I was privileged to travel to the Lower Zambezi in Zambia on a FAM trip with a group of five people from different tour operator backgrounds including Glenda Paterson – the Sales Marketing Manager for Zambezi Grande.
Getting to Zambezi Grande
We flew on Mango Airlines from the mother city, Cape Town, to Johannesburg, then checked in for our South African Airways flight to Lusaka.
Upon arrival at Keneth Kaunda International Airport, our luggage was collected by Clever, a representative from Corporate Air, and stored in the Corporate Air lounge while we enjoyed drinks at the airport restaurant. Just to mention that passengers MUST keep their boarding pass as they will be required to produce it when passing through customs.
From Lusaka, we boarded a Cessna Charter flight to the Royal Zambezi airstrip. The 6-seater plane was small but comfortable, and I was fortunate to sit in the front seat opposite Henry the pilot. And yes, this is when my Lower Zambezi adventure really began!
The Royal Zambezi airstrip is set against the backdrop of the Zambezi Escapement mountain range. While we were about to land, I spotted a heard of elephants below. The noise of the plane caused them to run away flapping their huge blanket-like ears.
What an experience to start my trip spotting one of the Big 5 on day one before I even landed!
We landed perfectly after our 25-minute flight, and found two vehicles from the lodge already waiting for us. We got in a game drive 4×4 vehicle which was stocked with a variety of drinks for the 10-minute road transfer to the lodge.
Zambezi Grande Lodge
Arriving at the lodge, we were handed fresh towels which were lovely and cool in the hot weather. The staff sang songs and, while I couldn’t understand the meaning, the melodious rhythm made me want to join in. After a warm welcome and briefing by the General Manager Obert and his staff, we proceeded to our rooms.
Little did I know that I was going to be the owner of a full house for the full duration of my stay!
Zambezi Grande Lodge is superbly located in the Lower Zambezi Private Concession. The lodge has 5 exclusive and private, free-standing superior suites with magnificent views of the mighty Zambezi River. The suites are massive, and it feels like you could play soccer in the large, open-plan space. In addition to the suites, there are five luxury rooms slipped into the wilderness overlooking the Zambezi River.
The design of Zambezi Grande is that of Cape Dutch architecture combined with a touch of Victorian style – especially the main reception area. This lodge is suitable for adults of all ages longing for a real bush experience. On the opposite side of the Zambezi River is Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park and the Zambezi Expeditions Safari Camp
Catching a Tiger on the Zambezi
We enjoyed a number of activities during our staying at Zambezi Grande Lodge. I was totally amused by the fishing. I’m not a fisherman but Amos, the speedboat driver, only taught me once on how to cast and that was it! I started casting like a pro and was rewarded by being champion of the day as I was the only one to catch a 4.5kg tiger fish!
What an experience! Sun setting, hippos wheezing, and me catching the tiger fish.
I couldn’t stop bragging to my fellow travellers; mesmerised by catching such a big fish in the fourth largest river in Africa – the mighty Zambezi.
Game Drives & River Safaris
Game drives were amazing and Levy our driver-guide was exceptional. Despite the dense bush, we saw herds of elephants as well as buffalos, lions and different types of antelopes. The Lower Zambezi area is a paradise for keen birders. I’m not a bird enthusiast but was enthralled by the all the birds I saw from the smallest bee hummingbirds to the tallest herons.
River safaris were another highlight that carried me away. Dereck and Amos once again outdid my expectations. The sundowner cruise was just superb! The giant mammals that spend most of the day in water, the hippos, come out at night to graze on land.
The Zambezi River is saturated with hippos and in almost every 50m-radius there was a group of hippos grumbling and chasing each other. Crocodiles lazed on the riverbanks and islands, while others floated with their eyes wide open waiting for targets to attack.
The experience was just spectacular!
Village Goba Visit
We visited the local village called Goba. Soda, our guide, welcomed us and shared interesting victories of the Goba people as he took us through the village. It was unfortunate that the day we visited there was a funeral which the village headsman was attending, hence, we did not meet him as per the norm.
The people are lovely and very welcoming. There were only 8 guests from the lodge but as soon as we stepped in the village our group started to double, triple and then quadruple. The kids were fascinated to see us, and joined in as we walked to the gardens where the villagers grow okra, and visited the school and the clinic.
Despite the blazing sun, most of the kids were barefoot. I recalled our “Travel with a Purpose” initiative. The children do not beg or ask for anything, and I would strongly recommend guests visiting the Lower Zambezi pack little things for the kids that can be given to them through the school.
Our last night was just amazing, with a surprise dinner in the bush under the stars while hearing hyenas giggling in a distance – it was just an experience on its own.
Our last morning arrived, and we had our final full English breakfast at leisure before transferring to the Royal Zambezi Airstrip for our Corporate Air flight back to Lusaka International Airport. Everything went as planned and I appreciated the seamless service delivery I had at Zambezi Grande Lodge.
I loved my stay at Zambezi Grande, would highly recommend this luxurious lodge on the bank of the Zambezi River.
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– by Giltedge Travel Consultant Washington Makuzva.