Lake, Life, Love and War. Ndole Bay’s story

Sunset and local fishermen on Lake TanganyikaThe longest lake in the world

I’m sure none of you have ever heard of Ndole Bay have you? Why would you I suppose. We are located in..well.. the middle of absolute nowhere!

Let me try to explain.. Zambia. That little land locked country smack in the middle of Africa and now go way north til you get to our border with Democratic Republic of Congo..now we’re close. We are a little lakeside lodge in cameron bay about 20kms south of the congolese border in Zambia.

Got it?

Its hard to travel to or find a place as little known as where we are, but I guess thats why travellers do the 16 hour drive from relative civilisation (Lusaka) to come and stay here and see this mysterious Lake.

Lake Tanganyika is the LONGEST lake in the world! The second deepest lake in the world (to Lake Baikal in Russia) and almost 1/6th of available fresh surface water in the world is right here. Already most peoples idea that we all live in harsh deserts in Africa  is shattered.

Over 2000 specieies of animal life live in Lake Tanganyika, that 90% of which are found no where else in the world. Kalambo Falls (located opposite us in Zambia near to Tanzanian border) is the 2nd highest in Africa.

Not to mention the first signs of man inventing fire 100 thousand years ago were found… you guessed it, right here on the shores of Lke Tanganyika.

So are you intrigued yet?

Well this is where Craig and I have called home for the last accidental 5 years of our lives.  Accidental meaning we came on a 1 month holiday to see his family lodge which had been closed for years, and well, we’re still here! Africa is like a niggling feeling in the back of your mind that just works its way in and refuses to leave. Once you have experienced the freedoms and happiness, hardships and heartbreaks that come hand in hand, life elsewhere just seems to pointless.

Ndole Bay Lodge has been in the Zytkow family for nearly 35 years now. It was started by a guy named Bliknot in the late 70’s who then sold it onto Craigs father, Gerard and partner Pete Robinson in the early 80’s.  It was a huge success way back then with the white and black zambian locals who loved a good adventure with their families.

As I look back through the books, we were never more popular with over a 100 guests at a time staying here. The parties were huge! If I have learnt anything about Zambians since I arrived in this colourful country its that they sure can drink! That has not changed as the years roll by, there is nothing better than a massive family braai (BBq) and everyone you know is invited, young and old. You feel a real sense of warmness and openess amongst Zambians and they always make you feel like one of the family.

The life of the lodge has not been an easy one. Just as things were going great the government passed a law enabling the government to take over all successful businesses in Zambia- Nationalisation. The president Kenneth Kaunda had a soft spot for lake Tanganyika and made it into his personal playground, particularly the Kasaba Bay Lodge, which was also a popular private run lodge. Due to this, even though Ndole Bay was small in comparison, they took it anyways. Sounds eerily reminiscent of our now ruined neighbour Zimbabwe doesnt it?

One fine day in 1989, the military came one day in a truck, fully armed with AK47’s and ordered us out. NOW.  We no longer owned this business and had 24hours to pack only personal belongings and leave forever.  When you have put all your money, heart and soul into a place and its taken away by a gun muzzle to the face, it is devastating. But life goes on, another difficult lesson which we all must learn.

In the late 90’s when all the government owned businesses were failing and were run into the ground from corruption and mis-management , the goverment was forced to start selling the businesses back to the original owners. Then Gerard decided to buy it back again, as was a place he loved and where his son and daughter spent the best years of their childhood.

It was in massive dis-repair and engines and cars were missing although they were in the asset list as there. Obviously sold off for money by the government management and no one even noticed.

So we brought in managemnt couples to run it and get it back to its former glory, but it was not meant to be..

In the early 2000’s the Congo War broke out. Known as Africa’s World War the fighting was brutal. It lasted for 5 years. From the lodge you could see and hear the shells bursting and many skirmishes were had in the hills. The fighting did not actually come onto our soil but the effects were everywhere. This resulted in a Travel Ban for anyone to come to the lake so once again Ndole Bay closed its doors.

Nearing the end of the war, there was a masive flood or refugee soldiers and rebels alike. All crossing into Zambia to surrender and seek protection from the Zambian government from the fighting. Craig still remembers two huge metal war ships docking at the lodge full of Congolese government troops surrendering. Imagine what a terrifing sight that would have been.

Those two ships still lay in Sumbu harbour shores  nearby, slowly rusting away and used as a zambian soldier base until just last year when the congolese governement came and reclaimed then. For what use, we dont know.

It took 2 loads of our 20 tonne truck to move them and their guns out. On the AK47s were gruesome talismans of their victims.. ears, dried human skin and hair.  There is still a refugee camp in Mporokoso to this day that they were all sent to although its closing now.

As you can believe, even after the war ended and the travel ban reopened it was a bit of a tourism killer! Since then we have tried to reopen but there was noone wanting to come.  The roads had since diminished in Zambia and everyone had forgotten about Ndole Bay Lodge and the Lake as a whole.

Then we came along all those years later, on our 1 month holiday I previously mentioned. Fixed one chalet, then fixed another and then travellers just started coming.  Obviously people were interested in the Lake again.  The history making it even more desirable to go and see for themselves.

The new government is making a big push to revitalise tourism here now after all these years. Now we have electricity! some mobile phone coverage and a new airstrip is under construction.

Now here we are, every year getting busier and hope blossoming that maybe, just maybe it can be as great as it once was in the 80’s.

The more attention this beautiful part of the lake gets, the better the chance we have for conserving it and its animals for the future.

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