We departed Zikomo Camp on the 18th and had to back-track at least 600+ kms to get to just outside of Lower Zambezi National Park. We originally planned on stopping back in Petauke where we pit-stopped on the way to South Luangwa NP but after leaving fairly early and making very good time to Petauke, it was 1:00 pm and there was nothing to do in Petauke, we decided to just keep going and stop at Pioneer Camp outside of Lusaka, a previous stop on our way to South Luangwa. We arrived just at sunset, about a 9 hour drive but worth it because if we stopped in Petauke we don’t know how long our drive would have been the next day to get to the Royal Zambezi, probably about 11 hours.
Departing at around 8:30 am on the 19th we arrived at the Royal Zambezi Lodge at around 2:00 pm. Finally a little pampering for three days!
We were treated royally at the Royal Zambezi Lodge and we had an excellent view from our deck!
Below are some pics of the Royal Zambezi Lodge. Almost two years to the day we canoed past the lodge on our 4 day, 72 km paddle journey. We thought it would be nice to return some day and try out the lodge. We’re glad we did.
The second day of our stay we did an afternoon drive through the protected reserve area surrounding the lodge. The area is administered by the local communities and supported by RZL (Royal Zambezi Lodge) and local NGO’s. There has been a fairly severe drought in the area and the animals are having a difficult time foraging for food so unfortunately some human intervention has been required with the scattering of large hay bails, salt licks and watering holes maintained by bore-hole pumps. It seems to be helping as the elephants didn’t display the level of hunger (no ribs and thigh bone protrusions as was evident in the national park). Hopefully normal rains will return in October.
On our third day we did an early morning drive into the Lower Zambezi National Park. We didn’t have any luck spotting Lion or Leopard during our stay at The Royal but the drives, scenery and wildlife was spectacular nonetheless.
The lodge was everything we hoped it would be. Comfortable accommodation, excellent meals and meal choices and a superb staff who went out of their way to ensure we had an enjoyable and memorable stay. We had two very nice surprises on our second and third nights. On the second evening Joyce and I were enjoying sundowners at the bar, talking with Prosper, the bartender and a couple of American visitors. We had made our dinner choice for the evening meal, we both went for the chicken cordon bleu and were getting set to move over to our “table for two” when we were told not to go there because they had a surprise for us. Looking at each other we wondered what was in store. They led us to the dining area and then pointed to the wooden walk way leading to the boat docks on the river and out in the middle of the walkway on an expanded area was a candle-lit table for two, far removed from a large American contingent that were sitting to eat. Exquisite privacy where only hours earlier an elephant had spent some time munching on the flood plain grasses. The stars were in full bloom and the evening was perfect.
Our second surprise came the next evening. Again we were having our sundowners at the bar and had realized we hadn’t put in our dinner meal request. Hoping we weren’t too late we asked if we could see the menu. No we were told, grab your drinks and follow us to the safari truck. A little late for a safari but we followed and were met by Vincent who had been our exclusive safari driver for the two drives we had done. We hopped into the truck and off we went for what was a 5 minute drive. We assumed we must be going to the Royal airstrip where maybe tables had been set up as we didn’t think there was much else around but after a short drive, in the distance was a very large bonfire and a crowd of people milling about. There were lanterns and torches surrounding the area and we were on the banks of the Zambezi River. Tables were set, the bar was fully stocked and we walked into a beautiful scene out of an old African movie. There was one other British couple who were staying at the lodge, us and the Managers of the lodge, Vincent, an NGO rep and several others associated with the lodge and the protected area. There was Impala stew, chicken curry, nishimi, rice, vegetables etc. etc. which was described to us by the head chef from the lodge. Wow! We were made to feel at home and very welcome. We’re not sure if this a standard routine but we had great conversations throughout our stay with the staff and management and were as always friendly and polite (Canadian eh?) so maybe this helped us snag what we thought was a very nice gesture and what will be something we will not forget. Our hats are off to everyone at the lodge for giving us a very memorable experience. A big thank you to everyone at the Royal Zambezi Lodge!
We hit the sheets late (about 10:30 which is late for us on this journey), awoke later than planned a little fogged by the wine and departed for a long journey back towards Lusaka and a continuation on to Zimbabwe to experience the World Heritage site which is Mana Pools National Park knowing we would miss the comfy bed but looking forward to again camping in the African wilds.