Nestled on the banks of the mighty Zambezi, we explore the beauty, tranquility and luxury wilderness adventure that is Tsowa Safari Island.
The sound of the birds and the rustle of our feet trampling on fallen leaves and branches seems to quieten as we turn the corner and come face-to-face with a majestic, hundreds-of-years-old baobab tree. It’s an extraordinary feeling, standing in front of one these beauties for the first time in your life. Even more so when it’s on a little paradise island nestled on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River.
A WILDERNESS ADVENTURE
As we continued to walk, mesmerised, around the enormous trunk of this ‘tree of life’, we were delighted to see a table set up with champagne and orange juice, especially for us, to toast this special occasion.
This island bush walk was just one of the many activities we experienced while visiting Isibindi Africa Lodge’s remarkable Tsowa Safari Island near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
True safari luxury, Tsowa is a little piece of heaven and by far one of the most carefully thought out and sustainably designed lodges we’ve ever visited.
With eight, beautifully appointed luxury tents, Tsowa is the perfect retreat for modern day adventurers who enjoy immersing themselves in the surrounding wilderness.
Our hosted group had arrived the day before after quick flights from Durban to Joburg and then Joburg to Victoria Falls airport, followed by a one-and-a-half-hour trip (including road transfer, a 4×4 game drive and a 10-minute boat ride).
It didn’t take long for us to unwind and embrace the tranquility and solitude this exclusive getaway offers and the intermittent cell phone signals soon started to feel like a blessing as we sipped our ice-cold sundowners alongside the Zambezi while watching a large bloat of hippo play and honk nearby.
After dinner on our first night, sitting under magnificent stars with the fire crackling and eerie sounds of leopard calling in the distance from the mainland just across the water, lodge manager Eric Maruhwa shared a bit about Tsowa’s interesting history.
The true magic of this luxurious wilderness lodge, it seems, is the passion and heart that went into its design and creation. Isibindi Africa Lodges founders Brett and Paige Gehren took their time deciding where to place the lodge on this private uninhabited island, even ‘bush camping’ on various sites before deciding where each luxurious tent would be placed.
Of utmost importance to them was that the property be built with respect to nature and that it blended in as much as possible with the natural environment. There are no cement foundations. The riverbank was not disturbed during construction and trees were built around, preserved and incorporated into the lodge’s architecture. You really feel like you are engulfed in the heart of this natural habitat.
SHEER SAFARI LUXURY
Each incredibly comfortable (and sizable) tent is a luxurious safari haven hidden under the tree canopy with all the amenities you would expect from a lodge of this caliber. Think indoor and outdoor showers, bar fridges, stylish finishes and fabulous views. Absolute heaven.
The packages are almost entirely ‘all-inclusive’, with delicious meals, snacks and drinks included. Every night we dined like kings … three-course meals (cooked in front of us), served with a selection of top South African wines.
Because it is small and intimate, Tsowa also offers incredible flexibility in terms of meal times and activities … you can be as busy or as ‘slow’ as you would like to be. And alluring as lazing around the sparkling pool with a book sounds, the activities available are well worth exploring!
Included in each stay are guided island bush walks, game drives, bird watching, river cruises and fishing. Additional charges apply for guided game walks and canoeing (no kids under 16 allowed), as well as day trips to Victoria Falls or Chobe National Park.
We enjoyed a magnificent game drive in the Zambezi National Park, as well as a thrilling canoe adventure on the Zambezi (complete with crocs and hippo all around us!).
The birdlife, both migratory and indigenous, is prolific and Tsowa has become a popular destination for birders who are looking to tick off some ‘firsts’ on their sightings list.
After a few nights spent on this remarkable piece of paradise, the lovely staff waved us off as we jumped into the boat and sailed towards the mainland to catch our transfer back to the airport. Needless to say, it was hard to integrate back into the ‘real world’ after spending a few days on this exquisite, remote African island … but that is all the more reason to start planning a trip back soon!
Things you need to know before you book your stay…
Minimum stay of two nights (three-night stays include a trip to Vic Falls). No children under 12 years. Guests are transferred from the airport in closed, air-conditioned vehicles to a private entrance to the Zambezi National Park, and then in an open 4×4 vehicle to the river’s edge, followed by a quick boat trip across to the island. Rates (which are around $485 – $580 US, per person, per night) exclude flights, road transfer, park fees and Isibindi Foundation levies. Details: [email protected], www.tsowasafariisland.co.za
Text: Leah Shone