|Hippo in the Lagoon below the deck|
July 7, 2011, Livingston to Kalamu Lagoon Camp, Zambia. We pack quickly, eat an early breakfast, are picked up at 8:00 and driven to the Livingston Airport. As we wait, I watch an elaborate military march and ceremony taking place on the airport tarmac, but resist the temptation of taking any photographs, lest I be scolded by one of the many armed guards. Our flight from Livingston Airport to Lusaka International is just over an hour and after a 1 ½ hour wait in Lusaka, we board a small bush plane for the final leg of the trip to the Kalamu Lagoon Camp airstrip. Our pilot buzzes low over the airstrip to clear it of animals, circles around again and lands, breaking and bumping to a stop on the uneven hard packed dirt runway. As usual, a safari vehicle is waiting along-side the dusty airstrip. The pilot is flying immediately back to Lusaka and the protocol is that we wait for him to complete his safety check and take off safely before driving away. The Kalamu Lagoon Camp is just 5 minutes away and situated on an immense and lush lagoon with the anticipated resident hippos, crocodiles and shorebirds. It is 2:00 P.M. when we arrive and a half dozen of the camp crew greet us as climb from the vehicle; handing us hot towels and welcome fruit drinks at the same time. The lounge, bar and dining area is open on three sides and the veranda extends over the lagoon 15 feet below. An oval, jewel of a swimming pool is off to one side of the public area, also overlooking the lagoon. The setting is idyllic and I would be happy to simply sit here for the next two days and do little except watch the wild life parade on this panoramic, 3D screen. We are the only guests tonight and lunch is served immediately; a chicken curry and rice entrée accompanied by varied salads; fresh greens, feta, rocket and tomato salad, an asparagus, avocado and pumpkin salad, and a tropical fruit and mint salad. Heavenly!
|Overlooking the Lagoon|
|John relaxes at the edge of the pool|
After lunch we sit with our hostess, register our passport numbers and listen to the safety talk. As at the other camps, one must have an armed escort to and from the tents after dark, and each tent is equipped with an air horn in case of an emergency. We are cautioned not to lean heavily on the supporting wood railings at the perimeter of the deck and pool, lest we become crocodile fodder.
Our tent cabin is lovely and luxurious; my favorite of the three camps that we have stayed at to date. The large screened tent overlooks the lagoon with closely spaced twin beds enclosed by one large netted gossemere canopy. There is a step up from the bedroom area to a small sitting area with two comfortable chairs, also facing out to the lagoon. The bathroom area is behind the lounge area; not visually private from the rest of the tent, but John and I will work this out.
We have only just finished lunch and tea is served at 3:30; I drink a cup of iced coffee and eat a small honey pastry before climbing aboard the Landcruiser for our afternoon and into the evening game drive. Emanual is our guide and James rides beside him, quietly holding a rifle. We immediately spot two thorny croft giraffes, a sub species of giraffe, with unique markings, found only in the Luange National park. We see many troupes of yellow baboons, much prettier and slightly smaller than the ______baboon that we have seen previously.
We park at the perimeter of a near-bye lagoon, a bird watchers paradise, and watch saddle backed and maribu storks, Egyptian geese, sacred ibis and countless other birds. At 5:15 P.M., Emanuel drives out onto a jetty, overlooking the river below, dotted with hippos, crocks and shorebirds. Somewhere in the “safari manual,” it must ordain that drinks be served at sunset, and we obediently follow the protocol of sipping gin and tonic, watching the backlit silhouettes of hippos in the river while the sun dips below the distant escarpment.
|Sundowners a la Landrover|
As dark settles in, James turns on a high beam spot light and our night drive begins. We search the dark of the forest for pairs of reflective eyes, and for nearly an hour, see nothing but shadows. Eventually, pairs of eyes begin to emerge and we see two jennets, a civit, and multiple scrub hares. The highlight for the night, at the side of the airstrip in the “ambush grass,” are two spotted hyena. They are hunchback and extremely ugly, but it is exciting to see them.
We return to camp at 8:00 P.M. and find dinner waiting; all except the filets, which are cooked to our requests. We are the only guests tonight, so both Evie and Emanuel join us for this 5 star dinner of filets, a remarkable baby corn and cucumber stir fry and thick wedged potatoes. We want only to retire to our beds, but stand briefly by the fire with our hosts before turning in. The gossemere mosquito netting is cocooning our two beds; we slip under the covers, seek the warmth of the expected hot water bottle and sleep.