Sindabezi Island, Livingstone, Zambia

Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Trip Diary

Spectacular colours as the sun sets by the Victoria Falls

Spectacular colours as the sun sets by the Victoria Falls

TONGABEZI LODGE is a romantic hideaway on the banks of the Zambezi River, just upstream from Victoria Falls. Privately owned and run, Tongabezi combines exclusive ambience with the warm hospitality of the Zambian people. Whilst at Tongabezi, I am staying on their exclusive private island, Sindabezi Island. 

After check-in, formalities and a light lunch in the “Look Out” at the main lodge Tongabezi, it’s time to depart for the island.  My stay at  SINDABEZI ISLAND begins with a short speed boat ride (around 15-mimutes) down the Zambezi River to where the island is located. There is ample opportunity for game viewing along the way as you pass close to the shores of Zimbabwe where animals wander down from the Zambezi National Park (on the Zimbabwe side) to drink at the river’s edge. Sindabezi Island is named after a small river – the River Sinda – that runs through the island. The island, which is completely private, offers a unique camp in an idyllic and pristine setting.

The island sleeps a maximum of 10 guests in five, open-fronted, thatched chalets, complete with wooden decks overlooking the mighty Zambezi. Each beautifully appointed room has either double or twin beds, en-suite bathrooms beautifully appointed with copper basin, an open fronted toilet offering “a unique loo with a view”. Some rooms offer indoor showers whilst others offer outdoor under the stars shower cubicles.  Please note that the camp is 100% solar powered – there is no electricity on the island and rooms are lit with solar by night. Every room has a canvas, which can be closed at night time, but most guests prefer to keep it open and wake up to the views over the river. An electronic safe, basic amenities/toiletries and mosquito nets complete the overall comfort of the rooms.

Livingstone_all aboard_1

All aboard the Sindabezi boat

The main camp area is set on the middle of the island and is the perfect place to relax, unwind and simply enjoy the peace and tranquility of the small island. Around the small island are various nooks where one can relax in private on a sun lounger enjoying the views and wandering wildlife.  All meals are held in the communal dining area or al fresco under the African stars. After dinner, enjoy a nightcap by the camp fire before retiring for the evening.  A tree house deck up in a giant mahogany provides another venue for private meals or respite from the hot September heat.

One of the advantages of staying at Sindabezi is that a variety of activities are included in the daily price and tailored to one’s wishes so that you get the best of the Island and the Zambezi. On the first evening, we opt for a sunset boat cruise.   The island has two flat-bottomed river boats which are the only means of transport to and from.  They are also designed to move over a variety of surfaces from the rocky outcrops to small rapids. A boat safari is also one of the best ways to capture the beauty of the Zambezi River.  Cooler packed, we head out with Ronald, our skipper for the duration of my stay. The river is a magnet for a variety of wildlife.  A short distance from the camp, we come across a large herd of breeding elephant.  Cutting the engine so as not to disturb the herd, we drift by the elephants as they go about foraging and drinking, oblivious to our presence. We continue further, the cool waters an attraction for a variety of antelope including waterbuck, impala, buffalo and a rowdy troop of Chagma baboons.  We cut across the shimmering river, the scenery spectacular as we pass by ancient baobabs their up-side-down branches enhanced by the amber sun as it begins to set in the distance. After sundowners and a few spectacular pictures, we head back to the island.  Drinks are enjoyed around the camp fire before we dine out under the stars and magical African sky.  The food on Sindabezi Island is worth a mention. From their eco-friendly kitchen, a combination of local flavors and international flair are freshly prepared and the meals were some of the best I have enjoyed on safari.   An assortment of chilled drinks are readily available from the camp bar and service is always on hand with a smile.

 September is renowned for being one of the hottest months in Zambia and as temperatures soar well above 35° Celsius in the shade. Whilst swimming is not allowed by the island, guests at Sindabezi Island are welcome to use any of the facilities at the main lodge.  These include a swimming pool with rock feature, day beds and variety of sun loungers.  The “Look Out” area offers complimentary Wifi and there is a lovely curio shop and Spa facility. (A massage therapist offers massage in the privacy of your chalet on the Island).  

There are a variety of activities which are included in the daily rate when staying at Tongabezi. They include; canoeing on the Zambezi, island lunches, Sampan floating candlelit dinners, a visit to Mukuni Park,  a tour of the Victoria Falls (Zambian side / entry fees are extra), guided bush walks, Museum tours, fishing, games drives in open 4 x 4 vehicles in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (park entry fees are extra) and Maramba Market visit. One of the highlights of my stay was the visit to Tongabezi’s Tujutane School (http://www.tujatane.com/), a fantastic school supporing the kids of Tongabezi staff and surrounding villages. 

Livingstone is one of the adrenalin capitals of Africa and if the above activities are not enough, then there is a host of additional

early morning on the river

early morning on the river

activities to choose from.  Test your nerves by white water rafting  the Zambezi or taking a dip in the Devils Pool on Livingstone Island situated on the edge of the Victoria Falls.  During the months of March, April and May when the spray from the Falls are at their highest, take to the skies by  helicopter  (either 12 or 24 minute flights are on offer) or micro-light flight through the gorge.  Whatever your fancy,  Brian, the Island manager and his capable team, will look after your every need to ensure an unforgettable Livingstone experience.  After a fantastic three nights, I bid the Island and Livingstone fairwell. Its definitely a destination in southern Africa not to be missed.

According to Fodor’s travel guides, Sindabezi Island is currently one of the top 10 eco lodges in Africa.

 

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