Behind the scenes at Amanzi and Anabezi Camps

We had a cup of coffee last week with Shaun Davy, who even brought some African sunshine to Edinburgh with him!  Shaun and his family created the amazing Amanzi and Anabezi Camps in the Lower Zambezi in Zambia so we seized the opportunity to ask him a few questions about setting up the camps and his personal highlights of safari in the Lower Zambezi. Read on for the local’s lowdown…

Shaun Davy

What’s it like building a camp from scratch and why did you choose the Lower Zambezi?

Difficult and rewarding. We have one of the most remote camps in the park so the planning and logistics were challenging to say the least. The nearest hardware store is a 14-hour round trip from camp, but that is how you create a special place – build something beautiful in a beautiful place. The Lower Zambezi has got to be one of the most under visited parks in the region, and we wanted to find a way to share it with people.

Aerial view of the camp

What do you love about the Lower Zambezi?

The pure beauty of the place, the Zambezi is an iconic river that runs through one of the last accessible wildernesses. To be able to experience this place through so many different activities like canoeing, boating and walking makes the Lower Zambezi a must-do safari experience.

With so many choices, what type of safari do you prefer and why?

I love being on a boat floating down the Zambezi, there is something special about letting nature pull you through one of its great spectacles.

Boat Safari at Anabezi

What’s been your best wildlife encounter ?

I was on a game drive and we came across a herd of elephants that were all around us. We stopped under a tree to get out of the afternoon sun and observe the herd. Suddenly there were small pieces of bark that started dropping into the vehicle, we looked up and in the tree directly above us was a female leopard who we had not seen but had obviously sought shade in the tree. There was a moment of panic, for all involved, as the leopard decided how it was going to vacate the tree. Fortunately, our guide quickly reversed and the leopard settled back down and allowed me to take one of my most cherished wildlife shots.

Leopard at Anabezi

What do you enjoy doing when you’re in camp?

I love fishing, mostly because it gives me an excuse to spend the day in a boat floating down the Zambezi.

Fishing at Anabezi

Are there any favourite wildlife visitors to camp?

There are six cubs who were born this year to the two daughters of a lone lioness called Guvu (her name means ‘lump’ because she has a growth on the side of her belly). She came to the Anabezi area by herself, fought three males who attacked her, fought them again to protect her two cubs, which she raised to adulthood, and she has now single-handedly established a pride in the area. A real testament to survival and motherhood.

Main area and firepit at Anabezi

And what about memorable experiences for guests in camp?

About two years ago a leopard killed an impala and dragged the kill under Tent 7. The guests in that tent were woken up to the sound of crunching bones. They were thrilled, but we were forced to move them because the leopard left the carcass under their tent and came back to feed the following night; it was not the sound that bothered the guests but the smell that was a bit much!

Impalas and waterbuck gathering by the camp

Huge thanks to Shaun for the interview and we’re all now hoping we can get back to the Lower Zambezi so very soon!

Private terrace and room

What is a boat safari like? A personal experience.

The first thing I should admit is that I wasn’t exactly canoeing down the Zambezi. Rather, as the lone wildebeest of the group, I’d been put in the guide’s boat and was admiring his broad shoulders and efficient paddling. And pretending to be paddling hard myself every time he turned around to ask how I was getting along. Obviously.

Canoe Safari on the Zambezi

Canoe Safari on the Zambezi

If you’re considering a boat safari  the main thing to know is that it usually isn’t terribly hard work, even when you’re actually paddling yourself. You’re usually headed downstream, following the current with stops to inspect interesting birds, take a walking safari to stretch your legs or take a snooze on a sandbank. A snooze on a sandbank?  On the ground? Was this safe, I enquired? What about thehipposandthecrocsandthesnakesand….?  Well, nothing on safari is guaranteed safe (though crossing a road in London or New York isn’t 100% safe either), but I can confirm that once I got over my terrors I spent a blissful hour under the trees, listening to the lullaby of a fish eagle’s call and desperately hoping that I hadn’t snored in public.

When we first embarked on our canoe safari we were briefed about how to behave if we fell into the water (“Don’t do it”), but the closest we came to hippo was admiring the mighty tusks of a distant yawn. At night we were advised to keep close to the tents (hippos hop out to graze the riverbanks after dark), counted shooting stars, and chatted to our guides about life in the bush.

Boat safari

Camp on our canoe safari

By day, life adapted a gentle rhythm. A somewhat early start, grumbling offset by a gloriously early sunrise, followed by a morning’s paddling on our canoe safari. Lunch (“Oh- I shouldn’t have a glass of wine. OK, I will then”) and then snooze. Later, a walking safari watching eagles and ellies and eland. (If the latter doesn’t sound too exciting, imagine an animal that can weigh nearly a tonne jumping a pile of logs taller than a man). Later, sundowners, dinner, and bed, being sung to sleep by crickets and chomping hippos.

Zambezi canoe safari

Early evening arrival in camp on our canoe safari

In all- a boat safari is probably something I’d combine with a big-game fix to make sure you get enough cat sightings in, but absolutely magical in its own right and not to be missed.