Close to completion in October 2013, brand new Anabezi River Lodge is set to open in April 2014
Anabezi River Lodge : Our full report
For many years there’s been a remote and little-used camp at the eastern end of Zambia's Lower Zambezi National Park. It was originally started in 1999, and called Mushika Camp. Despite a great location, it was used very little. Then in 2004 this was re-built, re-opened and re-named as Ana Tree Lodge, which we first visited in 2007. Sadly, it didn’t compare well with the other camps in the park. In the last year or two it been re-built again; now it’s scheduled to re-open, under the new name of Anabezi River Lodge, in April 2014. We visited in October 2013, to see the progress and meet the new owners.
The plan for this new Anabezi River Lodge is for eleven tented suites, all overlooking the Zambezi or its ephemeral tributary, the Mushika River. There will be two communal areas: a large, main one in the middle of the camp, and a smaller one at the west end – which can function as a separate small, sub-camp for private groups.
At the time of our visit, nine of the eleven planned tented suites at Anabezi had been built, as well as the bigger of the two common areas. The smaller, west-end common area was still under construction.
The main common area has a thatched building with knee-high walls on three sides, currently serving as the bar and dining room. This opens out onto a large timber deck with sunloungers and umbrellas next to the rather inviting pool. In pride of place with the best views of both the Mishuku River bed, flood plain and beyond to the Zambezi is a big pavilion tent, open on all sides, with plenty of comfortable squashy sofas to relax on. Just behind this, to keep out of the wind, is a fire pit on a lovely green lawn with quite contemporary-looking block seats around it.
Linked to Anabezi’s common areas by timber walkways with railings, the 11 tented suites are spacious, built on raised wooden decking with canvas walls pulled taught around an internal metal frame. It was difficult to think of our suite as a 'tent', as it definitely felt much more substantial than that to us. We entered it from the back and walked into the large sitting area, with free-standing fan next to a cabinet, inside which is a small drinks fridge. At the moment, some of the furniture is new, whilst the rest is an eclectic mix from the old camp, renovated with imagination. The plan is replace the renovated furniture with new, including stylish, comfortable sofas.
To the other side of our suite the bedroom had two very comfortable double beds on substantial dark wooden bedframes with built-in reading lights, all beneath one large canopy mosquito net and a ceiling fan. Off to one side there was also a luggage rack, open wardrobe with shelves and hanging space, as well as a dressing table.
The sitting room and bedroom areas are separated by the bathroom in the middle. With a canvas wall on three sides that doesn’t quite reach the roof, the front of the bathroom area is open to the room, with a curtain that can be drawn for a little more privacy. There's a large hand basin, deep free-standing bath tub with handheld shower and a flushing toilet. Each suite also has an open-air private outdoor shower, hand basin and even an outdoor loo!
Glass sliding doors lead from both the bedroom and the sitting areas to the large private deck, with a small plunge pool and sunloungers. We woke as the sun was rising and sat on our deck, watching as baboons, impalas and buffalo themselves began their day by grazing, and elephants made their way down the sandy riverbed to drink from the Zambezi.
All of the suites at Anabezi Lodge are being built on the high riverbank which stands above an extensive, river floodplain below and glimpses of the Zambezi River through the treeline.
The lodge is slightly bigger than the average camp within the Lower Zambezi National Park. Having two main areas makes it possible for Anabezi to have a 'camp within a camp'. For example, a small group of friends or family travelling together (minimum 8 people) can occupy the suites towards the western end of camp, and utilise the adjacent communal area (the smaller one!) as their private dining and lounge area.
Anabezi River Lodge wasn’t officially open on our most recent visit here, in 2013, so they hadn’t yet organised a team of guides (we're told they plan to hire the best!) – let alone safari activities. They plan to offer game drives, walking safaris, boat trips, fishing, canoeing and birding – and during our visit the owner took us on a short drive to get a feel for the area.
We were impressed by the variety and sheer numbers of wildlife we saw in a short space of time including two different herds of buffalo and good numbers of zebra, waterbuck, warthog, bushbuck and elephants. We’d often be looking at one group of animals, only to realise that there were several other families or small herds within sight.
Anabezi’s location is probably the best of any camp within Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park.
Firstly, it’s the eastern-most camp and so quite a way away from most other camps further west. Because of the linear geography of the park, access to the area around Anabezi is hard from most other camps – and so it’s relatively quiet.
Secondly, a glance at the satellite map (with “terrain" enabled) shows that the Zambezi escarpment is further away from the river here than anywhere further west in the park. This means that there’s more space on the valley floor for productive game-viewing around Anabezi than there is further west.
Finally, not only did we find the game good in the area on our informal visit, but we understand from several local experts – independent of the camp – that Anabezi’s corner of the Lower Zambezi is particularly good area for leopard sightings. We can't verify this based on our very brief, informal drive – but look forward to going out with their guides on our next visit when the camp opens.
Our viewWe keep a close watch on Zambia's camps and pride ourselves on the ability to tell you what’s good, bad and indifferent. There are still a few months to go before Anabezi River Lodge opens – but we’re expecting a very lovely, comfortable camp with large and well-appointed suites, albeit without much very conscious ‘styling’, so nothing too flash! What makes us really excited about Anabezi is its location: the chance to enjoy outstanding wildlife in an unusually quiet and very lovely area of the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Of course, we'll revisit Anabezi once it's open – so watch this space!
Ideal length of stay: At least three nights, although many visitors to the area prefer a little longer to take advantage of the variety of activities on offer.
Directions: Fly into Kulefu Airstrip and then it's a transfer of around 12-15 minutes by road or by boat to the lodge.
Owner: Independently owned, not part of a chain.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We look forward to sampling the food when the camp officially opens in April 2014 and based on the level of luxury we've observed, we have very high expectations!
Dining style: Mixture of group dining and individual tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Soft drinks, house wine and local spirits are included, but fine wines, champagne and imported spirits and liqueurs are charged as extras.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: There are plug points in each of the suites. An inverter system means that there is power for lights 24-hours a day, but the plugs will usually only work when the generator is running.
Communications: There are no telephones and cellphone reception is very intermittent. The lodge will have a satellite phone in case of emergencies and we understand that there may be WiFi available, most likely only near the camp office.
TV & radio: None
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: Showers plumbed in with hot and cold running water. Flushing toilets. Water is pumped from the river and filtered.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Disabled access: On Request