AS GOOD AS IT GETS.

03/08/2012.

Royal Zambezi Lodge, Lower Zambezi Valley : 21 & 22 June 2012, Days 5 & 6

My apologies  as it’s been a while since my last post, but there’s a good explanation. I approached SA Flyer to publish my take on this Zambian trip and to my surprise they agreed, hence the delay as I had to deliver the article. Please look out for it in their forthcoming September issue.

A quick look on the map of the route to RZ.

After a relaxing two night stay at Mcbrides’ it was time to move on to the lower Zambezi valley at Royal Zambezi Lodge (RZ). Before take-off a light breeze blew down the slight uphill gradient of Mcbrides’ strip. It was a tight squeeze to clear the 50 foot tree obstacle at the end of the runway but we managed to safely make it out of there. We had to fly more south than what was necessary past the restricted FLP4 Mumbwa Military Airspace at FL095 before we could turn eastwards.  This little detour made the flight more interesting as it meant we would follow the Kafue river almost all the way to where it meets the Zambezi.

The massive and impressive Kafue Flats.

In its journey east, the river flows sluggishly across a flat plain called the Kafue Flats. It forms an immense shallow flood plain which no roads or railways cross. As the river approaches the towns of Mazabuka and Kafue, sugar plantations and other large agricultural estates have been established on the fertile black soil.

Kafue Dam wall and dramatic gorge.

The river then enters the Kafue Gorge Dam, constructed between 1967 and 1972. It has a power generating capacity of 900 MW. Northern Rhodesia had decided earlier in 1953 to build a dam within its territory, on the Kafue River. It would have been closer to Zambia’s Copperbelt, which was in need of more power, and would also have been a cheaper and less grandiose project than Kariba, with a smaller environmental impact. Southern Rhodesia, the richer of the two, objected to a Kafue dam and insisted that the dam be sited instead at Kariba.

Soon afterwards we were over the massive Zambezi valley and headed a bit more south to see the Kafue join the Zambezi. The river then led us all the way to RZ. The tarred 1.2 km runway was a welcome change from the two previous bush strips. We secured the planes and were then taken to the lodge, a mere 10 minute drive from the runway.

Kafue joins the Zambezi.

ZS-SRS on short finals at RZ.

RZ is the personification of a luxurious African safari. It’s simply one of the most delightful and best run places I’ve ever been to, set in one of the most beautiful natural surroundings you could ever hope to find in Africa. All their vehicles and boats are new and in perfect working order. Each activity runs with military precision. As we arrived our schedule for the next two days was briefed to us and we were then shown to our spacious rooms overlooking the Zambezi.

Number 4.

Outside bar. The best place to have a Mosi Lager.

RZ is pricey, but you definitely get value for your money. EVERYTHING’s included. From the activities, drinks, food and snacks to even the internet. The staff are exceptionally well trained and the food is of the highest quality. That afternoon we leisurely paddled down the river in canoes. You might think this entailed a strenuous upstream paddle back to the lodge? Not so; a motorboat waited for us at the turning point. With our drinks order taken we then went with another motorboat upstream for a marvelous sunset cruise. The picturesque Zambezi is quite wide here, interspersed with reed islands (full of wildlife) and shallow sand banks. Majestic mountains to the north signifies the border of the valley.

Guided canoeing. Great fun.

Lone inquisitive buffalo on an island.

Cruising in style.

Fishing was on the agenda for the next morning and we woke at first light to a gorgeous blood red glow on the eastern horizon. Our group of six were split onto two boats. It was extremely enjoyable to be out on the water and I was lucky enough to catch my first tiger fish as well as a few feisty chesas. The other boat had more luck as they caught four tigers between the three of them. A game drive (which turned out like no other before) was scheduled for the afternoon in the nearby Lower Zambezi National Park. Our guide informed us that a leopard with its kill and a pride of lions were spotted roughly 30 km into the park, so we made a dash for it. The narrow dirt road was bad and the going was rough. We saw everything as promised and more. On the way back we had sunset drinks in the open veld with a herd of buffalo grazing nearby. After a 5 hour roller coaster journey we arrived back in camp and were duly confronted by an elephant (in the foyer!) after we had our dinner.

Sunrise.

Tiger Tiger!

Fancy a swim?

Lui-perd.

Twins.

I don’t know whether it was the same elephant but I woke during the early hours of the morning to the noise of an elephant foraging on an unfortunate tree right next to our bungalow. It was in no hurry and in the silence of the night I could hear its bowel movements. After relieving itself (imagine a miniature waterfall) and scratching its bum on the side of our viewing deck, it leisurely moved on.

View from the dining area deck.

Later I woke with a heavy heart as our trip was coming to an end. What an incredible six days it had been. We flew the short hop to Lusaka to refuel and do customs. This was the least pleasant part of our trip as everything at the airport is very disorganized. We climbed out of Lusaka to FL125 and the Bonnie made light work of the 516nm leg to Polokwane. A welcome 20 knot tailwind gave us ground speeds of between 190 and 200 knots and we covered the distance in 2h:45m.

At Polokwane we refuelled, did customs and then parted ways with our travel companions in ZS-SRS as they headed for Pretoria. With an even stronger tailwind we blazed a trail through the sky over Limpopo on our way to Mpumalanga. Seeing the landscape rapidly change beneath us to the familiar sight of the Highveld, it occurred to me just how much we had seen and experienced  in the past six days and how fortunate we are to live in Africa.  Zambia is a truly magnificent country with unbridled beauty and variety.

View more photos here : Facebook photos

For more info on Royal Zambezi Lodge : www.royal zambezilodge.com



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