Classic Zambia Trip Report (September 2022)
Here is part 2 of Marc’s detailed day-by-day trip report from his most recent trip with Classic Zambia.
Day 6: Transfer to Musekese
In the morning, we did an easy game drive en route to Jeki airstrip. We did a quick stop back to Lusaka (35 min flight) to collect guests staying at a different camp. This stop only took 20 mins and in no time, we were already in the air heading to the Kafue. The flight to Lufupa airstrip where Musekese is located was 1hr, 45 mins including a stop at Hippo airstrip to drop the guests that we collected. When I arrived at Lufapa, I was met by James III, a young transfer guide with a lot of enthusiasm, passion and knowledge. He is on his way to becoming a full fledged guide and guests staying at camp really enjoyed his company.
From the airstrip, we took a transfer in an air conditioned closed vehicle to the boat jetty, then 15-20 min boat transfer to Musekese Camp and another 15 min drive to get to camp. While this transfer day took half a day, it was quite seamless and logistics were all taken care of by Classic Zambia.
Tyrone, one of the Classic Zambia owner/director and the camp manager Dianne welcomed me at Musekese upon my arrival. Dianne was amazing and she seems to have settled nicely as a manger at Musekese Camp. She previously worked in finance and had some experience managing a camp when she worked for Saruni in the Masai Mara where she fell in love with the bush.
Musekese Camp In Detail:
Musekese Camp is set on the Eden Lagoon with plenty of wildlife out in the open such as Puku, Impala, Bushbucks and Hippos. The water level is quite low when I visited in September, which was perfect for spotting wildlife. The rooms at Musekese Camp are the most ornately decorated out of all the Classic Zambia properties. The tent is on a raised wooden platform, with an open view of the Eden Lagoon. There is running water as well as a running hot shower, which is a good welcome change if you are doing the entire CZ circuit. The rooms are large and spacious, with a sitting area on the deck as well as a love seat inside the tent. There’s no wifi at camp and no electrical plugs inside the tent, but there is a charging station in the main area.
The Main Area has an elevated deck that opens up to the Eden Lagoon. Communal dining is served on this deck, and the fire pit is just below the deck which makes for excellent for camp fire experience as wildlife frequently passes through. The main area also has a great bar set up with lots of loungers and maps of the Musekese-Lumbeya area. They also have a little curio shop where you can buy some CZ/Jeffrey&McKeith gear.
For a video tour of Musekese Camp tents, click here
For context, Kafue is the second largest park in Africa and is the size of the state of Massachusetts! Musekese only utilizes the north eastern border of the park. The Musekese area alone, is double the size of the Masai Mara with no other vehicles on their side of the river.
In the afternoon, we headed for a nice game drive with our guide James II while Tyrone tagged along. James is a certified safari guide who was also incredibly knowledgeable. He was a bit more quiet and reserved, but highly professional. We started the drive in a new loop that Tyrone and team just built. The afternoon gave us great antelope sightings from pukus, bushbucks, duikers as well as different bird species.
We spent our sundowner next to the SCZ lion pride which is made up of four lionesses including the infamous Tripod, a collared female and two sub adult females. Tripod only has 3 legs as she lost part of one after it was caught in a snare. She was eventually helped by the Musekese Conservation team. Even though she only has 3 legs, she seems to be thriving in this environment thanks to sticking with the main SCZ pride. This is a great conservation success story and you can tell by how enthusiastic Tyrone and James were in seeing Tripod. James was also taking photographs that he can send to the Musekese conservation team.
Note: Even though the Kafue is known for Tsetse flies, there were no tsetse flies at camp and in the area where we did our game viewing at Musekese.
Day 7: Musekese Conservation & Sundowner on the Kafue River
The next morning we headed out to Musekse Conservation. It was about a 45 min drive on our open game-viewer through the miombo woodlands. This meant that we encountered some tse-tse flies along the way, but it was certainly worth it because we had a great sighting of a gorgeous Sable antelope!
We met Rachel, the lead ecologist and researcher onsite, as well as the Musekese HQ manager. Rachel gave us a brief presentation on the work that is being done at Musekse Conservation including the different scientific methods that they use to prove the success of their conservation efforts. Ultimately, they want to measure the impact of the Anti-poaching unit through their research. This includes setting up camera traps, counting large carnivore and herbivore populations and getting first hand information from the guides.
We toured the sleeping quarters of the anti-poaching unit as well as the main Musekese Conservation HQ where we saw all their operations from the main communications area, pantry, garage, and all the necessary things that you need to run an anti-poaching unit. Most importantly, they showed us a demonstration on how snares work and how they were able to eliminate this method of poaching in the areas that they patrol in. We didn’t see the APU since they were on patrol, but we can see through their GPS tracker where they were patrolling.
In the afternoon, Tyrone and I went on a boat cruise on the Kafue river. We saw half-collared kingfishers, skimmer colonies, lots of crocs and elephants playing on the river. We also spent time next to a Martial Eagle perched beautifully on a dead tree. Tyrone also showed me the site of the old Musekese camp where they first set up 10 years ago.
On the way back to camp, Tyrone put on the spotlight and we had a great sighting of a male leopard out on a hunt! Upon arrival at camp, we had to wait to go back to the rooms since there was an elephant on the path back to the camp.
