Malewa, quiet bush camp with a view of paradise

Saturday April 17 2010

Breakfast is served by the river, under a gigantic fig tree. Photo/JACKSON BIKO

When you drive into Malewa Wildlife Lodge, you are reminded of an African hamlet.

It consists of grass thatched houses built deep in the glorious yellow acacia woodland along the Malewa River.

A soaring mud clay chimney meets you when you walk in.

What’s missing in the romantic tableau is smoke rising lazily to the blue sky.

This luxurious eco-lodge is the brainchild of designer Ben Jackson, who also designed Greystoke Mahale on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

I visited Malewa when the weather was just right.


The accommodation consists of five individual, traditional-styled buildings with six bedrooms, one of which is a two-storey family cottage with two rooms.

On top of this are four stunning river suites and stilts, all offering spacious bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms.

Although the design of the lodge is entirely traditional, the modern interior décor bursts into gaudy shades of red, yellow, and orange.

Because they are big on the eco-theme, electricity is generated by solar power, waste is recycled, water is drawn using hydropower, cooking is done by gas and eco-bricks are sourced from sustainable sources.

I was checked into one of the honeymoon suites by the river, which comes complete with an outdoor bath.

I was alone and I can tell you there is something deeply saddening about a man staying in a honeymoon suite alone.

The elegant and tastefully done room seemed to mock me. I was disappointing the room.

I remember getting a bit restless in the silence, so I decided to spend more time in the mess, a gorgeous double-storey structure that consists of a dining and relaxation area on the upper deck and a swanky communal sitting area with fireplaces, bar, and dining area on the ground floor.

Malewa is not exactly quiet — it is still. Eerily still.

Although the area’s 250 species of birds constantly erupt in a cacophony of song, I suspect you always feel the silence.

And at some point, if you listen out closely, all the birds momentarily stop their orchestra and the whole lodge is immersed in a deafening silence.

An incident illustrates this: In the dining area over lunch, there were three couples, all enjoying their meals.

As I cut into a sumptuous steak, I remember noticing that the only noise, apart from the clunking cutlery, was of whispers.

Yes, everyone was talking in lowered voices. The stillness of the place demanded respect. It almost seemed rude to speak loudly.

Only the birds were allowed to speak in their normal voices.

Breakfast was served by the river, under a gigantic fig tree.

Several tables were laid out next to an open stone kitchen counter that sizzled with frying eggs, bacon and sausages.

Hippos lazed about on the shore across from us, perhaps wondering when someone would remember to pass them some orange juice.

Bush breakfast is what they called it... even though the name that befits the romantic concept is hippo breakfast.

This breakfast by the river while you watch hippos yawn and bum around, perhaps took the biscuit for me at Malewa Lodge.  

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