Parrot Fishing on the Yemen. Pardon. The Zambezi…

Our 10 Questions series has featured the favourite wild moments of Relais & Châteaux Africa’s adventurers. Today, I’m going to tell you about one of mine.

Everyone has their own criteria for what makes an adventure. For me, it is often about my camera and the rare moments it manages to capture. The Parrotfish Run in Zambia, the Zambezi’s Great Migration, is one such moment, and it is one wild and wonderful adventure.

After watching mokoro after mokoro glide past my deck at Royal Chundu‘s Island Lodge, Gerard and I joined them on the Zambezi, our vehicle an inflatable canoe, and Royal Chundu’s Head Guide, Sililo, or “SK”, our ‘in’.

Richard and SK

Richard & SK

The Parrotfish Run is a decades old tradition. Each year, from around June to August, millions of these fish are pulled downstream by the main river current. The usually serene upper reaches of the Zambezi transform into a lively harbour with women and children on the sidelines and the fishermen spread across the channels – often thigh-high in the water itself, sometimes even immersed up to their necks.

Hessah Silwebbe, GM at Royal Chundu, a lodge set on a private waterway between the two rapids where the fishing takes place, explains, “Once the fish hit the smaller rapids, they make for an easy catch for fishermen perched and waiting with their handwoven fishing baskets, made of reeds and palm tree leaves, ready to make their mark. Families set up camp along the riverbanks to take advantage of this annual event.”

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The run is an essential part of the lives of the local communities. According to SK, most of the Parrotfish caught is sold at markets either along the riverbank or further inland, providing the families with an income. There is method in the seeming madness of the flurry of fishermen, as each channel is demarcated to a specific family – so-called unwritten territorial rights exist that determine who can fish where. In order for an outsider to fish on one of these taken channels he must be hired by the family who owns it.

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SK’s family is represented here too. We head out early one June morning at sunrise, when our fingers have yet to thaw. He takes me to his channel where his half-brother, Richard, is at work. There is a saying on the Zambezi… “Live by the river, die by the river.” This is the law of the land here. The river serves as both a life provider and a reminder of that life’s fragility. The same river that will provide SK’s family with sustenance for the year took their father years before. There is a reason the hippo is considered Africa’s most dangerous animal.

This is the Parrotfish Run. And our journey starts with a scarecrow…

The Scarecrow

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The task of the scarecrow, dressed to resemble a person, is to keep the otters and other riverine animals away from the handwoven traps.

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Above: The busy ‘harbour’


Zambezi Cruising

Above: Often whole families pick up their lives to join the fishermen and can be seen manoeuvring up the Zambezi to their river channel in mekoro laden with supplies, including food and family pets.
Below: Richard brings in his traps to empty their catch on his demarcated islet. With several of the baskets filling his channel, it is a back-and-forth journey, angling often against the rapids and calling for some cowboy-wrangling from outside the mokoro as much as in.

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Above: Richard returns to his campsite, baskets in tow. The night’s fire – lit to ward off hippo and other nocturnal creatures – is mere smoke now. He pats down the basket to release the fish into the mokoro.

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Parrotfish Run

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Above: Each basket can hold around 25 kilograms of fish. The Parrotfish are picked out and bagged, the baskets taken back out into the river for the next catch. The rounded head of the Zambezi Parrotfish is what gives it its name.

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Above: The day’s work continues until sun down. Richard returns to the river, as he will, day and night, until the end of the season in the last few days of July.

Discover the Parrotfish Run for yourself at Royal Chundu.

The Young & The Restless By Africa’s Attenborough

Amy Attenborough

The first time we featured the wilderness through the eyes of Africa’s Attenborough, not David, but his prettier namesake, Amy, we gave you a glimpse into the first footsteps of a newborn elephant. Today, Lady Attenborough, Londolozi‘s very own naturalist (for that’s what rangers are, in many ways) turns her lens on the young and the restless of South Africa’s Sabi Sand, the smaller brethren of Africa’s wild beings. Young and restless herself, Amy shows the same dedication and awe for the life stories of the natural world as her better known counterpart. Take a look at her Photo Journal from Londolozi below.

The Paradise of Youth

“One of the greatest gifts of childhood is its inherent innocence. Peter Matthiessen once wrote, ‘the child was not observing, he was at rest in the very center of the universe, a part of things, unaware of endings and beginnings, still in unison with the primordial nature of creation, letting all light and phenomena pour through.’ It is with the development of the ego that we cost ourselves this innocence.

“Watching young animals at rest and play is very often our guests’ greatest highlight and I think the reason for this goes far beyond the fact that they are cute. Watching these small beings is a reminder of how our young, natural, innocent selves knew how to be before the ego intruded. They are totally unfazed by time, death, guilt, the future and accept the large and small events of everyday life. They are completely at rest in the present and this is the paradise of youth.

“This photographic journal is therefore a tribute to those young animals who remind us what great truth there was in our innocence and what it is that we lost whilst trying to ‘grow up’.”

