Lusaka Safari Lodge
(40 rooms) PO Box 51018, Lusaka; tel: 095 704600–3; fax: 095 704800/221175; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.proteahotels.com
Opened at the end of 1999, Protea stands in a 12km2 private game reserve of rolling bush about 45km north of Lusaka. To get there take the Great North Rd for about 38km, then turn right and follow the signs for a further 7km. Note that during the rainy season this road can be uneven and very wet in places, barely suitable for a low-clearance saloon vehicle.
The lounge, bar and dining room are all set beneath a large, curved, thatched roof that's been cleverly constructed. Inside the main thatched area are lots of separate nooks and crannies. Some contain tables and dining chairs, others more comfy sofas; perfect to hide away and relax. In one corner you'll find the 'Trading Post', a well-stocked shop for books and curios. The food is very good, gaining it a reputation amongst the more affluent residents of Lusaka as an excellent venue for the buffet Sunday lunch at US$22 for all you can eat (under 12s half price).
The bedrooms are stunning: high, thatched ceilings and lots of style and space. All have en-suite bathrooms with marble tops, bath and separate (powerful) shower. Mossie nets cover the king-size doubles (or twins). All have direct-dial telephones using cellular links (reliable but expensive), tea/coffee makers, and TV with M-Net cable channels.
Outside, beautiful herbaceous borders surround a figure-of-eight swimming pool and a network of lawns. Beyond lies a wilderness area, including a lake, which is home to a wide range of wildlife. The author can testify to watching a memorable flock of Abdim's stork during the wet season here, but the grass was too high (and lunch too good) to go out searching for game. You'd expect to find zebra, warthogs, reedbuck, puku, kudu and impala here, amongst other common game. More surprising is the presence of Lichtenstein's hartebeest, tsessebe, oribi, Kafue lechwe, eland and sitatunga. Clearly it's worth exploring during the dry season, either driving or on one of two short marked trails. There is a large lion enclosure with four resident lions, two adults and two three-year-olds.
Finally, there is a 15-year-old elephant named Mphanvu, whom you may occasionally see on drives. If she seems friendly it's because she was rescued and brought up in the Luangwa by John Coppinger. After attempts to release her back into elephant groups in South Luangwa, she was walked up to North Luangwa National Park, in the hope of re-introducing her there, further from people. That failed and she ended up at Shiwa Ng'andu, before finally coming to Protea. Now she's somewhat unpredictable, and guests should keep their distance.