Zambia Trip Report Part 1:
Kafue and South Luangwa National Parks
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Hi <<First Name>>,

We spent a fast and furious few weeks exploring two of Zambia's national parks on a trip expertly organized for us by Zambian Ground Handlers, with Lusaka as our arrival/departure base. We hope you enjoy Brooke's in-depth trip report below from our time there, which we are sure will inspire you to look to Zambia for your guests who are now looking to plan safaris for this year and next, and long into the future...and for more detailed logistical information, you can also watch last month's webinar with Nick Aslin from Zambian Ground Handlers. 

Zambia, a stable country by African standards, is more than twice the size of California, with 70+ ethnic groups across its 16.2M people, 3M of whom live in the capital of Lusaka. With a long, storied history, Zambia is known as the birthplace of the walking safari (though you’ll also safari in a vehicle, a boat, or a hot air balloon), and has more fresh water than any other country in Africa. Its national parks are home to dense game (nearly 40% of its land is managed for wildlife), its cities are crowded with fashionable people, and its UNESCO world heritage sites are sought after by international visitors each year. 

And yet, Zambia feels like it is still an undiscovered gem. It is bordered by eight other countries that are either more popular, more expensive, more unstable, or more remote ... basically, get more press. Having already fallen in love with Victoria Falls from the Livingstone side and the Lower Zambezi National Park, we were thrilled to discover the jaw-dropping beauty and almost-inconceivable animal sightings of Kafue and South Luangwa. We were instantly enthralled with what Zambia can offer to first time and repeat safari goers alike, whether as a stand-alone country or when paired with others in Africa. We are now eager to return to explore remote North Luangwa (one of the the only areas of the country to have rhino), Liuwa Plain (under the management of African Parks Zambia and known for spotted hyena and the second largest wildebeest migration in the world with 40-50,000 migrating annually), and Kasanka National Park (for the world's largest mammal migration with about 15 million straw-colored Fruit Bats congregating in a small area of the park from Oct - Dec!). And, if you want a soundtrack to read this to, I wrote it to Spotify’s Zamrock playlist, featuring the best of the best of Zambian rock’s heyday.

All the best and please feel free to let us know if you would like more information.

Johann & Brooke
Kafue National Park

Kafue National Park (map) is the oldest and largest national park in Zambia, out of 22 in total, and the second largest national park in Africa. At 5.5 million acres (22,480 square kilometers), with about 15 official, commercial camps, guests have a very remote, private experience. While some do like that it isn’t a busy park, others realize that more camps and more guests mean more help in the anti-poaching world. Kafue is known for cheetah and wild dog, along with a variety of birds, and that is one of the many reasons people come here. It also has a wider variety of antelope species than any park in Africa. We spent four days among Green Safaris’ Ila Lodge in central Kafue and Wilderness Safaris’ Busanga Bush Camp on the Busanga Plains.

Green Safaris - Ila Safari Lodge
From Lusaka, it’s a three-hour drive on good tar roads in a comfortable vehicle to the entrance of Kafue National Park, followed by another 50 minutes to Ila Safari Lodge. Guests can also fly into the Chunga Airstrip, but since it is a $400 flight and a 40-minute drive from the airstrip to camp, it really does make sense to just do the road transfer. Ila Lodge, named after the Ila tribe that used to live in this part of Zambia, prides and promotes itself on being green, and as a solar-powered camp with various e-options, they do a great job of it. 

With a larger than life bronze sculpture of a cheetah by a South African artist in the entrance, we instantly felt at home. We settle in for lunch in the dining area, which includes fresh veggies from their garden (a project with the local community), and then enjoy a lovely afternoon reading by the pool while elephants trumpet across the river, hippos groan in the waters below, and the palms rustle in the breeze above. It’s cooler than we were expecting. We were preparing for South Luangwa and since Kafue is higher in altitude it’s more temperate. Walks here are still preferable in the cooler mornings, so we opt to spend the afternoon fishing. On the Kafue guests can catch bream, catfish, and pike.

Evening drinks around the fire are a lovely way to welcome the stars, though on this entire trip we never saw the Southern Cross. Ila’s house wine is Painted Wolf, which we recently learned supports the African Painted Wolf (aka African Wild Dog). After an enjoyable dinner, we sleep exceptionally well in one of the ten luxury tents, two of which are larger family suites. The mattress and linens are superb, as one would expect of a new camp (we were there just three years after their opening). The next morning, we walk. Lunch is served as we quietly glide along the riverbank on the fully solar-powered e-boat, enjoying the bird life, elephants, and other game coming to the water to drink. Mid-day instead of siesta we take the e-Landy out for a test drive (they are looking at purchasing another two; for now, the one on property seems to be mostly used when requested for an environmentally-friendly game drive experience). And in the afternoon we join other guests for a traditional game drive, except that to fend off tsetse there is a container at the front of the vehicle smoking the air with burning elephant dung. We see many of the rarer antelope including oribi, puku, and Defassa waterbuck, along with a seriously overstuffed lion fresh off a kill. All of the guides we spent time with were excellent, and we especially enjoyed our transfer time with Daneline, a guide-cum-guest relations manager, who is the first and only female guide in Kafue!

