I left the story as we were returning into the park to stay at Chiawa Camp. We left Chongwe Lodge after lunch to go back over the Chongwe River ford but, on the way, we found some lions. They were lazing in the road in the shade of some trees and did not want to move. Even when a noisy tractor came up behind us, they stayed put. The tractor and its trailer full of workers did a wise thing and turned round. We waited. After some time I decided to edge forward slowly. I know we shouldn’t disturb wildlife and the lions are entitled to sleep in the road if they want, but I could imagine us being there for hours as they had a snooze. Eventually they got up and moved off the road so that we could pass.
Chiawa is not far from the park border and we arrived there quite soon to be met by Peter and Anita, the camp managers. Chiawa was the first camp to be set up in Lower Zambezi in 1989. So the camp has lots of stories to tell. There is a book on the coffee table in the main area which shows some of the old photographs of the years in the park. Again the elephants were our constant companions as they came to feast on the fruit of the overhanging acacia trees.
At Chiawa we were treated like royalty. In the evening all the guests were taken over by boat to an island for dinner. It was full moon and the island had been light up with lanterns; the meal was traditional Zambian. A very special evening. In the morning we went for a boat cruise. The birdlife again was prolific. Then later we had lunch on a boat on the river. Lots of chatting of park stories were told in between …
And then on to Royal Zambezi, back out of the park, across the Chongwe River ford, past Chongwe Lodge and then to Royal Zambezi. Again, it wasn’t far and we got there within an hour. We were greeted by Natalie and Kolo. Kolo used to work here in Livingstone at Islands of Siankaba – amazing how the tourism fraternity moves around the country. Royal Zambezi is a much more sturdy facility; a lodge which should appeal to Zambians. I know that most Zambians get a bit nervous in the more ‘rustic’ camps. The Royal is brick! It reminded me of Chichele Lodge in South Luangwa which was designed with Kenneth Kaunda in mind. Very close to RoyalZambezi is the tarred runway where Profl ight runs scheduled flights during the tourist season, so it is easy to visit the area for a weekend or a mid-week getaway. But don’t do as we did and stay for one night, stay for at least 3 nights. While we were there we met some guests who had arrived to stay for 10 days, the husband being a ‘mad fisherman’. As you can see from the photograph of the early morning boat trips, Royal Zambezi is a very popular lodge – quite rightly so. The following day we left around 1pm to get back to the Kafue River end of the park and I wanted to stop in at Mvuu Lodge on the way.
Mvuu is the place for the samango monkeys so I was delighted to find a troop of them in the trees when we arrived. Failed to get a photograph, though. Brett, the owner of the lodge showed us around. This is the only lodge, I think, which also has camping. Each campsite has its own ablution block and
is set under shady trees. They also have chalets, bar and restaurant. Keep this one in mind if you are a camper – a good place to stay.
From there it was on to Kanyemba Lodge. I had in my mind that Kanyemba would be just a birding spot so was surprised to find quite a lot of wildlife too. Opposite the river is a safari area in Zimbabwe and there are several islands in between. The wildlife moves between Zim and the islands. But, certainly
it was the birdlife which was stunning. Hundreds of geese and ducks on sandbars – as in my header. Fantastic. Carmine bee-eaters too. Kanyemba is open all year round and is easily accessible by road. So, if your budget does not run to flying into the area, drive yourself to Kanyemba. Kanyemba is run by Meegan who has been at the lodge forsome years and knows all the stories. This is also not a ‘bush camp’; it is set in beautiful gardens and lawns. A hippo was
there when we visited – he was mowing the lawns for Meegan so we had to be a bit careful when moving around. Kanyemba does have a bush camp on an island, so if you prefer that experience, they can offer it.
My overall impression of Lower Zambezi is that it deserves its place in Zambia’s Big Three parks. I just wish it had not taken me so long to go and visit. There are lodges to suit all tastes and budgets. The wildlife experience is fi rst class and although there is not a huge variety of species there are
plenty of them. It is worth going too for the scenery and the birdlife. Lower Zambezi is so well protected through the work done by Conservation Lower Zambezi that it shows what can be achieved with some hard work.
My trip was to find information on the area, so some of my notes on lodges are not as complete as they could be. It was such a rush. Next time I will take it more slowly. Lower Zambezi needs time.
From : The Livingstone Weekly
By Gill Staden
12 November 2014