If Bilbo Baggins had $5,000 to spend on a day’s vacation on safari, Luangwa House is where he would choose to go. It looks like a palace for hobbits. The thatched roof undulates over the crazy-paving walls. The dried grass porch outside the main entrance is held up by four tree trunks. The front door is massive, made from thick planks of wood and broad, horizontal strips of metal. It is hinged on top, just off centre, so when it opens, people can pass either side of it. The upstairs bedrooms have balconies which look like drawbridges.
You may think that $5,000 a night is exorbitantly expensive, but it can accommodate four couples, each with a bedroom and themed en suite bathroom. The house has its own chef and servants. There is an infinity pool and a decked pier which leads to a sunken observation room, from which one can photograph the animals at extremely close range.
The decor of the interior is simple but beautiful. The dining table is polished marble. A sculpture of a leopard (by my neighbour, Pam Carr) made from the thin limbs of a strangler fig tree covers one wall. The back wall is completely open, giving a panoramic view of the lagoon and bush. The comfortable settee has cushions covered by Tribal Textile designs.
Su, Tabitha and I went for a viewing when the house was vacant. Lovemore (“His name is appropriate,” said Tab), the butler, showed us around. The main room is one huge space up to the thatched ceiling. The living area has no air conditioning because it is so open, but there are several ceiling fans hanging from the rafters to waft the air around in the hot season. The floor is cool, polished stone.
The bedrooms are spacious and tastefully furnished, with hardwood planks built into the walls for shelving. The bathrooms are unique. One has a large semi-circular window between his’n’hers showers. Tree trunk emerge from the walls and the floor (to provide separate places for toiletries). The other bathroom has a copper theme. The bowls, taps, bath and shower fittings are all copper.
As we sat outside, elephants trundled up to the lagoon to drink and cool themselves down. Across the plain there were impala, bushbuck and puku. We gazed out, hoping to see a dramatic chase and kill, but it all looked tensely tranquil. Forget early morning game drives; I could spend the day watching the action from a comfortable chair on the veranda and by the pool.