Many, including Zambians themselves, have called Zambia authentic Africa as it harkens back to another era on the continent. From safaris to sleeping under the stars, to village visits and dancing in the dark, time seems to have stood still in this seductive southern Africa country.
Aside from the bygone ambiance, Zambia has also managed to remain off the radar. Unlike many other African destinations, game drives feel intimate and camps feel undiscovered and unto themselves only adding to the allure. However, a buzz is building into a notable hum as savvy travelers descend upon this destination to experience a country that has a rich history in conservation and responsible tourism. It’s also peaceful yet culturally diverse with more than 70 tribes living seamlessly side by side. It sounds like utopia.
With Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, in residence, it may be. Come to see for yourself and experience Zambia while it still feels wild and beautifully untouched.
November 18th - November 28th, 2020
Group size: 6-10
Deadline to book - March 18, 2020, or before
Gallery credits: Village Girl-Ted Alan Stedman/Leopard-Karen Loftus/Deck-Tongabezi/Baby Elephant- Karen Loftus
About the Trip
There are so many alluring elements to this evocative spot. If you’re going for the game, you might see the big five before breakfast on a drive or on foot as bush walks were made legendary in this land. Regardless, the sundowners and the scenery will steal your heart.
The camps are rustic yet luxe while the city sleepover in Johannesburg is downright decadent. In all spots, the culture and the cuisine are top-notch and the guides incredibly impressive.
Village visits are rich, interesting, and immersive. The women and girls that we will be privy to throughout this trip are well worth celebrating and are sure to inspire.
(This is the most intimate WAT trip with a max of just ten. If you're looking for up close and personal, it doesn't get any better than this. Space is very limited. An early commitment is highly encouraged in order to secure your space.)
Dates - November 18th - November 28th, 2020
Days - 10 Days/9 Nights
Size - Minimum of 6, Maximum of 10
Style - Adventure, Empowerment & Culture
Needs - 30% deposit to hold your spot.
Full payment due - March 18th, 2020.
Treats - Safari, Women’s Empowerment, Village Visits
Accommodations - Chic Boutique in City & Luxury Lodges on safari
Host - Karen Loftus
Fees - $7,300 USD
Day to Day Itinerary
Day 1 | November 18th, 2020
Upon arrival into the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg - South Africa’s largest city and the gateway to the rest of Africa - you will be met and transferred to The Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa where you can enjoy the rest of the day and the evening at your leisure.
Set among lush acres of landscaped gardens, it’s easy to see that this 5-star boutique hotel was once a luxurious private residence. Located in the heart of Johannesburg, a mere 6 km from central Sandton, and 20 km from Johannesburg city center, this urban oasis offers the upmarket traveller a mix of both luxury and convenience.
Image courtesy of The Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa
The Fairlawns has created an intimate and private atmosphere where the world’s most discerning and prestigious personalities have been known to converge. Their chic suites are individually decorated in varying themes ranging from Eastern influence to French provincial with a nod to South Africa’s recent history. The Balinese style spa and gardens are a pitch-perfect place for relaxing, rejuvenating and restoring after a long journey into Jo’Burg. You have the day and the night to decompress and explore the expanse of the grounds or the sprawl of the city.
(This day you are on your own and activities are at your own expense, be it dinner, drinks, spa treatments or any excursions.)
Day 2 | November 19th, 2020
After an early morning breakfast at the hotel, you will have a private guided tour and a full day excursion in Johannesburg. You will visit Vilakazi Street in Soweto and the Mandela House Museum. Vilakazi is one of South Africa's most famous streets – the only one in the world to have housed two Nobel Prize winners; Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Other stops throughout the day include the Hector Petersen Museum and Memorial Site, The Apartheid Museum, Soccer City – home to the opening and closing functions of the Soccer World Cup and Maboneng where you will be privy to a two hour hop on, hop off, street art and graffiti tour.
