There are many beautiful lodges in Namibia, but Zambezi Mubala Lodge in the Zambezi region (formerly called Caprivi) is one I’ll always remember for being something different. With views of the Zambezi River everywhere you look, it’s far from a desert landscape. It's more reminiscent of lodges downstream at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia, with sunsets, boat cruises, fishing and a birding safari to keep you happy.
A boat trip along the Zambezi River is always a treat, a chance to see wildlife and enjoy expansive views from the water. This ferry ride goes a bit too fast to really spot any birds properly, but there’s plenty time for that later.
If you love to wrap yourself up in nature and enjoy bird-watching or fishing you’ll be in heaven at Zambezi Mubala Lodge, part of The Gondwana Collection. It’s tucked under tall Natal mahogany, jackalberry, common cluster fig and marula trees on the edge of the river, offering a glut of river views.
You get to your cabin by a raised boardwalk under a canopy of trees. ‘Mubala’ is the local Silozi word for colour, and when you see your cabin you’ll realise how appropriate it is. The soft blues and aquamarine tones inside reflect the colours of the water and sky, the bright greens outside echo the surrounding riverine vegetation.
Blond wood floors accentuate the feeling of airiness and space, there’s a large bed with mosquito net canopy, armchairs for relaxing, an aircon to deal with hot summer days, an enormous shower and a small kitchenette with fridge, kettle and basin at the back. A wood-and-glass-bead curtain in soft blues and greens hangs in the long window in the dressing area.
When we stayed at Zambezi Mubala, a small group of Belgians arrived at 19:00 in the evening and were gone by 7:30 the next morning. I don’t know if they’d had a snafu of some kind, but I can’t imagine they got the full benefit of staying here. To do that, you should stay at least two nights so you can participate in one or two activities as well have time to relax and be present in the moment. Only then can you appreciate the privilege of spending time in one of the most beautiful natural areas in Africa.
Birding safari on the river
If you only have time for one activity at Zambezi Mubala Lodge, make it a foray onto the Zambezi River to see how many of the area’s 450 birds you can spot. We went out for just three hours and racked up 50 or more different species, something that might take you the whole day in the more arid parts of the country.
See white-fronted bee-eaters line up in formation outside their holes in the river banks, watch flocks of around 15 water thick-knees strut up and down on a sandbank on the river’s edge then fly off in unison as the boat approaches. Keep your eyes peeled for clawless otters; our pilot Harrison Sikumba pointed out eight of them swimming towards us, but they ducked out of sight before we could get a photo. I’ve never seen more than two at any one time, so it was a thrilling moment nonetheless.
A water monitor dropped from a branch into the water with a plop. A big croc on the sandbank moved with amazing speed and a huge splash into the water. An enormous pod of hippos repeated the manoeuvre in reverse, rushing out of the water – weird behaviour because they usually feel safer in the water. Harrison explained that the water was too shallow for them to dive and submerge completely, which is what they prefer.
It was an exhilarating boat cruise, with binos, cameras and our necks working overtime. If birding is your thing, don’t miss time on the water here.
Apart from a birding safari on the river (see above), which is our pick of the activities for anyone interesting in birding and photography, there’s lots more to do.
Enjoy a nature walk
Go on a nature walk on the conservancy and let your guide interpret small tracks and signs, tell you about insects, trees, birds and animals you come across. You can also go to see the bird colonies in the river banks.
Don’t miss a sunset/sundowner boat cruise
Go tiger fishing
The Zambezi is renowned as one of the best places to go sport fishing for the mighty tiger fish. You can get a licence and all the tackle you need at the lodge, then spend a few hours of fun pitting your skills against the tigers.
Join a full-day excursion to Victoria Falls
Go on an excursion to Chobe
Chobe River Camp is only about 75km away from the Ngoma border post into Botswana and the Chobe National Park, so it makes an ideal full-day game drive. Ask about this at reception, or do it as a self-drive option. Some animals you might see in this western part of Chobe are big buffalo and elephant herds, zebra, giraffe and sable antelope. You might even see lion, leopard or spotted hyena, and you’ll certainly be treated to the sight of some of Chobe’s big baobab trees. (Just make sure you take your passport and have a visa if you need one for Botswana.)
Swim in the pool
Spend time relaxing next to the river
Spend an hour or two in chairs on the deck near the bar. Order a Zambezi colada (pina colada with a twist) and read a book or keep watch for birds like black-collared barbet, Heuglin’s robin, swamp boubou and some of the multitude of birds that live here. You may even spot a water monitor lumbering past.
Sit around the fire pit before dinner
In between the main bar and restaurant decks is a fire pit where you can feel the river sand between your toes and gaze into the dancing flames of a camp fire in the evenings. It’s a chance to meet some of your fellow guests and perhaps even swap stories. If they rave about a particular activity you haven’t done yet, there may still be time to make it happen.
Enjoy a meal on the deck
Walk along the boardwalk
Relax on your private deck
Sit on the private deck of your cabin to enjoy the view out over the river as the heat seeps out of the day and the sun starts the daub the sky with blobs of pink and orange. Or park there in the early morning with a mug of coffee to watch the sunrise and listen to the dawn chorus.
Like it? Pin this image!
Namushasha River Villa: one of Namibia’s superb Zambezi lodges
Chobe river Camp in Zambezi region, Namibia: things to do there
River highlights of north-eastern Namibia
Copyright © Roxanne Reid - No words or photographs on this site may be used without permission from roxannereid.co.za