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January 7, 2010

Indian media gets an African safari treat

     Lusaka (Zambia): Indian media persons accompanying Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari on his three-day visit to Zambia were given an African safari treat on Wednesday afternoon after attending a series of official engagements in capital Lusaka. Originally scheduled to accompany the vice-president on his visit to the Livingstone National Park to see the world famous Victoria Falls, the media persons were a tad disappointed when they were informed that only the official delegation would be accompanying the visiting dignitary, as the Zambian Government could not make arrangements for a second aircraft. It was thought the journey to Livingstone could be undertaken by road, but when told that it was a seven-hour journey, the plan fizzled out. As compensation, however, the Indian High Commission here offered us a trip to the privately owned Chaminuka Lodge and Nature Reserve. The drive to the 10,000-acre reserve, which is owned by a Greek, was undertaken in very pleasant weather. An ideal getaway from Lusaka for a day, Chaminuka offered us an opportunity to commune with nature. This largest private nature reserve in Zambia has an abundance of wildlife. The owner of the reserve told us that were more than 5000 wild animals in the area, with only four lions and a hyena kept behind a wired fence. Though many options were offered to us to see these animals such as bush and botanical walks, horseback safaris and a history tour etc., we opted to see the more than 72 species of wildlife in top four-wheeled safari vehicles. Three safari vehicles were commandeered to take us through the reserve. The excitement among media colleagues was palpable, as they stopped their cars and safari vehicles to see the wild animals comfortably placed in their natural habitat several times with wonder in their eyes and voices. The lions and the hyenas appeared quite disinterested by this unscheduled intrusion into their space. The hyena, in particular, scampered off into the bush. The ranger accompanying us told us that the elephants were partially domesticated, but were allowed to roam the grassland during the day. A particular treat were the giraffes and the assortment of deer - such as the Roan, the Eland, the Black Buck, the Sable. What was amazing to see were the deer literally flying across the ground as soon as they heard the sound of the approaching vehicles. Some of them jumped distances of three to five feet in the air. It was "mob mentality" at it's finest. A couple of warthogs were also seen scampering away on seeing us, as also the Burchell Zebra nibbling away at the wild grass. Chaminuka is also designated as an important bird area because of its variety of habitat, ranging from the savannah to forest, to man-made lakes with marsh and reed beds. We were told that there are over 300 species of bird, including the Blue-Neck Ostrich, which has been re-introduced into Zambia after becoming extinct in the 1940s. The nearly two-and-a-half hour stay inside the reserve concluded with a visit to the Makonda Lodge where we were shown an exquisite collection of contemporary African paintings and sculptures, as well as traditional artifacts acquired from all over Africa over a period of 50 years. The collection showcased African culture and a way of life nurtured over the centuries. At 30 dollars per individual, this safari was worth undertaking.
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