Best of Zambia Photo Safari Introduction
Experience three once-in-a-life opportunities in one dedicated photo safari. Join C4 Photo Safaris and specialist wildlife photographic guide, Isak Pretorius, to help you take world class photos of elephants walking through Mfuwe Lodge reception, the spectacular and elusive African Pitta, and a bat migration where 10 million fruit bats creates the largest mammal migration on earth. What makes this even better is that you’ll experience this in the wild and untamed wilderness of Zambia’s South Luangwa and Kasanka National Parks.
With its concentration and diversity of wildlife, South Luangwa National Park offers an unrivalled safari experience. During November and mid December, three “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities present themselves to safari goers in Zambia. Go in search of the “jewel of the forest” – the rare, migratory African Pitta, while also being able to witness the unique, annual phenomenon of elephants regularly walking through Mfuwe Lodge reception. Another highlight will be when we are joined by renowned, Dutch-born ornithologist, Frank Willems to watch the world’s greatest migration – the highest density of mammals on earth – as 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats descend upon Zambia’s Kasanka National Park… just a short flight away.
[tabby title=”SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK”]
SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK
Experts have dubbed South Luangwa to be one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and not without reason. The concentration of animals around the Luangwa River, and its oxbow lagoons, is among the most intense in Africa.
The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa and is the life-blood of this 9059 km2 Park. The Park hosts a wide variety of wildlife, birds and vegetation. The now famous ‘walking safari’ originated in this Park and is still one of the finest ways to experience Africa’s pristine wilderness first-hand. The changing seasons add to the Park’s richness, ranging from; dry, bare bushveld in the winter, to a lush, green wonderland in the summer months. There are 60 different animal species and over 400 different bird species in South Luangwa National Park. The only notable exception is the rhino, sadly poached to extinction.
With about 400 of Zambia’s 732 species of birds appearing in the Park, including 39 birds of prey and 47 migrant species, there is plenty for the birdwatcher to spot, whatever the season. An interest in the vegetation of Zambia will enhance your experience of the bush. Some magnificent trees and plants grow in the Luangwa Valley and it certainly adds to the richness of one’s experience to be able to recognize the different tree species and to discover exotic wildflowers. Among the more common trees in the valley are the mopane, leadwood, winterthorn, the tall vegetable ivory palm, the marula and the magnificent tamarind tree. The are some magnificent baobab specimens and a few large ebony forests to admire.
Seasonal changes are very pronounced in Luangwa. The dry season begins in April and intensifies through to October, the hottest month, when game concentrations are at their height. Warm sunny days and chilly nights typify the dry winter months of May to August. The wet season begins in November as the leaves turn green, and the dry bleak terrain becomes a lush jungle. The rainy season lasts up until the end of March and the migrant birds arrive in droves. Each lodge stays open for as long as access is possible, depending on its location in the area. There are several lodges that remain open all year in the central area of the park.
[tabby title=”KASANKA NATIONAL PARK”]
KASANKA NATIONAL PARK
Kasanka is a beautiful wilderness of woodland, plains, lakes, rivers and swamps in the North of Zambia. As well as its attraction for visitors it forms a valuable protected area for many endangered species. Kasanka is Zambia’s first national park under private management and is entirely reliant on tourism revenue and charitable funding. It is a valuable conservation area with diverse flora and fauna including many endangered species and exceptional birdlife.
Kasanka National Park is one of the most picturesque parks in Zambia and is open all year round. It contains a rich diversity of animal, bird and plant life including several rare species including sitatunga, wattled crane, Ross’s Lourie and Blue Monkeys. Kasanka is also host to a unique and spectacular congregation of several Million Straw-Coloured Fruitbats every November and December.
The arrival of 10 million straw coloured fruit bats into a tiny piece of swamp forest is probably the highlight of the Kasanka calendar. Beside being the world’s largest mammal migration, the annual Bat migration of Southern Africa’s largest bats provides safari lovers and photographers the opportunity for some of the most dramatic footage as millions upon millions of bats take to the skies in the early evening – often against a backdrop of vast and stormy skies or even better, a bright a full moon! At the crack of dawn, they all return to the forest to roost and it is at this time, when the chances of witnessing a natural predation act become a possibility as crowned, martial and fish eagles take to the skies to hunt the returning bats in the cool of the morning.
