I really had no expectations for my first visit to Zambia, I had done no homework as I had left all the arrangements to my wife! We flew into Livingstone Airport where we were met and driven out of town by mini bus to the ‘Islands of Siankaba’, a lodge that sits along the Zambezi River towards the border with Botswana.
We were greeted with a very warm welcome at the entry and then transported with our bags on a short powerboat trip to the islands, where we were met by the manager and staff with a refreshing drink and an introduction to our home for the next few nights. The rooms were thatched chalets overlooking the river, with the two islands connected by rope suspension bridges and wooden walkways, giving a very adventurous feel straight away. Our room was beautifully decorated, very comfortable, with insect screens onto the wooden deck and great views over the water, the perfect spot for a massage, which we indeed indulged in during our stay.
After stopping to collect our thoughts and to be left alone the presence of the river just took over!
You can’t take your eyes off the magnificence of this awesome river! The power, its size, roaring sound, the life, the fear…..you get caught up in its emotion, it’s breathtaking! As never having experienced such a powerful and soul stirring river before, I have yet to see a comparison anywhere that I have visited in the world.
It made me very philosophical about life and the river’s affect. If every person who has lived on this Earth was a water droplet and the Zambezi was life’s history, you would see that this water has given so much life to the land, the animals and the people that live and depend on it for their survival.
It represented to me the journey of life with mankind all in the river flowing together towards an unknown destination. Wow……powerful stuff!!
Back via the swing bridge to the main lodge area for a lovely lunch on the terrace, followed by some R&R. Later in the afternoon we jumped into a pontoon style boat with two other guests from England and headed off towards the opposite side of the river for some game viewing. This is the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe, and my very first water safari, so to see elephants, hippos, crocs and countless varieties of colourful birds along the shoreline on the very first day was a real treat indeed.
Sundowner drinks followed while parked along a sandy island in the middle of this magnificent river, watching the sun setting. A chilled glass of wine in hand, snacks to nibble on while watching the sun go down over this amazing piece of Africa, was a truly awesome experience.
Upon our return to the lodge, a delicious dinner was ready and served with excellent South African wines.
After a long day I had now strange expectations ahead of how I was going to sleep, in what seemed to be an open fronted chalet on the edge of the river listening to the hippos grunting and the crocs splashing with their prey!
I just sat in bed mesmerised by the moonlight on this hauntingly powerful river and found it hard to sleep even though the bed was so comfortable. The sounds of the Zambezi conjured up thoughts of the people that depend so much on what this river can provide.
The next morning we went on the local village tour, where armed with a bag of children’s clothes, pens, pencils and paper we visited the nursery school. What a marvellous experience meeting the school staff and their enthusiastic teacher Malindi. Previously the barman from the lodge, he was sponsored for teacher training. It was a humbling experience to meet such an enthusiastic man with great vision and determination to help his fellow villagers.
The lodge supports the local village with many of the staff coming from there and also the purchase of the various foods grown.
A traditional Mokoro (canoe) ride was fun, being poled down river by an expert, but also shooting across some small rapids covering a distance of 2.5 kms. The exhilaration but fear of tipping or coming across hippos or crocs made this activity a little more adventurous! A great experience and one I would definitely recommend as we felt in very safe hands.
Our stay at ‘Islands of Siankaba’ was a true delight and an awesome first up introduction to the great Zambezi River, and with such easy access for a trip to the Victoria Falls, it ticked all boxes.