Ultimate Island Luxury: Royal Chundu Zambezi Lodge in Zambia

Know when you plan a trip months in advance and look forward to it the entire year? That. Royal Chundu’s website alone got me so excited that I couldn’t wait to get there.
Our own 200sqm villa, on a private island overlooking the Zambezi River. Who wouldn’t be excited?!

I’ve decided to do 2 blog posts about my experience: 1 about RC itself, and the other about exploring Zambia. Today’s will focus on the sanctuary that is RC.

Last Friday, we travelled a super quick 1.5 hours to Livingstone, Zambia.  Upon arrival to very hot and dry weather at the airport, there was a RC representative waiting to greet us. We spent an hour in the car before arriving at our destination- the Royal Chundu River Lodge.

Only 3 years old, RC is privately owned, but (as from 1 Nov) will be part of the esteemed Relais Chateaux group. It is the ultimate in exclusive luxury African getaways. They have a River Lodge with 10 chalets, and 3.5km upstream they offer an Island Lodge with only 4 villas. Both are in beautiful, lush surroundings and overlook the mighty Zambezi river. 

As soon as we got out of our vehicle, there were 2 members of staff outside to greet us with cold refreshing towels. I was soon to discover that this would be the case everytime we left the lodge and returned again- there were always 2 or more members of staff waiting with cold towels and friendly smiles. The reception area of the River Lodge is small but welcoming, with a gorgeous deck and pool.

Waiting to check in

The pool at the River Lodge

We were assigned a “host”, Aggie, who took us through our itinerary and made sure that we were absolutely comfortable and at ease. Aggie continued to follow up with us everyday to confirm our plans for the next day and to make sure we had everything we needed. We were lucky enough to stay at the very exclusive Island Lodge, so after completing our check in procedure Aggie accompanied us on the boat for the 15 min ride to the Island.

Royal Chundu’s boats which are used for transfers from the River Lodge to the Island Lodge, as well as for Sunset Cruises. The speed boats are used for private fishing trips.

We had a quick tour of the island, and then were taken to our villa. Oh em gee. I have never seen a room like this- not even our already huge room at Indigo Bay in Mozambique could compare. The Presidential Suite we got for our wedding at the Westcliff didn’t come close! Before I go on any further: just look at the pics.

His and hers basins. There was also a double rain shower *love*

Practising the photography skills I learnt recently- cool, right?
The outside deck. I couldn’t stand far enough away to capture the whole thing, but it’s ginormous!

The deck was my favourite part about the room. I spent hours in the daybed reading, with the sounds of the flowing Zambezi in the background.

When we had our room orientation, I was told that the phones were not working. This left me a bit concerned, as I usually have some odd requirement, like a 2 pin plug/ shower cap/ milk. However, we were left wanting for nothing- as our room was appointed with everything we needed and more- loofahs, extra still water, peaceful sleep spray… they thought of everything. We had complete privacy- I couldn’t even hear voices from our neighbouring villa, and all I could see around us was trees. We did have one very sneaky visitor though!

He was after our sugar!

To give you an idea of the extent RC goes to to maintain privacy, when your daily morning coffee is delivered you won’t have to scramble to put on a gown to open the door so you can receive it. No, your coffee is placed in a hatch that opens from the outside of the villa. You can then retrieve it without even opening the front door.

Attention is given to every last detail. The teapot, sugar bowl and milk jug you see above are real silver, as is the crockery at meal times.

Meals were served at the Island Lodge, meaning that we didn’t have to schlep back to the main River Lodge much, unless we had activities planned. We had a lounge and dining room at our disposal at the Island. Because there were only a maximum of 6 other guests at any given time, we made full use of all the facilities and felt as though we had the place to ourselves!

We were given a choice of 2 options for mains as well as dessert for lunch. Dinner was a 3 course menu, with a choice for starter, main and dessert.

I loved that RC sources all its produce from within 4km of the lodge. This ensures community development and results in fresher fruit and veg for the guest. It can be quite disillusioning to stay in a luxury lodge when you can see people living in absolute poverty in the villages just a few km away. We actually visited one of these villages, and I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow. What I can vouch for though, is that the local community has been completely uplifted since RC was established 3 years ago. They have started vegetable gardens which have in turn created jobs and their quality of life has improved drastically.

The owner told me something that stuck with me. She said: “you cannot have luxury without philanthropy”. For me personally, even though the variety of what was on offer wasn’t enormous, I felt good that what I was eating came from the local farmers.

The fish dishes were tasty and fresh and the homemade bread rolls were so yummy. It’s important to manage expectations when you travel in Africa: you simply cannot expect to get what you’d receive in an inner city gourmet restaurant. Here the supplies are limited so chefs are restricted by that. For example, a lot of our desserts had canned fruit in them- not at all a negative factor, just something to be aware of.

Vegetable quiche

Apricot tart

Every evening we headed out on a sunset cruise (this comes complimentary) and we were treated to snacks, game viewing and of course the most beautiful sunsets. Check back tomorrow for more info on that.

Upon return to our room after the cruise, there was a hot bubble bath waiting for us on our private deck. Sitting in that bath at dusk with the sounds of the Zambezi all around you –> pure bliss.

You’re probably wondering how much this all costs. The rate for South Africans is a reasonable $260 per night.
Go here for more details:

I hope I’ve adequately described how stunning this property is. But there’s no point having a gorgeous property if you have to stay in your room all day long. At RC you have the best of both worlds- comfortable and luxurious accommodation with exhilarating activities. We had such fun exploring the falls, canoeing down the Zambezi spotting game and visiting a local village. Read all about that in my next post.

If you’d like to enquire about a stay at Royal Chundu, their details are below:

Tel: +27 (0)13 751 1038 reservations@royalchundu.com