An interview with guide and photographer, Vusa Sibanda

Vusa Sibanda’s journey to becoming a guide began in the Matetsi region of Zimbabwe, where he worked as a tracker for eight years. Roaming along animal superhighways, Vusa would use misplaced twigs, imprints in the sand and naked tree branches to draw a map in his mind, illustrating wildlife movements that would be indecipherable to the untrained eye. Recognizing his talent, recruiters for the FGASA program offered Vusa the opportunity to spend two months in South Africa to complete his guide-training course. Five years later, Vusa is a highly respected and valued guide at Old Drift Lodge. While his days as a tracker have drawn to a close, Vusa’s boundless knowledge of the bush and his acute attention to detail is reflected in his exquisite wildlife photography. Safari Guide and Photographer Vusa Sibanda

Vusa’s Instagram page resembles an archive of experiences and safari moments frozen in time through the lens of his Canon Camera. Scrolling through the images will take you on a sentimental journey back into some of the most wild and untouched places on earth. “One thing I have learned being in the bush, is that every animal, tree and stretch of landscape has its own character”, muses Vusa. “I am in the wilderness everyday and have been since I was young, but I am always excited to go on the river and on a game drive because I know that the wilderness will show me something I have never seen before”. While many people will scour the National Park looking for big game, Vusa believes that the subject of the photograph is not necessarily what determines a great shot. It is the moment that they spring into action, be this a bird in flight, a lion yawning, or a buck prancing through the trees. Outside his lens you might see a bird nesting or hippo wallowing, but the gentle click of his camera is reserved for the fleeting moment that they take off, or tear open the surface of the Zambezi River, leaving him with a hard copy of that powerful moment.

Vusa’s camera has been an ever-present companion on his ventures into the wilderness and his passion has become a vessel through which he shares his expertise with guests at Old Drift Lodge. In an increasingly digital world, memories of the present are scrolled instantly into the past. However, Vusa’s images will compel you to look closely, look twice and look slowly. Through the glass screen of your phone or desktop, you can peer into his wild world and understand what it looks like in a given moment.

@vusasibanda2002

A Day Trip to Chobe

A Day Trip to Chobe

Chobe National Park is renowned for its large herds of elephant that frequent the Chobe River on a daily basis. In the dry season an estimated 85,000 elephants make Chobe National Park their home, mainly in close proximity to the river. However, Chobe is also home to a plethora of other African wildlife. Game drives offer regular sightings of lion, leopard, buffalo and a whole host of antelope including sable, puku, kudu, eland and roan.

The river offers up its own incredible sightings of huge pods of hippo grazing on the swampy islands interspersed with some of the largest crocodiles in Africa basking  river offers up its own incredible sightings of huge pods of hippo grazing on the swampy islands interspersed with some of the largest crocodiles in Africathemselves on the extensive flood plain and open sand banks. Chobe National Park is also an ornithologist’s paradise – the banks of the river are lined with the nests and holes of some of the most colourful and spectacular birds in Africa and a myriad of birds of prey call Chobe their home.

This tour departs daily to the Chobe National Park in Botswana. Clients will be transferred by bus to the Kazungula border post. They will be assisted through customs formalities by the Wild Horizons driver before being handed over to their Botswana guide. Once they have been assisted through the Botswana border formalities, Chobe Marina Lodge is the next stop for a quick bathroom break and signing of indemnity forms. Guests will proceed straight to the morning cruise where they will spend the morning game viewing along the Chobe River. All the boats offer protection from the sun. The cruise will end at around 12h30 and clients will go back to the lodge for an extensive buffet lunch. The lodge is situated on the river banks overlooking the Chobe River and the Namibian shoreline. After lunch, guests will board safari vehicles for an afternoon game drive into Chobe National Park. After the drive guests will be taken back to the Kazungula Border where they will be met by their Zimbabwean guide for their return transfer to Victoria Falls.

When considering attractions in Victoria Falls, keep in mind the magnificent Chobe National Park is very easily accessible and makes for a fabulous fun filled day!

