by Matthew Sterne on March 4, 2013
5 min read

The last time I visited Royal Chundu, on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia, was in September last year. The area was dry and brittle. This time it was February 2013 and the landscape was wholly transformed. From October the rains arrive in Zambia and the area begins to transform, with the river at its highest in February.

We were there to celebrate my brother, Jacques’ birthday and stayed at both Royal Chundu’s luxury River Lodge and Island lodge. There’s no better place to toast to being another year older than in a pool overlooking the mighty Zambezi River. It definitely assuages the woes of growing old.

A happy birthday boy indeed!

A happy birthday boy indeed!

The Royal Chundu Luxury Zambezi Lodges are set on a stretch of private waterway of the Zambezi between Victoria Falls and the Chobe National Park. River Lodge has expansive, truly amazing views across the Zambezi to Zimbabwe but Island lodge is more exclusive with only four suites and a whole staff complement to yourself, to cater to your every need.

We headed out on a canoe trip in an inflatable boat, each with our own private guide to make sure we didn’t topple over or drift awry over the rapids.

The Zambezi River is magnificent, splitting around the islands of green life that pop up here and there. We canoed to Katambora Island and hopped off for a picnic lunch under the trees. A Persian rug was set up with cushions and hammocks in the trees, a full drinks bar, snacks and four people serving us spoilt gentlemen.

Canoeing down the Zambezi River Canoeing down the Zambezi River

After our siesta on the river banks we continued down in our boats to River Lodge. It’s a really wonderful activity that I recommend to everyone staying at Royal Chundu and it’s a great way to experience the Zambezi and the wildlife in its waters – the hippos and crocs especially. Only in Africa. The hippos tend to stick to deeper channels while the canoe trip stays in the shallower waters, so you get a great view of them without getting munched!

I suggest doing as many of the activities around Victoria Falls as possible on your first day staying at Royal Chundu, so that you can just settle in for the rest of your holiday here – there’s so much to do at the lodge that you don’t need to go anywhere else.

Watch the hippos playing in the River

Hippo Love on the Zambezi

Look out for the monkeys

They may look cute but watch out for these mischievous monkeys


While staying at Royal Chundu, go on a sunset and sunrise cruise, fishing, canoeing, bird watching, a village tour and an island walk. There are several more that the lodge managers can help you organise, from helicopter rides to white water rafting. There’s also a luxurious spa to enjoy treatments at, but you can also enjoy treatments in the privacy of your own suite, on the deck overlooking the Zambezi River.

Panoramic view of the Zambezi

Royal Chundu was a magnificent place to spend some down time and quality time with my brother on his birthday. And like my brother, Royal Chundu only gets better with age.

It’s a Relais & Châteaux property, the only one in Zambia, and owner Tina Aponte, with her magnetic personality, and the keen managers really go the extra mile to make sure you have the most special of holidays.

Top 5 Highlights

1. Water, water everywhere – breathtaking views and great photography opportunities. And the canoeing!
2. The location! Royal Chundu is equidistant from both Chobe and the Victoria Falls so while being based at Chundu you can easily go on day trips to both of these great destinations.
3. The Zambian people are just beautiful, really friendly and gentle.
4. Royal Chundu tries to source all of their food locally. They buy their vegetables and fresh breem from the local villagers and fisherman. Find out more about their community and conservation projects on their website.
5. The big eggshell bath tub on the deck at Island Lodge is something else! I enjoyed a massive bubble bath, while listening to the birds and taking in the vistas in the late afternoon. The staff organised everything.

The suites really have that feeling of being away from it all

Colonial elegance meets African charm


TIP: If you have time, I recommend taking a day trip from here to visit the Chobe National Park the park is not too far away. We did the trip and a had a whale of a time floating by boat down the Chobe River, indulging in foodie treats and beers, watching the elephants playing in the water nearby. Click here for great tour ideas.

  What to expect at Chobe – Elephants, elephants and more elephants!

 About Royal Chundu

The 10 riverfront suites feature double showers, an infinity pool, 15 kilometres of private river, a boma, library, business centre, satellite TV, WIFI & cellphone signal, and more. The island lodges consist of four private and exclusive villas with an open-air bath, glass-walled double showers, infinity pool, boma, two lounges, dining area, private dining decks, WIFI and cellphone signal.

For more information, contact one of our travel experts who know Royal Chundu well and can help you plan the best possible trip to this wonderful part of Africa.

Bathing on the Zambezi's banks