Another real special highlight for the safari enthusiast about a visit to Kasanka is the outstanding chance of getting clear and multiple sightings of one of Africa’s rarest animals – the swamp dwelling sitatunga. Pontoon campsite, Fibwe Hide and various other points in the park are known to deliver excellent sightings of the mysterious antelopes and should be a high up on any wildlife lover’s list to find!
These primates are another special part of Kasanka – the blue monkey is a species of Old World Monkey not commonly found anywhere else in Southern Africa while the Kinda Baboon has been identified and researched to show it as a completely separate species of baboon not found anywhere else in Zambia.
To boast a birdlist of over 500 species and be described by Ian Sinclair (one of the world’s leading and foremost experts in birding) as “offering some of Africa’s finest birding” is one thing. However, when you consider the size of Kasanka, you realize what a birding treasure this little park really is!
Best of Zambia Photo Safari Intinerary
About your host, Isak Pretorius
Isak was born to be a photographer, but before he discovered this, he became an engineer. Once he picked up a camera, his engineering career came to an end and Isak has now established himself as one of the top bird photographers in Africa. The benefit of his engineering training is his flawless technical knowledge of camera systems and the post processing software that accompanies them.
[tabby title=”Day 1″]
Day 1: Mfuwe Lodge, Zambia
Arrival at Lusaka International Airport. This photo safari starts and ends at this airport, so it is your responsibility to arrange your own international flights. If you need flights to be arranged for you please C4 Photo Safaris.
Your C4 photographer and host, Isak Pretorius, will meet you at the Lusaka International Airport. We will depart Lusaka at 11:00 via a scheduled domestic flight, landing at Mfuwe Airpot at roughly 12:00. From Mfuwe Airport, there will be a 30 minute road transport to the camp. Once you’ve arrived at camp there will be a short orientation and a chance for you to settle into your chalet to unpack and get your photographic equipment ready. We will meet for lunch and have a chance to discuss the workshop before embarking on our first afternoon game drive.
We will base ourselves at Mfuwe Lodge for the next three nights to give us our best chance to see the elephants walking through reception. The elephants do this to get to an giant wild mango tree in the courtyard of the lodge. It is impossible to know exactly what time of the day they will walk through the lodge. Typically they do this almost every day from mid November in the late morning, and some times even in the afternoons. So, our plan for the duration of our stay at Mfuwe Lodge will be to keep our game drives close to the lodge and be in radio contact with them at all times. When anyone sees elephants close to the lodge we’ll make our way back there. The game viewing around the lodge is fantastic, so we’ll fill our memory card with more than just photos of elephants!
The first drive is about enjoying, relaxing and to get familiar with the photography from the vehicle and to get familiar with the South Luangwa landscape and photographic opportunities. On this drive the aim is to take photos ‘as you are used to’, so that it sets the benchmark to measure the images taken at the end of the photo workshop against.
Before Dinner, the C4 guide will give a short presentation showing a variety of images and how, by using specific aspects, you can alter and change an image dramatically.
[tabby title=”Days 2 & 3″]
Days 2 & 3: Mfuwe Lodge, Zambia
During the next two full days the daily schedule will remain more or less the same. The times are flexible and might vary slightly depending on the sunrise times, the sightings and our activities (e.g. we might decide to have an extended morning drive). Generally we follow this schedule:
05:00 – Wake-up and meet for coffee and a small meal.
05:30 – Morning game drive.
11:00 – Brunch.
12:00 – Rest and own time.
14:30 – Photo presentation, workshop and photo review (not compulsory).
15:30 – Meet for high tea.
16:00 – Afternoon game drive.
19:30 – Dinner and then retire to bed for another day of more great photography.
The topics of the photo presentation and workshops are not fixed and will be altered to meet the specific requirements of all the guests. These could include the following:
- Understanding light.
