only things special about Old Mondoro. The area around the camp is home to a pack of 41 African wild dogs, including 23 adorable puppies. Their beauty and the cuteness of the puppies are deceiving, however. They are absolute killing machines. During our four nights and five days at Old Mondoro, we observed them daily. Some of the time they were piled together sleeping. Most of the time they were hunting. They were skillful, coordinated, efficient, and successful. We observed a number of impala and bushbuck kills. Some were a bit gruesome to watch, but we reminded ourselves that it’s nature - the natural order of things. The hunts as well as the kills were sights not soon to be forgotten.

In addition to the dogs, as at Tafika and Chindeni, we saw a plethora of wildlife at Old Mondoro. We saw civet, genet, honey badger, porcupine, bushbucks, waterbucks, elephants, impala, zebra, hyena, buffalo, mongoose, puku, hippos, leopards (including one eating its kill), leopard cubs, tree squirrels, , kudu, lions, warthogs, crocodiles, baboons, vervet monkeys, and many, many birds. Notably absent was giraffe. No one knows why, but there are no giraffe in Lower Zambezi National Park. While we were there, we also tried our hand at fishing for Tiger Fish. While we had no luck (we aren’t very skilled, to say the least) it was great fun.

Given concerns about COVID, it’s worth mentioning that the protocols everywhere we went and everywhere we stayed were excellent. All personnel at every camp were fully vaccinated, distancing was available, and masks were worn unless we insisted they weren’t necessary. In summary, we have taken many wonderful wildlife trips – to Asia, South America, Central America, and Africa. This definitely was one of, if not the best. Designing it to expose us to three varied landscapes, terrains and experiences was genius.

Ron Zamarin Chindeni Vervets
Leopard, South Africa

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