Day 2. Sun 18th April
Today is a fairly easy day, and we get to lie in until 6:30. The day dawns
bright and sunny and I decide to have an early morning swim. However it
would seem that crocodiles are not the only danger in the lake - a party
of three hippos have beaten me to it and are wallowing in the shallows.
Keeping a keen eye on my escape route I venture cautiously down the beach
to photograph them, much to the consternation of the others who are watching
from the safety of the wall. There are two things to remember with hippos,
arguably the most dangerous of all African mammals. 1. although they have
an impressive turn of speed they have very short legs and can't jump, so
anything higher than about 6 inches between you and the charging hippo
affords protection. 2. the one sure way to provoke a hippo is to get between
it and the water. As these were already in the water and looking very relaxed
I figured I was probably OK for a couple of snaps, but I decided against
After an excellent full English breakfast we set off for the Kariba dam.
There are two dams on the Zambesi, one at Kariba and one at Cahora
Bassa, the rapids which David Livingstone famously failed to notice before
declaring the Zambesi fully navigable and organising the ill-fated expedition
into the interior. A third dam was planned at Mana Pools, but this was
stopped by environmentalists.
Although we are not going to enter Zimbabwe, we still have to go through
a border control to exit Zambia. It would seem that the dam itself is a
sort of no-man's land, neither in Zambia or Zimbabwe. Ken has somehow failed
to get an entry visa into Zambia, probably because his passport is so full
of stamps that there is nowhere to put it, a constant problem for him.
After a short altercation he agrees to surrender it for the duration of
The dam is impressive. The original power generators were on the Zimbabwian
side, but in 1972 Kenneth Kaunda decided that it would be a good idea,
in view of the situation in Zimbabwe, to build another generator on the
Zambian side. Each side is capable of generating about 600MW, but it is
clear from the water flow out of the exit tunnels that the Zimbabwean side
is working a good deal harder than the Zambian side.
A possibly apocryphal tale tells of the Managing Director of
B. P., who has a large house downstream of the dam, ringing the dam authority
and offering them $10M on the spot to close the sluice gates because the
water level had risen so high that his house had flooded.
We decide to visit Sambu crocodile farm, but have some difficulty finding
it. Eventually we stop at a village whose primary industry seems to be
fish, as they have huge racks of them drying in the sun. We ask the head
woman for directions and eventually find the farm. It is a working farm
not a tourist attraction and we have been warned that we may not be allowed
in, but the event we are welcomed, and shown around the farm by Charles.
However, it is not all that exciting, and I suspect that the world trade
in genuine crocodile-skin handbags is probably not large enough to keep
it going much longer.
We return to the Eagle's Rest for lunch. As we sit down to eat clouds begin
to gather and there are ominous rumblings from Zimbabwe. By the time we
have finished our steak sandwiches the wind has reached gale force, lighting
is flashing and the rain is being driven through the glassless netted windows
of our chalets.
Despite the maelstrom I fall fast asleep. When I wake the storm has
passed, the sun is out, the hotel staff are out in force with mops and
buckets, and the group is just about to go off for a sunset cruise on the
Zambesi in Ian Kennedy's houseboat. We load up with beers, and he takes
us up the river until we can see the dam from the water.
Ian has organised a barbeque for our return, and he and his wife Tricia
join us for dinner. While the meat is cooking he shows us a fascinating
video about the construction of the Kariba dam, and about Norman Carr.
Widely regarded as the founding father of walking safaris, Norman Carr
was more influential in developing conservation policies and a wildlife
tourism industry in Zambia than any other individual. His son Adrian has
carried on his father's work and now runs Norman
Carr Safaris. (For more information about Norman and Adrian Carr see
the Project African Wilderness
site. Adrian Carr has agreed to be the advisor on conservation and game
breeding for the PAW project). Unfortunately we don't have time to watch
to the end. I mean to ask Ian if he has copies for sale, but never get
round to it. Oh well, next time.