As you are probably familiar with our website, you may know that one of the activities we propose at Mwamba Bush Camp is a one night fly camping. It is a true adventure! After over a year with the company, it was way due for me to experience it and the opportunity arose a few days ago, when our guests Annabel and Sel nicely accepted for me to tag along their private outing.
So this is my story of the camp out, as an “almost” guest. The camp out officially started after the regular afternoon tea. Our guide, Patrick, took place behind the wheel of the game viewing vehicle, accompanied by the Zawa scout (Gideon and his riffle), and off we went driving West of Mwamba Bush Camp, through magnificent African savannah, in the general direction of the Baobab Forest. We drove for about 45 minutes, before parking the vehicle under a tall mopane tree. Patrick then announced that we would be doing a walk for about 1hour, through the Mopane forest, in the direction of the camp out location. It wasn’t long after starting the walk that we came upon a nice herd of Cookson’s Wildebeest. They are a bit skittish of humans on foot, but we were able to observe them for a little while, their light tan & black colors nicely lit with the late afternoon sun. A bit further on the walk, we flushed something feathery that none of us, guests, were able to locate again once perched in a tree. Patrick, on the opposite, with his trained eye, had no problem directing our stares, and binoculars, in the right direction. What we had flushed was a very small Scops Owl, probably 15 cm high. Scops Owl blend completely with the bark of the towering trees, and are really hard to spot. We tried to approach to take better photograph, but it was quite shy and we didn’t want to bother it more than necessary. We continued our walk, enjoying the feeling of absolute solitude in this part of the park where no vehicles, or other camps, are found. Under Gideon and Patrick’s knowledgeable guidance, we came across a huge lagoon, known as Kapamba (after the name of a famous poacher which used the area a lot in the early years of the park). Derek Shenton’s father used to bring his family there for camping in the old days. The area is really beautiful, even if the waters have almost disappeared in this particularly dry season.
And around the corner from the lagoon… was our little camp set up! We made it there just in time for sunset, and sundowners. A team of 4 staff from Mwamba and Kaingo had been busy setting everything up, and welcomed us warmly. The camp out is for the adventurous in the sense that all means of comfort are left behind. The bedding consists of comfy mattresses, sleeping bags and pillows and a fly mosquito net moored with bamboo sticks. Set aside on an old buffalo skull is a wash basin filled with water, a soap & a towel. This will be the washroom facilities till tomorrow. We had an excellent dinner around the fire, listening to the chorus of hyenas lurking around the lagoon (at one point we counted 8 pairs of eyes) and to a duet of scops owls in the surrounding trees. I had brought my iPad to use the night sky application, and after identifying all the visible stars, we decided it was time to hit the pillow.
The night went by very quickly, the staff making sure to fuel up the various fireplaces set around the “camp”. One hyena ventured quite close, as its “whoop” was really loud, but nothing came to disturb our sleep otherwise.
We got up bright and early the following morning, and after coffee, tea and biscuits we took off for a 2 hour walk in the baobab forest. It was truly magical. The air was very hazy, which made for dramatic scenery and colors. We got back in camp to a cooked breakfast, with loads of impalas and warthogs in the background, drinking from the shrinking waters of the lagoon.
We all felt we could have stayed there for many more hours, but before we knew it it was time to pack up again, and take the direction of Mwamba, in time to join the camp’s guests on the midday activity.
The experience was really unique. The sense of remoteness is intense, and it felt far, far, far from any daily qualms or grief of the real world. It’s a time to bond with nature, with the basic necessities all taken care of by the staff.
Notes: The camp out is an activity that is pre-booked, as logistically there is quite a lot involved, and it is private in the sense that we would not group different guests together. It is intended for 2 people, but we would accept up to 4 people. It is focused on walking and on looking at the little things we usually don’t notice on other game viewing activities. Earlier in the season, when the lagoon is full, it is quite common to see herds of buffalos, which also means the lions are usually not far. Now, as things are getting very dry, there is less game around, although we had our share of interesting sightings.