The name Kariba means a great deal to any Zimbabwean. It’s a magical place, filled with childhood-cherished memories: the thrill of catching your first bream, the excitement of passing the “beer tree” at the Makuti turn-off and many hours of fun.
What about those who’ve never experienced Kariba’s magic?
Having only lived in Zimbabwe for two years Kariba didn’t conjure up the same excitement as it does for my Zimbabwean husband. A man-made lake with a lot of stumps and some game didn’t really excite me as much as the wild Zambezi or the wondrous wildlife sanctuaries in the Savé Valley. I was proved wrong extremely quickly.
There are many ways to enjoy Kariba – some swear by a houseboat trip, others prefer to stay in Kariba town, some self-cater in lodges, others luxuriate in hotels- and then there’s Spurwing.
Spurwing Lodge was established in 1980, having been run privately for many years before that. Situated in the Matusadona National Park, the Island is renowned in Kariba circles. There are 11 thatched ensuite tents, six cabins, three chalets and a family house which can hold up to 10 people.
On arrival at the harbour you are greeted by the staff, dressed smartly in their uniforms, with big smiles on their faces. Walking up to the reception you’re handed a refreshing cocktail to take the edge off the heat and then you must fight the temptation to jump straight into the deliciously cool pool. We stayed in a chalet, aptly named Goose. We were delighted to ind our room was beautifully presented with lovely cushions and fresh lowers.
PHOTO: SEAN SMITH (sunset)
The Lodge is spread over quite a large area- enabling people to feel private yet sociable when they choose to. There is an iconic bar overlooking the Lake, where one can nibble on Billy’s Biltong and drink a few sneakies before dinner. The dining room is high on a platform that overlooks the swimming pool, so parents can linger over a meal while keeping an eye on their children.
Gastronomically Spur- wing is impressive. Creative starters of prawn and calamari, homemade spring rolls, followed by delicious main courses- bream is also always an option- and pud- dings that wouldn’t be amiss in a French patisserie. The plates are always garnished with fresh herbs which have been grown on the Island. They also provide an alternative for children with tricky tastebuds – some- thing which most parents will breathe a sigh of relief about! After dinner there are numerous options: en- joy an after-dinner drink or coffee in the bar; go for a night-time dip in the pool; or, gaze at the milky way on the edge of the Island- “the point”-where comfortable chairs have been laid out.
Most parents will agree that being tugged awake in the morning isn’t always a pleasure, especially on holiday. At dawn our little boy woke us up, exclaiming that elephants were outside our chalet. Waking up is much easier when you hear the sound of pure happiness emanating from a seven year old. Coffee and tea are brought to your rooms in the morning, at whatever time you ask for it. So there we sat sipping our hot drinks and staring as the sun stirred and the elephants bathed in the Lake.
I wasn’t too happy to see the snakes around the Island but the younger residents were ecstatic, and I listened to an argument between children of no more than seven years of age about the type of snake they spotted.
It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it seems that it is sacrosanct at Spurwing. Fresh pastries, cool yoghurt, fruit salad, and the obligatory bacon, eggs and sausages are all on offer. Over and above this, with a nod to the traditional breakfasts of another era, kidneys and kippers are also on the menu. The smell of fresh, “proper” coffee lingers whilst one enjoys the splendours of a Spurwing breakfast.
Apart from the mandatory fishing there are other options to keep you entertained. For those who prefer terra firma there are educational game drives in the comfortable Spurwing vehicles, or for those with a desire to burn off their break- fast, you can go on a walking safari with one of the two professional guides. This gives you ample opportunity to study nature at “grass-roots level” whether it is an interesting insect, plant, tree, bird, spoor, or a close encounter with wildlife. There are also morning and afternoon game cruises, in either a speedboat or a shaded pontoon. Game viewing by boat offers a whole new perspective to being on safari – regardless of the time of day, you are sure to see something you might not have seen on land.
The Island is host to many events, including wed- dings, birthdays, conferences and fishing tournaments. On Saturdays the Island is transformed, tables are laid out on the grass with white tablecloths, chairs are covered and it looks like a wedding is about to take place. Little did I know that this is the norm on a Saturday, when Spurwing offers either a braai or a potjie to people on the Island and to those who want to join in from another resort or a houseboat. The happy chatter of guests echoes around the Island, children’s laughter ills the bay and the sound of motorboats hums in the background.
Being British I wasn’t too happy to see the snakes around the Island but the younger residents were ecstatic, and I listened to an argument between children of no more than seven years of age, about the type of snake they spotted. Listening to children educating themselves about animals, insects and plants was heavenly- it is something to aspire to- and Mitch Riley, who manages Spurwing, was delighted to answer all their questions.
As I soaked in the blue haze vista of Lake Kariba, my thoughts turned to the future of the magniicent idyllic Island and lodge. When I spoke to Mitch about how Spurwing has remained popular for so long he mentions that it is a wonderful choice for families with children, because it is safe and there are things for them to do. He also brings up the fact that Spurwing has moved with the times, the facebook page is updated regularly, their impressive marketing also includes a monthly newsletter and he listens to the needs and requirements of the guests. Speaking to visitors who were staying or on a day trip to the Island, they mention that Spurwing has become a staple in their lives, and that they were brought there by their parents and so the pattern continues.
It was my first trip to Spurwing and as we leave I turn to wave good bye to the staff, the Island and the memories, I can see how that pattern has continued throughout generations and will do for many more to come. I may not have caught a fish but I caught the Spurwing bug.
5 hours drive from Harare, arrive at Kariba town and either use your own boat or book with Marineland, who offer daily transfer for
$75.00 (based on a minimum of 4 people).
WHEN TO GO
All year round although for fishing it is better to go between March to August.
Prices vary according to accommodation and season. In the low season the prices range from $129 to $171, whilst in the high season $145 to $187. Prices include all meals
– morning tea/coffee, breakfast, two course lunch, afternoon tea and four course dinner.
www. http://spurwingisland.com/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: +263 777 516 171
Try your hand at Vundu fishing- a chance to catch a 50kg
Leonard Machuka (pictured) has been serv- ing drinks behind the Spurwing bar for 36 years. Here is his recipe for the perfect Sneaky cocktail:
Vodka Lemonade Soda water
A splash of bitters A slice of lemon
Stir and serve with lots of ice. Quantities may vary according to your tastebuds!