Safely tucked into a window seat on a Royal Air Charters light aircraft from Lusaka, on our way to experience “Secret Season” in one of Zambia’s most diverse & untouched wilderness frontiers – the Lower Zambezi National Park, it is hard to imagine what our experience would be like in what is also known as Green Season – the start of the rains in this part of the world. Taking the 30-minute flight to Royal Zambezi Lodge, the scenery is somewhat unassuming with the passing views of the farmlands below merging into the start of the Zambezi Escarpment, all through periods of wispy white and grey clouds.
The Zambezi Escarpment, which forms part of the Great Rift Valley, bulges and rolls below the belly of our plane in rich hues of browns, blues and emeralds – a picture just wouldn’t do justice to the sheer size of this escarpment. You honestly don’t think you will experience views more beautiful than this and then, just like that whilst slicing through the clouds, it happens. We emerge on the other side of the escarpment unveiling scenes that quite simply, will take your breath away. The escarpment, still dotted with patches of brown, suddenly drops to greet the Zambezi Valley floor – a lush, thick carpet of vibrant green and crowned by the silver and blue reflections of the mighty Zambezi River on the horizon. The Lower Zambezi valley below, wedged between the escarpment and one of the worlds most intriguing rivers, is known for its wildlife-rich landscape as it forms a natural wildlife corridor.
After a smooth landing into Royal’s tarred airstrip, a grey strip that looks like it has been shaved into the thick bush of the valley floor from the air, you are welcomed by the warm and friendly Royal staff as well as Baboons, Impala & various birds whom all find safety in the open areas of the airstrip. The best part of our 5 min drive from the airstrip to Royal Zambezi Lodge, was experiencing the excitement of one of our friends in the group, who’d never been to Africa, suddenly shout out “What is that?” whilst pointing at a large “towering space-rocket-looking thing.” She was pointing at a termite mound. Our guide, intrigued and amused turned off the vehicle and explained the intricacies and ecosystem of the termites and how they build their home. As we sat there mesmerized at the brilliance of something so small and sculpted by Mother Nature herself, you wouldn’t have thought that the rest of us had seen a termite mound before on our many safari experiences. These small & interesting creatures are the definition of power in numbers.
Upon arrival at Royal Zambezi Lodge, we are greeted with the warmest smile from Martin, one of the waiting staff, and almost instantly feel part of the “Royal” family. Walking down the stairs to the central area, our senses are overwhelmed by the fresh smells after the rains, the many birds singing, the monkeys playing in the trees ahead and the different shades of green in the bush around the lodge. The tented suites are sitting on the edge of the Zambezi River, with one suite higher up next to the bush spa with spectacular views from above. You get the sense the lodge has been carefully woven into the surrounding environment and wilderness and wildlife have right of way here, how it should be. Looking out at the mighty Zambezi River is breathtaking – the reflections of the sun off the water look as if a thousand diamonds are shining through & dazzling you.
As wildlife has right of way here, we are given an important safety talk by the wonderful management team. It is during this talk that we realize this is no ordinary safari destination. The array of activities on offer due to the merging of land and water makes one realize you could happily be here for over a week in order to fully immerse yourself in all of the experiences. From walking safaris to game drives, fishing, canoeing, river safaris and our favourite on offer – the DNA, meaning, “Do Nothing at All.” Royal is home to an award winning bush spa and the staff encourage you to spend some time relaxing at the lodge, enjoying your suite with private plunge pool & outside bath, pampering yourself at the spa, a spot of yoga on your deck or at the spa, reading a book in the hammock by the infinity pool, birding & nature walks around the lodge and afternoon naps to the sound of Secret Season thunderstorms rumbling in the distance.