It seems I have a new nickname here in Zambia, where Tembo is a common surname and does not mean elephant as it does in Kiswahili. I was out walking today when I ran into my Zambian neighbors who said in one voice, Hel-lo, Mama Simba. I had to laugh. In Africa women are addressed as Mama followed by the name of their first born child. If they have more than one child, one of whom is a son, his name is more important than any daughters. Without children, I am called mother of... my male dog!
Zambia offers many wonderful travel opportunities. I've put together some good reasons to go on safari in Zambia, followed by some important considerations for travel here.
Birds: So much of Africa is a birder's paradise but Zambia leads the continent in maintaining this reputation. Some of its rarer birds are Wattled cranes, Shoebill storks, Black-cheeked lovebirds, Chaplin's barbets, and Pel's Fishing owls. Top destinations for twitchers are Liuwa Plains National Park, Nov-Dec and April-May for waterbird migrants; Bangweulu Swamps, Apr – May for Shoebill storks; and Luangwa National Park, Sept – Nov for Carmine bee-eater colonies (pictured). My backyard is my favorite place for bird watching. My sighting list is growing: bulbuls, bou bous, babblers, barbets, go away birds, drongos, flycatchers, sunbirds, lizard buzzards, pearl spotted owls, nightjars, rollers, glossy starlings, waxbills, orioles, doves, hoopoes, and coucals...
Wild Dogs: With a population dwindling to less than 3,000 in the whole of southern Africa, wild dogs are seen in Zambia more frequently than they are in Tanzania. I saw "the dogs" twice in two days in Luangwa NP. What a rush! Within Zambia, the dogs can be spotted in Kafue, Luangwa, Liuwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks. I have a friend's photograph of a dog running through a Liuwa Plains lagoon framed on my wall at home. She took it earlier this year.
Leopards: Zambia is a great place for seeing leopards, nocturnal cats, because it allows night game drives in parks such as the Lower Zambezi, Luangwa and Kafue. I saw a record five leopards on one night drive in Luangwa. It's difficult to top that.
Sable antelope: I have always hoped to see sable antelope in southern Tanzania, but Zambia's Kafue National Park finally granted my wish. I was leaving the Nanzhila Plains area of the park early one morning when a magnificent sable buck materialized out of the mists. We paused to scrutinize each other. He was coal-black with a white blaze on his forehead and with great, backward-curving horns. The male sable must take top prize as Africa's most beautiful antelope. (pictured)
Roan antelope: Another rare antelope that I have seen nowhere else but in Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve but with greater frequency in Kafue and Luangwa National Parks.
Lechwe: These are an aquatic antelope like sitatunga which are found in strong numbers in Zambia. Three subspecies occur here – the Red, Black and the Kafue lechwe. They are very handsome animals and can be very shy. Photographers take note: you get a lot of backend shots.
Indigenous species: Luangwa National Park has its own subspecies of giraffe called Thornicroft; of zebra called Crayshaw's; and of wildebeest known as Cookson's. The Thornicroft giraffe is darker when it matures, his patches turning a lovely deep chocolate brown; the Crayshaw's zebra have brown shadow stripes among the black and white; while the tawny-colored Cookson's is the best looking wildebeest of its kind.
Hippos: Should you seek the experience of being kept awake all night by a hippo grazing by your ear on the other side of your reed or canvas wall – no camp needs to worry about cutting the grass - then Zambia is your place, where the Zambezi, Luangwa and Kafue Rivers all support some of the greatest populations of hippos. The only other places I have encountered that many hippo are Kenya's Tsavo National Parks, and Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve and Katavi National Park.
Wildlife phenomenon: Northern Tanzania has its wildebeest migration in the Serengeti National Park. Zambia has its fruit bat migration in Kasanka National Park. Come late October through December, the rainy season, enormous numbers of bats arrive to roost in the park's evergreen swamp forest. At dusk the bats take to the air in their millions. Visitors view them from a tree-hide overlooking the swamp. I have always loved bats! When I lived in Dar es Salaam, a favourite activity at the end of the day was to sit on the veranda and watch the bats leave their roosts in the palm trees. Zambia also has its mini-wildebeest migration in remote Liuwa National Park when some 35,000 antelope return from Angola to birth on the Zambezi floodplain, also during the rainy season, November through March is best. (See the Liuwa trip report which follows.)
