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False 42 Travel Zambia May 2008 I n the kitchen of a house in the middle of Africa, seven- year- old Poppy giggles as she decorates biscuits in the shape of lion paw- prints. An obliging chef is on hand for the finishing touches. Meanwhile her older brother Jake, back from collecting eggs from the hen house, is gathering his binoculars and camera for a nature walk with their private guide. As the children’s parents relax on the terrace with glasses of freshly made lemonade, their youngest, Tom, splashes about in the pool under the watchful eye of their hostess – plus the indifferent gaze of two warthogs, a bushbuck and half a dozen vervet monkeys. Traditionally, safaris in Zambia are based on lodges and bush- camps – an opportunity to meet other adult safari enthusiasts, share experiences and learn about the sights and sounds of the bush. But, in a unique experiment, five impressive locations in Zambia each now boast a very special private house, offering families a home from home deep in the African bush. These ‘ Safari Houses of Zambia’ are the brainchild of Jo Pope, who – together with Robin, her celebrated safari guide husband – runs Robin Pope Safaris in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley. After successfully converting the Popes’ own home at Nkwali into a private house back in 2003, Jo realised that there was a gap in the market for families and other travellers who wanted privacy and the ability to plan their own safari day with complete freedom. Thus, in June 2004, Jo dreamt up the idea of a collection of houses, each individual in design, which would be dotted around Zambia to form a circuit for family safari- goers. Each house would offer all the usual safari fare, from canoeing to night drives, bush walks to sunset cruises, and each would have its own guide, chef and hostess to ensure a completely individual and private experience – complete with childcare and family activities. By chance, The African bush is no place to take the kids, right? Wrong! While the traditional game lodge may frown upon the mess, noise and general chaos that comes with children, an innovative trend in Zambia aims to turn the safari into a feast of family fun. Anna Devereux- Baker investigates. HOUSE & HOME Lodge life Top: Bush baking tips at Robin’s House, South Luangwa ROBIN POPE SAFARIS Opposite: The other- worldly architecture of Chongwe River Safari House, Lower Zambezi CHONGWE RIVER CAMP

False May 2008 Travel Zambia 43 Lodge life Chris Liebenberg, the owner of Chongwe River Safari Camp in the Lower Zambezi, was thinking along the same lines. The two decided to collaborate – and the idea took shape. Five houses in Zambia now offer this novel experience. Robin’s House, set in the grounds of Nkwali Camp, was formerly the home of the Popes. The smallest of the safari houses, it was completely renovated in 2003 and opened as the first of its kind in Zambia. This house, which has two en suite bedrooms, nestles among large shade trees on the banks of the Luangwa River. The fenced garden has a great sandpit, from where children can spot the wildlife that comes down to drink. The first to be built from scratch was Luangwa Safari House, which overlooks a game- crowded seasonal lagoon beside the Luangwa River, with a view of the Chindeni Hills in the background. Ground was broken in May 2005, and by mid December the house was complete. Construction Keeping young children happy on safari has its own particular demands. Here are a few suggestions: SAFARI WITH YOUNG KIDS TWELVE TOP TIPS: 1 Keep drives short: two hours maximum, preferably less. 2 Pencils and paper work anywhere. 3 Play ‘ I- spy’ and invent your own games: “ First person to spot a XXX…” 4 Keep them drinking water; stock up on snacks. 5 Toilet breaks – before you set out and at every stop 6 Get out of the vehicle wherever and whenever allowed. 7 A day in camp ( full of wildlife and fun activities) can be worth two in the bush. 8 Allow playing time with other children. 9 Don’t keep moving on: allow time at each destination to get settled. 10 Try stopping whenever your child wants, even if it’s ‘ just another impala’. 11 Children’s binoculars or digital cameras allow them to share the grown- up fun. 12 Let them pick it up: seed pods, bones, whatever. ( But avoid things that bite and sting, and wash hands afterwards.)