Important details:

Times:
• 07:00 to 07:30 – Guests will be picked up from their hotel, in a closed bus, and proceed on a 70km journey on a tar road through Zambezi National park and designated safari areas to the Kazungula border.
• 08:30 – Arrival at the Kazungula Border, where guests will exit Zimbabwe/Zambia and enter Botswana. At the border guests will change vehicles and are met by their Botswana guide.
• 08:45 – Once guests have gone through Botswana immigration, they will take a short drive to Chobe Marina Lodge.
• 09:00 to 09:15 – Arrival at the lodge, where guests will have a short bathroom break, and will also be required to fill out the Park Entry form.
• 09:30 – Depart on guests’ first activity; EITHER game drive or boat cruise. If guests would like to go on a specific activity first, then they should please specify. Soft drinks, local beer and bottled water are provided on all safaris and river cruises.
• 12:30 – Return to the hotel for lunch. This will be served a buffet style lunch, with a selection of traditional and modern day meals to choose from.
• 13:30 – Depart for guests’ second activity. This will be either a game drive or a boat cruise, depending on what activity the guests did in the morning.
• 16:00 – Return from the Park and head back to the Kazungula Border to proceed with border formalities.
• 16:30 – Guests will meet their Wild Horizons bus and are transported back to their hotel.
• 17:30 – Arrive at guests’ hotel.

Duration: 11 hours

Departures: between 07h10 and 07h30

Minimum: 1

Maximum: 9 per vehicle

Age Restrictions: Children 2-11 years are half price, over 12 pay full price.

IMPORTANT NOTE:
Botswana requires an unabridged birth certificate for all minors travelling to Botswana (this has been in effect since October 2016).

The following documents are required when travelling to Botswana with minors (18 years and below):

  1. Valid Passport
  2. Valid VISA, if required
  3. Unabridged Birth Certificate (Birth Certificate containing the particulars of a minor and those of the parents)
  4. A letter of consent from the other parent should the minor be travelling with one parent

*Please note that a normal birth certificate will not be accepted.

Minimum age: We accept children younger than 2 years but on a private trip basis.

Maximum age: N.A

Language: English (French, German, Italian & Spanish available on private tours, at supplement cost – subject to availability)

Transfers: Included from hotels in Victoria Falls Town

Please note: the order of the activities are subject to change without prior notice.

 

Guests on a morning cruise game viewing along the Chobe River. All the boats offer protection from the sun.

A Game Drive at The Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve

The muggy afternoon heat was beginning to dissipate as Mike, our incredibly knowledgeable and charming guide, arrived to collect us from The Stanley and Livingstone. Almost immediately we saw a herd of zebra. This fairly common sighting suddenly became an interesting study in how zebra stripes act as a private air conditioning system, allowing them to stay blissfully cool in the heat of a Zimbabwean afternoon. Equally fascinating, although less romantic, we learnt that within the first few days of being born, baby zebras eat their mother’s dung. This provides them with roughage and ample bacteria to fight off infection during their vulnerable first days.

S&L game drive DSuddenly we were startled by a warthog whose impressive size and demeanor was somewhat diminished by the very obvious lack of his tail. Mike explained to us that it is common to see warthogs with no tails on the 6000-acre reserve, as there is fierce competition between warthogs and hyenas for the limited number of burrows. About 70% of the warthogs have lost their tails from reversing into a burrow and finding it occupied by sharp fanged rivals!

Alerted by the smell, we were thrilled to see a pile of rhino faeces on the road. Mike explained to us how rhino have a unique system of detecting the presence of other rhino in the area. Male rhino ensure that after defecating they leave traces of urine and faeces on their back legs. These ‘calling cards’  drop off as he walks, clearly demarcating his area for other would-be trespassers! Female rhino dung can indicate an increase in oestrogen for potential suitors in the area.

Much like we humans will sniff a glass of wine trying to discern different scents and notes, so a rhino employs a similar, albeit rudimentary method to glean information. So the next time you raise a glass of wine to your nose and inhale deeply, think of the rhinos, one of which could be doing exactly the same thing at the same time. Cheers to you both!

Our glorious afternoon was complete when suddenly we came across not one, but five Black Rhino! Unperturbed by our presence and obvious excitement, these magnificent creatures strolled leisurely up to our vehicle, sniffing (of course) the air inquisitively and coolly regarding their star struck visitors. We realized how supremely privileged we were to see these 5 rhino (the herd comprises 7 in total) when Mike pointed out that the total black rhino population in the world stands now at a mere 1500. Depressing news indeed! For this reason the rhino on the reserve are regularly de-horned to deter poachers.

After the privilege of watching these incredible creatures, we made our way to the dam. Progress was delayed firstly by a herd of elephants waiting patiently for the babies to stop gambolling on the road and then by an enormous herd of buffalo whose progress indicated that they too were feeling the lethargy and peacefulness of the early evening. After a  glorious sunset, accompanied by perfectly made gin and tonics, delicious nibbles and a myriad of bird activity, we reluctantly left this stunning display of nature to make our way home, all of us enriched by an incredible afternoon in the capable hands of Mike.

Stanley_and_Livingstone_by_Sarah_Kerr-8957

TIPS:

  • Wear neutral coloured clothing, a hat and sunglasses.
  • Take cameras and binoculars- there’s plenty to see!