Here the only mishap was that a few of our outdoor-specific clothes were ironed and melted, however when we spoke with the managers about this, they were sincerely apologetic, offered to pay us the value of the clothes on the spot, and when we flew through Lusaka three days later, it was brought to our attention that the owners had already called Nick and Zambian Ground Handlers to preemptively alert them as well and apologize. Things happen. We were impressed with how everyone handled the mistake. AND … things happen for a reason! When we took Johann’s shirt to be patched by a friend, she did such an amazing design job that we took ALL of his shirts to her, and now he has his own unique “Afri-KUHL” safari style.  

The Green Safaris Conservation Foundation is the arm of the company set up to specifically support community and conservation development in remote areas of Africa. From sponsoring a fire-fighting unit in Kafue, to a tech-pilot-program helping to improve monitoring of poaching activity, to setting up a community garden, and more, they work in lock-step with the needs of their various locations.

And ... for a very timely update since our visit, Johann has now officially started representing Green Safaris in North America. When we were there, they were speaking about their newest project, and now, the unique and much-anticipated four-unit Chisa Busanga Camp has been completed. The stunning, elevated "bird's nest" rooms are ready to welcome guests, and we personally can't wait to return to experience them ourselves.

Wilderness Safaris - Busanga Bush Camp
We were transferred from Ila Lodge to Busanga Bush Camp, around six hours in total, but all within the park so nice to see the scenery change dramatically. It was a dry, dusty drive across the pan, but can also be a scenic 20-30 minute flight. On our outbound, it was a 1.5-hour flight direct from the Busanga Airstrip to Lusaka. When the plains flood and take on their more natural existence as swampland, endless water birds make this home. 

Busanga, which means “swamp”, aptly describes the terrain in the wet season, but was mostly dry in October. Bussanga Bush Camp is an amazing adventure camp, and with only four tents, the combination of remoteness and exclusivity comes through instantly. The entire Busanga area is 185,000-acres in the north-eastern part of Kafue National Park, and the Plains comprise about 69,000 of those acres.

After a fresh, light lunch, we retired to our tent for a respite, which was such a treat as the tents each have a swing on the deck so I sat swaying in the cooling breezes while a bushbuck grazed close by and Johann slept. On our afternoon drive we saw ample antelope: lechwe, puku, wildebeest, roan, hartebeest, etc. (they also have the rare Kirkii subspecies of sable, but we didn’t see it). We also saw a mating trio of lion and a breeding herd of elephant – the elephants feel less habituated and a bit wilder here so we never got too close.

That evening, sitting around the fire, we discussed details for the next morning where we would be woken at 5am in order to be by the hot air balloon launch site for sunrise. The pilot, Eric, runs Namibian Ballooning during certain times of year, and flies over Kafue when the camps are open. His balloon takes up to eight passengers and the flight lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the winds and where he can eventually land. He also does a lot of anti-poaching patrol when not flying so knows the land very well and shares first-hand knowledge of the park goings on. This is the only hot air balloon experience available in Zambia, and so worth it for the ability to soar above the generally flat landscape to see the remaining rivers and tributaries during the dry season, to touch the tops of the sycamore fig and palm trees, and see the many “islands” created when the water recedes. 

The only hiccup here wasn’t any fault of the camp … I suffered a 24-hour bug and spent the full second day in bed recovering. I can say with certainty that the mattress and linens are incredibly comfortable, and the team rallied as expected, bringing hot water bottles, fresh ginger tea throughout the day, and eventually two different deliveries of soup for me to eat in bed. While I was resting, Johann did a site trip to Shumba Camp, Mukambi Busanga, an afternoon drive, and spent the final evening around the dinner table with the other guests.

Kafue is still a truly wild park with a real sense of remoteness, and what Wilderness is doing in Kafue is especially important and part and parcel of their 4Cs ethos (commerce, conservation, community, and culture). To help with anti-poaching and to increase overall numbers of game, there need to be camps and communities working together. Here, they are using ecotourism to help support the preservation of this are of the park, which is so crucial. In our four days in Kafue we came across three separate elephant snaring situations: a story of an elephant that was rescued and survived; an elephant we saw suffering and called in to the authorities, a story of an elephant that was rescued and did not survive. By raising the profile of this previously marginalized area, people are finding employment, research projects are underway, lease fees are helping to cover park operations, and anti-poaching activities are making inroads. Under the auspice of their Wilderness Wildlife Trust, they are doing similar work various initiatives across the other countries they operate in.

Kafue National Park Video from Zambian Ground Handlers
As Mfuwe is the gateway to South Luangwa, it is worth mentioning that there are a number of great shops as you drive from Mfuwe Airport through town to the camps in the game management area or in the national park. Any of the camps can bring you to these shops during transfers or en route to/from flights time permitting. 

Tribal Textiles 
No more than a ten-minute-drive from the Mfuwe Airport is the massive workshop that produces the wonderful creations of Tribal Textiles. And Tribe is the retail outpost of Tribal Textiles that sits right at the junction of the road that either leads to the national park entrance or the game management areas. Time permitting guests can do workshops and create their own batik fabrics to bring home with them.

