A side street off the main road in the picturesque town of Sedona in Arizona led us to this luxury oriented small hotel set along the banks of the well known Oak Creek. Although the property was having major renovations during our late summer visit it was there that we enjoyed the highest level of service, luxury and gourmet dining in the Sedona area.
Ideally located across from Forsyth Park, Savannah’s own Central Park, The Waldburg was a lovely Queen Anne home meticulously restored to its Victorian charm. The cornflower blue clapboard exterior was enhanced with gleaming white trim. Coral accents drew the eye to the deep cornice and ornate brackets supporting the roof overhang. The large bay windows of the façade were topped by a polygonal attic cupola. Sitting on a small corner lot at the edge of the Historic District, the $1 million property was surrounded by lush, artfully landscaped borders contained within a lacy low wrought iron fence. Under an arch of gently undulating palms, a few moss-cushioned brick steps led to the entrance porch and solid oak front door. It was a house that instantly gave me a sense of homecoming.
Le Capanne was a short two-hour drive from Florence, and a world away. The magic began to unfold with the last mile of our journey, as we started up the narrow, intermittently paved country road to Camporsevoli. It meandered steeply upward, each turn revealing more spectacular views of the valley below, a rolling landscape of vineyards and olive groves punctuated by centuries-old farmhouses. Soon a discrete wooden sign announced Le Capanne; an unassuming name ( capanne is Italian for shacks) for this superb $2.5 million fieldstone villa perched on five acres (two hectares) of beautifully landscaped grounds. It turned out to be merely an allusion to the humble origins of the villa. Le Capanne was for centuries one of the many farmsteads on the 500-acre (200 hectare) hillside Camporsevoli Estate. It was only recently restored into a five-bedroom rustic beauty with an inviting country Tuscan décor and the latest comforts and conveniences, including satellite TV, WiFi and a large swimming pool. The housekeepers, Francisco and Maria, were on hand to welcome us and ensure we were happily settled in.
We spent a relaxing week at the Sun Palace Couples-only Resort, an all inclusive resort where pampering was the order of the day. This resort is located only 10 minutes from Cancun Airport near the end of the beach. This was fortunate as Hurricane Wilma, in 2005, wiped out most of the beach along this beautiful stretch of land. The beach in front of the Sun Palace and the Club Med Cancun were spared being washed out as they are located in the arch of the cove. We were met at the airport by the hotel limousine, which we requested when we made our hotel reservation. From the moment we registered there was no waiting and we were greeted at the door with flowers and champagne. We were also offered a cool damp cloth to refresh ourselves from the heat of the day.
We much enjoyed our brief stay at the Hotel Bareiss, a family owned and managed resort with an emphasis on quality and being one of the best resort properties in Europe. From our arrival on a quiet late winter day we discovered an exceptional property.
A two and a half hour drive from Meersburg found us at the reception desk of the Hotel Sackmann. A friendly young lady responded kindly to my greeting. When I asked in my broken German if she spoke English she smiled and helped us complete the check in process in English. During our self drive German trip and while at the Hotel Sackmann we encountered that attitude many times. It made us feel welcome.
After driving for several hours through rain and some snow covered roads hoping to find sunny shores, we arrived at the Residenz am See, a small family owned and run hotel facing Lake Constance. It was a gray and rainy Friday afternoon and our spirits drooped when we discovered the sunshine we had hoped would arrive was absent. During our stay we caught brief glimpses of blue skies and the sun and thanks to our pleasant accommodations and welcoming staff made the best of the winter weather. As part of our check in process two of the hotel staff explained our options, answered questions and accompanied us to our penthouse suite.
An hour long drive from the Frankfurt Airport led us down highway and country roads to the BollAnt´s im Park Romantik Hotel and Vital Spa on the edge of Bad Sobernheim. Between the few words of German we knew and the reception desk staff person’s English we were able to check in with relative ease. After a short wait in the adjacent bar while our room was readied (we arrived in the early afternoon) we settled into a centrally located comfortable room.