Johannesburg’s Inner City is quickly becoming a graffiti and street art destination. Top artists from around the world are arriving in Jozi to paint while local and international travelers are flocking to Jo’burg to witness this thriving and edgy graffiti culture and the new hip hub of Maboneng, home to a slew of ethnically interesting restaurants, lively rooftop bars and plenty of shopping options.
We will finish this rich and interesting day with a visit to the very trendy Neighbourgoods for top shopping with local South African designers. We’ll also indulge in a hip mix of the city’s best foods in the robust market which celebrates Johannesburg’s ethnic diversity.
This evening we finish in Maboneng where we will celebrate Johannesburg’s food, fashion and the feminine force in this South African city. Details regarding the night’s welcoming event and the guests involved to follow.
Day 3 | November 20th, 2020
South Luangwa National Park
After an early morning breakfast at the Fairlawns, you will be transferred to the O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg where you will take your scheduled flight to Mfuwe via Lusaka. Upon arrival in Mfuwe, you will be met and transferred to Nkwali Camp where you are staying for the next four nights.
This rustic chic retreat is run by the famous Robin Pope Safaris. Situated on RPS’s private land outside of the park, there is a private game area behind camp as well as an exclusive access into the park, accessed either by boat or across the pontoon.
On these exclusive Nkwali game drives, you will be taken away from the busy Mfuwe sector, which means you may have packs of wild dog and elusive leopards in trees all to yourself. Aside from the exclusivity, RPS is known for their walking as well as their mobile safaris.
Their long-time guides and lodge managers know the bush like the back of their hand. You could sit and listen to them and take in their many tales from day into night. With a little luck, they may be dining with us over dinner to share a tale or two.
Upon your arrival to Nkwali today, lunch will be served in the buzz of it all, on deck. Over lunch, we will be privy to a special guest who will join us to discuss the work that she and a local organization are doing with local girls in the village. It includes all from life skills to avoiding abuse, to increasing low self-esteem and staying in school to train women to support themselves when they have little or no scholastic education.
After lunch, we will be attending a local Girls Empowerment meeting with our guest in the village. A game drive follows as does dinner on deck, a great finish to your first day at Nkwali.
Day 4 | November 21st, 2020
South Luangwa National Park
It's an early rise and shine at this very exclusive retreat. It’s a game drive, followed by lunch on the deck. Then you have the afternoon to yourself to kick back, relax, nap, read or write as there is no visit nor visitors scheduled in for today.
Enjoy the African ambiance in the camp and the steely, soul-sating silence of the bush. It's unlike anywhere else in the world. An afternoon tea and game drive to follow as well as a seductive sundowner in the bush before we head back for dinner on the deck. It’s a perfect day and yet another authentic slice of African life in the bush.
No need for TV here as bush theatrics go well into the night here. Nkwali’s six exclusive open-air chalets (with a metal gate at night), open-air en-suite bathrooms, magnificent views of the river, bamboo woven walls and thatched roofs are located right on the banks of the Luangwa, overlooking the National Park. This is prime real estate in the bush.
As Nkwali is centrally based on a ‘hippo highway’, chances are you may be lulled to sleep each evening by Luangwa’s own lawn mowers as they lumber through camp munching away on the grass below by the river.
Day 5 | November 22nd, 2020
South Luangwa National Park
There will be an early rise and shine this morning. We want to rise before the animals retreat as this is often the best time for game viewing. Coffee, conversation and once in a lifetime sightings will have us all a buzz in the bush.
Reflection on the deck after, along with plenty of coffee is what is in order and on offer after the morning drive. You have the late morning to yourself before lunch.
This day, we will be breaking bread with another great storyteller. She is an esteemed female in the area, a highly celebrated wildlife biologist and a globally known lion conservationist who will share her story and her important work with us and with the young women in the region.
You will have some downtime before the afternoon tea, followed by a bush walk or game drive and dinner on the deck.
