Zambia is a fabulous playground for those in search of the wild and wonderful. It has a wide range of delightfully decadent lodges and a diversity of habitats ranging from massive rivers and golden floodplains to iconic waterfalls and ancient, game-rich wilderness areas. There are daily flights from Johannesburg to Lusaka, the fast growing and friendly capital.
Latitude with attitude: To fly in and out of the wild places, you have to go through the capital of Lusaka, so head straight for Latitude 15, Lusaka’s hippest hotel. Set in a pleasant suburb, everything from the artworks to the appetisers is a wonderful combination of Zambian homegrown with a contemporary international twist. With funky décor, excellent dining and a convivial lounge and pool area, this is where Lusaka’s cool people hang out. Latitude 15 has just opened a seriously trendy business space next door to the hotel, called The Works which offers high speed Internet, hot-desking and bean bagging, similar to Soho Works in London, or We Work in New York. latitudehotels.com
Take me to the river: Kaingu Lodge is the heart of Kafue National Park, the second biggest park in Africa and Zambia’s oldest. This charming tented camp overlooks the Kafue River, lifeblood of the park, which flows for nearly a thousand kilometres through Zambia before joining the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe. Pretty much everything here is water and boat based. You can do boat cruises, canoe trips, riverside rambles. We saw hippos sleeping on the bank like giant aubergines, plenty of crocs and incredible birds (the Kafue is a world renowned birding destination with nearly 500 species). On our canoe trip we saw a crocodile take out a young male puku! The river scenery is amazing – ranging from wild rapids to pockets of still water with Zen like reflections that are pure poetry. kaingu-lodge.com
Into the floodplains: As the rains come from Angola, so the Zambezi River waters rise and spill over onto the Liuwa flood plains in western Zambia. During the rainy season the region is flooded and inaccessible. Then as the waters recede, this glorious wilderness area reveals itself. The place to stay here is the newly opened five-star King Lewanika Lodge, in the heart of the floodplains in Liuwa National Park. This elegant, modern Afro chic bush camp was designed by acclaimed South African architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens. The lodge was named in honour of the king of the local Lozi King people, King Lewanika, who proclaimed Liuwa as a protected area in the 1880s. This place is remote - it’s a two and a half hour flight from the capital Lusaka, and then a three hour drive into the national park and the heart of the floodplains. But it is a real once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are endless golden views from the main camp. The air is filled with the sweet song of the myriad of birds that live here – I’ve never seen so many birds in my life. Fish eagles, doves, herons, owls, ducks, geese, pelicans, pranticoles, cranes…We also got up close and personal with a pride of lions. timeandtideafrica.com
Head for the hills with a G&T: Sanctuary Chichele Presidential Lodge in south Luangwa was built as a retreat for former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunde in the 70s, and this historic hotel is set atop a hill surrounded by primeval forests. The suites are Victorian style, with French windows and private verandas. The South Luangwa National Park is home to one of the most varied collections of wildlife on the planet. Think elephant, buffalo, hippos, giraffe, leopards and lions. The park is centred round the Luangwa River whose natural ebb and flow of flooding makes it inaccessible during the rainy months and keeps it a sanctuary for the big game. Highlight of my stay was seeing a leopard slink down one of the passages at night and take a drink from a courtyard fountain. Sanctuary Chichele offers morning and evening game drives, as well as guided walks, and is also family friendly. sanctuaryretreats.com
Location, location, location: Sanctuary Puku Ridge is one of the most charming spots in the south Luangwa. This intimate bushcamp is built on a hillside on escarpment’s edge, overlooking a floodplain. It’s a low carbon footprint camp, which gives it a whole lot of soul; and the camp blends in beautifully with the glorious bushveld surroundings. The luxury tents have wraparound views so you can spot game from your bed, highly recommended, darlings! There is incredible game out here – we saw elephant, lion, leopard and plenty of plains game. The south Luangwa is also excellent for birding, with over 450 species in the park. sanctuaryretreats.com
The smoke that thunders: One of the most dramatic places in Zambia is the Victoria Falls – where the wide Zambezi River drops a hundred metres into a narrow gorge. They’re called Mosi-oa-Tunya, (the smoke that thunders) in the local language and are one of the world’s seven wonders. Stanley Safari Lodge is a fabulously romantic and decadent spot to stay - set on a hill bordering the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and overlooking unspoilt bush and the spray of the falls in the distance. There are ten villas here, some hewn from local stone and teak, others more colonially styled. The gardens are lush and peaceful and the infinity pool is a heavenly place to sit in with a sundowner. Stanley is only three kilometres away from the falls, and they will also arrange other activities in and around the little town of Livingstone, ranging from river rafting and elephant back safaris to visiting traditional villages. robinpopesafaris.net