On the Zambian side, by extending the amount of land under protection, there’s more space for lodges to spread out along the bank of the Zambezi. This guide is part of a wider article on accommodation options in the Lower Zambezi Valley which appears in the print edition of Travel Africa magazine, edition 88 By Sarah Kingdom
The lodges in the Lower Zambezi Valley are stretched out along the banks of the Zambezi River, either in the National Park or in the GMAs. Roughly speaking, they’re priced according to their distance to the Park, with those in the Park at the top end and budget options further out in the GMA. Land in the GMA is occupied on a 99-year lease, with the first option to renew going to the existing owner, thus allowing the lodges to be custodians of these areas. Operators within the park, however, are given 10-year renewable leases. Some of the lodges close at some point during the rainy season, usually somewhere between November and the end of April.
INSIDE THE CHIAWA GMA
1 Gwabi River Lodge
This was one of the first lodges to be established in the Lower Zambezi Valley. Situated on banks of the Kafue River, 6km from the Zambezi and only 145km from Lusaka, Gwabi is easily accessible throughout the year. Accommodation ranges from chalets to camping for all budgets.
2 Kiambi Safaris
Situated high up on the banks of the Zambezi, near the confluence with the Kafue River, Kaimbi offers a variety of accommodation styles and budgets, from air-conditioned chalets to self-catering and camping. The Lower Zambezi NP is 65km downriver.
3 Kanyemba Lodge and Kanyemba Island Bush Camp
Only two and a half hours from Lusaka, Kanyemba is a popular family getaway, accommodating up to 20 people. The spacious restaurant and bar overlook the river, and dinner is regularly served under the branches of a giant wild mango tree.
4 Mvuu Lodge
With cottages, luxury tents, self-catering cottages or tents and camping sites, Mvuu has accommodation for all budgets. Situated along a stretch of the Zambezi River overlooking Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools, the area is great for wildlife and birdlife.
5 Baines River Camp
Named after Thomas Baines, the 19th-century artist and explorer, this lodge captures the feel of a bygone era with its classic colonial-style buildings and casual elegance. The camp also offers specialised photographic workshops and fly-fishing clinics.
6 Zambezi Grande
A luxury retreat only a few minutes from the National Park, with superior suites and luxury rooms tucked among the trees, overlooking the Zambezi. When not on an activity or cultural visit, an inviting infinity pool is the ideal spot to just relax and watch the river flow by. No children under twelve.
7 Royal Zambezi
A picturesque thatched lodge situated on one of the broadest stretches of the Zambezi, minutes by boat or vehicle to the Lower Zambezi NP. A timber deck that extends over the river floodplain is ideal for relaxing and watching birdlife and wildlife. Additional activities include cultural village visits, a spa, yoga and a cooking experience.
8 Chongwe River Camp and Chongwe River House (Time + Tide)
Nestled among the winterthorn trees at the confluence of the Zambezi and Chongwe Rivers, Chongwe River Camp is one of the most well-established Lower Zambezi camps. It offers nine classic tents under thatch, a spacious dining area, a campfire next to the river and a swimming pool. For a bit more privacy, Chongwe Suites offer three double or twin rooms with butler service, plunge pools and private dining options.
Nearby, Chongwe River House is available for exclusive use by groups of up to eight people. On the banks of the Chongwe River, a quiet tributary of the Zambezi that borders the Lower Zambezi National Park, this is a unique, two-storey private home which has won plaudits for its unusual architecture. Both properties are closed from January to mid-April.
Self-catering in the GMA
There are various options in relative proximity to the National Park, including Self Catering Cottage, Lower Zambezi, a six-sleeper facility with two twin bedrooms and a loft room. Guests can dine at nearby Kiambi Lodge. Other options include Safari House (five bedrooms), The Lodge on the Lower Zambezi (chalets on the river bank), Wildtracks (about 40 minutes from the Park) and Winterthorns (on the confluence of the Kafue and Zambezi rivers.
INSIDE THE PARK
9 Chiawa Camp (Chiawa Safaris)
Located inside the National Park under a grove of mahogany and acacia trees, Chiawa Camp offers nine tented rooms, raised on wooden decks, each with private verandahs. In the main camp area there is an elevated observation deck above the lounge, a swimming pool that’s large enough for laps, and a gym. Chiawa is closed from January to the end of April.
10 Old Mondoro (Chiawa Safaris)
About an hour downstream from Chiawa, in a grove of Winterthorn trees, Old Mondoro is an intimate, simple safari camp overlooking a maze of hippo-inhabited channels. The area is characterised by a vast floodplain and open woodland making it ideal for walking and game viewing. The unfenced camp has four reed chalets with canvas roofs, giving it a ‘back to the bush’ atmosphere. The camp is closed from January to the end of April.
11 Mwambashi River Lodge
Catering for up to 22 guests in 10 suites with differing characteristics. The Zambezi Suite, with its open sides, is a particular favourite. Includes a gym. Open from April to November.
12 Sausage Tree Camp and Potato Bush Camp
A private camp at the heart of the park, where every tent has a dedicated butler. The epitome of bush chic, Sausage Tree Camp has eight, slightly raised, reed, wood and canvas tents, each with a private pool and expansive deck. In addition there is a two-bedroom house, perfect for family or a small groups. It’s sister camp, Potato Bush, is located nearby. Each of its three tents has a large deck and plunge pool, indoor/outdoor showers and hammocks. There is a fourth family tent. Both Sausage Tree and Potato Bush are closed from January till the end of March.
13 Tusk & Mane
The relative new boys to the Valley, Tusk & Mane offer something a little different: safaris between three eight-bed fly camps that are moved between very different sites on islands in the river and, soon, a site in the Rufunsa Valley, at the foot of the escarpment, thus allowing visitors to experience the river and hills. The camps offer old-style safari camping, with bucket showers but still with ice cold drinks and comfy beds, and sitting under the stars around a campfire. Best suited to those who are looking to immerse themselves in the wilderness without too much paraphernalia.
14 Anabezi and Amanzi
Anabezi is located in the remote eastern end of the Park, in an area that used to be the governor’s retreat, where the Zambezi River and the Mushika floodplain meet. The camp is perched on the riverbank, with raised timber decks and wooden walkways. Eleven luxurious tents each have views over the river and private plunge pools. Amanzi is Anabezi’s rustic sister camp, sited 3km downstream. It offers only three tents (one of which is a family unit) built on raised decks. Both camps are closed from January till the end of April.
In 2016 Lower Zambezi was proclaimed the world’s first Carbon-Neutral National Park. To achieve this recognition tour operators reduced their carbon emissions and those emissions which were unavoidable were offset by investment in Rufunsa GMA forests to the northeast of the Park. The scheme, known as the Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project, protects a 40,126 hectare section of miombo forest in the Lower Zambezi escarpment which, in turn, provides a 60km buffer along the threatened boundary in the hills directly north of the LZNP. It partners with over 5000 people in Rufunsa District to conserve the forest through livelihood and community development initiatives. The first lodges in LZNP to sign up to the initiative were Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro, and they say by offsetting 1200 tonnes of carbon emissions, they personally are protecting an estimated 403 hectares of Zambian forest (approximately 3228 trees), and removing enough CO2 from the atmosphere to be equivalent of taking 215 cars off the road for a year.
To buy a print copy of this edition of the magazine, go to https://travelafricamag.com/product/issue-88/