Built on a hill in a leafy and upmarket suburb of Cape Town in front of stately Table Mountain, Villa Higgovale’s most precious feature was a magnificent view of Cape Town Bay and the sea. We arrived at the six-bedroom 30 million rand house on a gorgeous summer day, finding our way easily from the Waterfront area after plucking in the address into our GPS (global positioning system) device. An understated outer security gate revealed little of the pretty grounds or the property that lay behind it. Following down a steep and narrow drive we slowly discovered the lovingly maintained gardens, and parked in front of the main entrance to the two-story house.
This attractive luxury bush property favored by the rich and famous was lovingly maintained and well run. It was named Malewane for the ravine on which the property was built. We arrived a little wilted following a day of travel from Cape Town via Johannesburg. John Jackson, the property general manager and our gracious host, immediately showed us to our quarters, the Royal Malewane Suite, on one end of the property that would be our home for the following three nights. There we were greeted by a sea of welcoming smiles from the small group of staff members who would take turns looking after us during our stay.
Rock House Villa is a vacation home to see and be seen in. The $4 million (36 million rand) beach house is in Camps Bay, Cape Town’s beach playground. Although there are a couple dozen homes in the Camps Bay beachfront neighborhood where Rock House Villa is situated, the house occupies a special location, jutting out among the beach rocks with prime ocean frontage and an outstanding side view of Camps Bay.
Porini Rhino Camp was located within the 90,000 acre (365 square kilometer) Ol Pejeta Conservancy, on a verdant plateau between the foothills of the Aberdares Range and the stately snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya. Although the area was on the equator, the altitude (around 6,500 feet or 2,000 meters) made for a temperate climate with cool nights, and a landscape of wooded grassland reminiscent of alpine pastures. However, there was nothing alpine about the fauna; game viewing was some of the best East Africa had to offer both in density and variety. Within minutes of entering the conservancy, I had sighted a white rhino, followed in short order by a large journey of reticulated giraffes.
Porini is Swahili for “in the wilds.” Nowhere did I find a more vivid proof of it than at the Mara Porini Camp. The intimate luxury camp was nestled in a soaring grove of yellow-barked acacia, within the Ol Kinyei Conservancy, a private 8,500 acre (3,500 hectare) swath of the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem set aside by the local Masai land-owners for the exclusive use of Mara Porini guests. This pristine wilderness of open savannah plains and rolling hills, riverine forest, permanent streams and spectacular views across the Masai Mara was home for the broad variety of species for which the park is famous, including resident big cats.
Porini Lion Camp far exceeded any promise its name may have implied! Lions? I had little doubt there’d be lions. The camp was located in the Olare Orok Conservancy, a 23,000 acre (9,000 hectare) private game reserve on the northwest boundary of the Masai Mara National Reserve, which is reputed for its lions. But even at my most optimistic, I hadn’t expected an entire pride of lions, 17 in all, to materialize in the savannah grass 10 minutes into my first game drive! They were rousing from their afternoon siesta, feigning nonchalance as they began to focus on an approaching herd of zebras. I was able to observe the team effort of their stalking process and the zebra’s ultimate narrow escape. We moved on, only to stop again instants later at the edge of a clearing were a breeding herd of elephants was feeding. I was privileged to observe a newborn elephant calf’s first unsteady steps, and its efforts to figure what to do with its unwieldy nasal appendage in its awkward attempt to suckle. A few feet away, its sturdier week-old cousin was trying to uproot a twig, before loosing interest and taking off, puppy-like, in hot pursuit of a bird. By sundown, without leaving the conservancy, we had also sighted buffalos and a leopard for four of the Big Five! We viewed the “fifth’” at close range early the next morning. Shortly after we crossed the boundary of the Masai Mara National Reserve we happened onto a pair of black rhinos engaged in their courtship ritual. But even this exciting sighting was soon overshadowed by a cheetah and her three young cubs enthusiastically tucking into their impala breakfast.
