Anthony Jones describes his unique trip to Zambia for an Art Tour through the safari land (photography, painting, sketching, and more) with Different Tracks.
After several years of European holidays, we were looking to do something really different. So it was with a wry smile that I decided to call Different Tracks and see whether or not they lived up to their name. Africa had always been a dream of ours but we wanted to do something other than the usual safari experience, which was when their Art Tour was suggested – a week with a professional artist learning to sketch and paint some of the worlds most beautiful scenery and animals. My wife is a superb amateur artist and I have dabbled a little so it seemed the perfect idea. The trip was booked and we started planning.
Zambia, Namibia and South Africa Safari Art Tours with Ben
The tour was due to take place in Zambia which meant an international flight into Lusaka, where we were met by the tour leader and “artist in residence,” Ben Waddams. This was our first surprise. To be honest we were expecting some grizzled old relic, instead it was a young, clean shaven twenty something who surely couldn’t be the artist behind the stunning imagery we had been shown back at the Different Tracks offices. As we were soon to learn, appearances can be deceiving and Ben has spent a substantial part of his life roaming around Africa, painting and sketching both flora and fauna.
Over the course of the next weeks we would not only experience and see some of the most awe-inspiring sights of our lives, but under Ben’s guidance we would learn how to record them through sketches, paintings and photography. Rather than give a blow by blow account I shall just mention a few of the highlights.
Highlights of Different Tracks’ Painting, Sketching and Photo Safari Tours in Zambia
Victoria Falls, African Queen Sunset Cruise & Safari Boating
The week was loosely split into two halves, with the first based around the luxurious Zambezi Sun Hotel, literally a five minute walk from the magnificent Victoria Falls. Ben informed us that they are at peak flow during May – what a sight! There are plenty of paths to get to and from different parts of the falls, some wetter than others, which left us acting like children. The effect they have on the mind is indescribable – we just couldn’t help but keep returning to see it under different light at different times of the day.
One of the excursions included in the trip is an evening cruise on the African Queen. This beautiful double decked boat took us up-river to watch the sunset from our seats around the long, solid mahogany bar. Even under engine power we saw plenty of wildlife including crocodiles, elephants and a plethora of wild birds.
The second and possibly more interesting river excursion was in propeller free safari boats. These allowed us to head up river and into the small tributaries, far beyond the normal reach of boats. None of us will ever forget the moment the guide pulled up at a small island and started setting up tea and coffee, whilst Ben discussed some of the challenges an artist faces when recreating images of rivers and moving water.
Mfuwe Lodge in South Luangwa National Park
The latter part of the tour was based out of Mfuwe lodge in the South Luangwa National Park. An important fact to remember at Mfuwe is the lack of fencing, which means the animals can wander through the camp as they see fit. To maintain safety, guides are always on hand to take guests to and from their rooms and warnings were issued when dangerous animals were close.
Whilst at the lodge we took part in morning and night time game drives, saw a huge variety of animals and took time out to capture all the moments on camera and paper. Lion, leopard, elephant, water-buffalo, hippo, impala and more were seen on the first night alone. The meals at the lodge were wonderfully social affairs, with all the guest coming together to discuss their sightings and compare the fruits of their labours. Thank goodness for the guides taking us back to the chalets each evening – I wouldn’t have stood a chance faced as I was with wild animals, a dark camp and several large glasses of port!
Art Lessons & Advice for All Skill Levels
As for the art side of the tour we learnt so much, including the ability to remember the moment, savour every colour and recreate it at some later point. There was so much to see during the week that we couldn’t possibly hope to draw or paint it all. Instead many of our memories are locked away in our minds and on our cameras; ready to be transferred to sketches and paintings at a later date.
Ben arranged a variety of lectures and practical sessions throughout the tour, allowing us to progress at our own pace and focus on our own preferred mediums – which was a good thing considering the difference in skill levels on the tour. My wife loved every minute of the art side, absorbing every suggestion Ben had to offer. I on the other hand am rather less skilled and the art elements simply added an extra facet to the week, making it just that little bit more special and exactly what we hoped for – Different!
It goes without saying that the quality of the accommodations throughout were superb, both the Zambezi Sun Hotel and Mfuwe lodge had all the facilities you would hope for and the lodge, in particular was more comfortable than we expected with sunken baths and beautiful decks. As an added bonus the rooms are chalet style rather than tent which certainly adds to the feeling of security.
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For more information on Different Tracks tours in Zambia, Namibia and South Africa, please visit: www.differenttracks.com
This article was written by Anthony Jones for Different Tracks and was reproduced with permision by Different Tracks.