We departed from Lusaka with a light aircraft flight into the Lower Zambezi, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although I have spent a fair bit of time around Southern Africa, this would be my first time here and it will certainly not be my last. The flight can be direct, which takes about 35 minutes or you may stop on route so it could be up to an hour. You will be met by your smiling guides from your camp, in our case, Patrick and Butch from African Bushcamps.
The lodge is only a 30 minutes scenic flight from Lusaka. If you fly from Livingstone you would need to generally go via Lusaka unless you’ve arranged to have a private charter. If you are staying at Sausage Tree or one of the lower camps, you can take a boat which is a much more engaging mode to travel than driving. Lolabezi shares the park with Anabezi Molonge, Chiuwe, and Sausage Tree camps.
As we drove off the airstrip, we were surrounded by animals. Waterbuck, elephants and buffalo. Impressed with the amount of wildlife I had seen in the first five minutes, I would have been (almost) quite okay if we had to go home at this point already. The area is different from a lot of safari’s as you spend some time moving underneath a canopy of towering Acacia and Mahogany trees, and then the game drive vehicle pops out every now and enters the more expected safari shrub-like landscape. The diversity of the landscape is amazing and I would love to see it when the plains flood. It is during the rainy season that this area becomes impossible to drive and why it only offers water-based activities during the rainy season. Probably the same reason that they do not have cheetahs or giraffes.
The camp itself is very special. It is quite modern and has everything you need. It is located right on the Zambezi River and in this instance, location – location – location comes to mind.
The main public areas have a river facing lounge, a main dining room that leads to an opulent green-marbled bar where you can sit and enjoy many a sundowner on the jade velvet bar stools discussing the game sightings of the day. In the front is a waterfront fire-pit that offers the most spectacular star gazing on a clear night.
There is a gym for those who want to work off the calories from the excellent food.
The rooms are incredibly spacious all with views onto the Zambezi or on the East side onto the “Discovery Channel”. There are two family rooms, one with a long corridor to move between the lounge and bedroom, perfect for when you want some privacy when you are traveling with friends or family. There are televisions, a bar and a service area in all the rooms and each has its own plunge pool as well as a boma area. The rooms are comfortable and there is plenty of attention to detail – the beds had hand-crafted halo-shaped decorations. There is a lounge seating area in all rooms. I enjoyed the luxury of being able to choose between the indoor and outdoor shower.
There are several light switches that did cause an unexpected disco in my room some evenings and early mornings however once you get the hang of this the rest is pretty straightforward.
The staff is attentive and always smiling. In the camp I met Patrick, our guide who was excellent as well as Butch who is one of the veteran camp staff and an incredible guide, as we were to find out later.
The property provides land and water-based activities outside of the rainy season. This includes fishing, riverboat cruises, and canoeing. They have excellent canoes that make your water journey so much easier. Cruising on the boat down the mighty Zambezi River is also a good way to spot various animals who have come down to the river to drink and it is overall a very tranquil and relaxing activity.
Game drives are great and I saw plenty of leopards, wild dogs, lions, buffalo, elephants, and zebras. Safari in the lower Zambezi is an excellent safari experience.
Birding and walking safaris are also recommended.
There is an on-site spa that offers a variety of treatments and a yoga deck.
Our first evening we were whisked off into the sunset, to enjoy the cocktails while hearing hippo sounds close by from the Zambezi River. When we returned after sunset, the lit-up camp could look a little like a magazine advert as there was a dark shape of an elephant at the front entrance. We were safely ushered around the peaceful creature and settled in for pre-dinner drinks around the campfire. The elephant gently wandered by and curiously examined us with our cocktails before moving toward the river. I imagine thinking that the gin probably wouldn’t do his liver good, and elephants are much wiser than people.
The following morning, we were woken up with a shot of ginger and at 5.30 am collected by our guide for a light breakfast before we would get going on our own early morning game drive. 15 minutes into the drive, passing countless herds of this and that grass eater, some energetic warthogs, and many elephants, some with the cutest babies, we spotted a lion. We had two guides, one local guide who was in training and one veteran with the company (Butch) who had come to the area to train. It was an excellent combination as we got a feel for understanding why having local guides can really enhance your experience. Guides from the area particularly know what flora and fauna and birds are endemic to the area – all very important. Butch has many years of experience in guiding and the bush so his wealth of knowledge was also vital for a good safari experience and learning the behaviors of the animals and identifying many plants specifies. Having a local guide was an added benefit so although he was only learning how to guide and discuss what he knows with clients, he could relate stories of his childhood, the local animals, how many leopards or lions were in the area, and what happens when the rain arrives.
Further on into the drive, there was a clearing and other guests were looking into a tree. I did not see through the high branches but not even 5 meters from the game drive vehicle was a female lion who had just popped her head up, she could smell something and seemed to be moving around a little in circles. Following that our guide spotted the head of an antelope hanging from a tree and 2 leopards. That is 2 of the Big 5 animals, within 10 meters of each other !
We spent some time viewing the big cats, before we ventured off for coffee and freshly baked biscuits overlooking a hippo watering hole.
The area surrounding Lolebezi is well known for its wild dog sightings. They have a pack of around 18 adults who just had 19 cubs, so chances are good that they are seen. Out of respect for the wild, we did not venture to the den and on this visit, I was not lucky enough to see them, although by the time it was time to say goodbye, if I did have a list of birds and animals one could tick off, that would have been one of only a few gaps left.
Food was good and Lolebezi offered a great variety. They had a yummy healthy breakfast and the eggs were cooked to perfection.
Snacks on drives were good.
I particularly enjoyed the bush lunch as a barbeque was set up and it was very special , I highly recommend this experience for guests.
I read that all the food is Halaal-friendly and special dietary requirements are also taken into consideration in advance.
Seating, however (except for the bush barbecue) is at individual tables.
There are a few wonderful camps in the area so there are some price points that can be explored.
Bring your camera, and come for no less than 3 days.
Being so close to Livingstone and Vic Falls, this is always something that can be added at a relatively low cost and logistically pretty straightforward.
Botswana was always high on my list but after this visit, the price point has become quite high so I would probably lean to Zambia for those looking for that wild, exclusive bush experience.
Rooms: The décor is great, it has a considered style that all areas remain true to giving a wonderful overall experience. The suites are glass-fronted with outstanding views of the Zambezi River.
Wifi: this is good, but not in all areas. Not recommended for streaming or downloading but good enough to check emails if required.
The property is recommended for travelers who have sustainability at top of mind.
Overall this stay was one that really left its mark. Between the animals, the friendly people in Zambia and the diversity of the landscape. Definitely add this to your next visit to Africa.
If you are interested in experiencing a safari at Lolebezi with Ker & Downey®️ Africa, get in touch with our travel experts who will help curate an itinerary just for you.
See you out there!