Our Family

Jonathina the Giant Kingfisher

Bridget, a regular guest at Royal, was sitting under the shade of the iconic Sausage Tree at the Royal bar. The large wooden deck that reaches out over the river offering a refreshing breeze off the water while she relaxed with a delicious cocktail in hand – a “Royal Surprise,” her favourite.


Amidst the spectacular view of the Zambezi River, Mana Pools on the horizon and hippos snorting from the island in front of her, a small but constant rustling caught her attention, followed by a “splash.” Bridget looked towards the sound and saw a beautiful bird with something small in its mouth fly towards her and land on a branch in the Sausage Tree above her head. She watched in awe as this visitor ate his snack and he, in turn, watched her curiously observing him. Turning around to Benji, who was grinning from ear to ear from behind the bar, she excitedly pointed towards the bird and said, “Look! What kind of bird is that and what is he eating?”

Benji let out a little giggle and replied, “That is Jonathina, our Giant Kingfisher. She is eating a small fish and is a regular visitor to the Royal Sausage Tree bar. When we first met Jonathina, we also thought SHE was a HE and named “HIM” Jonathan.


In 2011, there were a pair of Giant Kingfishers that visited the lodge and some guests that were getting married at Royal around the time they were spotted. The guests were called Jonathan and Louise, so we named the giant Kingfishers after them. Until we realised that only Jonathan kept coming back.  Jonathan became a member of the Royal family, and we often call out his name on his many visits. It wasn’t until a few months later, one of the Safari Guides noticed us calling Jonathan’s name, that they corrected us with the bird’s gender – it was actually female! We were a little embarrassed at our haste in naming Jonathan and also found it very funny. How were we going to change the name of our friend after getting to know her so well? Our solution to make it more lady-friendly was to name her Jonathina.”


Bridget and Benji shared a good laugh at the story of how Jonathina came to be. However, the time came for Bridget’s next adventure at Royal, and she was spending the afternoon learning to fish on the mighty Zambezi River. “Goodbye Jonathina, you beautiful bird, I have a feeling we will meet again,” she said.


Jonathina flew off and did one more dive into the river as if it was a goodbye gesture in response. She emerged with another catch and landed back on the same branch. As Bridget walked away, she hoped that her fishing skills would be as good as her new friend, Jonathina and that she would have an equally successful fishing adventure before their next meeting at the Sausage Tree bar.