Excellent guiding: Zambia's wildlife guides must pass official guide training courses. As a result, the guiding standards are truly impressive. Furthermore, the history of Luangwa National Park centers on a few individuals who came to the valley beginning in the 1960s to apprentice with the legendary Norman Carr who, in his job as ranger for the new Luangwa National Park, saw the potential for photographic tourism and set up the first wilderness camps there. These first trainees of Norman run most of the valley's successful safari lodges and camps today. They still escort safaris periodically, and if you happen to sign on, you are in for a treat. You have a bona fide Bush Master at the helm.
Walking: Zambia contends that it is the true birthplace of walking safaris, for which it thanks Norman Carr. Norman established a series of small bush camps within a day's walking distance of each other, which served as satellites to a main lodge. This remains how Luangwa manages its safaris today, and it has proven to be a highly successful method of running safaris, ensuring diversity to the overall experience. Visitors begin at the "mother" lodges from which they make their way to the bush camps. The main lodges offer game drives in vehicles. The bush camps provide an opportunity to walk, although many of them also offer vehicle support as well these days. Combined with the expertise of Zambia's guides, walking here is among the best that Africa offers.
Night Safaris: Already mentioned are the increased chances of spotting leopard because of the availability of night safaris in Zambian national parks. Along with a whole lot of other exciting animals you might see, such as wild dogs, serval cats, civets, genets, porcupines, pythons, lions and owls. Because the night safari is a continuation of the game drive which departs late afternoon, you also get sundowners in the bush every night, a very addictive Zambian safari tradition and a sure way of never missing one of those famous African sunsets.
Tourist Numbers: Compared to East Africa's, Zambia's camps are tiny, often catering to twelve people tops. Combine this fact with the rule in Luangwa National Park that permits only four vehicles at a sighting at one time, and you get an impressive quality of wildlife experience which is worth what you pay for it. (More than you pay for your Tanzanian safari, although not by much these days!) The focus is currently on encouraging much greater numbers of visitors to Zambia so this might have to change, but right now, if you are tired of overcrowded safari circuits, Zambia is the place for you.
Genuine hospitality: There is a level of attention paid to each guest's needs that might be a reflection of shorter seasons (see below), smaller camps and a manageable number of visitors, which, when combined, don't leave the operators so jaded with their industry. But I also find Zambia a truly welcoming place, and Zambians a truly welcoming people, who offer freely of their time and information, and where operators in the parks work together to maintain high standards.
Short safari season: Zambia's signature parks and camps open June through November. Outside of these times, accessibility is limited due to seasonal flooding of the major rivers and to tracks that have turned into quagmires. Compared to East Africa, this is a smaller window of opportunity for visitors. (This is also a reason why Zambia costs more.) The exception is South Luangwa National Park, where visitors fly in to enjoy what is called the "emerald season". Several (not all) accommodations remain open. Some all-weather tracks exist for game viewing but river travel along the swollen rivers is utilized more at this time. If you want to see large numbers of wildlife then the dry season, and later on in the dry season besides (August, September, and October) is still your best bet. But, if you want to enjoy a season when birds and wildlife are courting and breeding, when the bush is lush, and share Zambia with fewer people (even less than what it receives!) while paying less, then you should consider the rainy months of December through March – the "emerald season". Any of us who live in Africa tend to love its green and off-seasons the best. Photographers might want to consider November: the early rains have cleared the air of smoke and dust, the vegetation hasn’t grown high yet, nor have the animals dispersed from the water sources.