Day 6 | November 23rd, 2020
South Luangwa National Park
Jetting around in a breezy jeep is the best way to welcome the day. After your buzzy morning in the bush, it’s a leisurely lunch on deck followed by a very authentic village visit. This local village is home of the Kunda tribe who migrated from the Luba area in Congo in the first half of the 19th century.
Today the villagers continue to live in a similar and traditional manner. An intimate tour led by a woman from the village is a window into the local life. Depending upon the day, the activities on hand and who is around and about in the village will dictate the nature of our visit, what we and see and experience and whom we will meet. There is nothing staged here. It is a true slice of local life.
Image courtesy of Robin Pope Safaris
After lunch, we will be meeting with a local woman who has been very successful in repurposing local materials and in employing women from the village to make jewelry. We will have tea in the garden with her. An opportunity to shop will follow.
The later afternoon game drive or bush walk will follow. Bush walks and game drives are available twice daily here. As Zambia is known to have the best walking guides in the world it’s well worth experiencing the bush on foot on at least one of your outings. There’s simply nothing better and no one seemingly does it better than Robin Pope's people.
However, the best moments in the bush can be the silent and the still ones, be it the early morning coffee break in the bush or those seductive sundowners that cap off an evening’s drive. Be sure to enjoy your last evening here at Nkwali. Bask in the spirited conversation with your fellow travelers and Robin Pope's esteemed staff. Last, be sure to sneak in one last window on the deck by yourself.
Day 7 | November 24th, 2020
South Luangwa National Park
Image courtesy of Ted Alan Stedman
After a morning game drive and breakfast at Nkwali, you will be transferred to nearby Kafunta River Lodge which is where you will be staying for the next two nights. Kafunta River Lodge is owned and operated by Anke & Ron Cowan who have made the Luangwa Valley their home for the past 20 years. The ten-room lodge is located on the floodplains of the Luangwa River, away from the buzzier area near the park's Mfuwe gate. During the peak season, the lodge accesses the national park via its own pontoon. Exclusivity reigns supreme again!
In addition, Kafunta is well-known for their excellent food, splendid hospitality, and their rustic luxe accommodations. Their tented camps and river chalets are expansive and well decorated with lovely outlooks.
The heart of this lodge is the spacious bar and outdoor dining area. Built around a semi-evergreen wild mango tree and thatched in the traditional style, it offers superb panoramic views over the Luangwa River and the South Luangwa National Park. Adjacent to the bar is an infinity pool and the only natural hot spring tub in all of the Luangwa Valley. This unique hot tub is fed from a source on Kafunta’s grounds, offering a constant temperature of 38 degrees.
You don’t have to leave the comfort of the lodge let alone your chalet to see the drama of the bush unfold here. Kafunta has beautiful sweeping views across the river with the large deck looking out over a marshland and a waterhole. With the hippos bathing, antelope drinking, warthogs playing in the mud, towers of giraffe waltzing by and elephants splashing about, it is a hub of activity day into the night. Keep your camera handy here. A late afternoon game drive will follow at Kafunta.
Day 8 | November 25th, 2020
South Luangwa National Park
Image courtesy of Robin Pope Safaris
An early rise and early game drive kick off the first full day at Kafunta. South Luangwa National Park is arguably one of the best places in the world to see cats. Their famously high concentrations of leopards make it the place to spot one of the most elusive of the big five.
They have their fair share of iconic lions as well. From the hugely popular Garlic and Ginger, two very pale ruling male lions with ginger manes, to the 13-strong female only pride, to the stars of Lion Country: Night & Day, the Hollywood Pride.
In addition, South Luangwa has a fantastic diversity of all kinds of game from the unique Thornicroft Giraffe, to the massive elephant populations, not to mention the 40 thousand plus hippos and huge crocs who can regularly be seen lounging on the Luangwa River itself.
Before this afternoon’s game drive, Karen again will visit with the women and girls in the village to conduct a workshop. Guests are welcome to come along or they can opt to stay back and relax on the property. The late afternoon game drive will follow. Then it’s dinner and drinks on deck for your final evening at Kafunta.