Nairobi was the last stop on my recent Kenya itinerary. After two weeks in the glorious isolation of remote bush camps, I wanted to ease back into the modern world before boarding the long flight home. The Nairobi Serena Hotel proved to be the ideal retreat for my transition. Located at the edge of the city’s Central Park and surrounded by its own lush tropical gardens, the Nairobi Serena offered an oasis of serenity in the heart of Africa’s fourth largest, and one of its most vibrant, cities.
This little camp, part of the Relais and Chateaux group, will stand out in my memory for bringing us close up and personal with an elephant herd like no other we had encountered before. It was named for Jabulani, the youngest of the adult elephants, who was rescued from certain and slow death when he was three months old. Humans took pity on him after he got stuck in the mud. His elephant family couldn’t get him out and abandoned him. Jabulani’s journey to survival and young adulthood was arduous for him and his saviors; and eventually led to the establishment of Camp Jabulani and the further rescue of a group of adult elephants from Zimbabwe.
A secluded tented camp under the giant umbrella of a thorn acacia tree; elephants wandering across a grassy plain against the majestic backdrop of the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro; proud Masai nomads herding their cattle in the distance? My Amboseli Porini safari epitomized the timeless romance of the Kenya! The breathtaking outline of Kilimanjaro filled the horizon as we entered the Selenkay Conservation Area, a 15,000 acre (60 square kilometer) private game reserve where the camp was located, at the northern edge of Amboseli National Park. A cheetah flashed across the track just ahead of us. Further on, a pair of elephant cows and their calves showed us less concern. We waited until they cared to let us go by. Giraffes peered over the treetops. Potbellied warthog piglets scampered behind their mother. By the time we reached the camp, I had already enjoyed a rich impromptu game drive. There, I was warmly welcomed by the camp manager, Tony Musembi and members of the Masai staff, and shown to my tent: a large, comfortably furnished sleeping room and bathroom. I was pleased to notice the environmentally-friendly features of my accommodation: solar electricity, bush shower and the absence of any permanent foundations or fixtures. After enjoying a late al fresco lunch in the shade of an acacia and ample time to settle in, I was escorted to the nearby Masai village for a visit.
Inspired by the rich architectural tradition of the East African coast, the Serena Beach Hotel stretched along the Indian Ocean shoreline with the exotic appeal of an ancient Swahili town. The property was divided into picturesque clusters of whitewashed two- and three-story buildings, with a central core of elegant public spaces. The reception hall set the mood. Its intricately carved portal led into a cool soaring foyer with lush oriental rugs scattered about the gleaming stone floor. To the left of the entrance the wall behind the long marble-topped reception desk was covered with rows upon rows of letterbox-shaped slots, exact replicas of those found in the harems of Swahili homes until the 19 th century. Now, they made unusual key receptacles. On both sides of the hall, tall pillars led the eye to the far end of the building and the low staircase rising to a landing with a panoramic view of the sun-washed terraces and galleried lounges facing the palm-shaded beach and the cerulean blue sea beyond.
One of the features we most liked about The Palazzo, an all-suite resort that opened its doors at the end of 2007, in addition to the hotel’s Las Vegas Strip location, was our spacious and handsome suite. Our new looking suite in one of the lower floors had a sunken living room separated from the sleeping area by three steps and half a wall.
In the middle of its lush English garden, this regal Queen Anne country home retained all the authentic charm of its Victorian origins. The green-shingled exterior was enhanced by buttercup yellow trim with purple accents to match the lavish flowerbeds. The deep wrap-around porch, complete with rattan furniture and porch swing, the elaborate rooflines and whimsical turret all contributed to make the LimeRock Inn a picture-perfect grand 19 th century New England “cottage.”