The Nanga cub swats and bites at the ever-flicking tail of his mother. It seems anything and everything is a toy at that age. 1/400 @f6,3; ISO 1600
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A young elephant tries to steal some of its mother’s water from right out of her mouth. For the first few months of an elephant’s life they are pretty poor at using their trunks and start by having to drink straight out of water holes with their mouths. 1/640 @f8,0; ISO 200
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A young hyena stands patiently while its mother cleans it up. The den was flooded during a summer downpour leaving the youngsters completely filthy. 1/320 @f7,1; ISO 1600
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A young lion cub drinks from the safe protective covering of its mother. I’m sure at this age, the cub believes there is no safer place in the world. 1/400 @f7,1; ISO640
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A young Tsalala lion affectionately rubs up against his aunt as she focuses on a herd of zebra ahead of her. At this age, the cubs are heavily reliant on the adults to hunt for them and are often so full of energy and impatience that they mess up the hunt. 1/1000@ f8,0; ISO1000
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A young lion takes notes from his dad. It is amazing to think that in just a few short years, the little cub will as big as its father. 1/500 @f7,1; ISO 400
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Nanga’s youngster receives a bath from his mother. 1/640 @f6,3; ISO 1000
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A group of wild dog pups wrestle over a stick. This is one species that carries over this playful behaviour right into adulthood. 1/500 @f7,1; ISO800
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The Nanga female disciplines her youngster for being a little too boisterous. At this age, the cubs do not know the meaning of boundaries and the females can become quite grumpy at times. 1/500 @f6,3; ISO 2500
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An elephant cavorts in the sand of the Manyaleti River. 1/1250 @f7,1; ISO 1000
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A cheetah cub decides that its mother has rested enough for the day, apparently its time to play. 1/500 @f8; ISO 1250
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A hyena cub inspects the vehicle inquisitively. I find there is no other animal that looks at you quite so directly as a hyena and the youngsters are no exception.1/60 @f5,6; ISO 2500.

Discover more about the Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa’s Sabi Sand through our photographic expeditions and big cats experiences, or something with a little more romance

The Photographic Safari

Living with Big Cats Episode Code 3393

The Photographic Safari presents a new way of experiencing not only the wilderness, but life itself. It is not merely for the seasoned vet of the lens, but for amateurs too – those whose passion is still a pangolin in its burrow, waiting to be teased out.

The instigator of my personal passion for photography was a man of great wisdom and photographic prowess. An editor of a travel magazine, Don Pinnock. A man who put a camera in my hand and said, go forth, young fledgling, and capture Africa. Suddenly the entire world lit up with beauty and opportunities that I had never before noticed. The lens of my old Nikon D70 zeroed in on the complexity of things seemingly so simple. Suddenly I was an artist called upon to capture the beauty of life, to tell the untold stories of the wild. I was a little dramatic. All passionate people are.


Image by Beverly Joubert

I hope this post will be the fire you need to kindle your love of photography, but really that job is one for the wild creatures and corners of Africa that you will encounter on safari.

Below are four such corners – starting in Botswana and Kenya with the lodges of the Great Plains Conservation, a portfoilo created by two people who have dedicated their lives to capturing Africa and conserving her wildlife, award-winning filmmakers and National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, Dereck and Beverly Joubert; and ending in South Africa at Londolozi’s Creative Hub.

Dereck Joubert

Great Explorers & Great Plains

Part of the Great Plains Conservation portfolio, Zarafa Camp in Botswana and Mara Plains and Ol Donyo in Kenya are the perfect bases for any photographic safari, with open-sided game vehicles, Swarovski binoculars and Canon cameras for guests to use. Take a look at these lodges through the eyes of their owners – the Jouberts themselves:

Zarafa Camp

Mara Plains

Ol Donyo

South Africa’s Photographic Safari

Londolozi Private Game Reserve

Hours spent in wide open spaces and amidst wildlife so often prompts rangers to reach for their cameras. While most of Londolozi’s guides are handy with a camera, a few distinguish themselves as masters of the art. These are the rangers – together with their respective trackers – that are called upon for Londolozi’s offering of a specialised photographic safari. The difference between a good photo and a great photo hinges on a matter of seconds, the angle of the sun and the vision to predict what will happen next.

Photographic Safari

The Art of Photography at Londolozi

Blessed with a divine punctuality, these talented rangers make sure their vehicles are in the right place at the right time. Generous with expertise and free-flowing advice, a photographic tutor is an integral part of the tailor-made experience. Under his guidance, amateur photographers learn about composition, lighting, ISO, shutter-speed and aperture while professionals seize the chance to compare techniques and ideas. Those on the specialised photographic safari have unlimited access to Londolozi’s Creative Hub: an innovative space where post-processing and editing takes place.

Learn more in Londolozi’s “Photography In A Nutshell”:

Part One: AperturePart Two: What is Shutter Speed?Part Three: ISO

Golden Hour

Discover more about the ins and outs of the photographic safari on our website, with advice on capturing golden hour, accelerating your learning curve, and when to go on your own expedition – summer or winter?

Take a look at some of the other experiences we’ve collected for you on our website, experiences that zoom in on the many different faces of Africa.