ECONOMY CLASS; Angela Waring Goes Green as She Helps Build a School in Zambia
STARING out of my thatched hut, I could not only hear the rippling current of the Zambezi, I could actually see the large expanse of water drifting by before me. Mine was one of many wooden and reed huts strung out across the water's edge on Bovu Island, its proximity to nature bringing the barefoot paradise to life.
With nothing between us and the neighbouring wildlife apart from a dangling mosquito net, this was quintessential wild camping: monkeys, birds and the occasional hippo dropping by to share our island haven.
The lure of a five-star resort can be less appealing in the midst of a recession, and with my finances somewhat stretched I'd decided to opt for more basic camping itinerary in Africa.
Seeing the wildlife is still the main draw for travellers, but this was not just an opportunity to get close to nature - my journey would start with a voluntour experience, the new buzzword for responsible travellers.
Eco by name and by nature, the campsite has strong links to the community. Each of the thatched fisherman huts is built and maintained by the villagers so there's an immediate sense that you are contributing to the welfare of the local population.
When people talk about Africa and the Zambezi, their immediate assumption might be to think of rafting on the upper stretches of the river. Located in the Zambian adventure capital of Livingstone, this stretch of water is a huge draw for adrenaline addicts, but now it's also beckoning nature lovers.
Bovu Island is situated along the very same river, a coastal utopia fringed by riverine evergreen forest, gnarled water berry and fig trees. A host of flora and fauna can be found nearby - parrots and hornbills residing in the trees and vervet monkeys swinging from the canopy. There's also an abundance of plants dotted around, bearing fruits and flowers in the rainy season from November to March.
Guided morning walks are available for novices and more accomplished twitchers, the African finfoot, olive woodpecker and white-headed lawping dotting the dense foliage.
Bird-Man-Bob, an expert ornithologist, is another asset of the camp - his knowledge of the indigenous birdlife is well known throughout all of Zambia.
Hippos and crocodiles also live in the deep channels of the Zambezi and in the dry season (April to October) big game have been spotted on the southern bank, as Bovu Island is adjacent to the Victoria Falls National Park.
While the camp offers basic facilities, it does feature its own bar and restaurant. The dinner cowbell draws slumbering nature lovers from their comfortable hammocks on a daily basis, and the wildlife viewing continues in the evening with nocturnal genets dropping by for a visit. …