Fly-in and out-safaris dominate: Zambia's poor roads have contributed to a safari industry in Lower Zambezi and Luangwa National Parks which flies its visitors in and out and which tends to be, however pricey, the most economical method of transport. However, improved infrastructure opens up the option of heading off the beaten path in a vehicle on a trip that includes more than just the country's premier parks, either in a car self-driven and self-contained (meaning everything you need for camping is provided, right down to small refrigerator) or in one arranged by a ground operator which comes with a driver/guide and with all the logistics of the trip booked as well. You don't have to rough it by camping; you can go by road and stay in some very comfortable places. It isn't as easy to arrange vehicles as it is in Tanzania where road safaris are the bread and butter of the tourism industry, but some Zambian ground operators are now stepping in fill this niche.
Self-drive safaris: Kafue National Park in particular lends itself to self-exploration. You can pick up a self-contained Land Rover from suppliers in Livingstone, and work your way from the south to the north of the park. Or you can start in Lusaka and work your way from the north to the south. This is not for everybody nor should it be undertaken outside of the dry season or without help. You need to carry a GPS and a cell or satellite phone. Flying is definitely easier on the behind, but what fun it is for road warriors when they meet at the end of the day and discuss their rigs and route conditions.
Off the beaten path: While most off-the-beaten path destinations in Zambia have landing strips if you can afford to fly in by chartered bush plane, going by road is the best option. The Mutinondo Wilderness, a private reserve on the edge of the Luangwa escarpment where you can hike and ride horses is one example of a great destination outside of the parks. Unique accommodations such as Shiwa Ng'andu (a country estate built by a British aristocrat in the early 1900s) or Kapishya Hot Springs (on the same Shiwa estate) are others. Victoria Falls may be Zambia's most famous waterfall but it has many more dramatic ones. Kalambo Falls in Northern Zambia is the second highest in Africa and roughly twice the height of Victoria Falls. Ngonye Falls in Western Zambia is more impressive water. There is handy book about Zambia's lesser known falls called, appropriately, Guide to Little-known Waterfalls of Zambia by Quentin Allen (a talented artist too) and Ilse Mwanza, among other contributors. It makes an invaluable addition to books you should put together for a self-drive road trip. Zambia's major annual cultural festivals come under off- the-beaten path category since a good vehicle is required to get to them. The most famous is the Kuomboka of the Lozi people in Western Zambia, held typically in March and April; followed by the Mutomboko of the Lunda people in Northern Zambia, held at end of July; the Kulamba of the Chewa people in Eastern Zambia, held at the end of August, (and which provides the rare opportunity to see the masked dancers of a secret society); and the Nc'wala of the Ngoni people of Eastern Zambia, held in February. There are a host of other smaller cultural events besides. Arguably, those festivals which take place during the dry season (July and August) are easier to incorporate into a wildlife program since this is when the majority of people visit. There is the additional problem that the dates of many of these ceremonies are only known a few weeks in advance. But anything is possible with a little flexibility on your part and some well-tailored contingency plans. For example, you can combine the Kuomboka ceremony in Western Zambia with a visit to Liuwa National Park. (See trip report which follows.)
Zambia hasn't replaced East Africa in my affection as it has joined it. But you might be asking, if you are planning a safari, where exactly should you go? The following priority list of what animals you will see where, selected from the countries in which MTT works, might help:
For elephants: Kenya's Tsvao National Park; Tanzania's Tarangire National Park
For lions: Tanzania's Serengeti National Park
For cheetahs: Tanzania's Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area
For birding: throughout Zambia; Liuwa National Park for migrants Jan - April
Wildlife spectacles: Tanzania's wildebeest migration (especially birthing season and crossing the Mara River into Kenya); Zambia's fruit bat migration in Kasanka National Park.
For gorillas: Rwanda for mountain gorillas. Republic of Congo and Central African Republic for western lowland gorillas.
For gorillas as well as elephants and birds: Republic of Congo and Central African Republic
For chimpanzees: Tanzania's Mahale National Park
For wild dogs: Zambia's Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks.
