Royal Robbins ambassadors Bob and Gina Poole continue on their journey through Africa. To climb aboard from the beginning, first check out their ambassador profile here.
Always knowing where you’re going, where you’re staying and what you’ll be doing can take the adventure out of travel. Sometimes ditching TripAdvisor is the best advice. On this overland trip, we wanted to combine places where we’d been before with new discoveries.
Our next stop was a familiar one to Bob: Victoria Falls. A while ago he shot a documentary for National Geographic called Flight Over Africa with his friend and pilot, Tom Claytor. As the story goes, when they arrived at the airport near Victoria Falls, Tom decided it would be fun to fly his small bush plane under the bridge that spans the Zambezi River and links the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. To their knowledge, no one had ever done such a maneuver. However, that didn’t deter them; if anything, it increased their temptation. While the sound man distracted a guard on the bridge, Bob rolled his camera, and Tom and Bob proceeded to fly underneath the 400-foot high structure.
Victoria Falls is breathtakingly stunning with its basalt gorges formed over the past 300 million years. It’s also a magnet for thrill-seeking tourists who flock here during high-water season to bungee jump off the bridge and whitewater raft the huge rapids with foreboding names like Temple of Doom, The Mother and Terminator.
After exploring around the falls for a couple days, we studied our map of Zambia and decided to drive west to Kafue National Park. We were intrigued by this park; it is the largest in Zambia and second largest in all of Africa. Kafue doesn’t have the name recognition of Kruger or Serengeti, but it has immense expanses of wilderness and, especially during the rainy season, you have the place to yourself.
From the Park’s Dumdumwezi Gate, we drove on the new Cordon Road, the higher and necessary route at this time of year due to major river crossings on the lower road. It was an impressive dirt track that led us through beautiful woodlands complete with old-growth teak forests.
At dusk we started looking for a place to pitch up for the night when we saw a small sign for “Kasabushi Bush Camp.” To our complete surprise, we stumbled upon the best self-drive camp in all our overland trips. The camp, idyllically situated on the Kafue River, came complete with resident hippos. In addition to the great wildlife viewing, Kasabushi had fantastic amenities one doesn’t usually find in a campsite. The outdoor shower was similar to those you find in high-end tented camps. Kasabushi was a labor of love and artistic expression. They’re in the process of building a tented camp as well.
We wanted to spend a couple more days in Kafue, but in the interest of time, we had to move on. Our next destination was one that we were very excited to experience. Our timing could not have been better because we were about to witness one of nature’s most incredible spectacles!
Driving on the Great North Road from the capital city Lusaka, we arrived at Kasanka National Parks, which is one of the country’s smallest parks. The Park isn’t known for its huge herds of wildlife, but every year in November and December, up to 10 million straw colored fruit bats congregate to take advantage of the fruiting musuku trees. The bats fly from the Congo Basin, and the migration is said to be the largest of any mammal on earth.
At 3:30 AM our alarm sounded, and we quickly downed a cup of espresso. We drove to a meeting place where we were met by a ranger who escorted us to a mahogany tree where a BBC crew built a platform for the series “Africa.” In the dark, we climbed 65 feet up a ladder to the platform. We waited and listened to the first songs of the dawn chorus and watched the brilliant pink and red colors of the early morning sky. The bats had been out all night feeding, flying as far as 35 miles away. They return to roost just before the sun rises.
Almost on cue, the first bats arrived, and within minutes, there was a carpet of bats flying all around us. The sound of their flapping wings and squeaks was surreal. They landed one by one in the mushitu forest below. As the sun broke the horizon it was over, and we were left with the feeling that we had just experienced something rare and wondrous in the natural world.
After breaking camp we continued our journey toward Tanzania, stopping along the way to buy vegetables from locals selling them along the roadside. To my amazement, a woman tried to entice me into buying roasted caterpillars. Insect larvae weren’t on the menu, so I politely declined and bought some tomatoes from her instead.
As we neared the border with Tanzania, we could see rain was imminent. With a storm building, we ducked into the campsite at Chipoma Falls National Monument. Bob got the roof tent up just in time before the deluge came. The next morning we explored the falls before packing and saying goodbye to Zambia. Stay tuned as we continue our journey through Tanzania.