Day 8: Walking Safari + Transfer to Busanga Plains
In the morning, I went for a walking safari with Gilbert & the Danish couple staying in camp. We were accompanied by a female scout, Memory. Gilbert was super knowledgeable and has a great character, which made the safari walk such as breeze! He was able to explain to us the science behind all the plants, termite mounds, animal scat and different animals while at the same time, he also gave us great commentary on how these things were explained to him as a child growing up in the nearby village. It was quite nice to hear the two different ways of explaining the same thing while on safari! We walked for about 2.5 hours followed by coffee and biscuits.
On the way back to camp, we spotted Tripod and the SCZ pride as well as a lanner falcon chasing some yellow-billed storks.
After a quick shower and some delicious lunch, we then headed to our next camp, Ntemwa-Busanga in the Busanga Plains, which took about 3 hours total. The drive was through tsetse fly territory so I was super grateful to have a closed air-conditioned vehicle! On the way to the jetty to pick up the closed vehicle, we had a very curious young bull elephant that got really close to us and started trumpting. Tyrone, Josh and I stood our ground and just waited for the bull elephant to calm down before proceeding to the jetty. This was one of my favourite encounters!
Note: It is not possible to fly from Musekese to Busanga Plains unless the Classic Zambia plane happens to stay at Musekese for the evening, which is never guaranteed since it consistently flies between Lusaka, Jeki and Lufupa.
We arrived at Busanga Plains around 5:30 just before the sun went down. Guests that were previously staying at Musekese camp were also there as well, so it was good to be acquainted with familiar faces . We spent the afternoon at the hippo pool by the edge of the Lufupa River which was such a picturesque setting to do your sundowner!
Tyrone’s father, Tony, is the camp manager at Ntemwa Busanga at the moment. James (Anderson) the other guide at Ntemwa Busanga, took the other guests at camp on their game drives and they had mentioned that he was a truly exceptional guide. They have two gameviewers at camp and one of them is a land rover that was just recently upgraded in Maun (suspension on this one was amazing!. Also, a big shout out to the bartender Foster for keeping our drinks cold!
Ntemwa-Busanga Camp in Detail:
Ntemwa Busanga Camp is the most rustic of all the CZ camps, but it is probably the most charming of all. The camp only has 4 rooms and you can really feel how intimate this camp is. You feel like you are part of the Classic Zambia family when you stay at NBC. The rooms are quite simple and have the look and feel of classic and traditional Zambian bush camps. It has bucket showers, no running water, flush toilets, high quality beds and linen, lights and radio, but no charging station in the rooms (only in the main area).
The main area is on an elevated platform overlooking the endless Busanga Plains. We had all our dinners under the stars and the meals were just as good as the previous camps.
For a video tour of Ntemwa-Busanga camp, click here
Day 9: Full Day Game Drive in the Busanga Plains
Male lions of Busanga Plains
We spent a full day game drive in the Busanga plains to see as much of it as possible and the game viewing in this area was exceptional. We had about 4 different lion sightings including fully maned male lions that looked really healthy! In addition, we saw plenty of pukus, lechwe, roan, impalas. The game viewing experience is similar to the Ndutu section of the Serengeti but instead of thousands of wildebeest, you will see big herds of lechwe.
We stopped by for lunch in one of the palm islands and had lentils, meat pie and a salad to break up our full day game drive.
We headed back to camp around 2pm and had a few hours of siesta before Tyrone and I went out for a slow afternoon game drive to spot birds at a nearby watering hole. While looking for Schalow’s Turaco, we spotted several out in the open in broad daylight, which was an amazing treat to end my safari at Busanga Plains.
Busanga Plains is regarded as the busiest area of the Kafue, yet there are only 6 camps there in total, making the experience truly remote and exclusive.
Note: Walking safaris & canoeing Safaris are not available at Busanga. Please also keep in mind that there are tse-tse flies in the Miombo Woodlands area. But they eventually disappear when you are on the Plains, where you do most of your game viewing.
Day 10: Goodbye Zambia
We started our day a bit later since we only had to transfer to the airstrip which is about 30-45 mins away from camp. We saw more lions en route!
The flight was at 9:30 in the morning with the CZ Cessna 210. The pilot, Vernon, was precisely on time. I had a 2 hour flight to Jeki Airstrip to drop off guests, who are continuing on to Chula and Kutali camps with Classic Zambia, spent 30 mins at Jeki, then another 30 mins to get to Lusaka to catch my mid afternoon flight.
Upon arrival at Lusaka, the CZ airport crew walked me through the international terminal, which was quite quick and efficient. Spent a few hours at the airport lounge, which was only $30 USD (great meals!) and flew back home via Addis Ababa.
Marc’s Final Verdict:
This was one of the best safari experiences I’ve ever done. When safari outfitters say that they want to bring back safari like what it used to be, it often reflects the heavy colonial 1920’s Hemingway-style camping. With Classic Zambia, they are bringing back the traditional experience in a new way; by connecting you to the natural beauty of Zambia through top notch guiding, unpretentious lodging, authentic camplife experience and grassroots conservation. Having done many ultra-luxury safaris throughout Africa, it is refreshing to see a company that takes you back to what made us fall in love with safari in the first place – undistracted wildlife and nature.