ISLAND LIFE ON THE ZAMBEZI
Bovu Island sits roughly halfway between Livingstone and Kazangula on the Zambian side of the mighty Zambezi. Along with monkeys, hippos, crocs, a wealth of birdlife and a few very inquisitive genets, it’s home to a super-rustic little backpackers called Jungle Junction. After 3 border crossings and 2 long days in the car, we needed a bit of tranquility in our lives. As we discovered over the next couple of days, tranquility is a Jungle Junction speciality.
Bovu is a true island, separated from the mainland by a 30 meter wide channel. This means you have to leave your car on the mainland and travel across with all your gear on a mokoro. We were a little wary of putting our camera bags onto a wobbly, hollowed-out tree trunk. But boatman David seemed more at home standing at the back of a dugout than on dry land. Without any fuss at all, we were across the channel, checked-in, and sipping our first Mosi Lagers of the trip.
Earlier in the day, the slightly eccentric owner of Jungle Junction, Brett, had messaged to say that he was upgrading us from our tent to a fisherman’s cottage. This was great news. Not only did we get to sleep in a bed, we also didn’t have to cart all our camping gear across to the island. If you’re visiting Jungle Junction, and you’re planning on camping, we’d suggest going super-minimalist. Getting more than the bare essentials across would require somewhat of an expedition.
David put his real poling skills on show the next day, when the three of us headed off up the river in search of tigerfish. Watching him navigate through the rapids of the fast-flowing Zambezi was something to behold. Amazingly, he barely seemed to work up a sweat – a combination of knowing the river backwards and some potent technique. Whenever we found good holding water, I would send out a few casts, hoping for that wild, characteristic take of a tiger. There were plenty around, but they were mostly small, and the odd 2 pounder was something to be celebrated. It didn’t really matter though – this style of fishing is more about the experience than targeting trophies. That said, both David and Brett assured us that plenty of 10+ pound fish have been taken from mokoros in these rapids. Perhaps it just wasn’t our day.
Before continuing east on our journey the following day, Brett gave us a farewell gift that we will cherish forever. His late friend Bob had spent decades recording the calls of most of Zambia’s birds, mammals and frogs, and had given these to Brett before he passed away. Sensing our interest in all things nature, Brett gave us a copy of the entire playlist. It’s hard to imagine the effort that went into gathering all those calls, and it’s a real privilege to have a copy for ourselves.
After hopping back onto a mokoro with all our gear – this time a lot more confidently – we crossed back to the mainland, thanked Andy for being so patient, and continued on our merry way through Zambia.