It has been some strange months to say the least. We hope that you and your loved ones have remained healthy and that you, wherever you are right now, are slowly coming out of strict lockdowns and confinement and that you can be surrounded again by dear friends and family.
We know the road to recovery is going to be long and challenging but at last we are seeing some light at the end of this corona tunnel.
We all have to persevere and we hope this newsletter will help you do just that.
Anke, Ron and Luke have been keeping busy at their home in Australia. During the lockdown they got creative and set up their own “family restaurant” to celebrate Ron’s birthday and then their anniversary!
Stuck in Belgium, I’ve tried to find new ways to market our properties (the word Zoom took a new meaning…) and created a series of 3 Kafunta video tutorials which you can watch here.
As you will read further down, I’ve also spent time investigating every corners of my garden!
But at Kafunta life has been rather normal. Of course it was far from “normal” for our staff, but the animals around the lodge are oblivious to what is happening to the human world. That’s their normal. I find this quite inspirational actually, it’s hard to get our head around what is happening to “us” but when we look out our windows and see nature and animals and birds… they are doing just fine. We, in other words, are very much responsible for our own trouble. The pandemic has brought the world to its knees, but it’s the materialistic world we created, not the natural world. Maybe this is our chance to learn and decide how we want to fix this.
So how is our staff really doing?
At the lodge, TJ and a handful of staff are keeping things tidied up.
TJ and Levy regularly drive south to assess the progress of the renovation at Chilongozi school and to check on Three Rivers Camp & Island Bush Camp.
Anelle is now back in South Africa while her next work permits is being organised.
Wilson is still working from home, and recently took his kids on a drive out in the park for a bit of game viewing.
As for the rest of our staff, about 70 of them, we encourage them to remain optimistic while providing them with basic food & supplies packages – furlough doesn’t exist in Zambia and there is no government help. It’s of course really hard for them to grasp the situation. In Mfuwe, there is no Covid case detected, no unusual rush at the small rural clinics. So the local population is not understanding why this is going on for so long.
On the bright side, we’re extremely grateful to be one of the recipients of the BioCarbon Partners “REDD+ Emergency Support” grant. BCP gave out several of these grants to applicants who in turn could use the ZMW 70 000 (approx USD $3900) to provide subsistence packages or support to remote communities, and we had apply to help the small community of Malama (where our bush camps are located). More to come on this in our next newsletter. Ion the meantime we extend our big THANK YOU to the board of BCP for their initiative and generosity.
How is the Covid19 Situation in Zambia?
Zambia was never in strict lockdown although schools, restaurants, public places were closed for many weeks. Now all this is reopening and slowly locals start to travel around the country again. Literally as I type this, the President of Zambia just announced the reopening of all international airports in the country. That’s great news!
As of 24 June there is 1489 cumulative cases (of which 248 are still active) for over 50 000 tests conducted. There has been 18 corona-related deaths. Outside of this, there is no surge in mortality rates in the country, which is an indicator that it’s not just a case of not testing or ignoring the health of the global population.
The Ministry of Health is conducting an intense awareness campaign. And a Covid 19 Safety Protocol has been put in place for tourism businesses to reopen. Unlike most of developed countries, temperature checks are done on daily basis, everywhere, not just at airports, but in many businesses even in Mfuwe (no cases reported)! So in a way we are ahead of the game.
And of course a safari in the wilderness is probably one of the safest vacation style in terms of Covid-19 – Our windows are always open! If you think about it we offer great outdoors, open air activities, open air dining and small number of other people around.
So your main question is: when do we reopen? Well we don’t know for certain. As we’ve always said, we will be ready when international tourism is ready to reach us again in Mfuwe. And we’re hopeful this can be in September. The frequency of international airlines should increase by then (Emirates announced flights as of August, South African Airways is uncertain, Ethiopian has never completely stopped) and, domestically, Proflight is resuming some flights in July and August, with hope to return to a more normal schedule thereafter, but undeniably this is linked to international traffic.
Which itself depends on the various countries opening up their borders and issuing visas, and removing quarantine and self-isolation requirements.
Which depends on the status of the Covid19 pandemic… So in other words we don’t know.
But we are still happy to offer very flexible conditions for all our guests who are booked for the reminder of the year, and should you not feel comfortable enough with the idea of travelling even if tourism opens up, we are happy to postpone your trip to 2021.
What else is happening in the Luangwa Valley?
Alone on safari
Despite the lack of tourism, there is a lot going on in Mfuwe.
As I was mentioning above, the wildlife is roaming as normal, and the cycles of nature follow their course as the colder season has arrived and the bush is drying fast.
I’m personally happy that Ed Selfe is “stuck” in South Luangwa. Despite not being able to lead his normal tours, he is thoroughly enjoying the park to himself, and his photos are a delight!
