Luxury safari expert Sophie has just been to Tena Tena, see what she says:
A long game drive transfer from my previous camp later (don’t worry we won’t make you do that!) – en route I discovered the alarm and territorial call for a Puku sounds like an old wheezy toy, and definitely not something that should come from a deer, more like a bird – none the less, we got to the side of the river where the Tena team were coming to meet me.
What a fab way to transfer, they picked me up by canoe. Steering it like the Venetian gonadolas do, except there was an armed guard equipped with a rifle at the front. From the huge knowledge I have about Venice, I can’t remember there ever being any mention of an armed guard…?! Anyway, this isn’t Venice, this is gondolas, African style! The guard is there just for safety purposes, in case a hippo gets a little bit too close. Especially at the beginning of the season when the wildlife are just getting used to more people than normal.
I met Njembe on the other side who would be my guide whilst staying at Tena Tena. I was in actual fact, the first guest of the year! First time for quite a few things in Zambia.
We saw elephant en route into camp, upon arrival I was greeted by Jenny, our host. She used to be a primary school teacher in London but then decided to take a sabbatical and become a host for Robin Pope.
Tena Tena is one of the more rustic camps, although the tented rooms are to die for, really very comfy and really decent sizes. Fantastic outdoor bathroom, one of the best to be honest; underneath the trees, so you can shower beneath the stars at night.
Tena Tena is a unique camp, in the way that you can’t access it for part of the year due to the rains, so they dismantle the whole camp. Then when it dries up, they transport everything back, plumbing, electricity, tents, beds, the lot and rebuild almost from scratch again.
There were some other guests who’d beaten me to it. John and Tricia who must be well in their 80’s, he’d had a knee replacement, she’d had a hip replacement and if you didn’t know already, they’d been coming to Tena Tena since 2005, every year. You may have even thought they’d had a share in it, they loved it and treated it like it was home from home.
We had a Iovely lunch with home made quiche, cous cous with feta and peppers, beef and Brie salad, home made bread and home made tomato and chilli relish. Excellent food. The beef in Zambia is to die for, if that’s just the only reason to come, it’s quite a good one.
I was then shown to my room/tent. Such beautifully designed simple tents, not too big, not too small. Just right. Stunning outside bathroom with a his and hers sink, one of the best outdoor bathrooms I have seen yet, aesthetically pleasing (!) It just seemed to all flow.
I had a couple of hours to relax and take in the noises and view of my surroundings. In the distance you could here hippo laughing, the crunching of leaves from a herd of passing elephant and the cape turtle dove.
At 3.30pm we met back in the main area, had a drink of tea served by the wonderful Tena Tena staff, there were home made scones, jam and cream on offer. I reluctantly declined these, becoming increasingly aware I am enjoying myself far too much on the food front and need to take a rain check…!
I set off in my personal game vehicle with my guide Njembe and our spotter Wilson. We had just about left camp when we bumped into a herd of about 10 elephant. We watched this big bull elephant having a small mud and dust bath. They do this to protect themselves from tics and parasites – also it’s mighty good for the skin too. We watched him walk up the slope and behind some trees. We dutifully followed and stopped where we could get a better view of him. I sidled up to a tree and then… CHARGE! Quick as a flash he crashed through the trees towards us. Njembe, pedal to the metal accelerated forwards to get out of the way of the oncoming elephant. With a loud trumpet as we left a trail of dust behind, he came to a stop. This is the second time this has happened to me in four days!
We continued on our drive and passing the river we noticed something odd. There were loads of crocodile basking on the shores on the opposite side. This is usual behaviour for crocs, warming their cold blood up as well as digesting food. It was just the volume of croc we found unusual. Sure enough, a couple of 100 metres down from the crocs there was what I can only describe as a scene from Jurassic Park. A hippo had passed away on the side of the river bank, either due to old age or perhaps becoming injured in a territorial fight. Surrounding the body of this huge hippo were probably around 40 crocodile of varying sizes queuing up to chance their luck with a mouthful of hippo meat. It was crazy. Some of the crocs were even inside the body, trying to get to the most tender parts of the carcass.
You never now what you’re going to find around the corner on a safari, that’s what’s so exciting.
Later on we stopped for sundowners by the side of the Luangwa river, Egyptian geese wheezing as they flew over us and the bush slowly increasing its volume of crickets as the sun descended below the line of trees on the other side.
Returning to the camp from our sundowner, we began a small night drive. The torch flickered over bushes and trees hoping to catch sight of a pair of eyes. We turned round a corner and what should we bump into, but a hyena! YESS! Result! We stumbled upon a lovely spotted hyena. There’s something so primeval about them, it’s like they’ve been put together by someone who had too much to drink, their sort of out of proportion; small hind quarters with a huge chest and long front legs, low slung head and huge bone crunching jaws finished off with a Mohawk.
A new couple had arrived in camp since we had been out, they were from Colorado and had never been to Africa and decided to do a once in a lifetime tour of the best places. They’d also never stayed in a bush camp, so were a bit apprehensive about what noises they may hear at night. Still, they seemed totally up for the experience, which is what all these camps are about.
For supper we had an onion and sundried tomato tart for starters, pork, cabbage and sweet mash potatoes with a jus for main and a chocolate tart for pudding.
Through the night there were lion calling back and forth to one another, as well as hyena and heards of elephant just behind my tent. It was all go in the bush.
Woke for breakfast and ventured down to where everyone was seated round a small fire on the ‘front lawn’. Sadly Tena Tena doesn’t get the sun rise, but we had the light of the sun hitting the bank on the opposite side of the river.
There was a pair of ground hornbill, with their black bodies and red faces wandering past us as well, whooping back and forth to one another.
Saying my goodbyes, I set off for a small game drive and then I was to take the canoe back over to meet my new guide from my next stop and final stay in Zambia, Chinzombo.