(eTN) – I was invited to see the completely rebuilt Royal Chundu Lodge near Livingstone. When the email came asking me to drive to the harbor, I was a bit confused – Royal Chundu, I thought, was on the mainland. Anyhow, I did as I was told and arrived, with a bit of help from a member of the staff, at the waterlogged harbor car park. I left my car in the capable hands of the staff member, to be driven to a less waterlogged spot and then I boarded a boat. This is going to be fun, I thought. Where on Earth were we off to?
I found out then that Royal Chundu has not only rebuilt the main lodge, but has built a brand new one on an island in the middle of the Zambezi River. The island lodge, where I was to stay, only has 4 luxury rooms so it is very exclusive. I was met on the jetty by Hugh and Bev, the owners, and taken to the main deck for afternoon tea and a chat.
The deck is at the end of the island overlooking the river and the Matetsi Safari Area in Zimbabwe, so it is surrounded by bush and water. The island is one of many in this area and is normally edged by rapids. With the water being so high, the rapids had disappeared, and instead we were surrounded by fast flowing Zambezi water, full of detritus from higher upstream – branches, reeds, and lumps of papyrus.
The river has been high this year, and I could see where the water had reached into the lodge. Fortunately, the builders had been clever, and all the decks and rooms were above the water level – some good planning went on there. But underneath many of the decks, the water lapped against the foundations.
I was then taken to my room … oh, my goodness me … it was lovely. No expense spared on the building or the interiors. The room opened all along the front to a deck over the river. I could spend a week here, I thought, just watching the world go by.
We then went on a boat for a cruise along the river. This stretch of the river is very quiet. We saw one other boat from Matetsi Water Lodge in Zimbabwe; they were also enjoying this beautiful stretch of the river. It made me think how daft all these man-made borders are – it would have been so nice to go over to Matetsi and say hello, but we would have been breaking the law! When are we going to find a way of getting around this situation so that we can promote tourism between our two countries? I digress…
The Matetsi area is a safari area; it used to be for hunting but is now purely photographic. We had a chance of seeing quite a bit of game, but the bush is still full of waterholes so there was no need for the animals to come down to the river to drink. We did see some impala, and there were plenty of hippo in the water.
As the day came to an end, the sun set in truly African style in a ball of red fire. It dipped below the horizon and we watched the after-sun colors of the sky. It was time to head back to the lodge and that lovely room.