Mulberry Mongoose
Beauty from Brutality is the tag line for a very emotive enterprise of jewelry. Here, they buy snare wire taken from the game areas and turn it into chic, modern accessories. Kate Wilson started the company, which creates a range of handmade accessories from the natural materials from the South Luangwa Valley (guinea fowl feathers, wooden beads, vegetable ivory, and even vintage coins). The workshop of women is a communal spot, and the program supports a number of families from the extra income farmers receive from selling their feathers to the anti-poaching patrols they donate a bit of profit from every purchased piece.

Project Luangwa
Various safari properties in South Luangwa support this enterprise, which focuses on education, assists in community development, maintains gender support programs, and more. There is a co-op in town whereby various artists make and sell their work. We bought stacks of chitenge, and bought menstrual hygiene pads to donate to local girls.
South Luangwa National Park
It is a direct one-hour flight from Lusaka to Mfuwe; we flew on Proflight. Once at Mfuwe Airport, guests can go in a variety of directions depending on their safari circuit: north, west, south. But no matter where they are going, they’ll drive through Mfuwe town to access the wonders of the country’s premiere wildlife destination, and here, as mentioned above, there are several great shops where purchases directly impact the community and conservation efforts. 

The Luangwa Valley is the oldest section of the Great Rift Valley, and the Luangwa River, bordering four national parks, is home to the world’s largest concentration of hippos. The river’s location and isolation creates numerous unique ecosystems and species diversity. The South Luangwa National Park is 3,494 square miles (2,236,304 acres). See Map. While some of the only rhino in Zambia are currently in North Luangwa, South Luangwa delivers with ample game in many other ways. We basically saw leopard daily, heard stories from other guests of wild dog a day before or after us (Zambia is one of six countries with a viable population of this endangered carnivore), had sightings of lion, buffalo, and elephant all in one frame, and near nightly sightings of genet and serval.

I also found it to be a very dainty park in that there are many subspecies that appear smaller than their more common classifications: Yellow baboons, endemic Thornicroft giraffe in process of being named Luangwa giraffe, Crawshayii zebra (a subspecies of Berchells only found in the Luangwa Valley and also Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique). Coockson’s wildebeest are also endemic to this area; they are a subspecies of the Blue found only here.

The safari companies operating in South Luangwa cooperate very well with each other. There is a general “rule of thumb” followed by almost every camp, that morning activities are done by around 10-ish so that the camp you stayed at the last night can deliver you to the next camp in time for brunch. With that, almost every camp follows a similar schedule: wake up between 5 and 5:15; have a light breakfast between 5:30 and 5:45; leave on the morning activity at 6 and be back on property between 10 and 11; have brunch at 11:30; siesta until afternoon tea at 3:30; leave on the afternoon activity at 4 and be back around 7:30 for drinks and dinner. While many properties are also seasonal, there are some that are open year-round, and during the rainy season (January through mid-April), having a “river safari” is perfect for avid birders; there are more than 450 types of birds to spot here.
South Luangwa National Park intro
by Zambia Ground Handlers
Robin Pope Safaris 
They have four camps in South Luangwa that we both stayed at or did sites of: Nkwali, Luangwa River Lodge, Tena Tena, and Nsefu. While they don’t have their own foundation, they are committed to responsible tourism and support both the Kawaza School system of four schools in their immediate area and the Zambian Carnivore Programme. They also have properties in other parts of the country, as well as Zimbabwe and Malawi. 

Nkwali (stay)
Our pick up at the airport by the Robin Pope team was seamless and we were brought to camp in a closed transfer vehicle. It took about 45 minutes, through the main village and into the game management area, where before arriving at the property we already saw buffalo and elephant. To access the national park, guests at Nkwali either drive to the main entrance and cross a bridge, or use boats to cross the river and meet a vehicle on the other side. They do drives and walks in both the game management area (about 25%) and national park (about 75%); the flexibility makes this a great camp for late arrivals (like us, pulling into camp around 6pm) as guests can still get a shorter drive in upon arrival.

A big selling point for us with this camp and the other Robin Pope properties is that there will only ever be up to four people in a vehicle. We are instantly taken with the make-up of guests here: a Scottish family of four on their first ever safari in Africa; a single German woman on her first solo safari; and a single South African male who is an old-hat in the bush. They were all enthralled with their day and overall experience.

Nkwali, which is the local name of the Francolin bird, is a camp that can cater to any type of booking. We stayed in one of the six standard rooms and toured the two houses – Luangwa Safari House and Robin’s House which are great for friends or family traveling together and looking for exclusive-use privacy. 
Luangwa River Lodge (site)
Located within the national park, the five-room Luangwa River Lodge was a take-over from another owner, which simply means the look and feel is different from the style of the other Robin Pope properties. It sits right on the river’s edge and has a pool to cool off in during the day. Our hand off from Luangwa River Lodge to Tena Tena was at a point where we crossed the Luangwa River, and this was our first encounter with a Carmine bee-eater colony. We started to get excited for the hides we knew were in our future.
Tena Tena (site)
The first camp Robin Pope opened, Tena Tena, is still a favorite among safari-goers. The current location under mahogany trees and along the Luangwa River is sublime. This is within the Nsefu Sector as well, which has fewer camps than other sectors of the park, so it isn’t congested. Tena Tena is the local name for the Nile cabbage that floats on so many of the ox-bow lagoons, and is often explained as meaning “temporary home” because when the hippos rise up out of the water the cabbage is often draped over their backs like a tent ... and the six tents feel just like that, a home for the time you're there. We were here during lunch and saw happy guests clinking glasses and sharing safari stories under the leadwood-suspended canopy.
Nsefu (stay)
Originally built in 1951 as a temporary camp and made into a permanent camp in 1954, today Nsefu remains almost exactly as it was, however a few modern amenities have been added such as en-suite bathrooms, in-room charging stations and the Evening Breeze air-con sleeve. The rondovals are quite close together and you’ll from time to time see and hear other guests, however the beds are quite comfortable and the small space has everything one needs. 

