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Zambia. South Luangwa National Park. Zikomo Campsite. Tuesday 19 May 2015. Week 6, Day 38

These are times of us being footloose and fancy free and we plan to mosy across to Zikoma Camp about 10 – 20km further east, also on the Luangwa River. This camp will give us access to the Nsefu Sector of the park and a slightly different environment. It will also be quieter but it is in fact amazing how few vehicles crossed our path when driving in the park. However I would imagine plenty of game viewing vehicles when the lodge season is in full swing. We have explored the Mfuwe sector thoroughly. Both the drives to the east and to the west along the river are very attractive and it is difficult to indicate a preference. Earlier in the season that to the east has attractive water in the dambos still. The volume of animals is impressive and it must be even more so with more dependence on the river for water during drier times.

After a very interesting trip to Zikomo, details at normal place, we were met at the entrance barrier by the son of the owners, Damien Wallace from Hawaii of all places. He was obviously taken aback by unexpected visitors when they were closed temporarily. He very kindly but firmly informed us that the camp was only opening a little later in June as he was revamping the campsite and I think the lodge. The little personal charm I have went into overdrive. The further down the road we had proceeded the more I liked the feel of where we were headed. After some deep and meaningful discussion in which our host explained that as their venture was relatively new and they was working hard at obtaining a decent reputation he was totally against accommodating anyone in a campsite with work in progress and without the facilities to the standard he wanted. I explained very nicely to him (even if I say so myself) that we were totally self-sufficient as far as water and ablutions were concerned and in fact were in the throes of a major trans-African independent trip and would really like a preview of his camp which we had heard such good things about. After muttering about full disclosure and the like Damien kindly allowed us to first have a look at the campsite and facilities and then finally agreed that we could stay one night. In fact the flush toilets were working and there was palatable borehole water on tap. Some of the shade shelters were still being thatched and the pathways laid out but the facilities exceeded our simple requirements. It appears that there will be some solar electricity as well but this was not yet hooked up.

This is a marvelous shaded camp site right on this secluded section of the Luangwa River. The plan is to have 5 campsites for groups of up to 5 people. The neat thatched chalets (9 in all) are adjacent. Both are right on the bank and have a great view. We later met the owner Victoria Wallace and she welcomed us with open arms and to stay as many nights as we liked. They will install the donkey so that we can have hot water tonight. Their camping come at a bit of a premium at US$20 pppn. However I gather that the prices in Mfuwe also go up come the busier season. At first impression the extra cost appears to be worth it. They will also offer game drives and walks in the Nsefu Sector.

Victoria told me a wonderful story about a lion cub at Zikomo that in fact I had read somewhere on the internet not so long ago. One of the Nsefu lionesses gave birth right under chalet no 2. When she later moved the cubs she left behind one that was weaker than the others. After a day or two when it appeared to have been abandoned, the Wallaces began feeding it with a syringe and a suggested formula. After a couple of days it appeared to be thriving and the lioness began visiting it. They had been careful to leave no human scent on it. The mother later removed it from the birth site and this cub is now regularly seen with the pride as it grows up.

I milked the very friendly Victoria for as much info as possible. Campers are welcome to dine in the restaurant with prior notice, use the pool and the wifi. At busy times this may need to be regulated I suspect. I received great info from her on the Nsefu Sector of the park. Lions abound in this area as do leopards and regularly pass through the camp. There is only 1 lodge in this sector, that of Robin Pope so we should have unfettered game viewing. She mentioned a fantastic colony of breeding yellow-billed storks along the river bank. This has turned out very well and we are very excited indeed. Watch this space!

My happiness was compounded when David and Yvonne de V. from St Maarten in the Dutch Caribbean joined us in the campsite as they had suggested they might. We had got to know them during our stay at Wilderness Camp when they were our neighbors and are old Africa hands. The owners felt that anyone who had the initiative to ignore closed signs deserved to be allowed to stay as well. Some more new friends, is this not what travelling is all about?