On October 14 a much-anticipated judgment of the Lusaka High Court will decide the fate of the Lower Zambezi National Park and, by default, many of the communities whose livelihoods depend on it.
A pod of hippos grunts at the mouth of the Chongwe River where it joins the Zambezi. The sun is just starting to rise and the entire Lower Zambezi valley is bathed in a soft, pre-dawn pink light. On the Zimbabwean side of the river sits Mana Pools National Park - a Unesco World Heritage Site. On the Zambian side, the twin peaks of Chilapila and the Zambezi Escarpment dominate the horizon.
Caught between Kariba Dam some 150km upstream and Cahora Bassa, less than 100 clicks downstream, the Zambezi is wide and lazy here. Dotted with islands, its wide floodplains are marked by a multitude of seasonal channels and tributaries on the Zambian side that flow down from the mountains above when the annual rains arrive, usually in November each year.
Wildlife in the Lower Zambezi National Park. (Photo: supplied)
Wedged between two of these tributaries -- the Chakwenga and the Kangaluwi -- around 19km inland from the river and some 800m above the valley floor sits...