What impressed us most here was learning about the other guests. There was a strong representation of French and German guests, including a couple from Paris who were here in June, five nights at both Tena Tena and Nsefu, and they were already back, staying just at Nsefu for 12 nights (always a good sign for a camp); they wanted 20 but the camp was booked. They requested Chris as their guide because he is so good with birds, and their return was focused on time in the bee-eater hide and photographing other species as well.

During our morning game drive/transfer, we also saw beautiful bird life: white-fronted bee-eaters; a large, well-kept hammercop nest; water thicknee or water dikkop; the Goliath heron. In January a massive stork colony forms when the birds start making their nests and then breed in February and March when the water is high. There is a stream that flows from the salt pan to the trees where the storks congregate so it is easy to get there by boat.

If there was one thing about this camp, and the others we experienced within the portfolio, that we would change, it would be the food and wine. The service was lovely as the team is on point and wanting to please. Meals and dinners specifically just seemed to be a bit more of the dated, plated offering of meat and starch with few veggies. It is possible to do a direct transfer between Mfuwe and Nsefu, which would be in a closed vehicle, driving mostly outside of the park, and taking between 1.5 and 2 hours. 
Green Safaris
Another quick update since our time on the ground, Shawa Camp will soon offer a new way of exploring the Luangwa through "Silent Safaris", based on a fleet of silent and unobtrusive electric safari vehicles. The camp was named after legendary South Luangwa guide, Jacob Shawa, and will include the latest green technologies, a unique design, and a setting in the Nsefu Sector, which provides easy park access.
Remote Africa Safaris
Part of the rich history of the South Luangwa, John and Carol Coppinger who founded Remote Africa Safaris in 1995 still own and operate the company, as well as live on property with their daughter Jenny, who with her fiancé Nick are poised to be the next generation of owner-managers. Most of the people who work at the Remote Africa Safaris properties are from the local village, Mkasanga, which is home to between 1500 and 2000 people, and their Tafika Fund does a lot to support the village, from scholarships and stationary packs, to the Football for Wildlife initiative, to the clinic they built, and more. With that, there is very low staff turn-over, and $5 per bed night goes directly to the fund to help with the work they’re doing. In addition, they support a number of conservation programs within Zambia.

In South Luangwa, in the northern part of the Nsefu Sector, they have one bush camp, Tafika Camp, and two walking camps under the umbrella name of Chikoko Walking Trails; in North Luangwa they have Mwaleshi Camp and the recently opened Takwela Camp, at the confluence of the Mwaleshi and Luangwa Rivers. To seamlessly combine the two national park experiences, they have a private airstrip close to Tafika called Lukuzi where they base their Cessna 210 (takes 4 guests) and the pilot is based at Tafika. They land at the Mwaleshi Airstrip in North Luangwa National Park. Through their aviation company, Rasair, you can also fly directly to Lower Zambezi, Kafue, and other main attractions in northern Zambia as well as Malawi and Zimbabwe. They offer seat-in-charter rates with a minimum of 2 passengers. 

Since a seven-night booking qualifies for better safari rates, it is better to create itineraries with seven nights instead of six. With that, a few great itinerary ideas: 4 nights Tafika with 2 nights at each walking camp in Nsefu or with 4 nights at Mwaleshi. For the purist, North Luangwa is a much quieter park in a more remote area with different game, including rhino.
Tafika Camp (stay)
We left the park gates and drove about 15 minutes into the game management area where we arrived at Tafika. Another way they support the local community is by hiring the local men to rebuild the camps annually. Every year new grass/thatch is bought from local suppliers and the camp is rebuilt by hand. From the main area, guests can walk themselves along a thatch fence to one of two hides: one specifically that draws elephants from the bush and one along the river for hippo and other water life.