In a town filled with exuberant Victorian homes, the Captain Lindsey House was noticeable for its stark simplicity. It was impossible not to be intrigued by this plain Federal facade of yellow-painted bricks, with its neatly lined windows under dark green canvas awnings, and its large window boxes overflowing with cabbages, kitchen herbs and drooping clusters of ripe tomatoes. Then there was the entrance door tucked away at street level in the corner of the building: lacquered fire engine red. This was a witty house that knew how to capture my attention. Beyond that red door, a short walk up a half-flight of non-descript stairs, an unexpected world unfolded. I had walked back in time into the sophisticated home of a sea captain of old, filled with remarkable antiques and oriental rugs mellowed by age.
This striking Victorian gem was one of the most luxurious country inns I have ever come across! Set in a residential neighborhood of grand old 19th century homes shaded by venerable trees, this three-story gold-trimmed claret-colored clapboard beauty served notice at first sight that it was the grandest of them all. Its interior confirmed it. Expansive, coffered-ceilinged public rooms with inviting fireplaces opened onto a two-story center foyer with an elaborate staircase soaring to a wide second floor gallery; gleaming oak banisters; crystal chandeliers: this was a house meant for gracious living in a bygone gilded age. Built in 1898 by local business mogul Charles Berry as a wedding gift for his bride, the manor remained a private residence until 1998 when the present owners adapted it into an exceptional home-away-from home for their guests.
At Perfect Earth Tours we found the accommodations to be excellent and the staff very friendly and helpful. During our stay we were able to hike, canoe, enjoy the company of other guests, and recharge our batteries. We experienced a healthy, organic and luxurious travel experience and thought it offered great value for the money.
At the Wentworth Mansion any previously held notions on romantic residences were immediately surpassed; and the word had clearly gotten around. As I arrived, I met a local couple checking in. They shared they had chosen the Mansion to celebrate their 40 th wedding anniversary. A few hours later, when I went up to the rooftop cupola to enjoy the sunset, a young couple was already there, sipping a glass of vine. They confided they had come from Virginia to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Our conversation was soon interrupted by an exclamation of joy coming from the other side the cupola, followed by sobs of happiness. A marriage proposal had just been accepted. Two anniversary celebrations and a proposal; and I had been here barely half a day!
We had never been on a cruise before although both my husband and I enjoy sailing. The opportunity presented itself when my husband needed to be in Anchorage Alaska for business. We had the option of flying into Anchorage, via Vancouver, or taking the ship, departing from Vancouver Harbour up through the inside passage. This option intrigued us and we decided to look into it in more detail. Most cruise lines go to Juneau or Skagway and then passengers return via air to their point of departure. After much searching we were able to locate a cruise that continued two days further and landed in Anchorage for our pre-determined date.
At Rattray’s on Mala Mala, a small and exclusive safari property in one of the best game viewing areas of Africa, Big Five game viewing was the number one priority. Game drives lasted about three hours and were limited to four guests per vehicle. During our last visit, we shared the vehicle with two enthusiastic repeat visitors, a mother and daughter from Europe, who made an annual pilgrimage to Mala Mala, and now Rattray’s, for their game viewing fix. We were accompanied by Warren Meredith, an English speaking young guide who drove the vehicle, and Jeffrey, a tracker who sat in the last row and whose job it was to spot the game viewing opportunities, especially of the highly coveted Big Five animals (elephant, hippo, lion, leopard, and rhino). Warren was our go-to person during our stay. He dined with us, accompanied me on a bush walk, and organized wake up calls and any activities we might want to schedule.
As we approached The Outpost I wondered how the property was faring since we first visited the area in 2004, especially now that it was under new management. From my first visit I became convinced The Outpost was a special place worth a detour, even a special trip. I hoped nothing had happened in the past four years to change that.
Ten Bompas, a remarkable boutique hotel near Sandton, is now one of our favorite small hotels. When we first heard about it, we were hesitant. We had planned to stay at one of Johannesburg’s larger and more opulent properties, which offered all the usual bells and whistles. The more we learned about Ten Bompas, the more we wanted to stay there. From the moment we arrived, we felt genuinely welcome by the hotel staff. Conveniently situated in an attractive Johannesburg neighborhood, it offered a wonderful haven of quiet African elegance with accommodating service, delicious food, a selection of fine wines and a guest-centered emphasis on comfort.
