There’s a rumour going through the grapevine of wanderlust minds that African Sun has expanded their family to include a Zambia hotel. What a perfect excuse to be the first to be welcomed! Zambia’s charm is its abundant wildlife, captivating wilderness and the largest water resources in the whole of southern Africa.
I arrive at Livingstone airport, having taken a short connecting flight from Lusaka, the capital. I can almost hear the “smoke that thunders”, but the magnificent Victoria Falls has already been ticked off my travel list from the Zimbabwean side – arguably the better of the two! After a short drive along the northern edge of the Zambezi National Park, I arrive at my new home.
Unlike some Zambia hotels, Royal Chundu Zambezi River Lodge is distinctly African. Individual thatched huts are tucked between ancient trees along the river bank, concealing their luxurious interior. This isn’t quite close enough to nature for me, so I opt for the exclusive Katambora Island in the centre of the Zambezi River. You can’t get much closer to the hippos than this!
I spend the first night listening to the hippos grunting, wondering if they are secretly laughing at me. Am I aware that the Zambezi is also home to crocodiles? I’m not here to relax - I could do that at any number of African Sun hotels. I’m here to make the most of being on the banks of the Zambezi. It seems fitting to experience this great river from the country of its source. Although it has already flowed through Angola by the time I launch my canoe from Kazungula, upstream of my Zambia hotel, I still feel like I am at the beginning of its journey.
The upper section of the Zambezi is the lesser visited and I’m able to explore undisturbed. I’m paddling my way through the calm waters towards Katambora, where Royal Chundu nestles, and the scenery is astonishingly beautiful. However, within 20 kilometres I encounter the Katambora rapids and I’m suddenly reminded why I wasn’t planning to relax! This put my paddling skills to the test. Within a few kilometres I’m in calm waters again, but this is a brief respite before I’m into more rapids. This is the excitement I came for and there’s 70 kilometres of it before I need to make for land. I don’t fancy the 250 metre drop over the Falls!