Day 9 | November 24th, 2020 Livingstone, Victoria Falls
Image courtesy of Tongabezi
After an early morning breakfast at the lodge, you will be transferred to the airport for the scheduled flight to Livingstone (via Lusaka). En route to the airport, we will be stopping by Tribal Textiles for a talk, a look and a shop, if interested.
Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to the highly lauded (Conde Nast Traveler Gold List 2018) Tongabezi Lodge where you will be staying for the next two nights.
With a personal valet, a la bush butler, you are sure to be spoiled day into night while staying in one of the six private chalets or one of the five river cottages. The list of activities is endless at Tongabezi and in the surrounds as the property is on the Zambezi River, upstream from the thundering Victoria Falls.
Image courtesy of Tongabezi
Once we arrive, a special meal will follow. This lunch is sure to be a fun one with Vanessa - one-half of proprietors Vanessa and Ben - a female member of her staff and a young female student from the local school, the one that Vanessa started over 20 years ago. We will see the female perspective in Zambia, from varying angles, and from several perspectives.
After lunch, we head to the neighboring Victoria Falls, known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya or “the smoke that thunders”. Located on the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe, it is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Combining both the height and the width it is the largest waterfall and the largest single sheet of flowing water in the world.
An evening sunset cruise follows the Falls with dinner and drinks back on the property. You can expect nothing but the best when it comes to meals on site as the Tongabezi Lodge and their nearby Sindabezi Island shares four chefs, two pastry chefs and two full kitchen teams, many of which have been trained internationally.
Day 10 | November 27th, 2020 Livingstone, Victoria Falls
This morning you are free to sleep in as we are not chasing the game on an early morning drive. A leisurely breakfast on the property is followed by a visit to the school that Vanessa started years ago. The morning starts with an exchange of stories with the young female students and later again with a local group of women that we are meeting in the village.
Lunch back on property follows as does an afternoon on your own. Tongabezi has an endless list of options and activities to take advantage of on-site and in the area. You are free to go full tilt on the property and or arrange on your own any number of things in and around Vic Falls. The choice is all yours for your full and final day in Zambia.
Another alluring option, after ten action-packed days in South Africa and in Zambia, is to simply kick back and relax on the property, in the pool, on the Lookout or Hangout, in your cottage or on your veranda as no other property warrants a wind down quite like this one. It’s easy to see how Tongabezi has been touted #5 Best Safari Lodge in all of Africa, among other accolades.
There is a special send-off planned for dinner and for our final African evening.
Day 11 | November 26th, 2020 Livingstone, Victoria Falls
Image courtesy of Tongabezi
Today you will be transferred to the Livingstone airport to check in for your international and connecting flights.
Until we travel together again…
Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa
There are so many bells and whistles to this opulent property. Set in a portion of what once was a ten-acre estate complete with rolling hills, stables and horses, The Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa today still provides that same secluded and stately ambiance. It’s a go to for the business and the jet set alike with its close proximity to the airport and situated in the sophisticated enclave of Sandton’s Morningside Manor suburb.
It is quite the respite after a long journey into Jo’Burg. Be sure to take advantage of the Balinese spa and their incredible cuisine. You’re sure to have a deep and restful sleep in one of the chic suites, be it the Euro inspired courtyard, or the premier, the latter reflects a different part of South Africa’s history.
Kafunta River Lodge
The Kafunta River Lodge is a classic Zambian safari lodge. With immediate access to South Luangwa National Park, the premier park in Zambia and one of the best national parks in all of Africa, Kafunta’s eight private safari chalets overlook the game rich floodplain and the Luangwa River beyond that.
Their eight Afro-chic chalets with thatched roofs and raised wooden platforms are tastefully decorated and were refurbished in 2014. The hot tub, spa and massages and late night fodder around the fire pit each night add to the allure of this oasis.
