By Alicia Erickson, Epicure & Culture contributor
Keep reading to learn about two incredible sustainable luxury lodges in Zambia. If you’re looking for places to stay near Victoria Falls, you’ll love these. Zambia safari tours included!
The motorboat glided across the Zambezi, navigating its way around spiraling currents, sandbars, and lazy hippos.
Riverbanks lined with thick green jungle showcased grazing antelope and warthogs.
As we floated through the peace of the wild, there was an absolute serenity that settled around us.
And before long, our boat pulled up to a sandy slope where we were warmly greeted by our hosts for the weekend.
Welcome To Sindabezi Island
Have you ever dreamed of drinking champagne from a bubble bath overlooking the Zambezi?
Or perhaps lazily dozing off in a hammock while watching elephants drink water from the river?
How about swinging slowly beneath the shade of a baobab tree while snuggled in a hammock?
Welcome to Sindabezi Island, a private island and sustainable lodge on the Zambezi River in Zambia.
Sindabezi is a destination in and of itself, secluded in the heart of the wilderness. The island blends adventure relaxation, nature, and luxury.
And if you’re like me, you might plot to get stranded on the island so you never have to leave.
For a seasoned traveler, I strive to find extraordinary experiences in frequented destinations. In a world-renowned attraction like Victoria Falls, one can feel the strain of increasing tourism and be hesitant to contribute to the carbon footprint.
That being said, the falls are only part of the story of the region rich in wilderness, culture, and history.
From the flourishing national parks alive with animals to the colonial imprint remembered through the housing and railroads in Livingstone Town, there is much for the curious soul to discover.
For travelers seeking an entirely unique experience as well as accommodation that is environmentally and socially conscious, Sindabezi Lodge is the perfect option from which to explore Victoria Falls and its surroundings.
Sindabezi was designed to offer travelers a luxurious haven from which to embrace the wilderness.
And that it accomplishes.
Five open-air tents line the river.
Cushy couches and hammocks dot the island.
The island is plentiful with places from which to read a book, drink a glass of wine, and observe the slow stir of the wild around you.
Zambia Attractions & Experiences
Over the course of my long weekend on Sindabezi, I fell face-first into Zambian culture and wilderness.
Just a ten-minute boat trip away from the mainland and Tongabezi Lodge, the sister lodge Sindabezi is affiliated with, the wealth of activities in the surrounding region are extremely accessible.
Douglas was our trusty driver and guide for the weekend, offering unprecedented knowledge on the history of Zambia, tourism in Livingstone, and conservation of the national parks.
Visiting Victoria Falls
At least one visit to Victoria Falls is recommended, which is a thirty-minute drive from Tongabezi.
My favorite time of the day to visit is early-to-mid-morning before most tourists arrive and before the sun gets too hot.
At this time of the morning, the light reflects off the water, creating rainbows arching over the falls.
If you’re lucky, you may even see a double rainbow. And perhaps have a moment with the falls all to yourself, the roaring of the rushing water drowning out the world around you.
From the starting point of the falls, we embarked on a short hike through the rainforest, past baboon families swinging from trees and cheekily eying human passersby, and to lookout points on the Zambezi.
Zambezi River Safari, Rafting & More
Adrenaline seekers can choose to white water raft down the Zambezi, bungee jump from a bridge above, or swim to the edge of the falls in the Devil’s Pool on Livingstone Island.
In the area surrounding Victoria Falls lies a national park where an afternoon game drive is recommended.
Free from predators, the park is full of other species roaming freely in the grassy expanse.
Zebra and impala are plentiful.
Buffalos watched cautiously as we passed by.
And in the distance, we spotted the slow and steady saunter of the giraffe, its statuesque structure slowly swaying side to side with each careful step.
Relaxation On The Zambezi River
It is not necessary to leave the river to find adventure and fill a day.