- Understanding composition.
- Tutorials on advanced photo techniques.
- Use of Lenses for various effects.
- Post processing your images in Lightroom or Photoshop.
- Cataloguing images.
- Startrail and starscape photography.
- Flash use and advanced flash use.
During the photo workshop sessions there will be a chance for guests to bring their own photos for feedback and critique by the C4 guide. Typically three photos from each guests per session are enough to not only see what different photos we all got from the same sightings but the feedback the critique on your photos is one of the best ways to improve your own photography.
[tabby title=”Days 4 – 7″]
Day 4: Bilimungwe Bush Camp, Zambia
A late morning road transfer from Mfuwe Lodge to Bilimungwe Bushcamp means that we’ll have time for a short morning drive at Mfuwe Lodge before we change camps. Bilimungwe Bushcamp is a three hour drive south from Mfuwe Lodge in the South Luangwa National Park, on the banks of the Luangwa river. This is where we’ll look for the African Pitta. There are a number of breeding pairs in the thickets close to the camp, and although they are still elusive, their mating calls usually give their positions away. Photographers in the past few years have had the best success their in photographing them than anywhere else in Africa. The game viewing around Bilimungwe Bushcamp is great, so we will spend the next few days looking for these birds while on game drives, with a good chance of seeing and photographing more than just the bird.
Once we arrive at Bilimungwe Bushcamp, we’ll have lunch and then a chance to unpack and settle into our rooms. After high tea we’ll go on our first game drive in search of the African Pitta and everything else that will make great photos. The afternoon game drives extend into the evenings for stunning night drives. Here we’ll have the chance to photograph nocturnal animals, like leopard, genets, owls and elephant shrews, using a spotlight. After the night drive we’ll return to camp for dinner and bed.
Days 5 & 6: Bilimungwe Bush Camp, Zambia
During the next two full days at Bilimungwe Bushcamp the daily schedule will remain more or less the same as at Mfuwe Lodge.
Day 7: Mfuwe Lodge, Zambia
A late morning road transfer from Bilimungwe Bushcamp to Mfuwe Lodge means that we’ll have time for a short morning drive at Bilimungwe Bushcamp before we head back to Mfuwe Lodge. Another three hour road transfer means we’ll get to Mfuwe Lodge, unpack and then have a chance for an afternoon game drive there. We’ll only spend one night at Mfuwe Lodge, and a last chance to see more elephants walking through the reception, before going to see the bat migration.
[tabby title=”Days 8 – 10″]
Day 8: Wasa Lodge, Zambia
An morning charter flight from Mfuwe Airport to Kasanka National Park means that we’ll have time for a short morning drive for those that are keen. After breakfast we’ll say goodbye to Mfuwe Lodge and embark on a road transfer to the airport for our flight. Once we arrive at Wasa Lodge in Kasanka National Park we’ll have time to unpack, settle into our rooms, and setup for the afternoon photography.
The activities at Kasanka involve short game drives to the lookout points from where we can photograph the bats. The bats are most active around dawn and dusk, so we’ll make sure we’re there at the best times. After game drive we’ll head back to camp for dinner and bed.
Day 9: Wasa Lodge, Zambia
The schedule for this day will be similar to those on the full days at Mfuwe Lodge and Bilimungwe Bushcamps. We’ll make the most of the morning and afternoon photography activities with an option of joining a midday photo workshop at the Lodge.
Day 10: Wasa Lodge, Zambia
Our last day begins with a short early morning activity and last chance to see the bats, after which we have breakfast. We will depart for Lusaka International Airport at around 09:00. This is unfortunately the end of your photo safari.
- ELEPHANTS WALKING THROUGH RECEPTION – A fascinating display of the initiative and the gentle, brave, and relaxed nature of these giant animals, that can now be observed and photographed on a photo safari for the first time.
- JEWEL OF THE FOREST – It’s not difficult to understand why the spectacular, elusive and rare African Pitta is the most sought after bird for photographers in Africa, and now for the first time you’ll get a realistic chance to photograph it.
