Zambia’s Raw Beauty & Wild Reserves (Part 1)

Zambia has so much to offer its visitors. For a start there’s Victoria Falls, one of just ‘Seven Natural Wonders of the World’ and the thundering centrepiece of an adventure playground. Helicopter flips, Zambezi River cruises, white-water rafting and rhino encounters are just a few of the activities that make for an unforgettable stay.

But did you know that Zambia is also a top safari destination? Recently our International Marketing Manager, Jenny Diamond, spent a week visiting lodges in Victoria Falls and the Lower Zambezi, as well as the remote bush camps of the South Luangwa.

In Part One she shares her experiences at Tongabezi and Sussi & Chuma, while Part Two takes you on her Zambia safari.

Tongabezi riverside lounge
The riverside lounge at Tongabezi – a great place to relax or catch up with emails.

Touching down at Livingstone Airport, Jenny was met by her guide from Bushtracks. She used Bushtracks for all her transfers and – from the moment she arrived until she was safely dropped back at the airport – always felt in excellent hands.

Tongabezi

Jenny spent her first night at Tongabezi, an award-winning lodge tucked away on the bank of the Zambezi River. Tongabezi has five cottages and six houses, each with great views of the water – Zimbabwe on one side and Zambia on the other.

Honeymoon House at Tongabezi
Each chalet is unique – this is Tongabezi’s beautiful Honeymoon House.
Zambezi River cruise
Cruising past a crocodile, and a surprise stop at the “Sand Bar”.

Jenny stayed in Nut House, which has a Moroccan feel with lovely textiles adding touches of blue and white. Glass doors open onto a private deck where she had her own pool, sun loungers and a slice of river view.

Having arrived late in the afternoon, there was time for a light lunch and look around the property before setting off on a sunset cruise. In Jenny’s words: “Sunsets on the Zambezi River are spectacular! There’s something really special about them.”

Tongabezi created special moments throughout her short stay: a surprise sundowner stop at the “Sand Bar”, getting back to a bubble bath and bottle of bubbly on ice that her butler Nyembe had set up for her, and a delicious 4-course dinner with wonderful singing and entertainment.

Zambia side of Victoria Falls
The Zambia side of Victoria Falls in July, a great time of year to visit.

The next morning started with a buffet breakfast, followed by a guided tour of Victoria Falls with James from Bushtracks:

“James is a great guide, professional and engaging”.

As for the falls, they were looking fantastic: enough water for plenty of rainbows and a thundering roar, but not so much spray that her view was obscured.

Sussi & Chuma Lodge

Jenny’s next stop was Sussi & Chuma, which lies slightly closer to Victoria Falls within the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Being unfenced, the lodge gives that feeling of staying in the wild with animals moving around at night, and vervet monkeys scampering across the wooden walkways in the mornings.

Sussi & Chuma has 12 tree-houses, each raised on stilts to make the most of their lovely river views. Interiors are spacious with beautiful Rhodesian teak floors, and each opens onto its own deck – although the suites are quite close to each other so not completely private.

Sussi & Chuma tree-houses
Sussi & Chuma’s chalets sit tucked amongst ebony trees, overlooking the Zambezi.
Rhinos in Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park
Mosi-Oa-Tunya is the only park in Zambia where you can see rhino.

An afternoon game drive included a stop to see a rhino and calf. Zambia is very strict with poachers, and the rhinos here are under the constant watch of official park rangers. Staying within the national park, guests at Sussi & Chuma also have the option of a guided walking safari to see the rhinos.

Back at the lodge, there are plenty of places to relax including a lovely swimming pool area with loungers overlooking the river. There’s also a waterside bar on the riverbank, and all of the meals – lunch, dinner and breakfast – are of high quality and well presented.

Sussi & Chuma is very involved in nearby Nakatindi Village, and Jenny loved the opportunity to go and visit the bicycle shop, school, vegetable garden and clinic (all great projects supported by Sanctuary Retreats).

Chipego Bike Shop in Nakatindi Village
Chipego Bike Shop is run by women bicycle mechanics.

Of particular interest is the Chipego Bike Shop. This shop was set up by a former guest of Sussi & Chuma, who realised how important – but unaffordable – bicycles were for getting to school, carrying groceries etc.

Used bicycles are now shipped from donors in the UK and US to Nakatindi Village, where four local women have been trained in bike service and repair. Proceeds from the sales of these bicycles is going towards the building of a maternity ward in the village.

From Victoria Falls, Jenny flew to the Lower Zambezi and the start of her Zambia Safari (Part 2).