Ed is a wildlife photographer and safari guide who called Luangwa his home some 10 years ago. He is incredibly talented and always a good source of images for us to share. Let’s indulge in his recent sightings!
I invite you to visit his website to see his frequent safari updates, read his photographic tips and maybe even consider booking one of his future workshops.
Above: one of the very few recorded (and observable) nesting pairs of Crowned Eagles
Below: a bush pig, equally as rare to actually see, although more common in the park
New at Project Luangwa
Let’s start with the new logo. We love the colours and the variety of meanings the logo can have.
Designed by Sherri Thompson, the logo first evokes a traditional African hut, seen from above, symbolising home and community. The individual and colourful drops formulate the idea of individuals gathering in a circle and coming together to form that community. Some may also see pebbles and ripples in a pond, in other words the combine effects of small actions forming a big impact. Sherri also redesigned the website, which is well worth a visit.
Ian and his family were due to move to Mfuwe mid-March just as the UK and Zambia established their lockdown, and they are on the starting blocks to come to Mfuwe as soon as possible.
Ian takes over the reins from former directors Karen Beattie & Dave Hopson who dedicated 10 years of their lives to the welfare of Mfuwe’s children and community.
his is a challenging time to step in their shoes, but Ian has an incredible energy and together with Mfuwe-based Fwilane and Stu, they are determined to continue improving the standards of health and education of the Luangwa people and help raise out of poverty.
To compensate for this year’s lack of tourism influx a Covid19 response fund has been created.
If you can, please consider donating a few dollars. Just like the logo shows, small drops do form a big impact. Thank you.
CSL Zambia Challenge
Early May, Conservation South Luangwa launched a fun fitness challenge to bring awareness to the lack of tourism funding and the impact this could have on overall conservation in Africa.
I suggest you look up #CSLZambiaChallenge to watch all the creative versions that organisations and individuals did as the challenge spread on social media.
Walk Luangwa 2020
Nick Riddin (Remote Africa/Tafika) has come up with another type of challenge: walk the full length of the Luangwa River. As things are rather slow right now, he’s going ahead with the first leg of this enormous project and starting at the end of July Nick will walk 350 km (220 miles) from North Luangwa to the southernmost camp in South Luangwa, following the river.
Nick, along with a guide and a scout, has the support of a number of safari operators such as Kafunta Safaris who will offer shelter, water and food along the way.
So this is another story to follow in the weeks to come, with the walk scheduled to start on 27 July. Follow Nick’s Instagram and Facebook page, or our own page as we will keep up with his progress too.
Of course the challenge is physical, but it is also charitable. The goal is to raise GBP 200 000 to support conservation and communities across the Luangwa Valley by funding realistic projects. We will talk more about this in our next newsletter but we already give you the link to the JustGiving fundraiser page (just opened). So watch this space and remember to follow #WalkLuangwa2020.
The walk will be documented by writers/photographers/editors Matthew Blair and Mana Meadows, who will be part of Nick’s walking crew. Matt & Mana just founded Conservation Storytelling – an inspiring website about people, culture, wildlife, landscapes… and about sharing diverse stories.
Currently confined in the greater wilderness of British Columbia (Canada), our Hospitality Manager Courtney Hoffman has used her down time to compile a photobook with the incredible photos she took last year in South Luangwa.
Until these booklets can be found in Kafunta’s curio shop, Courtney is selling them online and gives back part of the proceeds to the Zambian Carnivore Program www.zambiacarnivores.org.
Contact Courtney via her social media if you wish to have more information about her photobook) (Facebook: Courtney Hoffman or Instagram) .
Exploring the garden
As for me, having scratched Zambia (and other marketing destinations) off my list for this year, I’ve been using my spare time to explore the garden and the beautiful nature around me.
I’m privileged to live in the high “peaks” of Belgium and my house has a sizeable garden which is keeping me busy.
Like many “confinees” , I’ve developed some interest for growing vegetables. It’s really baby steps for now, but it’s quite rewarding so far. I highly recommend it!
My camera is always charged, and I take it out once in a while to capture what my surroundings offer me, be it birds, flowers, scenery or … four-legged friends!
It’s a bit strange to talk about 2020 travel awards, but considering awards are meant to celebrate the year past, we are delighted to announce that Kafunta River Lodge was nominated for Zambia’s Leading Safari Lodge, in the 27th World Travel Awards.
Voting is open until 22 August, and we count on you to help us win this prestigious accolade. Thank you!!
That’s it for me, for now!
I’ll leave you with a few photos from our guests Rudi & Heilgart Biller, so you can close this newsletter with splendid images of Africa in your head.
We hope to see you very very soon in South Luangwa! And we thank you for considering donating to some of the projects listed above. We know you can yourself be living some challenging time financially, and we truly appreciate your support.
Izzy & the Kafunta Safari Team
Send us YOUR OWN PHOTOS (taken in South Luangwa please) so we can share them on our social media and newsletter! Thank you!