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Espresso Yourself | Awakening to New Mornings at Mukwa River Lodge

Unveiling the Charm of Mukwa River Lodge

It’s practically family lore that I’m not a morning person. My spirit animal is a night owl. To me, midnight’s calm beats dawn’s noisy debut any day. Really, I’m not so much a creature of the night as I am allergic to the morning din. Those folks who can spring from bed, grinning at the sunrise? Baffling! It usually takes a double espresso before I can even mumble, “Good Morning.” But a recent stay at Mukwa River Lodge, nestled on the Zambezi River just outside, Livingstone, Zambia flipped my circadian world upside down. Suddenly, I glimpsed the magic those early risers rave about.

Right from the start, it was clear that Mukwa River Lodge was anything but ordinary. My husband and I, revelling in what we called our “anniversary escape” (translation: 24 child-free hours), were navigating our way to the lodge in our Toyota Fortuner. The approach was a picturesque dirt road, lined with more and more wildflowers as we neared our retreat. But here’s the kicker: the road ended at a river channel about 20 meters wide. Across the water, the lodge’s reception beckoned, apparently only reachable by a charming wooden footbridge. Yet there we were, puzzling over our next move as we could see vehicles on the other side. Hinting at the adventure ahead, my husband, who had visited before, innocently suggested I take the wheel. It turns out that crossing the river by car was all part of the plan—assuming your vehicle has enough clearance, it’s actually a thrilling start to what promises to be a luxurious stay in a lodge that marches to the beat of its own African drum.

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A Gourmet Evening at Mukwa River Lodge

Fast forward to the evening, where I could dazzle you with tales of succulent welcome cocktails and how Sebastian, our sommelier-extraordinaire, magically paired wines with the richest mac ‘n’ cheese I’ve ever devoured (really, who knew spekboom could elevate locally-produced parmezam like that?) and pork belly that was of mythical proportions. Trust me, any food lover would trek to Mukwa Lodge just for the menu. But let’s pivot: this story is about my newfound love for mornings.

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Mornings at Mukwa River Lodge: A Newfound Love

Imagine waking up in an enormous bed, in an equally sprawling river suite overlooking the tranquil Zambezi River. The luxury of having a Nespresso machine right in our room meant we could sip espresso on a snug outdoor couch, perfectly sized for two, with the morning breeze whispering the wheeze honk of hippos nearby. And yes, there’s a private plunge pool tempting us, but it was the outdoor shower that really stole the show. After a second irresistible shot of caffeine, we jumped right in. Forget the beautiful bathtub and the indoor shower; it’s all about the expansive outdoor shower area, equipped with side-by-side his-and-hers showers, making it larger than my own home’s biggest bathroom. Surrounded by high walls for utmost privacy, the morning sun bathes you in warmth, while soapy scents of lemongrass, rooibos, and mongongo fill the air. And as rainbows play in the spray of the morning shower, it’s a delightful reminder of the lively spectacle at Victoria Falls, just a short drive away. Who wouldn’t be overjoyed to start the day like this?

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A Unique Zambezi River Cruise Experience

We’d booked a morning Zambezi River cruise, preferring the serene waters when fewer boats are around. Yet, we were promptly stalled—not by engine trouble, but by Humphrey, the resident hippo. He stared at us and lounged contentedly, blocking our exit with a nonchalance only a hippo can muster. Eventually, he plunged beneath the waters, meandered directly under our boat and then the dock, before making a grand U-turn downstream. With Humphrey finally out of the way, it was our cue to hop on board, secretly hoping more coffee awaited us. Indeed, Mukwa Lodge had another delightful surprise up its sleeve—a private cruise experience like no other.

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Aboard were my husband and I, our captain, a private chef, and our waiter—who happened to be Sebastian the sommelier, the superhero doubling as a barista by day. Our morning kicked off with robust cappuccinos, toasted focaccia, freshly baked chocolate muffins, and perfectly sliced mango. A cheese board featuring selections from a nearby farm—casually pointed out by our captain—seemed like the pinnacle of the meal, but it was merely the beginning. The muesli, crafted in-house with locally foraged ingredients and topped with house-made yoghurt, was a highlight. And those cranberry and orange juice decanters, adorned with charming pear and apple stoppers, were a whimsical touch that will forever remind me of Mukwa.

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Breakfast continued to ascend in decadence with silver service and a cooked-to-order feast—I opted for eggs Benedict, while my husband (as always) indulged in an omelette packed with everything imaginable. The bright chitenge napkins proved not just decorative but essential. Just when we thought the morning couldn’t get any better, we heard the distinctive pop of a champagne cork and were handed crisp mimosas.

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A Heavenly Morning Routine

This extraordinary morning made me ponder—if every day began like this, perhaps I could be convinced to embrace the early hours. Here at Mukwa, mornings transform into luxurious celebrations, proving even the staunchest night owl can be swayed by the right blend of riverside splendour, culinary delights and of course, a few shots of caffeine. Truly, this is what mornings in heaven must be like.

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Stories From Kim Barnett