“This is amazing,” Hope grinned as we placed our bags on the wooden deck.
The chalet was devoid of anything to accommodate western needs – my favourite style of living. It had a couple of shelves, extra blankets and a double bed encased with a tight-fitting mosquito net. The double doors and ‘windows’ were glassless, covered with chicken-coop wire to keep out the pesky vervet monkeys without blocking the majestic view of the Zambezi River where I spotted a hippo, pointing it out to Hope.
And it was Hope who knew of Bovu Island, a word-of-mouth place; a stretch of sand, reeds and bush about a K and a half long off the mainland of Zambia on the Zambezi River. It’s a bouncy ride on an off-beaten track through the bush, passing desolate lands of naked trees, the leaves sunning themselves beneath the empty branches, an array of orange and yellow colours.
“This would be impossible to find if you weren’t picked up,” Hope mentioned, noticing the lack of signage as we reached the banks of the Zambezi River.
A macorro (dugout canoe) was waiting for us with our paddler, David, standing in the back with the paddle. We cruised slowly downriver before the lodge’s bar came into view, a blue hammock hanging in the front.
“Welcome to Bovu Island,” David announced as we were introduced to Sister Di who gave us a tour of the facilities.
She led us past the kitchen and campsites, thatched roof huts housing the toilets and shell-curtained showers, down the sandy pathway, across a wooden bridge and showed us, “Your chalet.”
We had an hour before meeting David at the bar for our sunset cruise. He appeared with a bowl of some of the best popcorn I have ever enjoyed and a couple of beers. We climbed into the macorro and set out upriver, paddling against the soft rapids (the stronger ones could be heard echoing around us).
“That side is Zimbabwe,” he explained. “It’s a national park. You can see the buffalo,” he pointed to a distant dark object that moved ever so slightly.
He held the canoe in the middle of the Zambezi River as we watched the setting sun turn from an eye-squinting sight to the marvelous, romantic ball of orange-red that dropped as fast as the planet spun.
Relaxing in the bar where Sam, the temporary caretaker, pointed out the Genet – a cat-like creature with large, nocturnal eyes, a spotted body and a striped tail, we watched a crescent moon rose high and it wasn’t long before we retired to our chalet, the pathway illuminated by candle-light (power on the island is supplied from car batteries charged by solar panels).
That night we slept with the Zambezi flowing just beneath us, hippos bellowing about and village dogs barking from afar (or were they African wild dogs?). The temperature dropped faster than the setting sun of a few hours prior, forcing us to use all three extra blankets that seemed to swallow us up and pin us down due to their weight (but boy, did they keep us warm!).
The peacefulness of the island was intoxicating. If you’re ever in Zambia, you need stay on this magical slice of paradise.
Check out the website for more information: www.junglejunction.info