Q & A with Ron and Anke Cowan, Founders, Kafunta Safaris, Mfuwe, Zambia.
Offering lodge accommodations and expert guided safaris in the Luangwa Valley, the South Luangwa National Park.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ZAMBIA AS THE PLACE TO START A BUSINESS?
Ron grew up south of Sydney in Australia and Anke grew up in North Germany. Zambia ended up being our “home” for a number of reasons!
Shortly after we met, we travelled overland through Africa and saw many countries and National Parks but fell in love with South Luangwa. At the time, in the early 90's, there were interesting investment opportunities, and we made friends who later became our business partners and offered us shares in the newly developing Safari Camp business. Tourism was growing fast, and we later bought a property and built Kafunta River Lodge as our own business. This has been our home ever since.
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK?
South Luangwa NP offers a rare wilderness with a large variety of animals, and it is especially known for its large leopard population. South Luangwa is also the birth place of the walking safaris. Lodges and camps are small in South Luangwa; there is never that feeling of excessive tourism.
We have been established for almost 20 years (it will be 20 years in 2018), and we are proud of our camps and our staff. We offer personalized service from the moment we receive the first inquiry email until the moment our guests leave our properties - that is what sets us apart. In addition, the diversity of our 3 camps offers an excellent combination option.
We want to limit our impact on the environment. We use solar power where possible, we limit our use of wood, and we provide refillable water bottles to each of our guests. We support the local economy through employment and by use of local suppliers.
IS ZAMBIA A SAFE COUNTRY FOR TRAVELLERS?
WHAT SHOULD TRAVELLERS KNOW ABOUT IMMUNIZATIONS BEFORE PLANNING A TRIP TO ZAMBIA?
General immunizations are valid for travel in Zambia, just like for other exotic destinations. Anti-malaria treatment is recommended.
Normally we have dry weather from April to October, but random showers or thunderstorms are still possible throughout the year.
WHICH ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE LOCAL WILD ANIMALS?
Leopards are amazing creatures, they are so beautiful to observe. Here in South Luangwa we also have some endemic species such as the Thornicroft Giraffe and the Cookson’s Wildebeest, as well as some rare subspecies. And tons of birds.
WHICH ARE SOME OF THE MORE INTERESTING BIRD SPECIES FOUND IN THE VALLEY?
The riverine habitat is a great place to find the rare Pel’s Fishing Owl, and this is usually high on the lists of keen birders. We also have beautiful colonies of colorful Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters (Sep-Oct). With more than 400 bird species in the Luangwa, it is hard to get bored!
Yes, you have to take every day as it comes. We never know what is around the corner, some days are incredibly successful in terms of wildlife viewing and other days are quiet. We cannot control wildlife, and our safari guides maintain the highest standards which means no chasing or disturbing. Bush walks are a great way to learn about wildlife and flora because they give you a chance to look for the little things that are often missed on safari drives.
HOW DO TOILETS AND SHOWERS WORK IN THE ISLAND BUSH CAMP?
Although we want to keep Island Bush Camp as a genuine rustic camp, we know that our visitors enjoy comforts of the modern world! So our toilets are just the same as at their home (flushing toilets) but with an exceptional view over the Luangwa River! We do enjoy the originality of our bucket showers however, which we fill every time with hot water (heated on the stove or fire place), as it adds a bit of tradition to the stay.
WHAT KINDS OF FOODS AND BEVERAGES DO YOU SERVE?
We have a varied menu with European and Indian influences, and we serve Zambian grown meat and fish, and lots of vegetables. Drinks are also the same as what one can find anywhere in the world, but we focus on South African wines. We are happy to cater for special diets as well, such as vegetarian or gluten-free. Just understand that we are far from any city so obtaining certain supplies sometimes is challenging.
It is always a pleasure to meet new and interesting people. Our guests tend to be seasoned travellers, and many have previously taken a safari experience elsewhere in Africa. We also welcome back a high percentage of returning clients. So there are many stories to tell! Here's one: recently a couple arrived from Austria, and they came with over 60 kg of football supplies to donate to our local football teams and schools. That led to a special bonding experience.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT MORE CAN BE DONE TO PROTECT WILDLIFE IN ZAMBIA OR ELSEWHERE?
Awareness and education is key everywhere but especially in countries where false beliefs still drive consumption of animal parts. Our guests are all well aware of conservation needs. The focus needs to shift more to human encroachment that leads to animal/human conflicts, stopping illegal trade, and reducing poverty. Zambia is privileged to have some very dedicated individuals through conservation organizations and local wildlife enforcement, but it is a never-ending job.
Items such as school supplies, sport supplies, craft supplies are always in need, and we funnel all this through our own organization called Project Luangwa that we founded in collaboration with a few other lodges in South Luangwa. We recommend that travellers ask in advance of arrival to learn of the most current need or appropriate items to bring.
You can learn more about Project Luangwa - Click Here
For those who wish to make a financial donation, we can make recommendations to certain conservation and anti-poaching programs. We also like to support the Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust which focuses on educating the young children (and future world movers) of South Luangwa.
ANY LAST THOUGHTS TO SHARE?
Tourism is important to the development of our local community - it provides many job and growth opportunities for hundreds of people. We are proud to be a part of this.
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