There are few things that can prepare you for your first glimpse of the lower Zambezi. Flying out of Kenneth Kaunda airport in a small Cessna or the regularly scheduled ProFlight caravan, the journey is a matter of minutes: lifting over the blue Zambezi escarpment to the south east, craning your neck to try to spot the movement of game on the hills below, the sharply defined ridges mapped out like so much crumpled paper, folded into valley and peak – each a palette of dense shadow and shade – Prussian, viridian, and cobalt greens. And suddenly, as the escarpment drops to the valley below, a gleam, a glimmer of river, winding snakelike, eastwards, to Mozambique; split by islands, verdant with acacia; the delicate drift of shifting sandbars, supporting pods of lazy hippo and elephant crossing this most majestic artery of Africa.
The vast expanse of Jeki plain opens below as the aircraft descends to buzz the airstrip, ensuring its clear of ponderous elephant or idle zebra, circle once, and then a low approach over the river headed northeast by east, clearing the tree canopy and ghosting in to land, so much so that you barely notice the wheels are on the ground. A short taxi to the gravelled apron and the small ZAWA offices, where you’ll find your guide and vehicle waiting to greet you with a cooler box of ice cold drinks and cool towels for your hands and face. Welcome to the Lower Zambezi.
After an aerial view of the escarpment and an arrival thus, it seems strange to see it from the river, lit from behind by the setting sun, the impenetrable maze of wilderness condensed into a sharp, crystalline silhouette: the raging sunset searing itself into your memory – a sky that can’t possibly exist outside the work of the impressionists: blazing, amazing, aglow! A fountain of hippo erupts in the river nearby, huffing and puffing as ice clinks in a gin and tonic, and the chorus of the darkening dusk begins its splendid nocturnal symphony. Welcome to our dreamy Anabezi…
Words by: Tara Vivian-Neal
Image by: Tayla McCurdy