As you know, I was born in Zambia, and so when the opportunity to join this agent educational trip came up, I put my name in the hat and crossed my finger and toes! It worked!
With my passport (which I had to dust off), my negative COVID RT-PCR test and my packed soft-sided duffel bag, I checked in for my Airlink flight from Cape Town to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
On arrival I was met by Sam from Bushtracks Africa who transferred me to the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. I cleared passport control and boarded the next vehicle with Purity who transferred me the rest of the way to Tongabezi. It was a completely seamless transfer experience. Crossing the bridge between the 2 countries gives you an incredible view of the famous Falls and down into the boiling pot.
On arrival at Tongabezi I was warmly welcomed by JC, Prezley and their team and escorted to lunch. As you walk down to the main area of the lodge, you have the most amazing view out over the Zambezi River. Memories of my childhood in Zambia made it quite an emotional experience. Lunch was served in the main restaurant overlooking the Zambezi River. It was a very hot day so it was a relief to be in a cool room.
Our afternoon was spent exploring Tongabezi and seeing all their many different and interesting room types. We then all boarded a boat and headed to Sindabezi to see Tongabezi’s sister property. Sindabezi is on a private island in the middle of the river. What a lovely place with lots of little areas to enjoy a quiet drink or private dinner. It would also be an excellent option to book on a sole-use basis as it only has 5 rooms.
En route back to the lodge we stopped on yet another island in the river to visit Tongabezi’s ‘Sand Bar’ which was set up for our arrival. The island was littered with brightly coloured scatter cushions and lanterns. I enjoyed a very welcomed Gin & Tonic as we watched the sun set. Our evening ended with dinner and some singing from the Tongabezi staff.
With that, I headed off to bed in much anticipation of the following day when I’d have a chance to tick off one of my bucket list experiences – swimming in Devil’s Pool on Livingstone Island.
We had a really early start to head off to Livingstone Island. I can highly recommend an early start – we were the first people on the island and were able to really enjoy it before the next group arrived. We were welcomed and briefed by an extremely professional team. We were given a tour and given the history of the island before making our way to Devil’s Pool. The rocks are quite sharp so if you have sensitive feet (like mine that are always in trainers), then I would recommend taking water shoes with you. They are small and light so easy to squeeze into your duffel bag.
I must admit that the adrenaline was pumping through me but whose wouldn’t when you are on the very edge of the Victoria Falls. That being said I never felt unsafe. The guides are amazing at getting just the right pictures for you to share with all your family and friends. As we were on Livingstone Island first thing in the morning, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast after our swim and then we headed back to Tongabezi where we collected our luggage. Before departing for the airport, the choir from the Tongabezi school sang to us. It was incredibly beautiful and there were a lot of tears.
On arrival at Livingstone Airport we were met by our pilot, Genaas, from United Air Charters, https://www.uaczam.com/. Genaas was our pilot throughout the trip and was the epitome of professionalism when necessary and yet down to earth and excellent company when he wasn’t in ‘pilot mode’.
Our destination was Kafue National Park. On arrival into the Kafue, we were met by Moses and Joe (the guides) from Ila Safari Lodge. We then drove to the ‘harbour’ where we boarded Ila’s solar powered boat for a short trip on the Kafue River to Ila Safari Lodge. We were warmly welcomed by Leah and her team. It was extremely hot so we relaxed in camp and had a swim in the rim flow pool looking over the Kafue River. Later that afternoon we did a boat cruise on the river which included snacks and a chilled glass of wine. While at Ila we saw some of the other guests enjoy a lunch on board the boat – white tablecloths and all! Definitely something that I would recommend my clients do.
There is a lot of work happening in the Kafue in terms of conservation. One evening we had a lady from the Panthera Project come to speak to us. It was fascinating. I will always include a visit to the project for any guests visiting Ila.
From Ila we flew up to the Busanga Plains. We were met by our guides Lex and Isaac. Lex was my guide and he was fantastic. From the moment we started our drive to Chisa Busanga were surrounded by game. The plains are vast and very flat. The only deviation from the plains are large termite mounds which act little islands when the rains arrive. We saw; sable, hartebeest, more birds than I can possibly mention, puku, impala, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and a pride of 5 lions. That was all in a 45 minute drive to camp. Lex said that he was keeping the cheetah’s out of the drive so that we had a reason to return!
On arrival at Chisa Busanga Camp we were once again very warmly welcomed, this time by Malemia and his team. Chisa is a new and very unique property. The rooms at Chisa are shaped as bird’s nests which is where the lodge get’s is name. There is even a lift at one of the nests for anyone who is not able to use the stairs. Another unique feature at Chisa are the ebikes. We had a little ride around the lodge which was so much fun. They are still waiting for permission to ride in the park but when they do, I think it will be such a fun and different activity.
Once again we boarded the plane to fly to Lusaka where we refueled before our final leg into the South Luangwa National Park. I have been going to the South Luangwa since I was about 6 years old and was so excited to be back. Braston and Chris met us on arrival. What amazing guides! Both had such a wicked sense of humour. Our destination was Shawa Camp which is actually situated just outside the park. We entered through the main park entrance, did a game drive, enjoyed a sundowner and then did a short pontoon ride over to Shawa. We were welcomed by Chillian and his team who ‘fed and watered’ us before, as you can imagine, we all fell into bed.
Some of the group decided to do a walking safari the following morning. It is one of my favorite activities to do in the Luangwa. Gives you a chance to stretch your legs and do something different. You also learn so much more about the flora and fauna. Braston kept us all totally intrigued. We walked through an Ebony Grove and one of the group said it felt like he was in a cathedral and I realized that is exactly how it felt.
After our walk we met up with the rest of the crew and did a game drive en route to our bush brunch. We were lucky enough to see a pack of 21 wild dog which was extremely special. The only thing we didn’t see were leopard – but again, it just gives us a reason to have to return.
That evening we went to see the Carmine bee-eaters. The bee-eater is a migratory species, spending the breeding season, between August and November, in Zimbabwe and Zambia, before moving as south as South Africa for the summer months, and then migrating to Equatorial Africa from March to August. The bee-eaters nest in the banks of the river and it was amazing to witness them in such numbers. It was a very special way to end our time in the South Luangwa.
The following day we boarded our plane and flew to Malawi. We flew into Lilongwe and then on to Likoma Island. From the airport at Likoma we got onto speedboats and headed to Kaya Mawa. Arriving to Baobabs on the beach was so unique and quite amazing to see. We were welcomed by Shaye and Sam and their team. Once we were settled into our rooms we had a delicious lunch and then relaxed for the afternoon. There are a number of activities on offer at Kaya Mawa, including: SUP’s, small sailing boats, diving, wakeboarding, ebiking. Or you can just wallow in the lake which is what most of us did for the afternoon. In the evening we did a sunset cruise which was so much fun. I must mention the food at Kaya Mawa. Cephas the chef is very talented and also has the biggest smile. We were treated to entertainment on the beach on both nights at Kaya Mawu.
Another thing worth mentioning is our visit to Katundu while at Kaya Mawu. Katundu was founded in 2006 with the objective of empowering women through artisanal training and ethical employment. Their signature range includes the most incredible chandeliers that they make out of recycled glass and bronze from old geysers. They also make beaded jewellery amongst many other items. https://katundu-likoma.myshopify.com/
That brought to an end our time with Green Safari’s. The circuit works so well because you include 2 of the biggest parks in Zambia, a visit to the mighty Victoria Falls as well as enjoying some downtime on the beach in Malawi.
I’ve got so much more local intel to share!
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