For walking with wildlife sightings (elephants especially): Kenya's Tsvao National Park
For walking with wildlife sightings (all kinds): Zambia's Luangwa National Park
For walking and fly camping: Tanzania's Ngorongoro Conservation Area
For night game drives: Zambia
For cultural destinations: Tanzania's Maasailand; Tanzania's Yaeda Valley; Kenya's Northern Frontier; Zambia's Western Province.
For landscapes: Tanzania's Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Lake Ndutu), Lake Natron and Ruaha National Park; Zambia's Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks
For remote places: Tanzania's Katavi National Park; Zambia's Liuwa National Park; Central Africa's Nouabale-Ndoki and Dzanga-Ndoki National Parks
For a safari hub with the most to do: Nairobi, Kenya
For maximum adventure: Central Africa's Nouabale-Ndoki and Dzanga-Ndoki National Parks; Kenya's Tsvao National Parks
For the latest destination: Gabon; Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic
For the first safari: Tanzania's Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area; Kenya's Maasai Mara
Out the window of the plane, a ten-seater Caravelle, is a remarkable sight: the water world which is the floodplain of the upper Zambezi River. By late May the annual flood of regeneration is well past its peak and the river retreating from the small patches of higher elevation forest which become islands when the water rises. But when I look closely I see that much of the plain remains flooded, covered in waving grasses which part like thinning hair to reveal their roots in indigo-colored water, while those moving, dark dots across this ocean of grass are not cars or buses or ox-carts. They are boats.
Our flying time from Lusaka this morning is two hours on a route which first takes us across Kafue National Park, roughly following the Kafue River, tributary of the Zambezi. There are five of us altogether. Four have arrived in Zambia just hours ago, on British Airways overnight flight from London. Since I live in Lusaka I am rested and pass out the packaged crisps and cold drinks provided us in the cool box at the back of the tiny aircraft. But everyone's nose is pressed to the window by the time we cross the Zambezi itself, its seasonal swelling subsiding, exposing deposits of sand as white as snow on its banks and meandering bends. To the west of the river, not far from the Angola border, is our destination, the dirt airstrip of Kalabo town, gateway to remote Liuwa Plains National Park. We will pass through Kalabo twice on this safari, which means crossing the Luanginga River that the town is scattered along two times as well. This we do simply and effectively by pontoon, a one-vehicle capacity barge rigged to a chain and pulley system and hauled across the water hand over hand.
My host is Robin Pope Safaris, a renowned and respected name in the Zambian safari industry, and none other than Robin Pope himself leads us. Liuwa National Park has been managed by private capital since 2004, and as it shows signs that this venture is paying off, Robin has returned to Liuwa for the first time since the 90s, offering four and five day tours timed to catch the plains at their best – November and December and again in May and June. Migrant waterbirds fill the seasonal lagoons on the floodplain during these times. The blue wildebeest, 35,000 strong in numbers now, have returned from their migration north to Angola, attracted by Liuwa's rain-fed new grasses. October/November is their foaling season. Liuwa is not a trip for a first safari. There are no elephants and hippos. A cheetah mother and her sub-adult young and wild dogs are occasionally sighted, and the large dens of hyenas are a Liuwa fixture, but this safari is not about them. Liuwa is about the small but no less crucial components of a safari that tend to be overlooked in "Big Five" destinations. It is about examining the subtleties of an ecosystem, on foot preferably if you are up to it, under the gentle instruction of a bush master. You will depart a happy graduate from this bush school with an unofficial diploma on trees, plants, fruits, seeds, spoor, insects, and birds, on many, many birds. Content at the end of our unhurried days, with the new knowledge of a bright red dragon fly or the mottled color of a plover's eggs, I thought of Annie Dillard. "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives," she said. The Liuwa experience doesn't mean that you won't see wildlife. We did, lots of it: wildebeest, zebra, lechwe, oribi, and those large dens of hyenas. Very early one morning, everyone in camp heard the unmistakable uproar of hyenas on a successful hunt.
