Busanga Bush Camp – September 2015

I was travelling with a friend, Venice.  We were on our way to Busanga Plains in Kafue National Park.  We had reached Musungwa Lodge on Day One from Livingstone.  Musungwa is on Lake Itezhi-Tezhi and had been a fun drive from Livingstone via Namwala.  The next stretch was to Mushingashi where we had stayed for a couple of nights.  Mushingashi is now closed.  There are other lodges nearby – Hippo, McBrides, Kafue River and Leopard.

Taking the road north from Mushingashi we arrived at the Kafue River and the first ferry.  The road then travels north with the Kafue National Park on the west and Lunga-Luswishi Game Management Area on the east.  There was very little traffic and the road was fine.  After another 80 km we reached the Lunga River and another ferry.  We continued north and although I had put the coordinates into the GPS for the turning into the park I missed it.  After backtracking a short distance, I found the sign and the narrow track leading to the park.

After about 20 km we came to the Kabanga entrance to Kafue National Park.  It took us a while to fill out all the forms and pay our dues into the park, but I had expected that and was patient with the ranger who struggled to calculate the amounts on his cellphone.  I don’t expect he gets much practice.

The road south through the park from Kabanga runs along the Ntemwa River.  The Ntemwa is a seasonal river but it leaves large pools along its length during the dry season, the pools often covered in waterlilies.

The photograph shows the bridge over the Ntemwa River.

After some time we reached the Tree Tops sign which pointed us to the Busanga Plains.  The road runs along the Lufupa River, another seasonal river which floods out over the plains during the rainy season.  We could see signs of traditional fishermen have been there previously.  Zambia continues the legacy of allowing traditional fishermen to enter the parks, under licence, to fish in the rivers and floodplains at certain times of the year.

We also met up with a lone bull elephant.  I certainly did not stop to stare as elephants in Kafue have been heavily poached in the past and elephants are very wary of people and vehicles.  Watching the news over the past few years I notice that the elephants are getting more used to human ‘intruders’ onto their land and are less aggressive.  This is testament to the work done by the ZamParks rangers, lodge management and conservation organisations like Game Rangers International and Zambia Carnivore Programme.

Finally we were onto the plain and the vast expanse of the grassy landscape was all around us.  There are tracks all over the plain but, using the GPS and meeting up with safari guides, we arrived that Busanga Bush Camp easily.  We were greeted by Ondyne and Newton who offered us a welcoming drink and gave us and introductory talk.  After taking us to our room to freshen up we were off on a drive with Newton.

Busanga Bush Camp is a Wilderness Safari Camp.  Wilderness Safaris has an excellent reputation for style and service.  They have camps in many countries in Africa, having started their life in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.  Ondyne, Newton and their staff lived up to the Wilderness reputation and Venice and I were spoilt rotten.

Busanga Plains is famous for its wildlife and we did see plenty.  Lion, cheetah, sable, roan, puku, lechwe, warthog and lots and lots of birds.  One of the two cheetah Newton found for us was collared.  He is part of the Zambia Carnivore Programme which works in the park.

The following day we did another two drives around the park seeing quite a lot more wildlife.  Newton even managed to get us fairly close to some elephants.  It was good to see that the elephants were still breeding which meant that they feel reasonably secure now in Kafue.

Another excellent development is the lack of fire in some areas of the park.  It has, in the past, been a strategy by ZamParks to burn the grass early each year – called an early burn.  The planning behind this is so that, when September and October arrive with the high temperatures, there are no massive, destructive fires lit intentionally, or otherwise, which would destroy so much more.  Now, though, only some areas had been burned, leaving others as nature intended.   This has been a strategy devised by the Nature Conservancy from America.

Busanga Bush Camp is a tented camp.  The main area is a canvas roof with all sides open.  The rooms are specially designed tents with a solid bathroom added onto the back and a loo with a view on the side!

The main area has another loo with a view.  This is not a camp for children or the timid.  Having said that, all the staff are wary that wildlife can walk into camp and are watchful of their guests.  Guests should not be concerned.

The service, of course, was excellent too.  Wilderness Safaris run their operations like a well-oiled machine – they know exactly how to pamper their guests.

On the day we were to leave we were taken off for an early morning balloon ride.  Sadly, although the balloon operators tried their best to get the balloon airborne, the wind was too much so the trip was aborted.  Next time …

We left Busanga after a couple of nights and took the road back along the Lufupa River and then south to the Hook Bridge.  Again we met up with elephants and again we did not stop to stare.  After leaving the plain the road passes through fairly thick woodland and although we did not see much wildlife, the drive is really pretty.

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