After a couple of weeks in the bush, a much delayed flight and airport delays, we could hardly wait to arrive at our warm and cozy Ten Bompas rooms. In spite of a late arrival, our rooms were waiting. A home-style meal at Sides Restaurant brought us back to life. We liked it so much, we wish there were Ten Bompas hotels in other cities.
Our second visit to Singita Lebombo was almost four years to the week from the date of our first visit to the safari property deep in the eastern boundaries of the Kruger National Park near the border with Mozambique. We were pleasantly surprised to discover many subtle changes and improvements that enhanced our stay and made us fans all over again.
On our most recent trip to South Africa we decided to take a detour to visit Mashatu Main Camp within the Mashatu Game Reserve in the Tuli Block of southern Botswana. While this was quite out the way of our original itinerary and meant crossing an international border we felt confident the property would be worthwhile. This belief rested in part on Mashatu’s reputation as a haven for elephants. We also liked that Mashatu was a sister property to Mala Mala and Rattray’s, two upscale properties we had visited in the Sabi Sand Reserve near South Africa’s Kruger National Park. It was a worthwhile detour and we much enjoyed our visit.
When I think of Londolozi Tree Camp the words that spring forth spontaneously are whoo hoo! This pretty as a daisy camp in the heart of the best game viewing area of the famous Sabi Sand Reserve stood out for extraordinary game viewing as well as its many creature comforts, romantic bush setting, friendly staff and very fine food.
We arrived at 1933 late one afternoon weary from our long trip from the United States and felt instantly welcome. After check in procedures at River Lodge, a sister property, we left our rental car in staff hands and were transferred to the house in a 4 x 4 game viewing vehicle. Before we knew it the 15-minute drive was behind us and we were disembarking.
After refresher towels and introductions, July Nyalangu, the villa’s attentive manager, and staff greeted us warmly and showed us around the main areas of the villa. Our four night stay at 1933 was marvelous. In addition to exclusive use of the property and all its facilities a dedicated staff team looked after us with enthusiasm. Additional characteristics that made 1933 special were the luxurious home away from home environment within a Big Five reserve, striking riverside setting, many amenities and winsome facilities including an on site swimming pool, fitness room, computer corner and wine cellar, and made to order home style meals.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Cybele Forest Lodge and Health Spa, a former farmhouse now restored and filled with nostalgic touches and modern comforts. We visited in between a series of game viewing stays at properties in the Sabi Sands Reserve and Kruger National Park. After days of busy early morning and late afternoon game drives, the quiet ambiance, lush flower filled gardens and grounds, friendly staff, tasty treats and alluring spa options we found at the property were a godsend.
Discretely tucked away on a quiet side street a few steps from the bustle of the Plaza, Inn of the Anasazi was a haven of romance and casual luxury in the historic heart of Santa Fe. Its classic pueblo-style facade punctuated by round vigas (rough pine beams protruding through the walls) hinted at the finely crafted cliff dwellings of the ancient cultures that gave the hotel its name ( Anasazi is Navajo for ‘Ancient Ones’). The inspired interior design of the hotel integrated Native American, Hispanic and Anglo artistic traditions to capture the unique charm of this most romantic city.
We returned to the Steenberg Hotel after a two year absence to find the property much enhanced and the setting more beautiful than we remembered. Smiling staff members greeted us at the security gate and again at reception making us feel especially welcome. The grounds and manicured gardens were green and thriving and soon the cloudy skies turned to stunning blue. The mountain and vineyard setting once again took our breath away. This time we stayed at one of the property’s three new Heritage Suites set on a vineyard facing corner of the property, each with distinct décor.