With an impassioned and exceptional staff and a guest to staff ratio of 4:1, Nkwali Camp is long known as one of Robin Pope Safaris premier camps. An understated elegance is seen throughout the property and in the six spacious chalets, which offer open viewing by day and closed gates by night. The ensuite showers provide beautiful viewing of the African sky throughout the evening.
Bush walks and game drives are available twice daily. As Zambia is known to have the best walking guides in the world it’s well worth experiencing the bush on foot on at least one of your outings. However, the best moments in the bush can be the silent and the still ones, be it the early morning coffee break in the bush or those seductive sundowners that cap off any evening’s drive. There’s simply nothing better.
This iconic lodge is the pitch perfect finish to this trip as it remains one of the most sought-after luxury camps in all of Zambia. Nestled on the riverbanks of the Zambezi, Tongabezi Lodge (https://tongabezi.com/) is a mere 12 miles upstream from the thundering Victoria Falls.
Their recent renovation has only upped the already raised ante. However, the real luxury on site here is the lovely staff, their exceptional service and the warmth and stories from proprietors Ben and Vanessa. The setting is genuinely majestic and like nothing you have seen on safari so far. You can top all of this off with the buzz of activities and the many amenities on property and nearby, which allows for a truly deep dive into all of the ambiance and the experiences at hand.
*All images of Zambia are courtesy of Karen Loftus, except for accommodations and if otherwise stated.
Accommodations, Rates, Availability
SHARED ACCOMMODATION: $7,300 USD
Pricing is based on a shared double- occupancy room. 30% of the cost needed in order to confirm the booking.
Payment deadline: March 18th, 2020.
Please note: Payment must be made in full 30 days prior to departure
Availability - This ultra-exclusive program welcomes a minimum of 6 guests, a maximum of 10.
Hover over the image below to see the full BIO on Your Host, Karen Loftus
Karen in South Africa & Zambia
Photo Credit for Gallery: Karen Loftus
Walking safari, Zebra safari & Village dance courtesy of Ted Alan Stedman
So, here’s the deal with Final Notes. It’s the place for me to give you the insider bits on the trip. It’s where we discuss the level of adventure at hand and why we are even doing this trip in the first place.
So...I’m a huge fan of Africa. I have been there a number of times, to eight different countries, a few several times over. When asked which African country is my favorite, I liken it to choosing children. I love them all but for very different reasons.
For several reasons, I chose Zambia as my first African destination and the inaugural trip for Women’s Adventure Travels. I love the raw, unspoiled and slightly undiscovered allure of it all.
As far as digging deep into the culture and communities, I think you are hard-pressed to find any place that does it better than Zambia. In my previous travels there, with every lodge that I stayed in, I was able to see the direct recipient of a portion of our travel dollars and how it was being spent, be it a village well, a school or a women’s group that benefited from our being there.
On top of village visits, we on this Women’s Adventure Travel trip are privy to several special visits that have been scheduled with incredible women of influence and the local girls. So much planning and orchestrating has gone into the arranging of it all which is why I don’t think I could have picked a better kick off for this. I am truly over the moon about this trip.
We are fortunate to be spending quality time with locals--diving deep into their community. After a trip like this, you will have a better sense of the people and the place. You will feel it. I call this ‘sand on your hands’.
However, as is true on any Women’s Adventure Travel trips, you can always opt in or out of as much or as little of these activities as you’d like. Kicking back at the lodge is always an option. The game drives, sundowners and excellent dinners on deck are all in order. These special visits and events are but an added, unbelievable bonus for those looking for some sand.
Regardless, with a start in South Africa, which may very well be my all-time favorite country in all of Africa or otherwise (don’t tell any of the other countries ;- ) followed by a very intimate trip with a mere 6-10 participants in the city, the villages and on safari in the rustic-luxe land of Zambia with serious community immersion, phenomenal lodges, a spirited staff at every turn and great game throughout, this is truly a trip of a lifetime, one that will sate on several levels.
I hope to see you in the jeep!