For my next adventure, I had the pleasure of heading to Siavonga in the Southern Province of Zambia. The word Siavonga is the local rendition of the Ndebele word “siyabonga”, meaning “thank you” and this lake side town surely provides a couple of things to be thankful for.
Siavonga town is located on the shores of the Lake Kariba, a short drive away from the Kariba Dam, which produces a considerable amount of Zambia’s electricity and represents the border point between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Getting to Siavonga is fairly straightforward until you get to the hills and escarpment which could sometimes be treacherous. It is 2-3 hours drive from Lusaka and there are several public shuttles that drive to this riviera from Lusaka and Kafue town.
This small town is still simple to its core but it now has access to a local bank, several petrol stations, local grocery and bottle stores that stock up essential items and usual food and beverage brands. I especially like the Waters Edge which is located at the entrance of the Lake Safari lodge, because they are normally well stocked up with some chilled treats that you will need to endure the heat in Siavonga.
Most of the establishments in the area also have conference facilities for corporate and social events so, Siavonga presents a convenient and popular weekend getaway for most of the people in Lusaka and Kafue.
I recommend a short stop at the Chirundu-Siavonga turn off for a quick bite of some roasted goat skewers!
There are a range of accommodation options dotted along the lake which offer different standards and experiences. You have the higher-end establishments like Lake Safari, Lake Kariba Inns, Fresh View Homes and Skyview then you also lodges like Manchinchi Bay, the Bay Hotel, Eagles Rest Resort and the Siavonga Castle which all provide the basic amenities, are relatively cheaper and also offer group accommodation options.
However, there are also other options like Sandy Beach Lodge, which is technically not in Siavonga town but is within the district, and the various House Boats which give you a unique opportunity to cruise the lake and almost catch that yatch life 😜. Beyond these establishments, there are also lesser known lodges in the vicinity of town which should be affordable and convenient for most budgets.
I have previously stayed at the Bay Hotel, Lake Kariba Inns, Fresh View Homes, Sandy Beach and Lake Safari and should advise that they each a unique offering. I relished the panoramic views that the rooms and restuarant at Fresh View Homes provides, the expanse of clear sandy shores at Sandy Beach lodge, the robust menu and on-site activity options at Lake Kariba Inns but, I normally settle for Lake Safari because I find the aesthetic of property quite pleasing. They have such picturesque views of the lake, I mean just look at these photographs.
Things to Do
There is not much wildlife to see in Siavonga except for the occasional Crocodiles, Monitor Lizards and Hippos which are normally seen in the lake. Attempting to swim in the lake is an activity I encourage you to avoid. You could enjoy any one of the four pools at Kariba Inns or enjoy a cold beverage under the palms and pergola’s at Lake Safari.
You could also take a boat cruise on the lake and perhaps see the Kariba Dam wall or visit the Banana Island and see the local kapenta (sardine) fishermen. These excursions can be booked at the lodge of your choice. Prices start at about ZMK 700 per hour, check with your chosen lodge for accurate information.
There is a good variety of birdlife around the Lake and an even larger host of fish for fishing enthusiasts. Species in the lake includes the Tilapia, Tiger Fish, Barbel, Nembwe and Vundu which all grow considerably large after the end of the annual fishing ban. A few of the lodges provide fishing boat options for guests, be sure to check with the reservations desks as you book your accommodation. You can actually buy freshly caught fish every morning at the local market or by the entrance of Lake Safari lodge and Kariba Inns lodge. The markets normally stock some dried fish too, for those of you that prefer it.
While you retire to your accommodations for the night, you could begin to hear revving and even see specs of light in the the distance on the lake, those are actually fishermen who spend their evenings catching fresh fish. With every visit I have made to Siavonga, my respect for these men and women grows as some of these folks make a living on the water but cannot swim. I see more and more of them venture out and take the risks to bring the best that Lake Kariba has to our tables.
- If you are driving to Siavonga, you can actually use a small vehicle as the road is fairly tarred with an occasional pothole as you drive along the escarpment areas. However, the road after the Chirundu-Siavonga turnoff gets a bit bumpy and is riddled with potholes so, drive at a moderate speed.
- If you are driving from Lusaka, there is only one toll gate before you get to Kafue, ensure you carry some cash and your identity document. You will occasionally have speed traps between Lusaka and the Mazabuka/Livingstone turn-off.
- You will see several points that sell woven goods on the road between the Chirundu-Siavonga turn off and Siavonga town, I recommend that you carry some loose money if you are looking for a great bargain for baskets, mats etc. This goes a long way for locals in the area.
- There are no flights to Siavonga but you can find buses that get to Siavonga at the intercity bus terminus or around the Chilanga town centre vicinity.
- Some establishments provide a buy-one-get-one free accommodation offer through the local Smart Savers coupon app, check out which ones apply if you are looking for a bargain.
- Siavonga is hot! Average day time temperatures hover around 25 degrees Celsius so it is advisable for you to carry light, comfortable clothes (bathing suits included) and a jumper for that occasional evening breeze.
- Ensure you carry sunscreen and/or a moisturiser to protect yourself. The area also has mosquito’s so grab that inspect repellent too.
- Siavonga is hilly, so I recommend you carry comfortable shoes that have a good grip.
- As with all other travels, when you get to these beautiful sites, be responsible and do your part to preserve them.