The Kiambi Safari is probably the most affordable establishment on the lower Zambezi, yet safe with nice accommodations, and a relatively short drive (2.5 hours including checkpoints and police bribes). They offer chalet tents with bathrooms, a complete cottage, and campsites. They’ll even put up a tent and provide pillows and bedrolls for you. Also, they offer excursions (including the desired canoe safari), fishing, a bar, and a restaurant for all meals.
We originally had booked two nights at Kiambi but since the boys arrived a day later due to their missed flights, we only went one night. We had them provide the tents and bedrolls to make our lives easy. (One strange thing — you know how in the U.S. they charge by the campsite? Not here. At Kiambi the campsites are $10 and the tent/roll rental is $8 a night, per person. Still a bargain at $36/night per tent [compared to what we would have paid for a hotel room for two persons], but I was still surprised and thought you should know.)
They gave us the best campsite on the grounds (when reserving ask for #6 or #8), that gave us a gorgeous view of the Zambezi atop the bluff.
This is the view from our campsite. You can’t tell from this photo but we’re about 30 feet up on a fairly sheer bluff. It was gorgeous!
Here’s our tent from the river (in blue just to the right of center). The bar chalet is center left, complete with pool table.
From the camp chairs (again, provided by Kiambi), we watched a herd of elephants drink and traverse the island across from us.
Given we failed to come across a McDonalds on the road, we set about cooking brats and ate lunch. There was one brat left so Ryan and Eric took it and went down to the doc to see if they could “fish” for a crocodile. (Silly young men — weren’t they deathly afraid of the creatures?)
Disappointed that there wasn’t a croc in sight (apparently they preferred the sand bars on the island across from the campground; it was too brushy on this side) they explored Kiambi and found the 10′ x 10′ weight room.
Who wouldn’t want to work out to that view?
The sun set around 6 pm so we had two options — go to bed very early or go to the bar, get some cocktails, and play hearts. We opted for the latter.
Ryan had them make up a special drink for me of 1/2 dark rum, 1/4 grenadine, 1/4 lime juice. OMG – it was so good I had three. I don’t think I won the game of hearts, everything’s a bit fuzzy, but I do remember that Eric continued his lucky streak and succeeded in shooting the moon, despite never playing hearts in his life. I’m going to sneak and cut a piece of his dreadlocks and affix it to my key chain as a lucky charm.
We went to bed in our very comfy (and very cold!) tents. This was Eric’s very first time camping so we tucked him in, warm and cozy.
The next morning the guys checked to make sure there were no wild animals prowling before we got out of our tents.
We ate at their small breakfast buffet area…
Thom found a drum at the restaurant, and if you know Thom you know that he cannot go by a drum without playing it. (Sorry, I don’t know how to flip this video, you’ll have to turn your computer on its side.)
We then went for our boat safari. (Turns out that when we asked the very sweet-looking, demure manager if she’d ever go on a canoe safari, she said, “hell no!” On a later post I promise I’m going to write about the horror stories that I still think about in quiet moments.)
It was great being out on the water, in the safety of our small, aluminum, rickety, dented boat.
We saw about a dozen hippo pods, mostly in the water.
One was on a sandbar. We got a little to close to them and they got up and scurried to the water away from us.
We saw more elephants.
Lots of birds.
And a few skittish crocodiles, who immediately slipped into the water when they heard our boat.
We also saw many locals fishing in dugout canoes.
Okay, after seeing this photo again I can’t resist. Here’s one of the horror stories told to us. A couple and their 16-year-old daughter went on a canoe safari. The parents were in one boat and the girl and guide were in another boat. They were along the coast, just like we were in our aluminum boat, when a crocodile lurched out of the water and grabbed the girl by the elbow and pulled her in. Another croc did the same to the guide but he had a knife and stabbed it in the nose and it let go, but not before permanently mangling his arm and elbow. They never found the girl. What really struck me about this story is that the girl was with an experienced guide, and she was just paddling. Her elbow wasn’t stuck out any more than anyone’s elbow would be when paddling. This story pretty much convinced me that I’m not going on a canoe safari ever!