Selati Camp, one of four Sabi Sabi Reserve properties, was decorated with a nostalgic railroad theme. The Sabi Sabi Reserve was situated within the larger Sabi Sand Reserve, an unfenced Big Five private game reserve neighbouring the world famous Kruger National Park. The Sabi Sabi Reserve is home to open areas, woodlands, sloping hills, rivers and pans resulting in an environment with abundant game and excellent game viewing opportunities. In addition to the comfortable accommodations and quality game viewing we enjoyed during our visit, what made Selati stand out for me were two special in camp game viewing moments.
Location, location, location! Set on the hills overlooking the town of Franschhoek and the Klein Dassenberg Mountains, Mont Rochelle’s most notable asset is its precious setting. The Saturday we arrived, verdant hills peppered with vineyards were a stunning contrast against the perfect blue hues of the sky and puffy white clouds seemingly added by an artist brush.
While I had been to Sandton City, one of Johannesburg better known upscale malls, many times in past visits to South Africa’s largest city, I had never visited The Michelangelo Towers, a condominium hotel building on the edge of the mall. The luxury building, our one of our last stops during a three week summer visit to South Africa, offered many advantages for first time and veteran visitors to the African metropolis. My favorite feature was the panoramic view of the city from our two bedroom apartment.
From 24 floors above the ground the city of Johannesburg looks particularly attractive and the floor to ceiling glass walls that spanned the entire living and dining areas and part of the master bedroom made the view that much more interesting. During the day, we could see parts of Nelson Mandela Square and the Sandton area as well as a hazy cityscape in the background. At night, we were surrounded by a sea of lights.
A family owned and managed lodge on the banks of the Sabie River across from the Kruger National Park, Ivory Lodge offered luxury accommodations, appetizing meals, Big Five game viewing, and the kind of personal service only a small property can provide. My second stay at Ivory Lodge was even more rewarding than the first. This boutique bush property ensconced within the world famous Sabi Sand Reserve is the epitome of lavish comfort in a game viewing reserve. Although we arrived at the beginning of the rainy season, Mother Nature was kind and the weather was splendid. Our bush facing two-room designer suite with dedicated butler service was magnificent. Our visit was enhanced by delicious meals and in suite spa treatments.
Semi hidden in the African bush, Earth Lodge is the most notable architecturally of the four luxury properties in the Sabi Sabi Reserve. Although we had seen photos before arriving, we were surprised by the stark beauty of Earth Lodge and its grounds.
Casa del Caballo Blanco was an intimate retreat on the outskirts of San Ignacio, in the Cayo District of western Belize. Perched on a scenic hilltop, it offered a panoramic view of the rolling hills on the northern bank of the Mopan River valley and the mountains of Guatemala to the west. The property was a birdwatcher’s delight. Flocks of red-lored parrots frequently flew overhead and hummingbirds hovered by the blooming shrubs around the grounds. The air echoed with bird calls from dawn until late in the night. The entrance to the recently completed Tz’unuun birding trail was a five-minute walk from the guest cabanas down a gently sloping meadow. This private 1.7 mile (2.5 kilometers) hiking trail meandered through a recently reforested area that was part of the 15 acre (60,000 square meters) habitat restoration project in progress on the property during my visit.
Staying at Beaumont House, more like a luxury bed and breakfast than a hotel, was an unexpected pleasure. The lovingly restored home is nestled in a Cape Town residential neighborhood. It was named Beaumont by its new owners, a charming English couple, in honor of the nearby Table Mountain. Thanks to our brief stay at Beaumont House we gained a deeper and more expansive appreciation of the Cape Town area and its environs than we have experienced during previous visits.
We arrived at Tranquility Bay, a family friendly waterfront property in Marathon, late in the afternoon on a Friday in September tired from driving and a day of fun activities. The reception area was refreshingly cool, small and bright. A smiling attendant greeted us and in a jiffy we checked in. A cheerful staff member accompanied us to our suite on the far side of the property.
