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For your entertainment, and for our own, we have collected a number of guest anecdotes, reviews, and experiences, and thrown them together into one (only slightly fictional) “Green Safaris Circuit” Diary. If you have been struggling to imagine what it would be like to stay at our properties, this is exactly what you have been waiting for.
This is what a 12-day Green Safaris itinerary — starting at Victoria Falls in Zambia and ending on a beach on Lake Malawi — looks like. This itinerary includes all of our properties except Sindabezi and Chisa Busanga, and both can be added depending on the length of your trip and the time of year you would like to travel.
(We are giving 30% discount on last-minute bookings for this itinerary. So, book this Green Safaris itinerary and finish the year off with a well-deserved break, for less!)
Day 1 TONGABEZI LODGE
Landed in Zambia today. All six of our family together at last. Debrah cried at the Tongabezi Lodge welcome song. Luckily Brenda, our personal valet, swiftly distracted her by mentioning an organic garden on site. Thank goodness for vertical-growing strawberries, or some such thing. Apparently, when Tongabezi had to close due to the pandemic, any staff who they couldn’t keep at the lodge itself were invited to learn about sustainable farming. Now most of them are back, and the Tongabezi menus are almost entirely farm-to-table. I do love a tasty silver lining.
Swam on the edge of Victoria Falls! I literally held my arms off the edge of one of the Natural Wonders of the World and got a picture to prove it to my students back home. I had a few well-deserved Sindambe cocktails afterwards (Brenda assures me Sindambe is basically a flower and incredibly healthy, and I do feel fantastic).
After a morning spent in a helicopter around Victoria Falls, zooming through the Batoka Gorge like we were in Mission Impossible, none of us thought the day could get much better. But that was before we visited the Tongabezi Trust School.
I teased Debrah about crying on the first day, but I’m not ashamed to admit that after nearly 25 years of teaching I got a little teary-eyed today. I have never seen so many children so eager to learn. Some of them walk up to 10 kilometres just to get to school, and they do it no matter the weather. The school manages to provide not only education (and a good one, by the looks of their computer room, science lab, competent teachers and smiley faces), but also two meals a day, and then funds the children into high school and university, all thanks to donations from Tongabezi guests. I met teachers there who had started off as students. Can you believe it??
I am now a proud sponsor of Grace, a little girl in Grade 5 who wants to be a nurse and has a determined look in her eye which tells me she is likely to make it.
Day 4 ILA SAFARI LODGE
Arrived late to Ila Safari Lodge but the fabulous local team was waiting with the biggest smiles. And what can you do when your traffic jam is a herd of elephants? Snuffle down your incredible lunch (Debrah’s vegetarian menu was so good, everyone but Dan went veg for the day) and head out to see the elephants again, of course! I will never get bored of elephants.
Steve is not usually an early bird, and the Silent Safari vehicles are so quiet they gave him away when he started to snore in the back… he woke up pretty quickly when the lions snored back though! But not only did we get to see lions, we learned all about them today too. Xia, a conservation expert who works for Panthera, sat around the Ila campfire with us for an hour and answered all of Steve’s one million and three questions with much more patience than I ever would. She even told us that our lion sighting that morning had been helpful for their tracking purposes, as our guide had sent an update to her team!
It’s absolutely mindblowing how close you can get to the wildlife in these electric game vehicles… and that almost everything from the lodge to the sunset cruise boat runs on solar power!
Day 7 SHAWA LUANGWA CAMP
Neel says Shawa Luangwa Camp is his favourite so far. Steve reckons it’s because the tent rooms look a little like wizard’s hats, as Neel is a huge bookworm. Neel says Steve has no appreciation for the finer things in life, like our massive sunken bathtubs and 270-degree views. I disagree, as Steve spent an hour in the tub before dinner watching the elephants crossing the river!
Our guide, Jacob, told Dan that Luangwa is known as “the Valley of the Leopard”. We should have warned Jacob about how competitive Dan is! Despite seeing hyena, buffalo, Thornicroft’s giraffe (see, I’m learning the names) and hundreds of the most gorgeously colourful carmine bee-eaters today, Dan is determined to see a leopard.
We spent the morning on a Walking Safari, which I thought would make me nervous, but Jacob and our scout were just brilliant. I swear I saw Steve writing down some of Jacob’s wildlife facts and jokes to steal for later, and even Dan has forgotten his desperation to see leopard after an afternoon following a pack of Wild Dogs in the Silent Safari cruiser.
Day 10 KAYA MAWA ISLAND LODGE
I can’t believe it is two quick flights from the heart of one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world (South Luangwa) to sitting on a beach on Lake Malawi with my toes in the sand, but here I am.
Neel and Steve are already competing to see who is the worst paddleboarder. Every time Steve falls in, I take a sip of my lovely Chardonnay. The bartender, whose name is Martin and who has worked at Kaya Mawa for over fifteen years, has already topped my glass up twice. I could definitely get used to this beachside luxury.
I forgot to mention it, but my bedroom here is literally on its own personal island. Steve and I have private stairs from our balcony straight into the crystal clear lake (no salt water, either!). So I spent my final morning reading and snorkelling around my room, which of course was so exhausting I definitely deserve a massage later…
Also, I think Debrah may be that guest… she asked our waitress if there was a recipe for our phenomenal vegetable curry. But then the sweetest thing happened: Cephus, Kaya Mawa’s Head Chef, rushed out of the kitchen with the biggest smile on his face to tell us all about his passion for plant-based food. It seems the ‘Green’ in ‘Green Safaris’ isn’t just about sustainability, but literal green growing things too.
Today we explored the island on Green Safaris’ electric bikes. We visited the Katundu workshop, where a group of local ladies make the most incredible interior pieces for Kaya Mawa and other lodges. I love knowing that I’m staying at places that are beautiful because they support local people and creativity, and I’m definitely buying a tumbled glass chandelier… but how to get it home? Sounds like a Steve problem!
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