I was sent right off the beaten path and given 10 glorious days to explore Zambia. This is what I found.
Let’s put the cards on the table: I have fallen head-over-heels in love with this destination. Zambia is achingly beautiful and meeting its people, taking in the vistas and observing the abundant wildlife was a privilege.
Why is it so special? Let me start with the fact that the picturesque and diverse landscapes can be explored almost in isolation. There are very, very few, (if any) other vehicles in sight. This makes Zambia the perfect wilderness and the ideal spot to disconnect… and reconnect.
Chances are, it will only be you and the sounds of nature with every sighting in this achingly beautiful land.
MFUWE VILLAGE ARRIVAL
Incredible to step off the plane (finally! Zambia is NOT around the corner) at Mfuwe airport where we were greeted by the big smile of our safari guide.
Special moments all screaming ‘THIS is Africa’ as we jumped on the safari vehicle and drove through villages, past soccer fields of red dust, women pumping water from an old-school well, teenagers riding bicycles –the ladies sitting side-sadle on the back, children playing and everywhere people gathering for afternoon chats under trees. I also just loved the different names of the shops sprawled in paint: such as ‘God is the Answer Enterprise’, ‘Conne’s Beer Nest’, ‘Malifcent’ and ‘Doctor Mulilanji International Shoes Repair Plus Syphilis’.
This felt real.
Like I had arrived in a different place, a different realm, even… and I was ready to step out of my comfort zone and take a break from my day-to-day routine.
– This time I was going to allow Africa to surprise me!
There were these incredible outdoor camp bathroom – at Nsolo the bathroom wrapped around a big beautiful tree, Luwi had private views onto the river bed and Mchenja’s bathroom nestled under a grove of ancient ebony trees.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only visitor who thought the bathrooms were pretty snazzy!
On my first night I had a little guest sitting on the door waiting to say hello – most fascinating as he was a white frog? Never seen anything like it before. He was pretty unperturbed and kept relatively still.
My next little froggy friend was a little bit more jumpy to say the least. I am all for enthusiasm but unfortunately his launch point was from the toilet bowl after I had sat down.
Close animal encounter of the surprising kind one might say and I do not know whether I am referring to his sensibilities or mine.
You can literally walk form one camp to the other using a network of trails. This offers an amazing wilderness, out-in-africa feel (of course the safari guide was never too far away and amply stocked with ice cold refreshments). We walked between Nsolo and Luwi with a great sense of adventure and feeling not unlike some bush MacGyver I must admit.
The walk was nothing like a Nana stroll in a park either – we encountered hippos along the banks below us… only a couple of arm-lengths away and would you believe as we crossed the dry river bed (of course under great care of our ranger Friday – everyone loves a Friday) we heard the sound of a lioness. And there. At the edge of the bed she lay.
Also great to encounter the smaller creatures – fascinating to learn that civets communicate with each other by pooping in the same general spot.
I normally am not a big breakfast person- I know, what’s wrong with me?
But my goodness there was something about the freshly baked bread and scrambled eggs in the Luangwa Valley.
Fluffy, smooth and just all round eggs-cellent! (I went there)
Not only was their consistency absolutely on point, but the way they were delivered was just fantastic – always with a smile and I simply adore the image of the chef all decked out in his professional white, white chef outfit, but cooking eggs in traditional pots over a fire.
Is there a better way to start the day?
DOWN IT POURED
Whilst at Mchenja the rains began and what a spectacle was to be witnessed after the down pour.
My nap that day was enjoyed with the smell of the rain permeating the tent and the grunts of the local hippos competing with the sound of the rain on the tented canvas (rain on a tin roof…eat your heart out.)
Our group was adamant to set out for our afternoon game drive even though the clouds still looked grey. We popped on a rain coat and a dash of positivity and were off on what was one of my favorite game drives. It wasn’t just what we saw…it was the colors, the smells, the sounds of the newly baptized bush.
There was so much activity with birds all calling and shaking their feathers to get dry, a tower of about 15 giraffes all slinked by (their colors and patterns POPPING against the contrast of the grey sky) and the elephants… oh the elephants. Did they ever talk and trumpet and cry out. Our guide said they were celebrating… and it truly was the most beautifully jubilant sound and sight.
POPCORN AT SUNDOWNERS
That night- we had popcorn, made in a pot, out in the bush and I thought that was pretty damn cool! Popcorn’s my favorite.
OH my, did I ever get to be a lady of leisure for an evening.
From bush camps and outdoor showers to foot massages, private plunge pools, bubble baths and a favorite bottle of Delaire Graff Rose on hand. The camp is just gorgeous and I almost (almost) opted out of a game drive just because I wanted to simmer and then shine in this elegant camp offering absolute luxury.
At the last moment the (sensible?) nature buff in me took over again…
Quite a unique sighting happened during this game drive with thousands, and I mean THOUSANDS of crocodiles swarming and digging into a dead hippo. (Guides are so wonderful and well equipped, they even think about parking down-wind from the stench.) Just too see how MANY crocs exist underneath the surface was astounding! And the occasional croc-roll to rip off the meat was gut-wrenching.
The action didn’t stop there and this particular game drive ended with a leopard in the ‘valley of doom’ as Bryan, our guide, called it! As the plains are quiet flat and open the leopards make use of the empty channels to navigate through and avoid alerting potential prey.
KING LEWANIKA LODGE
Something different, unique and most certainly off the beaten path. A true treat.
This camp is the most exclusive and the only permanent camp in the park. Here game drives are enjoyed in absolute privacy. No other vehicle insight – bush bliss.
The area (with its endless plain, lush lagoons and floral blooms) is renowned for its packs of 30+ strong hyenas who have evolved to do their own hunting. It also hosts the world’s second-largest wildebeest migration – after the Serengeti of course.
It was also home to the late Lady Lewanika – the legendary Last Lioness:
Amazing to really dive into the story, the history and conservation efforts in this area. The camp staff, who fast became like family over the 3 nights of my stay, set up a big screen projector one evening and we all sat round together…again with popcorn…and watched the full documentary of her story.
The next day, our beloved guide Innocent (who is hands-down one of my ALL time excellent guides) beautifully tied into and wove further through the stories and bush knowledge to present a full tapestry of the area.
Other sightings included lion, hyenas (with their adorable cubs – again a first for me), zebras-a-plenty galloping through the sand to make for a super SNAP!, cheetahs, a near-birth of a wildebeest and nocturnal wildlife never encountered before.
I ate too much here
So much it hurt.
But I couldn’t help myself. Have you ever had Banana sorbet?!
Yummy, yummy so much love in my tummy…