Can one ever get bored with safari? Probably not as with every day a different surprise awaits just around the corner! Unquestionably, there were no complaints from me when the boss suggested I head out again to see some more of our lodges!
With 10 days to spare, I thought I should get out to the other side of Zambia and see one of the Seven Wonders of the World, so, I embarked on my journey to Victoria Falls! The famous smoke that thunders but what would a former guide think of a waterfall? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good view as much as the next chap but without the excitement of prodding through elephant poo, would this spectacle live up to everything I had heard and read…?
Unfortunately, you cannot fly directly from Lilongwe to Livingstone in just one day. I say, unfortunately… I mean ‘hooray’, I got to stay in Lusaka – a thriving metropolis for us in Lilongwe – for a night. Not only that but in the ultra-glamorous Latitude 15. We do have our own Latitude 13, in Lilongwe, which is a beautiful mix of contemporary art with clean finishes and intricate details, equipped with a spa, huge pool and a well-celebrated restaurant. Latitude 15, however, I had heard was a step up. It surpassed all my expectations.
Unlike the one in Lilongwe which is focussed around the pool, this one was like a maze. One half is older and the other far newer, they intertwine by a twist of corridors, filled with the similarly themed artwork to the one in Lilongwe. The hotel has a really modern and funky vibe and I happened to be there on a Friday. With a live band and lots of locals, it is the perfect spot to get a really tasty meal a decent cocktail and sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. If you do want to hide away, the older restaurant is a perfect paradise to escape with a glass of wine and a good plate of food before retiring to bed. Despite a live band and a lively crowd once in my room I could have been in the bush, it was so quiet. This place is magical and I will definitely be back.
I started Saturday morning unusually early to catch the first flight to Livingstone. Arriving just after 8 am I was collected by Ryan from Islands of Siankaba. We often catch up with lodge owners and managers at trade shows, marvel over pictures of their products vowing to come and see them (and of course sell) but this is a promise I have kept. One of the furthest away of the Livingstone lodges, you take a small boat to the islands the lodge is based on. I don’t know what it is about a boat and water but you instantly feel at peace in the wild.
Away from the hustle of the city, there are some gorgeous tents perched on the river edge, connected by wooden walkways. You are welcomed with a hand massage, which frankly was amazing and something I think we should put in the office. Unfortunately, due to a storm, it was sundowners by the bar instead of on the water, but who doesn’t love watching lightening beam up the sky from the safety of a cosy nook?!
In the morning it was an early start, out onto the river for a sunrise Mokoro trip. The gentlest of activities in the AM, we peacefully sat on the water and watched the sunrise through the clouds. We then gently drifted downstream watching otters playing, birds flying and hippos returning to the comfort and safety of the water before gently paddling back to camp. A beautiful way to start a Sunday! After a quick breakfast, it was time to head to destination number 2 and I headed up river to Toka Leya, owned by Wilderness Safaris.
To start me off with a bang they took me on a game drive through the National Park they are based in. Whilst there isn’t an abundance of wildlife they do have a good population of white rhinos. Due to poaching the rhinos have armed guards with them at all times, now I haven’t seen the falls yet so no comment on that but the rhinos alone make Vic Falls worth a visit. I was blown away! We walked through the bush to find a group of 5 with 4 armed rangers. They happily carried on chowing as I desperately clicked my camera as fast as the shutter would allow. It has been 6 years since I have seen a rhino and it was just like it was the first time, magical!
We have come to nickname them the ‘Bush Unicorn’ in the office (so fitting) so I immediately messaged the team in Lilongwe to let them know the miracle I just saw 🦏❤️. I haven’t stopped smiling since, and, I get the gentle nod from the staff around camp as I grin my way to the jetty, ‘ah madam you saw the rhinos’ As a wildlife geek I am happy with pretty much any sighting but there is something so incredible about these prehistoric gentle giants, it is absolutely crazy to me that anyone would want to kill them for their horn rather than see them in the wild.
After my magical encounter, I was taken on a sundowner cruise with some American guests. We focused on heading down the Zimbabwean side of the river as they have more animals that side. We were treated to giraffe, zebra, bushbuck and a very small elephant drinking with its mother – could this day get any better? Yes, it could…Our brilliant guide brought out the gin & tonics and snacks too. This will go down as one of my favourite Sundays ever.
Monday morning arrived and instead of the usual post-weekend blues or email dread, I sprung out of bed early and caught up on some work before breakfast. The brilliant chef George clocked me straight away and suggested every basic girl’s dream of avocado and eggs on toast (has he seen my Instagram!). I was then taken ‘back of the house’ to discover the ingenious ways Wilderness leaves almost no waste, from water filtration to worm farms. This company cares about the environment they run lodges in, and it shows. We briefly chatted about Children in the Wilderness, a project they run to inspire the young to conserve the environment, show them their incredible surroundings and help their educational journey. Then I was allowed to plant my very own tree on the grounds! I even got to name it… Mac (the Scottish prefix for son/daughter and also my dog’s name).
It was sadly time to leave Toka Leya and head to Sussi and Chuma, one of Sanctuary’s properties at the falls. The lodge was stunning, set down the river and just a short ride from Toka Leya. The main areas were all done up in white with large open spaces, think more the Maldives than Zambia. Even when the lodge is full you will find areas you can hide away in thanks to lots of intricate nooks, so it never seems busy.
The treehouses were gorgeous with huge showers and baths that looked out over the river through the trees, which was nice as often you cruise up and down the river and you can see into people’s rooms. Here you get a real sense of privacy. It was finally time for me to head to the falls itself and test out the theory of whether this is a worthwhile addition for the safari addict. I have to say, the addition of being able to see rhinos and lots of wildlife from the boat cruises I went on was an addition, enough for me to convince clients this is a worthwhile addition, so the falls would be a bonus.
Well, what a bonus! At this time of year the falls are full and the mighty Mosi-oa-Tunya ‘smoke that thunders’ really lives up to its reputation. My lovely guide took me around, helping point out which spots to get a great photo and he had thankfully brought with him some ponchos. I didn’t quite realise the amount of spray that comes off the falls themselves, to say we got wet was an understatement! Drenched, the poncho came in handy at hiding and keeping my camera dry, so that when we did get to the right spots, I could get them out for some footage. They really are impressive and something not to miss, I’m super glad I went and it’s going to feature highly in my forthcoming itineraries.