The Liuwa story isn't complete without mentioning Lady Liuwa, the sole remaining lioness in the park. Lady's relatives are all dead. She has been alone since 2006 or 2007. When Robin and his crew first occupied Matamanene camp as their Liuwa Plains headquarters, they found that Lady laid claim to it as well. She slept in the shade there during the day; she patrolled camp at night purring loudly. One guest had his bed pushed into the middle of tent when Lady rubbed up against it on the outside. It may be that Lady sought the security that the camp and its human inhabitants provided from the park's alpha predators, the hyenas, but maybe it was loneliness too which forced her into this unusual and ironic attachment with the species who are to blame for her plight in the first place. I traveled out to Liuwa hoping fervently for a night visit from Lady while dreading it at the same time. However, it wasn't to happen, and for a very good reason. Several weeks earlier, Africa Parks, the company which manages the park, sedated two handsome young males from a Kafue National Park lion pride and transported them to Liuwa where they were released after a short captivity. (Actually they busted loose prematurely, seduced away by Lady and their lion-sized wills to escape, but that is another story.) Naturally, Lady deserted us for her own kind. Robin took us to find the three lions one afternoon. (One male and Lady have been collared so the trio's whereabouts can be monitored.) The males were still suspicious after their involuntary relocation – of one male I saw only hostile yellow eyes scrutinizing our every move from tall grasses - but Lady was nearby and appeared content with her new companions. You cannot help but be touched by Lady's story. Ultimately, it is about our redemption. We've attempted to set things right before it's too late and Lady herself, the last Liuwa lion, is gone forever. (In Central Africa's Dzanga-Ndoki National Park a similar story concluded less responsibly for us: someone shot the last remaining hippo, a female, in the Sangha River.) In happy endings there can be happy beginnings. By December, it is hoped that Lady will have cubs sired by one of the transplanted males.
Lady makes an appropriate icon for the park, for in the Liuwa Plains story there is also the redemption of a paradise lost and regained. Africa Parks, Robin Pope Safaris, and everyone who now visits Liuwa, helps support and save one more of our planet's remaining precious places.
For more information on Africa Parks, a business approach to saving
Africa's national parks, see www.african-parks.org
Luangwa didn't make travel writer Patricia Schultz's list of "1000 Places to Visit Before You Die" but then she chose Kenya's Maasai Mara as the place to see East Africa's wildebeest migration over Tanzania's Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. That's certainly debatable! February (wildebeest birthing season) in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is magic!
Luangwa has made my traveler's life list. It is a park that as soon as I leave it I want to go back. I like a lot of things about it, all of which are already mentioned in my list of Zambia's assets: the availability of walking and night safaris, smaller lodges and bush camps, less people, Zambian safari industry hospitality, the quality of guiding, and its tangible history since the people who made the park into what it is today join you for dinner. I love the increased chances of seeing wild dogs and leopards there (although that is never guaranteed, of course). I also love the microlight rides that John Coppinger of Remote Safaris (another of those Zambian bush masters) offers from his mother lodge, Tafika. I prefer the microlight to hot air ballooning, even though it's noisier. I feel like a bird up there.
The Luangwa valley actually consists of more than just South Luangwa National Park. There is a North Luangwa National Park too. North Luangwa is less developed than the south with only three dry season (June to November) camps from which to choose. These camps focus exclusively on walking. The only way in to these camps is by bush plane, so this is how I started my visit to John Coppinger's North Luangwa Mwaleshi Camp, in a little Cessna operated by a fresh-faced pilot, who at first glance looked too young to be driving a car let alone an airplane but who, of course, was perfectly up to the task. She was very helpful too, explaining what geographical features we looked at below. For the most part we followed the Luangwa River with its numerous hippo pods in pinwheel formation below, on its way to meet the Mwaleshi River, along which the north's few camps are located. A camp vehicle met passengers at the lonely airstrip. After a short drive, final access to the camp was a wade across the river.
I spent three days in the north. Each morning, and again in late afternoon, a small group of us walked, accompanied by one of Zambia's excellent guides as well as a scout, who served as the all important weapon-bearer. Grasses were long, and wildlife skittish, but the overall feel of the place was wonderful remoteness. John chose the name of his company well. Game sightings included Cape buffalo, impala, wildebeest, zebra, puku, hippo and lion.
