Zambia’s enchanting Kafue National Park

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There’s silence in the dining room, and around the dinner table only a quiet clinking and tinkling and scraping of cutlery, as we enjoy a delicious mushroom risotto. The dining room sits atop a a hill, looking eastward over Lake Itezhi-Tezhi, in the southern part of Zambia’s Kafue National Park. Antique lanterns illuminate the table and surrounding deck and, in the quiet, we can hear loud splashing noises coming from the water. Abandoning our places at the table, we move to the edge of the decking and look out into the darkness. Powerful torchlight illuminates twenty or thirty hippos, all grazing, stomping and splashing in the shallows and on the shore. Slightly skittish, doubtless feeling a little exposed and vulnerable, they quarrel with one another, periodically dashing towards the water and sending up in plumes of spray. We hadn’t expected hippos, in such numbers, to visit after dark. Looking up, the stary skies overhead were mirrored by the twinkling lights of the local fisherman’s camps, and the lamps on their dugout canoes, as they fished in the darkness. After dinner we retired to bed, leaving the hippos in peace, and in the morning, opening the doors to our room, we lay in bed listening to them, still munching, as a spectacular sunrise lit up the sky in a kaleidoscope of colours.

As we head to breakfast a huge monitor lizard swaggers past in the grass, and we find a leopard’s footprints on decking beside the dining room – it had clearly come for a drink from the pool while we’d been asleep. During daylight hours there’s a constantly changing array of wildlife in front of the lodge, with puku, bushbuck, impala, vervet monkeys and a troop of banded…

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