Lunch is an excellent, healthy spread of organic goodies from their two onsite gardens, which also supply the food for the walking camps. We are joined by the family and team to make a plan for our stay. We are going to take advantage of every activity on offer. That afternoon we are going for bike ride with John, past the bee-eater hide they also rebuild annually, and through the village where guests can visit the school to meet with the kids, a family’s home to learn about traditional life such as farming and pounding maize, and the church where the choir sings beautiful hymns. Then we’re met in the bush by Isaac, our guide who started guiding in 1978 and was trained by Norman Carr himself. We head out on an evening drive, which is remarkably peaceful and have a great double leopard sighting (two unrelated leopards on either side of a gully). They have a policy of radio silence while on game viewing (they don’t radio each other when a siting has taken place) and only four guests per vehicle (unless requested by a larger group). And the next day we’re walking to the bush camps. The one thing we aren’t doing is driving out to the salt pan with natural hot springs where sightings tend to include servile, wild dog, and lion. 
Chikoko Walking Trails (site) 
Chikoko Walking Trails is the umbrella name for the remote walking safaris facilitated from either Chikoko Tree Camp or Crocodile River Camp. Both are located in a remote part of the park where there are no roads and pristine wilderness. To visit both, we drove from Tafika to a river crossing where we took a canoe to the other bank, and now that we are within the park, we began our walk into camp. This walk can vary in time and length depending on the guest, as well as all the walks they do throughout a guest stay. Their belief that walking is a three-dimensional activity comes into focus brilliantly as Bryan guides us through the bush and to camp (every walk is accompanied by a scout and tea bearer as well). We meet the team at both, and tour back-of-house, including the traditional over-the-wood-fire cooking methods producing the excellent cuisine served to nourish the body after the hours of walking on offer. This is one of the most private experiences a guest can have. As there aren’t roads in this area you really shouldn’t see any other people outside of camp, and both camps only take six guests. Chikoko Tree Camp has three raised chalets on wood platform overlooking a plain, closer to the river. Crocodile River Camp has three rondovals build on the ground and made of thatch grass, further from the river. At both camps one room has a double and two are singles. At both camps, there is also a single charging station at the main area, and in the rooms, solar lights, a flush toilet, water from a drum with a hot safari shower in the evening or by request during the day.

I can't think of a more authentic, deeply immersive nature experience ... everything that you need, and nothing that you don't!
Mantis Collection - Lion Camp
This camps stands out because it is run in the South African way versus the Zambian way, specifically meaning the meal structure is different. Tables are set for individual dining instead of communal dining (but all communal dining across Zambia could change with the reopening to international tourists as all standards and guidelines across the safari industry are being relooked at). Guests wake up at 5:15am for coffee/tea before the morning activity, then you have a full breakfast at camp around 10am, relax as you’d like before lunch at 2:30pm, there is no formal afternoon tea, then you do your afternoon activity and are back at camp around 7:30pm for drinks before dinner at 8pm. Time lazing around the property is especially enjoyable in this heat as there is a sizable pool to cool off in, the tents all have the Evening Breeze air-con sleeves, next to the central bar there is a full-sized snooker table, and the wireless Internet is strong throughout the entire property.

The location of Lion Camp, where we stayed one night, is one of the best in the park, and with a "water hole" that stretches the length of the lodge (rather than just a water hole, it is in fact a dried up ox-bow lagoon known as a dambo and was an original course of the main Luangwa River), this was some of the best 24-hour animal viewing we’ve had in or out of Zambia. Three prides of lion are regularly seen, and not only did we see lion many times over, some guests also saw one pride try to take down a buffalo in front of their room. Less than 30 minutes into our afternoon drive we saw four male lion resting in the shade with a herd of buffalo in the background and five elephants walking in between the two. After sundowners we were treated to a great leopard sighting. Driving back for dinner we saw two porcupines, a genet, six lioness hunting, and a common Flapped Neck Chameleon – the most common chameleon species in Zambia (there are two others, plus three that occur only on the Nyika Plateau). And the next morning, after more lion, some hyena, and plains game, we spent good time with a leopard making its way into a tree to hunt. These sightings did draw a number of vehicles from other nearby camps and at times there were three or four vehicles at the sighting. 

As this property was entirely rebuilt the year before we were there, we were a bit surprised with how close the rooms are to each other and how little privacy we felt we had. And there are a few design elements that some travelers might not appreciate, like a fully open bathroom layout (the toilet is located between the shower and sinks with a narrow privacy screen). However, the room was well stocked with Charlotte Rhys amenities, including sun screen, and they happily made a plan to get our laundry done even though we arrived mid-day for only one night. The aesthetic of the rooms is chic and sleek modern, and throughout the property again it feels very much like you are at one of their luxury properties in South Africa. 
Shenton Safaris
Family-owned and operated, Shenton Safaris has a long history in South Luangwa, which is showcased with photos of Barry Shenton in the main area. Built in 1992, everything in the main area was designed around a 1,000-year-old leadwood tree, and the bar and other wood accents all have a story as well. They are exceptionally popular with photographers and photo groups and are famous for the numerous hides available to guests, some specific to Kaingo or Mwamba, and some accessible no matter which camp you’re staying in, like the Carmine Bee-Eater Hide (guaranteed in September and October) and Wild Dog Lagoon Hide (dependent on the water levels). The curio shop doubles as a photo studio where furniture is rearranged so that guests can be looking at a TV together where photos are projected/connected via laptops. 

Most of their photographic guests enjoy an early start to the day, so guests wake up to a quick brekkie and start out as soon as possible so they are already in position before first light. When guests return between 10am and 11am they enjoy a gourmet brunch at camp, and the culinary treats continue from there. Shenton grows 80% of the fresh produce served to guests in a plot they have outside the national park. Head Chef Catherine Gardiner loves the bright contrasting colors of various veggies, and sticks to the Shenton motto of “simple food done exceptionally well.” Shenton would pair well with the Bushcamp Company properties, or properties in the Nsefu Sector.

