I don’t know why it’s been such a challenge to start these series of posts here on my trip to Southern Africa, but I suppose it has to do with the fact that putting a nearly two-week experience into words is not an easy task. It’s hard to know where to begin, what to leave in, what to edit out…
To make things a little easier, I’ve decided that here on the blog, I’ll be giving you quick looks at each of the places we stayed and the highlights that came with them. Over on Safarious, however, I’ll be putting together a full travel journal. So if you want all the details, along with literally hundreds of photos, keep popping over there to soak up the full story. And with that… let the adventure begin!
ZAMBIA // Mfuwe Lodge (South Luangwa)
Located in Eastern Zambia, The Mfuwe Lodge is tucked into South Luangwa National Park – a former game reserve that is now a haven for wildlife. Our group had met up in Johannesburg – Kyle Knight and her husband Clay, who is a founder of Safarious, along with our guide, James Suter, and his friend and partner in videography, Oliver Caldow, and Andy Hogg, founder of the Mfuwe Lodge & Bushcamps.
We arrived at the lodge in the early evening, greeted by plenty of staff and cold towels to refresh us from our travels. After settling into our rooms, we didn’t waste any time with hopping into one of the jeeps for a quick evening ride!
Each of us had our own little ‘chalet’, and I was enamored with the set up. The upstairs – where you enter – has a small sitting room, and the downstairs a large bedroom with a luxurious bathroom. The porch looks out onto the river, and all the windows are screened and shuttered as there is no air conditioning.
My favorite part of the room may have been the fact that the shower shares this same view of the river, so you feel like you’re outdoors with the water coming down on you – as close as you’d probably want to get to an outdoor shower in the bush. And yes, it stayed surprisingly cool with all the fans going in the evening.
Wake up call is 5:45. And by ‘call’ I mean a man coming to your door and politely calling “good morning” until you answer. I want to record this as my new iPhone alarm, it was so charming. With my jet lag, I was quite awake before the gentleman’s greeting, up listening to the sounds of birds and the monkeys leaping from tree to tree and scurrying across my roof.
Each day begins with a quick breakfast before hopping into one of the vehicles for a game drive. On our first morning, we went on a walking tour with award-winning guide, Manda Chisanga. Even though we had James with us, when doing a walking safari in the parks in Zambia, you must have a local guide and an armed guard for ‘protection’.
I was amazed at how many elephants we saw upon leaving the lodge. There’s something surreal about seeing this animals in the wild – they’re so quiet and gentle in appearance, and we’re so used to seeing them trained to interact with humans, that you have to remind yourself that you’re not in a zoo anymore.
A walking tour is such a different experience than simply driving around in the jeep – I would highly recommend doing at least one. Manda pointed out small details like animal tracks, trees that elephants rub up against (they’re completely smooth), and local plants that are used for medicinal purposed. Overall, you gain a stronger respect and knowledge for the environment as a whole, and how it all interacts.
On our first day, we experienced a magical little moment when coming back from our walkabout. We were expecting to be driven back to the lodge when all of a sudden, we turned up over a hill and into a huge green field, only to see this…
A table set for brunch, with no sign of civilization in sight. And a chef cooking up a meal fit for royalty!
As someone who considers food an integral part of experiencing a culture when traveling, this was my heaven. Despite the many meals we would have to come in fancier settings than this, I have to say nothing could top this experience. So special. I was obviously stoked.
The majority of our time at Mfuwe Lodge was spent out on these drives – each one heading to a different area and offering up new scenery and animal life.
James, our guide, was awesome and so enthusiastic and knowledgeable, it made each outing that much more fun. I felt like I was in a living episode of the discovery channel, soaking up facts on each animal, and how they interact with each other. The elegance of the giraffe, and the curious and playful nature of zebra. The flighty puku (a type of antelope) always hopping around, and the loud, waddling hippo who I quickly discovered were my least favorite. We even saw a few little warthogs (surprisingly cute little fellas) and hyenas who are just as creepy as you would expect them to be.
On top of being excellent guides, James and Oliver also captured so much of our trip – on camera and in video – which was an added bonus. I certainly didn’t have the equipment to record these moments, and knowing that they did made it that much easier to relax and be totally present.
When we weren’t on drives, Kyle and I indulged in a massage by the river, and lounging by the pool. The boys always seemed to be on the go, but, in the evenings we’d all reconvene around the bar and enjoy delicious meals together…
As I mentioned, there are so many stories to tell that it’s hard to squeeze them all in. I’ll have a few more posts dedicated to pieces of our time in Mfuwe (a leopard stalking, and a local school visit), but tomorrow, we’ll be off to the opposite end of Zambia when we head to Livingstone!