While traveling through the game parks of Zambia, conversation often turned to favorite lodges and camps. Invariably, someone brought up Tongabezi. Those who had visited were enthusiastic; those who had not were wistful. Guides and management personnel spoke of “Tonga” with respect. When I arrived at Tongabezi, it was immediately clear how the lodge had come to be a standard by which Zambian luxury lodges and camps were measured. The instant the car pulled in front of the reception cottage, a choir of four staff members appeared to sing a joyous welcome. One of the chorists, Alvin, was introduced as my personal valet. As the only staff member allowed in my cottage, he was responsible for all my in-room needs. He escorted me through a meticulously tended grove of ebony trees overlooking a panoramic bend of the Zambezi River. The view was magnificent, the environment relaxed and utterly serene.
Located high on a hill overlooking endless expanses of African bush, the Stanley Safari Lodge was a secluded enclave of timeless luxury worlds apart from the shrill urbanism of nearby Livingstone. Its convenient proximity to the town and Victoria Falls made it an ideal location to visit the area. It was a gentle place to re-enter the modern world at the end of my trip to the remote wilderness of Zambia’s national parks.
The Sausage Tree Camp whimsically announced itself as the motorboat taking me down the Zambezi River approached its landing dock. Pristine conical Bedouin tents peering through the extravagant canopy of riverine forest in the Lower Zambezi National Park? Indeed! The camp consisted of seven Bedouin-style circular tents discreetly positioned above the bank of the scenic entrance of the Chifungulu channel. Each tent offered complete privacy, along with a terrific view of the river and an island filled with shivering reeds where big game loved to hide. The camp’s décor was an inspired fusion of styles resulting in minimalist luxury that left the senses free to concentrate on the intense wildlife activity around and within the camp.
Located on the bank of the Chongwe River, at the point where it meets the Zambezi, the Chongwe River Camp offered a panoramic view of the western boundary of the Lower Zambezi National Park. Nestled in a lush grove of winterthorn acacias, this luxurious camp was designed to blend unobtrusively into its splendid surroundings: the steep Zambezi escarpment to the north and Zimbabwe’s famed Mana Pools immediately across the Zambezi to the south. Pods of hippos filled the Chongwe like so many moving islands. Meanwhile, on the opposite bank, the park was home to a dense population of elephants and buffalos that constantly filed to the water for a drink or a bath, or came across to visit. More than once, my short walk from the common areas to my tent was delayed while an elephant ambled down the path, claiming its incontestable right of way.
Chiawa was my idea of what Eden should be: outstanding creature comforts, superb organization, spectacular views and constant game activity! Nestled under a lush canopy of riverine forest in the heart of the Lower Zambezi National Park, the Chiawa Camp blended so unobtrusively into its surroundings that elephants and buffalos routinely paraded within feet of my tent on their way to the river. Guest accommodations consisted of eight tents on raised wooden decks under thatched roofs. The tents were spread out across the property, set sufficiently apart to give a feeling of peaceful seclusion. All were positioned to enjoy a sweeping view of the massive Zambezi flowing a mere 100 yards away.
Nkwali was located in the Game Management Area immediately across the river from the South Luangwa National Park, on a prime vantage point of the eastern bank of the Luangwa River. Discretely nestled in a grove of soaring ebony trees, the camp’s six guest chalets and bar area offered a spectacular view of the steep far bank of the river and the acacia forest that constituted the boundary of the park. On the back side of the camp, the dining area was built on a low platform overlooking a small lagoon where a variety of game frequently came to drink. Nkwali successfully coupled the casual atmosphere and intimate proximity to wildlife that only a bush camp can offer with the indulgent amenities of the best safari lodges. From a comfortable lounge chair near the bar, I spent a contented afternoon siesta time watching a herd of elephants wading in the shallow waters of the west bank of the river. I then took their cue and went for a refreshing swim in Nkwali’s swimming pool before teatime.
I liked Harbour Village so much the first time I stayed there, my husband and I visited the boutique hotel the following year. Sometimes a return visit can be disappointing because properties change in between visits; the room is not as nice the second time as it was the first time; weather is less favorable or other circumstances conspire to spoil the experience. To our surprise, Harbour Village was, in almost every respect, as delightful or more the second time.