Kaingo (site)
There was an extensive refurbishment of Kaingo in 2017 and first impressions of the camp are extraordinary. The Standard Chalets and “First House” (private suite or family house) all have their own river-side shade sala to laze away the afternoon – it almost feels like a private hide. That said, there are also two hides set aside just for guests of Kaingo: the Hippo Hide at the river’s edge, and the Elephant Hide on a raised platform overlooking a historic elephant trail, which also doubles as a star bed for guests who want to do a sleep out.

The design and décor of the property is instantly recognizable as Lightfoot Designs. The shades of cream and blue come together effortlessly, from mosaic tile work in the bathrooms to the beaded textiles in the bedrooms to the sliding barn doors and other modern architectural elements. All of the rooms have outdoor bathtubs with views, that are large enough to convert into plunge pools in the warmer months. The “First House” can be booked for couples looking for an exclusive and private experience, but also converts into a family chalet that fits six people, and children as young as seven are welcome - private dining will be set up at the house and a private vehicle is required for drives.
Mwamba (site)
Mwamba, the bush camp, is a 20-minute drive from Kaingo. The four thatch chalets, named after trees, are all identical with the exception of bed configuration: Gardenia, Ebony, Sausage and Fig all have extra-length twin-convertible king-sized beds. There is constant cold running water, with flushing toilets, and safari showers provide 20 liters of hot water, though of course more can be requested if needed.

With no more than eight guests in camp, the experience here is wonderfully private. And there are a few special spots at camp that make it easy to find even more personal space. There is a sundowner spot for two on a raised platform up a set of stairs; a hide in camp exclusively for guests of Mwamba that is in front of the only water for miles; and a star bed in an open field close to camp (guests have privacy and a hand held radio … a game scout stays on call with a vehicle in the distance in a separate boma).

With no more than four guests in a vehicle, this is another reason Shenton is popular with photographers, and they updated their entire vehicle fleet in 2019 to ensure maximum comfort. All of their current vehicles can be converted to be even more photo focused, by removing one of the three racks to extend the spaces between the seat and line the flooring of the vehicle with a foam base to have photographic guests get those low angle shots in comfort. They provide little touches, like camera covers for when winds pick up, bean bags, and camera stabilizers, and do substantial things, like maintain and grade 70 miles of roads so both camps can drive along different routes comfortably with as few jarring bumps to blur a photo as possible.
Time + Tide
As one of the original conservationists and safari outfitters in Zambia, Norman Carr has quite a history, as do the properties he founded. Norman Carr helped create Zambia’s first game reserve and safari company, among countless other accolades. The company was rebranded under Time + Tide after the Norman Carr and Chongwe Safaris businesses joined together under common ownership and then began development of properties in Liuwa Plain National Park and Madagascar. 

Time + Tide Luwi (site)
Located on the Luwi River, Luwi Bushcamp benefits from a permanent ox-bow lagoon that brings plenty of wildlife. There is a hide for guests to enjoy and the option of doing a sleep-out under the stars. Being deep in the park means true tranquility surrounded by ancient mahogany trees. With only five room this is a beautifully remote property – about a two-hour drive into the park from Mfuwe.
Time + Tide Nsolo (stay)
Similar to Time + Tide Luwi in that Nsolo Bushcamp is a remote, five-suite, historically charming camp with lots of walking and game drives on offer. There is a large pride of lions that traverse the area between Nsolo and Luwi, and we had quite the wakeup call when we heard early-dawn commotion from the team and realized that they were walking straight through our sandy breakfast spot (EPIC paw prints!). This is a part of the park that is better known for their lion and wild dog and less for their leopard, so great to combine with other parts of South Luangwa. However, in the rainy season, the Luwi River flows strong and big herds of buffalo come to drink. When camp first opens and everything is more green, guests will see more zebra and less elephants and predators; as things dry up guests see more eland, wildebeest, elephant, and predators. We’re told there are about a dozen hyena that are regulars in this area.

We go on a wonderful walk, and spot spotted hyena, eland, zebra, impala, and learn a lot about termites (I’m actually fascinated by termites and always enjoy learning about them!). There are four types of termites here: fungus growers, hard wood, harvester, and damp wood. We also learn that the area we’re walking through used to be bare because of soil erosion and then with land management and conservation efforts related to plant successions it came back to the beautiful ecosystem we were enjoying. In addition to the walk, we went on a game drive. Typically, game drives are in Land Rovers and there are three Land Cruisers available for private bookings. The entire camp is solar powered with a generator and there is hot water available throughout the day. Charging stations are centrally located in the main area. 

