Serene Samfya

I had an opportunity to head to the Luapula province of Zambia for the first time. The first leg of my adventure was dedicated for some much-needed R&R before I began my work and Samfya made the most sense for this purpose.

Located on the south-western part of Lake Bangweulu, Samfya is nicely nestled on the more habitable shores of the lake. I stayed at Chita Lodge Samfya (096 4322365) which was right in front of a sandy beach and several kilometres from the Samfya Harbour. The lodge provides a shuttle for guests that arrive via the Mansa airport at an additional fee and they normally have travel packages in conjunction with Mahogany Air. The drive from the airport through Mansa to Samfya took roughly an hour and a half and I even got a chance to grab some snacks and bubbly for the road from Mansa’s Shoprite store.

Shortly after checking into the lodge, which had fairly standard amenities for its grade, I freshened up and took a walk to the beach front. I chanced a few fishermen who offered to give me a banana boat ride on the lake and around the harbour area. I got to learn a little about the transport network and frequency of the ferry’s that sail inland to the various islands dotted on the lake. It was quite fascinating to think people sail on non-motorised boats for up to 9 hrs to get to certain islands in the midst of the lake, that is how big this lake is! The paddle driven boat ride cost me about ZMK250 ($20) for about an hour and a half.

I got back to land just in time to have a late lunch at the lodge. They had a standard menu of fish, beef, pork ribs and chicken options all served with rice, salad, French fries or nshima and veggies. I ordered the fish and had a chance to talk to the chef who recognised me from social circles of Lusaka (small world!). We got to talking about the sources of ingredients for her menu, especially the fish. She explained how there had been a decline in the volumes of fish from the lake since she started working at the lodge. I gathered that the fishing practices, declining quality of water around the bay and the growing demand of consumers in surrounding areas had almost choked the ability of the ecosystem to facilitate a natural reproduction of fish to maintain fish populations. I was even more surprised to learn that the fish I would be eating did not come from the lake, it had to be brought in from provinces in the southern region of Zambia. How could I be so close to a lake in a province with numerous water bodies and still be eating ‘imported’ fish? Something did not add up!

I had my meal and relished the chance to catch up on some reading to just get my mind centred. Then I got to sit at the beach and meditate in solitude with the beautiful sunset as a backdrop. The following day had such a serene sunrise and I was able to take a photo walk along the sandy shores to observe the true nature of how the land meets the sea. There weren’t many other activities I had lined up as I really wanted to take it easy and rest, so I spent most of my day thinking forward and also caught up on some entertainment.

The abundance of sunshine, sand, sea and freshly grilled fish was all I needed to get me in the right frame of mind for the work and adventures ahead. Shout out to the team at Chita Lodge for making me super comfortable during my transit and stay.

Travel Tips

  • If you are not able to fly to Mansa and shuttle to Samfya, you could still drive to Samfya using the Great North road – detour at Serenje in the Muchinga province. I am reliably informed that the roads are in good condition and a drive from Lusaka to Samfya takes up to 10 hours, plus you’ll get to drive along Zambia’s longest bridge – road trip anyone??
  • Samfya is a lake side town in the tropics so do yourself a favour and carry mosquito repellent or take malaria medication prior to travel.
  • I highly recommend that you travel to Samfya with a group of people and ensure you pre-plan group activities e.g board games, beach based sport, barbecues etc. There isn’t much to do for solo travellers if you are not into fishing, visiting curio markets and canoe rides on the lake.
  • Always carry your bathing suit and moisturiser/sunscreen, the heat gets pretty real!
  • Ensure you make prior bookings with lodges in the area before travel as Samfya is growing to be a popular destination and you may not always find room availability .
  • Other lodges in the area to look out for are the Henry Courtyard (260 212 821 031/260 977 468 930 / 260 955 468 930), Samfya Waterfront Lodge (260 973 045 769) and Samfya Marines Beach Lodge (260 979 411 836). The price for rooms at these lodges range from ZMK 650 ($50) for standard rooms to ZMK 2000 ($150) for executive/apartment rooms per night, inclusive of breakfast.
  • The cost of taking a banana boat ride around the lake and towards the harbour is negotiable from fisherman to fisherman but you must ensure you agree on the route and fees beforehand as they may charge you a pretty penny for deviations which isn’t very nice considering you’ll be on the lake and at their mercy. You also need to assess the risk of canoeing without life jackets as fishermen do not provide any 🤷🏽‍♂️.
  • Most lodges have a point of sale for guests to swipe and settle their bills however, it is best to have enough local currency in the event that technology fails. The nearest bank atm is about 4 kms from Chita Lodge.

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