Every foot safaris is also accompanied by the very important "tea man", who halfway through the morning rustles up refreshments. At one such tea stop in the north, around a magnificent ancient tree with gargantuan limbs that spread parallel to the earth, our conversation was abruptly silenced by growls. They came from behind the tree, and from not too far away. Furthermore, they moved, first to the left of us, then to the right, and then to the left again. Just before the tea break, we had awakened and frightened away some sleeping lions. It was possible that one had returned. North Luangwa lions have a reputation for feistiness according to John Coppinger. He told stories about the pride that took exception to Remote Safari's crew when they first arrived to establish Mwaleshi Camp years ago. Still, our cheeky lion theory had competition. Our tea tree was covered in deep grooves made by a leopard's claws as it climbed its hefty limbs to sleep or stash his prey. Since the guides weren't 100 percent certain who was creating the disturbance and making our hearts beat faster, I preferred to think it was the leopard who had arrived for a snooze and was annoyed to find us there. After tea, we beat a swift retreat.
I continue my reporting on Luangwa National Park in the December newsletter when I discuss traveling with Norman Carr Safaris and Shenton Safaris, both established and well respected companies in Zambia.
Livingstone isn't called the adrenalin center of Zambia for nothing. After seeing the famous Victoria Falls- which are spectacular and simply shouldn't be missed - you can opt for such diversions as bungee jumping, abseiling, white water rafting, tandem skydiving, quad biking, fishing, jet boating, canoeing, ride elephants, walk with lions, see the falls from a microlight, helicopter or small plane, and get very, very loaded on a sunset cruise. My Zambian friends tell me that Livingstone in certain local circles is called "Lovingstone", which I thought might have to do with the fact that honeymooners are spoiled for choice of romantic accommodations, Tongebezi's private houses, completely open on their Zambezi River side, are one excellent example. But what my friends referred to was an earlier stage of the dating game. They insist that anyone can find a mate in Livingstone, for the short or long term. I will have to take their word for it.
To me bungee jumping at Livingstone seems disrespectful too to the natural spectacle of Victoria Falls. (No, I have never jumped myself, but in response to any critics who might think cowardliness impacts my opinion of bungee jumping, I point out that I have jumped out of an airplane. ) As Zimbabwean writer Peter Godwin puts it so succinctly in "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun": Livingstone has "all the raucous feel of a frontier souk simultaneously servicing different fantasies….a world heritage sight that has been transformed into a Babylon of Adrenalin that conservation purists see as merchants running riot in the temple of Nature."
As one of those conservation purists, I went looking for quality experiences after seeing the falls. I found several which were more than worthwhile, among them a cultural day trip or two to a Tonga village (not the one in every guide book), and a walk in Livingstone's Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park tracking White rhino, the account of which follows and the short video of which is up on the website.
Tony motions for me to move forward. I put down the video camera so I can see where I'm stepping. I am covered in blackjacks, short, barb-like burrs, which jab my feet repeatedly through the mesh tops of my runners. I have heard the previous evening that blackjacks are the reason why Zimbabweans and Zambians who work in the bush don't wear socks. This is perfectly clear to me now. Blackjacks have turned my socks into pin cushions.
With that extra little burst of speed and slight change of direction, Tony and I emerge ahead of the rhino, the dominant male of a small group of re-introduced White Rhinos after the last one in Livingstone's Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park was lost to poachers in 2007. Up to that point, from when the rhino was first spotted, looking not unlike a huge boulder on the move, we have merely kept adjacent to him while slowly closing our distance to ten feet. (That we get that close is because Tony assures me that he can tell that the "big fellow" is in a "good mood" that morning.) Now when I raise the camera to my eye, the rhino fills the viewfinder. He continues to amble forward, never breaking his stride although he must know we are here. His ears rotate like windmills. In a minute, our paths will converge. Involuntarily, I make a little move to back away, which is exactly what I have been instructed not to do. The able park ranger who accompanies Tony and me clamps his hand down hard on my shoulder in a silent but adamant signal for me to remain where I am. Trust for the experienced men and women who show us the bush on foot is vital. I relax. Getting close to a rhino on foot is far more exhilarating than getting close to one in a game vehicle. Just in the knick of time it seems, the "big fellow" alters course slightly. He bypasses where the three of us stand, immobile as trees, and at least one of us not breathing. I have forgotten all about the blackjacks.
