I know, it’s a sweeping statement. The “Best Place Ever” has been overused, overdone and is, frankly, over the hill. But nonetheless I am always asked what my favourite destination is – what’s “best” in my humble opinion.
It’s such a stupid question, really because what I love may not be what you love. But, if I’m really, really honest, there is a place I’d drop everything for to go at a moment’s notice, and stay there forever (or at least until they kick me out)… It is (roll of drums, trumpets blaring etc)… Chongwe River Lodge in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi valley.
What makes it special? Well, for one thing I adore the owner, Chris Liebenberg, and his family. Chris is the Captain Jack Sparrow of the Lower Zambezi. He’s a lovable rogue, a diamond geezer and a fabulous host with an absolute passion for his own little piece of paradise. His wit is sharp and his hospitality is legendary.
Chris aside, location plays a huge part in my predisposition. Under the canopy of a grove of Acacia albida (winterthorns) at the confluence of the Chongwe and Zambezi rivers, with towering mountain peaks as a backdrop, this truly is paradise on earth. It’s wild, it’s remote and it’s simply freaking awesome.
The camp is luxury meets rustic, with a string of Meru-style tents offering great levels of comfort and cosiness and all-singing, all-dancing en-suite ablutions.
Then there’s the Albida and Cassia suites, a super luxury two bedroomed tented wonderland with its own plunge pool, lounge and dining room and an equally amazing “honeymoon suite” with similarly exclusive and private facilities.
And finally, Chongwe House, or, as my son calls it – the “ant house” – because it looks like a termitarium after Donald Trump has gotten hold of it.
Yes, Chongwe House is the Trump Towers of termite mounds, a polymorphic architectural wonder in the heart of the bush with fallen tree trunks for furniture and waterfalls for showers.
But amenities are just a part of what makes Chongwe special. I’d be just as contented there in a two-man dome tent with a nought but a shovel and toilet roll.
The best way I can describe it is that it’s Holy Ground. The place speaks to my soul. The Zambezi has full-on conversations with the inner me and the trees are never silent.
Elephants exchange pleasantries as they hoover up albida pods outside your tent, lions interrupt the velvet nights with their yobbery and spotted bush snakes ask your pardon as they hunt painted reed frogs in your bathroom… Do you get the picture? I hope Chris doesn’t mind ghosts, because Chongwe is where I will go when I die. It’s heaven.