The one activity we didn’t do, which I definitely need to return for, is the sleep-out in the Luwi Riverbed when it’s dry. A comfortable bedroll under a mosquito net with camp fires all around, waits for guests after an afternoon walk. The chef, scout, and staff are waiting with drinks, a barbecue dinner, and basic amenities to get you through the night (long drop loo, hot water, etc.) … but the real luxurious amenity is seeing the stars shining above. However, with only one night it made sense to stay in our chalet, and they surprised us with the largest one, which has a long private deck for dining under a magnificent tree with lanterns all around … it was the perfect way to end a long day of sites and safari.
Time + Tide Mchenja Camp (site)
Mchenja means “ebony”, an apt name for this camp which is set among a lovely grove of ebony trees. The five bungalows are all along the Luangwa River offering views of the water, which enjoy a high concentration of game throughout the season. All bungalows have claw-foot bathtubs, always a highlight for me, however one of the two rooms in the Family Bungalow has a shower. The camp is also solar powered, with hot water available throughout the day and charging stations in the main lounge area, which is referred to as Chitenge. Guests can relax and cool off during the day in the pool overlooking the river, or in the shade of the small hide while watching game. But we didn’t say long as we were on our way to the boat that would ferry us across the river to heaven … Time + Tide Chinzombo …
Time + Tide Chinzombo (stay)
So here’s the thing … I need a little bourgeoisie in the bush, especially in the oppressively hot (I mean, peak) season (we were here in late October). Arriving at Chinzombo was the perfect way to cool off, chill out, rest up, and reflect on the amazing history of Norman Carr. Aesthetically, it is a lovely mix of modern with memorabilia. A collection of old photos and out of print books are available to peruse in the bar area, where you can also enjoy a complimentary house cigar or purchase a Cuban; sip some excellent South African wines and top shelf spirits, or buy a neat pour of Blue Label Johnny Walker. Our buffet lunch was served on the deck, and we sat closest to one of the two main pools, overlooking the river, and enjoying the breeze. Mary, the masseuse, came to make a plan with me. Chinzombo offers all guests a complimentary 30-minute foot soak and leg massage, and I also booked a full hour, full body massage. All treatments are done in-villa; mine was set up outside on our deck in front of the private plunge pool. Johann used the Nespresso machine to make an espresso and set up under the Evening Breeze air-con sleeve. Eventually we both opened our laptops and made up for a week without Internet with the consistently strong wireless available throughout the property.  

On paper, Time + Tide Chinzombo follows the typical dining and activity pattern of the other properties in South Luangwa, however meals are set up as private dining instead of communal (they can easily do in-villa dining as well), and they say that they are flexible with the timing of all activities. While they don’t currently offer private guiding unless it is requested, more often than not guests end up with their own vehicle and guide. 

We joined the other guests for Afternoon Tea and made our safari plan. Mine was to stay at the property to write and relax. Johann grabbed the pair of complimentary binoculars (one per villa) and headed out on a walk with one of the most seasoned guides who was trained 30 years ago by Norman Carr himself. I love the lineage at this property. For instance, Ricetime was one of Norman’s head scouts and his grandson, also named Rice, is the head chef. For guests who want to learn more about the history of the legendary man, there is a short 20-minute documentary called “Return to the Wild” that is shown on a projector. 

I did get out on one afternoon drive, which I’m so happy I did, as it ended in the most glorious G&T bar in the bush I’d come across yet. Sundowners surrounded by elles coming to the water to drink, as we drank our own concoction of libations.

Time + Tide Foundation supports 11 initiatives between Zambia and Madagascar. In South Luangwa specifically, the lodges are supporting the following foundation projects: a field-based education center, a home-based education program, and the Kapani School project. They have three main objectives in Zamiba: female empowerment, student sponsorship and home-based care of differently abled children. Their mission is to fill resource gaps, strengthen the connection between local communities and the land, and between conservation authorities and the tourism sector. They are guided by the belief that non-consumptive tourism is the most effective way to support these symbiotic benefits.
The Bushcamp Company
I had been especially interested in experiencing The Bushcamp Company properties as they are all National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, as is Tswalu Kalahari in South Africa, which I represent, and so I had been hearing about their award-winning conservation and community projects for years. Their accolades are near-endless when it comes to giving back, providing clean water to communities, meals, and scholarships.

Please note that The Bushcamp Company is just completing a major renovation to Mfuwe Lodge and some of the bush camps and so we've shared a mix of more generic images, schematics, and renderings as well as the ones we took while there..

The day we arrived at Mfuwe Lodge, where we would do a site and enjoy lunch before heading out to the bush camps, it was announced that they had won more travel magazine nods as “best of the best”, of which they’ve received many, for many years. While Mfuwe Lodge is open year-round, the best season for the iconic experience of having elephants walk through the main reception area to the Cordyla Africana Trees that produce the wild mango fruits the elles go wild for when ripe in the inner riverfront area is more November to January, so we were just a bit too early. And, as Mfuwe Lodge is currently undergoing renovations, instead of giving impressions from our time there, we’ll simply say we’re as excited as you are to see the new design that will complement the already awesome service and sustainable ethos of the property.
And away we drove after lunch to head south. With their bush camps located in the southern-most section of South Luangwa National Park, we were starting to see different terrain then before. And even then, I loved that the six bush camps were all small and intimate, with only three to five chalets max, and instantly started dreaming about returning with family and friends for a fabulous take-over experience. As we tend to spend so much time sitting on safari vehicles and always look to get on foot whenever possible, I was also enchanted with the thought of walking their full circuit when we had more time for a slower safari … as we all know in the industry, that can be hard to come by when you’re doing sites! 

