There is something very special about landing in Livingstone – a town in southwestern Zambia on the border with Zimbabwe and gateway to the great Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. It immediately feels like a journey back in time where something spectacular is about to unfold.
An hour or so upstream from Victoria Falls, the last part of the journey down a dirt track road, and we reach Royal Chundu – a remote, privately-owned property made up of two lodges – River Lodge and Island Lodge. The latter is the more exclusive of the two with four very private suites on Katombora Island, accessed by boat and overlooking a scenic waterway of the Zambezi River. Benefitting from more spacious open plan suites, Island Lodge has the higher price point, which in our view is well worth it for the sheer privacy. Best of all is to take over all four suites for a family or group of friends and feel like you’re staying on your own private island complete with dedicated staff. Either way, the setting of both lodges is spectacular. At River Lodge you have front-facing views of the Zambezi River, a vibrantly-coloured lounge and dining area, and attractive swimming pool with deck and sun loungers. The ten suites are smaller than those at Island Lodge, and without the freestanding bath tubs on the sun decks, but with equally pretty views. As dusk draws in, with indescribably beautiful dusky purple skies and the sounds of hippo in the distance, the real magic starts to illuminate.
Where they really score at Royal Chundu is with a team of some of the most delightful people you could wish to meet. We were greeted every day by the warmest of smiles amongst staff who went above and beyond to ensure we were happy. Particularly impressive is Lodge Manager, Aggie Maseko Banda, who has what can only be described as a completely natural flair for hospitality. The sort of person who knows instinctively when to be around without being intrusive or overbearing. This is a fine art and actually quite rare on the safari circuit which is designed to have you programmed to set schedules (something we try wherever possible to avoid).
We particularly loved our canoeing experience which began at the Katombora rapids and continued through the channels of the Zambezi past endless jackalberry and baobab trees. The island lunch they set up for us at the end of the trip was spectacular and a definite highlight of the trip. Not to mention the exhilarating 30-minute helicopter ride over Victoria Falls and down into Batoka Gorge (well worth doing this and not the shorter, 15-minute version).
For more on how to plan the optimum experience of Victoria Falls, the great Zambezi River, and wider travel throughout Zambia, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org