Rustic Retreats

Msafiri asked environmentalist David Bristow, co-author of Africa’s Finest to select five of his favourite Eco-Lodges on the KQ network

1. Mike’s Island, Kenya
Miketurf02Mike was enjoying life – an engineer with a good job and a family farm on the Kenyan mainland. He loved adventuring on his motorbike and fishing. But there was something missing. While on a motorbike journey up the coast around 20 years ago he found his missing piece: a sliver of coral and sand in the Lamu archipelago called Kiwayu, or ‘beautiful’ island. On it he built a simple lodge, using washed- up timber and palm thatch. He called it Kiwayu Munira, (beautiful moonlight), and used only nature to run the place – wind and solar power. With the exception of deep-sea fishing trips on request, all activities are non-motorised. It’s a place where you can wade out from the beach, don mask and fins and plop onto a coral reef. Or you could spend a few hours lost in amazement watching a Ridley’s green turtle come ashore to lay her eggs and then head out to sea again. Whether it’s the brilliant bright hues of the tropical day or the soft sheen of moonlight on water, Mike’s island casts a magical net of colours that trap unsuspecting visitors.
Fly KQ to Malindi daily.

2. Sindabezi Lodge, Zambia
SindebeziVictoria Falls cast its spell on Ben Parker when he flew over the gorge in a microlight. A little over two decades ago he landed there, put down roots and is still there running one of Zambia’s standout lodges, Tongabezi, on the northern bank of the river. After roots came foundations, and then improvements. This improving of things took two directions: one was to share the proceeds of the lodge with the neighbouring community, of which Tongabezi is now an integral part; the other was to expand the tourism experience. Where the mother lodge is constructed largely of local rock, the satellite camp of Sindabezi consists of simple wood- and reed- chalets placed across an island measuring about 100 metres long. The Zambezi surges past on all sides, yet the feeling on Sindabezi is surprisingly relaxing – the river’s flow having a mesmerising effect.
Fly KQ to Livingstone three times a week.

3. Island Sailing Safaris, Madagascar
madagasca2By day you sail around the islands and outcrops off Nosy Be in northwestern Madagascar, doing a bit of fishing for your supper, tanning, snorkelling, maybe anchoring off a pure white beach for a picnic, or diving overboard when a whale shark is spotted. In the afternoons you disembark at one of the rustic camps where you can go walking in the forests in search of lemurs and other strange creatures, kayaking, swimming, kicking back… all the usual tropical island activities in a far from typical African safari. The business started when yacht owner Ross Murray met skipper Mohamed Bakary while on a sailing sabbatical around the Indian Ocean. They decided on a venture where Mohamed would build a traditional dhow at his home on Nosy Be and Ross would lure paying guests. The plan worked so well (of course, the destination itself is the star of the show) that they soon had to build a second boat, and now they have a third. Don’t worry though, there is enough ocean and plenty of islands, so it never gets crowded.
Fly KQ to Antananarivo 5 times a week.
4. Mvuu Lodge, Malawi
MvuuThere are numerous examples in Africa where, but for the benevolence of a single lodge, an entire game reserve would not be viable. One such is Mvuu, located on a backwater of the fat, lazy Shire River that forms one boundary of Liwonde National Park. The 16-bed lodge consists of canvas and timber room tents. The main dining area is set on stilts among the lush riverine vegetation on its serene lagoon.As you step off the ferry that carries you across the brooding river, a sense of quiet concealment envelops you. The river has one of the densest concentrations of both hippos and crocodiles in Africa. Boat trips largely replace game drives here, although the park has a healthy selection of game. Elephants are the most obvious in size and number, though the miombo woodlands and grassland are also home to roan antelope and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, eland and zebra and, the most highly prized, black rhino.
Fly KQ to Lilongwe daily and Blantyre 3 times a week.

5. Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique
nkwaziSome, maybe most, people desire wealth and the trappings of the modern material world. A few seek out things more rare, more remote and ultimately more rewarding. This was the path chosen by the English Simkin brothers, who searched the world until they found the Lago wilderness along the shores of Lake Niassa in northwestern Mozambique. That’s where they chose to build a lodge that would make a difference. The region had been devastated by civil war but still had great natural beauty. While the surrounding bushveld was ravaged, the sugary beaches and vodka-pure water of the lake (called Malawi on the other side), were perfect for a hideaway kind of resort. Using as much natural material as they could, they built their lodge among large boulders above the lake shore, being careful to cause as little damage as possible. There were no roads, no shops, no facilities of any kind. They created the Manda Wilderness as a conservation area to be overseen by the local people for their own benefit, as well as the Manda Trust to facilitate social upliftment in the area. It’s a place with a heart so big and so green it enfolds you in its generous embrace.
Fly KQ to Nampula three times a week.

All Photos courtesy of Africa’s Finest