“One never knows how what one needs will show up. And this week it did in the form of the most generous people that I know,” our guest, Melony Van Der Merwe wrote recently, after her stay on our riverbank.

Living in Florida, but South African-born, Melony’s heart keeps calling her back to Africa. For now, she remains a global traveller, committed to discovering the world through food. “Create, transform, nurture.” is her creed.

When she arrived at Royal Chundu, in the first month of the new year, Melony was looking for a special kind of adventure. One that included true immersion in the ways of the Zambezi and its communities, an immersion through food: the finding, cooking, preparing, serving and eating of food.

She asked our team to join her, to step outside the lodge and forage on the riverbank with the women in our neighbouring village, Malambo, and to purchase and collect fresh produce from the village garden and chicken coops.

What we returned to the lodge with was a feast big enough for the whole team: baskets of seasonal wild edible plants, like delele leaves (‘Jew’s Mallow’ or wild jute), katapa (cassava leaves), impwa (African eggplants), chibwabwa (pumpkin leaves), chinshungwa (a wild vegetable only found in the rainy season) and mundambi (a species of Hibiscus), together with village chicken and kapenta (the Tanganyika sardine).

“At Royal Chundu, I truly discovered that the source of everything lies in a village,” Melony told us. “I humbly found community in like-souls who satisfied my hunger for truthful and meaningful connection within the Royal Chundu community and its neighbour, the Malambo village. We have everything we need, within and around us.”

We gathered in the boma at River Lodge, preparing our meal on reed mats on the earth, cooking over charcoal stoves, the village way. In the evening, in our best chitenges, we united to share in the food from our land, at a gathering on the island. Along with Melony, several chefs, managers, waiters and other members of our Royal Chundu family, we came together in the best way we know how – a local harvest feast.

Food is integral to Zambian culture, and the only authentic way to indulge is with nshima (our staple food, made from maize flour prepared into a thick porridge), in a “hands-on” manner (put away the knife and fork).

Thank you to Melony, for going deeper with us, for your own generosity of spirit and celebrating a taste of Zambia with us.

Take a closer look at our foraging feast below…

To our lodge owner and MD, Tina Aponte, Melony wrote, “You champion for so many, especially inspiring women to reconnect with their own, unique voice so to use it proudly and authentically. Your little world along the Zambezi River vibrates with so much love, character and food for the soul. I am forever indebted to you for the most soulful time in Zambia. Thank you, Tina and Aggie and Royal Chundu for feeding my soul.”

All images by Melony Van Der Merwe.