And better yet, after a day full with exploration, Sindabezi Island is an absolute haven to retreat to, unwind, and take in one’s surroundings.
On our way back to the island for lunch on Saturday, the boat took a different turn than usual.
We veered off to a secluded sandbar, where a wooden table decorated with vibrant kitenge cloth was set up for a picnic lunch.
We indulged in courses of grilled fish and vegetables, fresh salad and fruits, pasta, and free-flowing wine as we sat overlooking life on the river.
In the evening, one can choose to take a sunset boat ride along the river.
The trip offers a deeper immersion into the secluded life on the Zambezi.
We watched hippos as they cooled in the water from the afternoon sun, while warthogs, antelopes, and herds of elephant grazed on the nearby riverbanks.
One evening, dozens of elephants emerged from the forest and descended to the river’s edge, playfully drinking and splashing in the water.
The boat pulled off to a sandbar just in time to watch the sun spill shades of coral, tangerine, and gold across the sky.
Stepping off the boat, we were greeted by an island perfectly situated for sundowners.
So each evening, without hesitation, I enjoyed the final moments of the day with my toes digging into the sand and a glass of wine in hand, enveloped by the rich rose gold hues before twilight settled in.
Sustainability At These Lodges In Zambia
One of the most outstanding features of Sindabezi is its dedication to natural immersion and to the preservation of the surrounding environment.
Sindabezi Island is run entirely off the electric grid, using solar panels to charge a handful of lamps and wood chips to heat water.
At night, walkways are illuminated by fire lamps and dinner is served under the soft glow of candlelight.
Each meal is prepared with primarily organic and locally-sourced ingredients. Much of the produce is grown in Tongabezi’s Garden of Eden where everything from papaya to pomegranates, avocado to apples flourish.
Beautifully presented three-course meals are accompanied by an array of wines.
After dinner, a crackling fire invites visitors to sit around its flames and swap stories well into the evening.
We tried our hand at mastering phrases from Chitonga, the new words blurring together after the third glass of wine.
Perhaps best of all was looking up to behold the most spectacular masterpiece:
The dark, inky canvas of the night sky painted thick with glimmering constellations.
Giving Back To The Community
Beyond its dedication to environmental sustainability, Tongabezi is invested in the well-being of its surrounding community.
One of its longest-running projects is the Tujatane School, started in 1996.
Tujatane began as a school for the kids in the village surrounding Tongabezi, who previously had no school to attend.
When its doors opened, it had 15 students. Today, over 280 students ages 3-17 attend the school.
Guests are invited to visit the school, which is situated on a lush campus built beneath the shade of flowering trees.
On campus, one can find a library, art center, music room, and an amphitheater where children not only receive an education but are encouraged to explore their creative side.
There is also a canteen where two daily meals are provided.
Buildings are decorated with brilliant paintings from maps of Zambia and Africa to zebra and giraffes.
The school is private and runs 100% on donations, including teachers’ salaries.
Uniforms, school supplies, and tuition fees are also entirely dependent on donations.
Sindabezi and Tongabezi also practice an HIV-conscious policy.
In an effort to acknowledge and reduce the HIV rates in the region, the lodge offers HIV workshops onsite for staff as well as at the school to increase knowledge, and in turn, prevention.
Farewell To Sindabezi Island
During our final morning on our coveted little island, we practiced yoga on a deck overlooking the still waters of the Zambezi.
Not quite ready to leave this perfect little escape, I lingered on the hammock beneath the shade of the trees quietly meditating on the past weekend and committing each intricate sight and sound to memory.
In the rush of the modern world, it is not often we have the opportunity to remove ourselves from technology, commitments, and the chaos of day-to-day life.
Should you ever find yourself with the time and calling to become better acquainted with nature and yourself, I recommend making the journey to the shores of Sindabezi Island, which will surely call you back time and again.
What are your favorite lodges in Zambia for sustainable luxury? Have you ever done a Zambezi River safari or rafting trip? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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