Fifty-two year old Namakau Kaingu wears so many hats that she needs two business cards to list her positions: Executive Director of Zambian Women in Mining and Development; Regional Chairperson of SADC Women in Mining Trust; Coordinator of African Women in Mining Network; Managing Director of Kaingu Gem Mines and Lapidary; Trustee of Kaingu Women Cooperative Society; and Patron of Kaingu Community School. I first met her in Lusaka. She had several cell phones strung around her neck which rang insistently, often at the same time. Namakau is a self-taught open-pit gem miner with an advanced certificate in gemology. She got into mining 20 years ago when she needed to support a large family and gemstones seemed a good way to do that. But getting started wasn't easy. She traveled alone to remote areas of the country to search for minerals and often slept in rudimentary shelters. All of her knowledge had to be acquired from books. Namakau now owns five mines, an aquamarine and quartz mine near Lake Itezi-Tezi, just east of Kafue National Park, and three amethyst mines further south. She came to my attention because of the cultural tourism program she is opening in a few months at her Itezi-Tezi mine. Visitors will be able to "mine" their own minerals under the instruction of Namakau and her crew. They will also be taught how to cut and polish their stones. For those who want to stay overnight and partake in Namakau's warm and very fun hospitality, a simple guesthouse is being built on the property. If mining your own aquamarine sounds too much like work, visitors can simply tour the mine and learn about its processes and buy cut stones from the lapidary on the premises.
I was also eager to meet Namakau because of what I assumed was her unique position as one of the few African women in mining, but she set me straight about that as soon as we met. There are more women in mining than you think, she said directly, all over Africa; they just haven't received any recognition or credit. Namakau calls her Itezi-Tezi mine Chukwuemeka, which is her son's name and a Nigerian (Ibo) word for "God has done it." It is not surprising to me that such an enterprising African woman is deeply devout, believing that she owes her success to a supreme power. But I see my new friend's qualities of determination, fearlessness, confidence, and ambition as contributing to where she is today too. A visit to Chukwuemeka can be easily fitted into a safari through south Kafue National Park. For Livingstone visitors, Namakau has a retail gem and jewellery shop in the Falls Business Center, next to the Zambezi Sun Hotel.
Did you know? Zambia has rich reserves of gemstones including the second largest deposits of emeralds in the world, and the largest deposits of amethyst in Africa.
Movious, adj. - someone who is active. In the west we may all fall under the movious category. But in traditional Africa, haste and excessive busy-ness is not necessarily a good thing. The height of rudeness is coming straight to the point in a conversation. I suspect that this wonderful word that Zambians have created may not have the positive connotation that we would give it. Otherwise, why do my Zambian friends shake their heads at my busy schedule and say regretfully, oh mama, you are so movious?
The Trouble with Africa: Stories from a Safari Camp by Vic Guhrs: this memoir by a neighbour of mine in Lusaka is required reading before a trip to "the Valley" as Zambia's Luangwa National Park is known. Vic is a talented wildlife painter who married Norman Carr's daughter (also an artist) and helped raise their children in Luangwa. (What an interesting upbringing his children had!) Although he has left the valley now, his children grown, he will not leave Africa. The anecdotes Vic shares of Luangwa are about any number of wildlife encounters he has had over the years or the many and now legendary characters he met there (since they still operate Luangwa's safari businesses this makes for some fun reading), but each one also explains why he will not leave Africa. He can't. It is in his blood. That's the trouble with Africa. And for those of us feel the same way Vic has managed to put our complex and contradictory feelings about this continent into some beautiful and thought provoking prose. It is one of the most honest books that I have read. For more on Vic and his art please see www.vicguhrs.com