Tsowa Safari Island – in the middle of the Zambezi

Posted by Caroline Webb on 26 February 2020

If you really think about it, it’s kind of incredible to stand here: on a 1,5-kilometre-long, 400-metre-wide strip of bushveld in the middle of the Zambezi, between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Tsowa Safari Island

40km from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

The sunken boma is where stories are shared. Image credit: Supplied

There are several towering baobabs in the centre of the island, which can only be seen after a bundu-bashing walk through thicket and forest – signs that elephants had been here (big cakes of dung) could not be ignored. Amazingly, they do visit the island. I tried to imagine them swimming across the water from the park – what a sight it must be.

The peace of the island is only broken around twilight with the din of frogs, insects and birds, plus snorting hippos and shrieking baboons settling down for the night on the opposite shore. You know what’s out there, as the journey to get here had been a game- and bird-viewing drive through the Zambezi National Park, followed by a three-minute cruise across the river.

The off-grid camp is nestled within a forest of ebony, water-berry, jackalberry, monkey orange, African mangosteen (the ‘Bob Marley’ tree, due to its vines) and python creepers. It took nine months to build, with minimal flora removed or damaged. The craftsmanship is beautiful, with furnishings salvaged from old hotels in Bulawayo and Harare finding new purpose here. There is an area for lounging, drinking and dining, and just six spacious tents spread out along the elevated riverbank, reached via sandy paths that wind through the forest. After dark, a staff member accompanies you because this is a wild place.

Water views from the pool deck. Image credit: Caroline Webb

You’re far from other humans and unplugged (no TV or Wi-Fi, and only intermittent signal). A typical day starts with an early outing (a guided walk in the park was a highlight). Then brunch back on the island, and a siesta or swim (two cocktail-perfect pools overlook the river). Later, it’s time to putter upstream in the boat, past crocs and hippos and monitor lizards, to watch the most magnificent sunset imaginable.

You return in the dark to the beckoning light from the firepit boma and one of chef Elton’s delicious dinners – chicken roulade, green curry bream, crocodile-tail kebabs…

Then you fall asleep with the silhouettes of trees all around your tent – and, perhaps, as I did, the sight of a red moon rising around midnight over the river, visible from my pillow. You’ll awake to birdsong and a tent bathed in the colours of dawn, and another adventure. – Caroline Webb

Low-key luxury in the tents. Image credit: Caroline Webb

Best Feature
I loved the daily short transfers from island to shore and back again. There’s just something deeply appealing about a safari that requires crossing water. Each time, it reminds you of how special this place is.

R5,630 per person, including all meals, local drinks, transfers, activities and a Vic Falls day trip.

035-474-1473, isibindi.co.za

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