WORDS Ami Kapilevich PHOTOS Dook
King Lewanika Lodge in Zambia is a secret whispered by the Liuwa Plain, winked at by the Lozi people. It is a small, secluded camp that is steeped in local tradition.
For his last assignment, the legendary travel writer A.A. Gill went on a safari with his family. He had no idea at the time that he was terminally ill, so his piece – published posthumously, and all about the marvels of travelling with one’s family – is particularly poignant. Ever irrepressible, Gill describes how the modern safari experience has gone from a slightly macho frisson and fantasy to a more stripped down, modern and functional approach. “All the old romance and decoration are absent,” he wrote. “There’s no taxidermy, no skulls or skins, none of the Edwardian campaign furniture that was once such a feature of tented camps.”
It’s an important gripe, actually. Being on safari will always be about what you are looking at, but how you remember the entire experience depends on where you are when you’re looking at it. So it’s good to know that in a remote corner of Liuwa Plain, King Lewanika Lodge offers guests a pleasing safari aesthetic without resorting to clichés.
The decor is a deliberate homage to the old-style safari by the inveterate lodge designers Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens. The basins are made of patina-grained enamel; earth tones bring the outside in; and lots of draped fabrics in the rooms soften the interior.
But it’s not all colonial. Also evident is the influence of the local Lozi people, who were installed here in the 1880s as custodians of the land by King Lewanika when he proclaimed it a protected area. About 90 years later, in 1972, Liuwa Plain was declared a national park. Traditional fishing baskets have been transformed into lampshades, and in the communal area there is a replica of the Lozi king’s black and-white barge that is used in the Kuomboka ceremony, wherein the monarch is transported from his compound in the Barotse Floodplain to higher ground at the end of the rainy season, when the Upper Zambezi inundates the plain.
The lodge is built in Silvio’s signature style of a light steel frame, canvas and recycled composite flooring, and incorporates indigenous grass and thatch, allowing the structures to blend into the landscape. With just six villas, King Lewanika is one of the smaller lodges in the Time + Tide portfolio. (Time + Tide offers exclusive adventures and holidays in Zambia and Madagascar, with a focus on eco-tourism and conservation.)
The intimate communal area has been cleverly designed to include secluded nooks in the main lounge and dining area. “This is a recovering ecosystem,” says Time + Tide Marketing Director Mindy Roberts. “It was once ravaged by poaching. The wildlife and terrain are regenerating beautifully thanks to tourism and conservation efforts by our partner, African Parks, which we’re proud to be part of.”
African Parks, which has been managing Liuwa Plain National Park since 2003, translocated lions to the park when it was discovered there was only a solitary lioness left. Named Lady Liuwa, she has since died, but the pride is strong and a new cub was recently born. And all that’s separating you from them at King Lewanika is the light of a fire, the whisper of canvas and the promise of dawn.
For more information, visit timeandtideafrica.com.