I used to be such an organized person. I had a responsible job where I juggled many important things. I had meetings and messages, and events and proposal deadlines, and somehow, I did it all, and I did it well.
Now that I have somewhat less to handle, I don’t handle it as well. I am too relaxed. I don’t obsess about details, I don’t wake up in the middle of the night gasping about something I may have forgotten, I don’t even keep a notepad by the side of my bed to write things down that wake me in the night.
When I was making arrangements for this trip, AdventureMan said to add on a few days at the Chongwe River Lodge, so I told the travel guy at Robin Pope Safaris to book us at the Chongwe River Lodge. Then, I just paid what the invoice said and never thought about it again. If you go to the RPS page, it will show you Chongwe River HOUSE, and that is where we thought we were staying. When we arrived, we were a little disconcerted to discover we were at the Chongwe River Camp, not the house, but our tent/cabin faced a pod of hippos, and we were immediately enchanted, and sometimes things happen for a reason, you know? We knew we were there for a reason, and just relaxed and enjoyed what the camp had to offer.
And oh, WOW, what the camp had to offer. First, every tent is situated to have a fabulous view, and the front of the tent is all clear net, you CAN close it if you want to, but you don’t have to, you have absolute privacy with on one looking in. They have a wide range of activities, lots of water sports, fishing, kayaking, hiking, fly camping . . . so much to do! Or . . . you can do nothing at all, too.
Our view overlooked a pod of hippos. All day and all night long, we could hear hippos. In the middle of the night, a hippo mom and a baby hippo were grazing two feet from the entrance to our tent – when I got up to watch, they quickly slipped back into the water.
That might disturb some people, but it totally enchants me! I was told some people get grumpy because they can’t sleep, that they request earplugs . . . I cannot imagine. I love the sounds, and somehow, it makes me feel safer inside knowing wild things are roaming around at night. I’ve always felt human beings were the far more dangerous threat than the animals.
So I will bore you with a bunch of photos, and you will see the things I love – details of the tents and lounge and dining areas, and photos that I wish had sound attached so you could be lulled to sleep by the laughter of the hippos.
Zambia was experiencing a huge airplane fuel crisis while we were there, so flights were being consolidated. One night, there was NO fuel at any of the major airfields. Here us the fuel storage at Chongwe:
Dining in the bush – and the food was great. Because it is the middle of winter in Zambia, nights can be chilly, and we had charcoal braziers between diners at night to keep us from shivering. It was toasty warm! When we would get back to our tents, there would be hot water bottles warming our beds, so we could just jump in.
This is how the camp would look at night when we would come back from a game drive or a boating trip – purely magic, with all the twinkling candles. The camp offers fishing, hiking, game drives, kayaking, all kinds of activities, or . . . just chilling:
These are “my” hippos – oh, this just made my time at Chongwe River Camp, hearing their laughter, hearing their arguements. Just up the river all the animals would come down to drink at dusk. I could sit and take photos and never intrude on them – warthogs, impala, elephant, waterbuck, geese, heron, egret, ibis . . . and lots of baboon.
This was a great thrill for me – an elephant swimming to one of the Zambezi islands. Don’t worry, I was using my great telephoto, I was not that close. We did not bother the elephant, we kept our distance.
Morning dawns cold and early. We have breakfast around the campfire and head out once again on a game drive. This is about the coldest I have been in a long time, and when we come back, I buy a heavy sweater.
At lunch, we are asked whether we would like duck breast at dinner, or beef stroganoff. Our entire table opts for the duck breast in a sweet chili sauce, served over cous cous. Imagine, a million miles from anywhere, and eating and sleeping like kings.
As we finish our afternoon game drive, we end up in a long line of traffic returning to the lodge – the young lions like to walk in the road. More like sauntering in the road, after all, they are the kings, we are the gawkers, so we all just toodle along behind as they take their sweet time walking along. It was a fun moment, but meant that we just barely got back to the lodge in time for the dinner bells, a man playing on one of those wooden xylophones with the tinkly wooden sound. It’s an inviting way to be called to dinner.
When they finally had us all seated for dinner – remember, there is a maximum capacity at Savute Elephant Camp of 24 guests – there was an expectant pause. Then, from the kitchen area came a conga line of all the staff, kitchen staff, chambermaids, laundry staff, grounds people, game trackers and managerial staff, black and white together, singing “Cmon everybody”. They danced all around the dining room, oh what fun. Then they gathered at the bar/lounge area and sang a song that started “Beeee-you-ti-fuulll Savute (clap clap clap), Beeeee-you-ti-fuuullll Savute (clap clap clap) I will never forget . . . . Beee-you-ti-fuuullll Savute”. And then they sang the same for Botswana (clap clap clap) and for Aaf-reee-kah (clap clap clap) and I am embarassed to tell you, but seeing them all together, working so hard, so graciously, to give us a good time, I just cried. Tears just rolled down my face, I couldn’t help it. It was so beautiful.
The whole idea of Savute Elephant camp is so beautiful, and the graciousness and hospitality is so personal and genuine, I just loved it.