Sausage Tree Camp (sister to Potato Bush Camp) is situated on the banks of the Zambezi River, with 7 sleek, luxury suites each boasting the perfect vantage point to watch hippos lazing in the water and elephants coming down for a drink. Having just spent two nights at the intimate Potato Bush Camp (see our other blog on this) we were excited to see what Sausage Tree had to offer.
Our first experience at Sausage Tree Camp was enjoying the camp’s signature ‘water lunch’. Sipping an ice-cold Pimm’s, sitting around a ladened delicious lunch table with ankles in the Zambezi river was an overwhelmingly serene experience.
After lunch we headed to Sausage Tree Camp and were completely blown away by what we found. The 7 luxury tented suites are situated either side of the expansive communal area, sat directly on the banks of the river – the 180° views of the river and its inhabitants are second to none.
The main area overlooking the river is neighboured by a 25-metre lap pool with equally incredible views over the Zambezi. A dip in here or indeed a few laps (to work off all the delicious food and wine) is a very special way to spend some time relaxing after the excitement out in the bush.
We headed to our suites for some down-time before the afternoon’s activities and could not have had a better location in which to relax - huge glass doors open out onto a decked area with plunge pool and unrivalled views of the river. The vast, modern suites are bright and airy with beautiful African touches and the huge bathroom opens up to an outdoor shower – the perfect way to freshen up after a long day in the bush. The suites at Sausage Tree are connected by paths made in the sandy ground, making this feel a little more intrepid than Potato Bush Camp (which has wooden walkways); however my suite was the closest to the communal area making me feel very at ease. Once in my room I took the opportunity to roll out one of the yoga mats provided and have a quick stretch out to the sounds of the bush. Certainly, my most memorable and picturesque (hot) yoga session to date.
Our first game drive at Sausage Tree Camp was a night drive with Henry. A city boy, originating from Lusaka, Henry came to Sausage Tree Camp as a barman – we enjoyed discussing the ins and outs of making mojitos and a perfect cup of coffee – however his true passion lays in the bush. Henry was the ultimate story-teller and when we found our much searched-for leopards we sat surrounded by darkness as he told us stories from his last few years guiding in the park. At one-point Henry turned off his torch (the leopards were hunting and he didn’t want to disturb their prey) and I was completely dumb-struck by the deafening silence surrounding us. It was so dark I could see nothing but the milky way above my head, and the peace of this moment will be forever imprinted in my memory.
My tranquil moment was disrupted by a rustle behind us, Henry shone the torch in the direction of the sound to reveal a large sinister looking hyena no more than few metres away from the vehicle. Henry explained then that hyenas tend to follow hunting leopards to steal their kill – very in character.
Our final full day in the Lower Zambezi gave a valuable wider context about the area and its conservation challenges. We began by heading down the river to just outside the national park to the Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) headquarters. Here we met General Manager, Cesca, who took us through the three-pronged conservation approach CLZ have created. The park and conservation fee paid by guests staying the camps goes directly to CLZ which is vital, as the conservation challenges faced in and around this national park (and others) are numerous and pressing; however the results being seen are so promising for the conservation of the area, and the focus and determination of the CLZ team was impressive. To find out more click here.
Sausage Tree and Potato Bush Camps work closely with CLZ and the conservation fees are well-targetted through CLZ, however responsibility also lies in-house to ensure the environmental impact of the camps is a low as possible. For 75% of the time the camps run on solar power, with a generator boosting this on occasion. Moreover, Jason is in the process of adding more solar panels and once these are installed it is expected for the camp to run off solar 100% of the time. All water - whether for drinking, bathing or brushing teeth - is pulled from the river, cleaned & filtrated onsite and we were shown a prototype of the new reusable water bottle which all guests will be gifted upon arrival, to eliminate disposable bottles from the camp completely (as well as forming a lovely keepsake).
After 3 days of spotting big game, birds and trees our final evening was spent on a game walk with Henry (and a ranger). As I understand it many avid safari-goers enjoy this time in the bush over everything else, learning about the tiny organisms making a huge impact on this fragile eco-system. Understanding the lifecycle of termites turned out to be just as interesting watching as leopards hunt. Our walk ended up a little shorter than expected due to a very high density of elephants, so we headed off for our last sundowner. Our last supper of the trip was enjoyed by the pool and as our very efficient barman topped up our drinks we all lamented how we needed to have another 4 or 5 days here in this peaceful slice of paradise.
Our last morning was spent canoeing down the river. Something about being on the water with only the sound of the oar splashing and hippos grunting made me feel so at peace. I could have sat back and meandered all day. Finally, before heading home we were treated to a massage (all guests at Sausage Tree have a complimentary massage during their stay). I don't think there will be many people who will have had a massage interuptted mid-flow to view some elephants crossing the river directly in front of the tent…!
As we waved goodbye to the camp teams and made our way back to the airstrip there was a clear feeling of sadness from us all (in fact I think I had a lump in my throat). Whilst we had managed to pack in every activity available to us during our trip, we had all felt so incredibly relaxed and so far away from our daily lives.
No one can ever forget their first time on safari, and nor can anyone forget their first trip to the Lower Zambezi. The fact that, for me, these defining moments combined was an immense privilege. In addition to the guest experience, the trip offered invaluable insight into the workings of a premium safari camp like Sausage Tree & Potato Bush. I now appreciate the immense operation behind the scenes that provides such a seamless experience. This is born of the drive, passion, pride and knowledge of an exceptional team of people - be that owner, guides, camp manager, front of house staff or maintenance teams. However, it is of course the landscape and the animals that leaves the indelible impression. My time there offered ultimate perspective and inspiration. We all returned even more passionate and informed about these extraordinary wildernesess and the role of responsible tourism in helping to ensure their preservation.