- BIGGEST MAMMAL MIGRATION IN THE WORLD – The congregation of 10 million Straw-coloured Fruit Bats in a tiny patch of forest in Zambia is not only a natural history spectacle but on this photo safari you will be taught to get world class photos too.
- UNIQUE OPPORTUNITIES – This photo safari offers the only time and place where these three events, the elephants through reception, African Pitta, and biggest mammal migration in the world, can be photographed.
- YOU WILL GET GREAT PHOTOS – Being on a photo safari as appose to a normal safari means that your specialist wildlife photographic guide will help to improve your photography to take world class photos no matter what level of photographer you are.
- THE UNTAMED AFRICAN WILDERNESS – Both South Luangwa and Kasanka National Parks are unfenced with free roaming animals that offers the authentic African wilderness experience.
- TEN DAYS OF SAFARI – Longer than a typical photo safari means that you have a better chance of seeing amazing sightings as well as a chance to explore all the genres of nature photography.
- STRESS-FREE TRAVEL – This photo safari starts and ends at Zambia’s Lusaka International Airport – from there all travel, food, accommodation and photography activities are included – so just get yourself to Lusaka!!
- Classic scenes of the Luangwa river meandering through the wide river banks.
- Hundreds of Hippopotamus in the pools and main river.
- Large elephant herds in the woodlands, drinking at the rivers edge and in front camp.
- Endemic species include Thornicroft’s Giraffe, Cookson’s Wildebeest and Crawshaw’s Zebra.
- Regular sightings of the sought after Pel’s Fishing Owl.
- Excellent lion population.
- Very high density of leopard, with very relaxed individuals.
- Flocks of storks, herons and egrets feeding in the drying pools for fish.
- Excellent sightings of large water birds in the Luangwa River.
- Buffalo herds drinking at the rivers edge numbering into the hundreds.
- One of the best places to see lion hunting buffalo.
Best of Zambia Photo Safari Accommodations
This region of the park is renowned for its prolific game – giraffe, hippos, buffalo, antelope, and crocodile are constant visitors to Mfuwe Lodge’s lagoon, whilst in November the local elephants regularly wander right through the lobby, lured by a nearby wild mango tree. Whether you stay overnight, or just have lunch en route to a Bushcamp, Mfuwe Lodge’s relaxed charm and enviable surroundings make it the perfect stopover. Voted Best Lodge in Zambia in 2009 Mfuwe Lodge also offers you the chance to relax at its Bush-Spa or buy a few mementos of your time in Zambia at our curio shop.
Bliimungwe’s four raised thatched rooms have been carefully designed to ensure the height of comfort whilst still retaining that authentic bushcamp feel. The tangle of mature mahogany trees that surround camp are echoed in the rich, wood interiors and the beautiful wooden furniture, handmade by local artisans. Bright African textiles bring splashes of colour to the elegant rooms. After an early morning game drive, head back to your room for a refreshing, open-air waterfall shower, or continue the wildlife spectacle from your private deck. Two of the chalets have twin beds (queen-sized beds), while the other two each have a king bed. Bilimungwe sleeps up to eight guests and is open from May to December.
Wasa lodge can accommodate a total of 8 couples or 20 people if utilising all our available beds. There are 4 large chalets and 3 smaller rondavels, all set in the treeline or overlooking over the lake. All the chalets are built in a circular shape and have thatched roofs.
The larger chalets all have double and single beds in the room, a verandah and a simple shower, basin and flush toilet in an en-suite bathroom. The smaller chalets have double or twin beds and an en-suite bathroom with flush toilets and simple bucket showers. Between the chalets is a tree-top platform which makes for a stunning sunrise spot listening to the hippo, puku and fish eagles. The main dining area has beautiful views and is complemented by a cosy bar and chill zone while many a warm and cold drink are enjoyed around the fireplace outside the main building.
Wasa Lodge is located near the airstrip and is the closest accommodation to Maluashi Gate. Wasa is also situated in an area of the park that offers great viewing of puku, hippo, sitatunga and of course, is the closest lodge to the famous Kasanka Bat Forest.