By Rudo and Mike
Early morning, coffee in hand standing on the beautiful deck overlooking the Zambezi. Silence broken only by the sound of the hippos in the distance, the bird calls and the lapping water. You feel as though you are in your own peaceful, private African paradise, with an opportunity to reconnect with nature and also experience the Victoria Falls away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist city it has become.
Chundu Island lies 21km from the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi river, and is a private island run by the Seolo Africa Group. The name originates from the name of the area and the Chief who lived in the area. Established in November 2017, this luxury secluded Zimbabwean island resort is only accessible by boat, and is a stone’s throw away from the Zambian Boarder. National Parks have, in recent years, started opening up a few of their larger game reserves around the country to allow individual, private enterprises to showcase the best of Zimbabwe’s beautiful flora and fauna in their own peculiar formats. This gives the resort an air of exclusivity which is extremely desirable when you’re looking for the experience of an African escape.
We have just spent a glorious weekend there. Before a trip, planning and logistics can be a nightmare (especially when going to an island!) but the Seolo Africa staff take care of all that and are in constant communication organising transfers, giving you peace of mind. Our journey starts quite early from Robert Mugabe International Airport to the Victoria Falls Airport. Arriving well in time, we have an opportunity to wander around the rain forest and the city, before eating a scrumptious full English breakfast at the Victoria Falls Hotel.
Our transfer arrives to collect us at 13:00, and we set off! The trip by road takes an hour, but time passes by unnoticed as we take in the scenery and a tower of giraffes who seem to have also been celebrating “World Giraffe Day”. Next up was a 5-minute boat transfer to the Island, and at this point excitement builds up even more as you can see Chundu Island in the distance. After being warmly received by the Captain, fondly referred to as Captain Ed and given a brief safety talk we head off on the calm waters of the Zambezi!
Upon arrival, we are warmly received by the staff, refreshments in hand we take in the wondrous setting from the main deck overlooking the white sand beach and the Zambezi. Zimbabwe being a landlocked country, beaches are found in very few areas, but this was our first time seeing such a beautiful sandy private beach. After being informed that temperatures drop in the evenings and early mornings my heart swells at seeing the outdoor fire pits. I immediately picture sitting around the glowing flames, looking over the river.
The resort’s flowing spaces were created and decorated with natural and mostly local materials to reflect the beauty of the area. The use of blues and warm lighting gives a soothing and calming effect, putting you into relaxation mode immediately, as well as giving a contemporary safari-chic feel.
Chundu Island, in its untamed environment is as posh as it gets. It offers more than the usual hotel. With eight luxury “glamping” suites, Chundu Island has made it possible to live comfortably on a remote scenic spot. As part of the “glamping” spirit, living at a place that no one has ever imagined or experienced, is what makes this kind of vacation unique. The suites offered the best views from our private decks, complete with loungers and day beds that overlook the shimmering river. You can slip on the warm robe you’ll find there, and flop into your extra king sized bed, enveloped in a draped net (to keep the mozzies at bay). The atmosphere of the suite is calming, with the use of neutral décor in natural tones and blues, and there is a large tub to soak after a long day on safari or, if you prefer, an outdoor shower in the afternoon or in the evening underneath the starry sky.
The whole camp and facilities have been established using the latest methods in environmental sustainability. There is an impressive solar farm on the island that powers the lodge and all of the suites as well as individual solar geysers for each suite minimizing the impact on the environment and the carbon footprint. The water level is 3m down on last year so they have had to build up the surrounding banks with hundreds of bio-technology cement pocket sized bags filled with beach sand. This material has, apparently, been designed so that the sand will eventually soften the material blending it into the environment allowing grass to grow through its seams with the roots halting the progress of any erosion.
The sunset cruise with other guests is always a favourite with knowledgeable guides driving you along the banks of the river lined with numerous Ilala Palms reaching high into the setting sun. It is there that one has those never-to-be-repeated, long interesting chats with people that were once complete strangers thrown into your space by the infinite Universe. These include two young guys who have come up from Durban complete with Drone, Go Pros and the latest photographic equipment to create high quality marketing material for the owners.
“The essence of any top-drawer tourist establishment is a 5-star chef and kitchen staff. This was no exception”
We’re provided with an excellent dinner to savour on the large dining platform overlooking theZambezi with the gush of nearby rapids filling the evening air with the crisp clear sounds of Africa. On the second day we treat ourselves to a late lie-in before a hot shower and a scrumptious breakfast.
Chundu Island offers guests two activities per day which is included in the rate; these include sundowner cruises, canoeing the zambezi, fun fishing, guided Safari Walks through the Zambezi National Park, island walks and Safari Game Drives. There is also a selection of children’s activities that are sure to keep the little ones very busy and active at Chundu Island.
Our activity for the day is canoeing down the mighty Zambezi. We’re escorted in a fishing boat some 5km up river to waiting inflatable canoes along with two very knowledgeable guides. Then, after a debrief on safety issues we slowly meander downstream, ever vigilant for those scary looking Nile Crocodiles that seem to spend an inordinate amount of time basking in the sun on sandbanks.
The whole thing about staying in an exclusive place like Chundu Island is to take time out from the endless rush of the city; to just relax and let the sheer tranquillity of nature slow you down and give you time for reflection. You can choose whether you want to partake in long lunches with power afternoon sleeps or to sit in a fishing boat all day with a box full of cold beers watching Tiger Fish chasing after your fishing lures.
Chundu Island is the ideal setting to relax and enjoy the serenity of the picturesque Zambezi National Park. The peace experienced in these vast open spaces is second to none.- NZiRA Travel Zimbabwe, Issue 13 http://www.nzira.co.zw