Shiwa Ngandu Estate camps - Shiwa House
Set in Zambia's highlands, a world away from the Luangwa and Zambezi Valleys, Shiwa Ng'andu is an extraordinary place to stay.An eccentric mix of English stately home and Tuscan villa the house, which accepts up to eight guests, took Sir Stewart Gore-Brown fourteen years to build and was completed in 1932. Sir Stewart's ghost looms large here, yet it is not a mausoleum to his life but rather a working estate and that is the real attraction of it.
Offering an entirely different experience to solely pursuing wildlife, incorporating a few nights at Shiwa is a wonderful way to mix-up a Zambian safari and really get under the skin of this country.
Gore-Brown's story has been well told, of how a somewhat disaffected man rejected in love and not wealthy enough to make the upper echelons of the aristocracy headed to Africa to pursue his ambition of living like a lord there.
Having established the Congo-Northern Rhodesia Border and presumably traipsed over thousands of miles bush, almost any of which would have been at his disposal to purchase, his eyes alighted on Lake Shiwa Ng'andu and this, he decided, was where his estate and manor house must be established.
Showing a complete disregard to the quality of the soil or the distance from the nearest railhead or town, Gore-Brown proceeded to pour all the money at his disposal, plus a bit more, into this mad-cap scheme which seems as out of place now as it did a hundred years ago.
A complicated character not averse to wielding his cane against a misbehaving servant, he was also an early advocate of self-rule for Africans and this legacy has helped the estate survive the winds of change that have blown over the country since his death just after independence.
There is a surprising amount of game here, some introduced but most survivors of a remnant population that has gradually grown more numerous and less shy as its protection has become increasingly assured.
Much of the game is found on the grazing on the plains along the lake shore, sometimes interspersed with cattle or horses. The house itself is somewhat cold and formal, having been designed and built by a military man who was never knowingly underdressed, yet while somewhat frayed, it is certainly not devoid of beauty or charm.
There is plenty to do – game drives, boat trips on the lake, walk or horse-ride in to the local hills and up the attractive dambos, explore the house, as well as visit a nearby hot springs - but the real appeal of Shiwa is more than a sum of its parts.
It is the fact that you stay as a house-guest on a working estate and hear first-hand the realities of farming, conservation and maintaining a house which was built at an entirely different time in history and has had to adapt to the challenges of the present.
Your hosts are Charlie and Jo Harvey and Shiwa Ng'andu is their home. Charlie is a Gore-Brown's eldest grandson and so the connection to the past is immediate and anecdotes abound, but you do not need to have any interest in colonial history to relish the very genuine experience that staying at Shiwa is.
Price includes all food and drinks and activities.
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