A Zambian lodge built for presidents

Chichele Presidential Lodge


Chichele Presidential Lodge
Chichele Presidential Lodge

Gill Staden writes for eTN Africa and reflects on Zambia’s domestic tourism efforts and her stay at Chichele Presidential Lodge in Zambia.

Here is her report: After my visit to Zikomo Lodge I went on to Chichele Lodge. This lodge has history. It was built for President Kaunda in 1972. President Kaunda liked to stay in the parks, loving Zambia’s natural environment. Chichele is right on top of a hill – I can only assume for security concerns – so it has views of 360°. Amazing.

Chichele is 5* luxury, of course. I was greeted at the steps of the lodge by the Chichele team and, after a welcome cool drink, and wet towel to wipe off the dust, I was taken to my room.

I wrote these notes the following morning:

As I sit on the veranda of my room at Chichele I can see to my left the wide expanse of sand with a trickle of water running through it. This is the Luangwa River. Below me is a plain cut into bits by deep water channels, dry now. I can see a row of palms running through the trees along the river telling me that this was once, and probably still is, an elephant footpath. Behind all this are the Nchindene Hills which must have been pushed up out of the flat land eons ago. To my right there is an undulating expanse of low hills which end at the foot of the Muchinga Escarpment. All this has been viewed by most of Zambia’s presidents. Kenneth Kaunda and his late wife Mama Betty would have sat where I sit now watching this view.

I had woken early, just as the light came through the window. I opened the doors to hear the morning sounds. Crowned cranes were booming down below. The sparrow weavers were busy chattering and building their messy nests. Starlings and a boubou joined in the chorus. I could hear a hippo from down below in the river. A flock on mousebirds darted overhead; hadedas were making their mournful call.

I wish I could attach a soundtrack to this newsletter, because the sounds of the bush are so refreshing – no taxis beeping, no TV or music blaring, no airbrakes from passing trucks, no urban stuff, just Zambia’s bush noises.

Anyhow, let me get on with my story at Chichele. I went out on a couple of drives into the park with Lameck, the guide. We found most of the wildlife to be seen in South Luangwa National Park, in this area, at least. We saw lions, leopards, impala, puku (lots of puku), warthog, elephant, kudu, civet, genet, porcupine, and more…

It was a wonderful time and the staff were ever attentive and looking after me. The first evening an elephant came to visit the lodge and one of the staff called me to come and watch. The lone bull had arrived to eat the fruit from a nearby tree and then wandered off along the driveway and back into the bush. The other evening two guests from the sister camp, Puku Ridge, and I were taken for special sundowners. A table was set out high up on a ridge overlooking at the valley below. We were treated to a cocktail and then I retreated back to my beer – such a pleb…

I must admit to enjoying too much my stay at Chichele, although I did do some work – honestly. It was over all too soon and just as I was packing my bags, Killian, the manager called me to come and look down below:

Can you see the lions in my garden? This is why I love my job.

There, padding across the plain were two lions off on a hunt…

While I was staying at Chichele, a lodge built for presidents, I mulled over Zambia’s desire to promote domestic tourism. Zambia’s past presidents had been to stay at Chichele, except for Chiluba who was a real city person. Michael Sata, our present president, has yet to visit. If we are to promote domestic tourism, I think our leaders should show us the way. We need our government politicians and administrators to visit our parks. Only through their leadership will others follow…

We rely on international tourism at the moment. These people from overseas may save all year round to come and visit us on holiday. This is a cultural thing – the need for a holiday. I suppose it is the same as someone saving to buy the latest cellphone – that is in our Zambian culture now.

Our culture, though, does not include a “holiday.” If a holiday is going to become part of our culture, we need to get our leaders on holiday and we need to get our journalists writing more about holidays. We have to make a holiday a must-have, just like a cellphone. Only then will we be able to promote domestic tourism… Just a thought…