What to see & do
Shiwa's a great place for a surprising variety of activities, so don't worry about getting bored here: you won't be. These are generally included as part of your trip if you're staying at the manor house, and are available as optional extras for those staying at Kapishya. Always bear in mind that numbers of visitors here are fairly small, so where I refer to a 'tour' you should generally visualise half a dozen visitors or less! Here are just a few of Shiwa's highlights:
Kapishya Hot Springs
About 20km from Shiwa Ng'andu, the hot springs in the Manshya River at Kapishya were always a favourite spot of Gore-Browne's. There's a small camp here, see above, but even if you're staying at the house it's still worth a visit.
Within a shallow part of the cool rocky river itself is a pool of hot spring water – which makes a great site for bathing. All is surrounded by combretum bushes and gently curving raffia palms (Raphia farinifera
). It's a very relaxing spot.
Boating and rafting
There are several activities possible on the water here. It's lovely to take a slow boat trip around the edges of the lake, looking out for wildlife from birds and otters to crocodiles, and it's also possible to do this by traditional mokoro (dugout canoe). During the fishing season, you can bring a rod and reel.
Alternatively, take a full-day trip around the lake, and then from there down the Manshya River. This goes over some small rapids and back to Kapishya Camp – and is a particularly great option for birdwatchers.
Much of Shiwa estate is now a game area, so early-morning game drives are very much a feature of staying here if you want them. It's a particularly good place for spotting the elusive blue duiker, whilst the more common game includes puku, kudu, Defassa waterbuck, Kafue lechwe, Lichtenstein hartebeest, common duiker, oribi, zebra, bushbuck, reedbuck, impala, yellow baboon, vervet monkey, grysbok, and wildebeest.
The lechwe and the wildebeest are of a different subspecies than you'll find elsewhere in this part of northern Zambia; they're unlike those in the Luangwa and Bangweulu areas. With patience, sitatunga can usually be spotted from the hide, whilst bush pig, wild cat, civet, genet and clawless otters are around but often less visible. As with many of Zambia's isolated kopjies, there's a resident population of fairly elusive klipspringers.
The Shiwa estate, and the area around it, is a lovely place for walks, with a number of stunning hills and sites of interest. It's as easy to have a good hour's walk, as it is to stay out for the day with a local guide, perhaps wandering beside the river and getting as far as the Chusa Falls – which are 10km downstream from Kapishya springs.
Another notable spot is Nachipala Bareback Hill – a large granite whaleback which affords stunning panoramic vistas and a magnificent view of the lake. This is an energetic three-hour walk from the manor house, and on the top a small cairn marks the spot where, on his last journey in 1867, Dr. David Livingstone took compass bearings in his final attempt to find the source of the Nile.
You can stroll around the estate and game ranch with or without a guide (there aren't usually any lion, buffalo or elephant here – so this is fairly safe), and some of the walks lead through beautiful raffia palm forests. Birding highlights include palm-nut vultures, bat hawks, Lady Ross's turacos, white-cheeked bee-eaters, white-tailed and blue flycatchers, Stanley's bustards and a veritable kaleidoscope of different sunbirds.
In total, over 320 species of birds have been seen on the estate; the rivers and lakes are a very productive place to spot a variety of waterbirds, including pygmy geese; cormorants; yellow-billed, knob-nosed and white-faced teal; giant and lesser egrets; blue, grey, night and goliath herons; malachite, giant and pied kingfishers; fish eagles and even ospreys.
Horse riding here is generally for experienced riders only, and many of the horses are fully-trained polo ponies – which respond exceedingly well to instructions. There are hard hats available. The less energetic might take an hour to venture up to the 'View of Angels' – an oft-photographed spot where there is a spectacular view of the lake from the family graves of Sir Stewart Gore-Browne and his daughter and son-in-law, Lorna and John Harvey.
Around the estate
If you've time to spare then take a slow wander around the estate, and perhaps down to the lake. As ever, you will find the local people very welcoming and friendly, and usually happy to talk about what they are doing.
There are numerous community initiatives going on here, from fish-farming to bee-keeping and bio-gas projects – as well as a variety of projects within the estate's hospital and school. Wandering around with a guide from the estate, you'll find that everyone is amazingly open and happy to show you around and discuss things with you. An exceedingly positive atmosphere seems to emanate from most places on the estate!
Tours of the manor house
Guided tours of the manor house are by prior arrangement only. If you're staying at the manor house then this is merely a case of asking Jo and Charlie to show you around; it's delightfully informal and totally fascinating.
If you're staying at Kapishya, or just dropping in for the day, then your options are much more limited. Remember that this is a family home first, and a small exclusive guesthouse second, and you'll realise that neither the family, nor their guests, will want a steady stream of visitors looking through the manor house.
The only way to see some of the interior of the house is to book on to a daily 'tour' which includes a game drive and a historical guided tour of the estate. This costs US$20 per person. Within the house the tour is limited to the lower floors; the upper floors are strictly for the family and their guests. Alternatively, there's a US$5 charge for viewing the gardens around the house.
Historical tours on the estate
Jo is a trained archaeologist, and so she's been in the forefront of excavating some of the older sites on the estate – already uncovering the kilns that were built to make the bricks and the tiles for the manor house, and the locations of an old summer-house.
There are a number of other spots of historical interest, including the old hospital, the essential oils distillery, the traction engine and the graveyard – and any can easily be integrated into a historical tour of the estate.
Putting Gore-Browne's extensive collection of diaries, letters and papers into an ordered archive has been a long-term project for Jo, which is still not complete. Interested guests in the manor house can have some access to this, on request – and it's fascinating to read some of Gore-Browne's old diaries even if you're not an amateur historian. Then there's the enormous library, and Gore-Browne's collection of early records!