Kuyenda (Site)
We drove out to Kuyenda to see the small camp. During the quick tour I of course paid attention to the bar, the communal charging stations, and the casual décor, but what really stood out were the Luci solar lights in the rondavel and the information about The ELE Collection of jewelry, inspired by the ellies that walk through Mfuwe, and that the sale of each piece raises funds to support both Conservation South Luangwa and The Bushcamp Company’s own “Commit to Clean Water” campaign. While I enjoyed the camp then, Andy shared with us that Kuyenda was completely flooded recently, and so a new rebuild is underway. When done, Kuyena will have five raised chalets in the traditional African rondavel design with grass and lath walls, all en suite with open air bathrooms, and a private raised covered veranda.
Chamilandu (Stay)
When we arrived at Chamilandu I knew I was "literally" ascending to the heavens … this property of only three treehouses quickly became my favorite aesthetically with its sexy dark black netting, black metalwork and sliding barn doors, modern furniture, and more. The team was all smiles all the time, and the other two couples in camp with us were gushing over their sightings, activities, and experiences. In the morning we were off on a nice long walk to where we were going to have a mid-morning snack to refresh ourselves before one of The Bushcamp Company’s signature surprise bush pizza oven lunches (which we didn’t know at the time … it’s a surprise after all). The walk was pleasant and informative, fun and jovial. When we stopped for coffee and refreshments, it became clear to me that my gluten-allergy, which was expertly noted at Mfuwe, hadn’t made its way down the river, and there was no food for me. While I get “hangry” from time to time (with Johann; I hold my tongue with others, especially when I am a hosted guest) I fully understand that mistakes and mishaps happen (I mean, my own friends have put soy sauce in marinades or served me chocolates I have to read the ingredient list of). I always just try to figure out a solution. In this case, I didn’t know about the bush lunch, and only just murmured under my breath to Johann that there was nothing that I could eat. Now THIS is what impressed me: one of the staff apparently heard my murmurs, I saw a few of the staff having a conversation and our guide walking away on his radio … then, as we were walking again, I saw a vehicle drive by in the distance, and by the time we got to our lunch spot with the full pizza oven in full swing there were gluten-free crusts for me. The chef diligently made mine away from any trace of flower from the others, and of course I was also served up a few gracious apologies from the team. In a few days’ time when we circled back to Mfuwe, everything had been relayed to management and more apologies came my way. For me, it’s not about apologies … it’s about being in tune with the guest, proactively making a sour situation better, fixing any problem before the guest knows it’s problem, and owning up to it … all of which the team did to the letter.
Chindeni (Site)
After lunch we said our goodbyes and headed out to Chindeni. When we arrived guests were lounging around, enjoying afternoon drinks and the sound of the wildlife wading the in the waters … Chindeni is situated by a permanent lagoon. The four tents are spacious and luxurious with decks for days that make you want to just sit, stare out, and let the safari come to you. 

Bilimungwe (Stay)
When we arrived at Bilimungwe I instantly loved the team, and they knew we were a bit weather worn from doing sites in the October heat. We were shown to our expansive chalet on the edge of the lagoon, and under the cooling shade of mahogany trees, I enjoyed a crisp-by-choice outdoor shower and then angled one of the fans onto my body to continue cooling me while working and relaxing. Our afternoon game drive was going to be on the go as we made our way out to Zunguilia and Kapamba for quick sites, so while we saw game along the way, we were definitely on a different mission than the rest of the camp guests. But we met back up with them in the evening to share a bit more time together before we truly went our separate ways. This night we were in for a real treat, another specialty of The Bushcamp Company, because our afternoon game drive landed us on the shores of the Luangwa River where we were treated to sundowners while sitting with our feet in the clear, cool waters. This was one of the most spectacular sunsets of the trip, and the feel of the silt between my toes, the water splashing up my legs, and the ice melting down my throat made any excess heat from the day fade away into nothing but the best of memories. 

Kapamba (Site)
Just like Chamilandu, I knew immediately that this was the camp for me, but for totally different reasons. Kapamba is bright, with eclectic colors and patterns, overstuffed pillows for lazing around, with a welcoming lounge perfect for intimate groups of friends or family. Right on the river’s edge, the Kapamba River that is, the animal viewing is fabulous, and can be enjoyed while all together at the lodge, or while cooling off in your private plunge pool. This is another camp I walked away from whispering in Johann’s ear: “I want to return as soon as possible, with all our friends! This would be an amazing place to stay for a while and just be, together, on safari!” And I would pair it with Zungulila, as they are the two bush camps that stay open from April to January. All that said, just when I thought it couldn’t get better, we recently spoke with Andy who told us that Kapamba had a recent refub and there is also now a nice pool overlooking the Kapamba River, and that the rooms have raised salas to give a sleep-out option for guests.

Zungulila (Site)
Also along the Kapamba River, the newest property to the collection has four tents as well, with rich Persian-style carpets, copper soaking tubs, bamboo verandahs, and other subtle amenities that make the tents feel comfortable and welcoming. I would have enjoyed more time at Zungulila, but as this is one of the most remote camps, we did have to get going to make it back to Bilimungwe in time for our final nights’ festivities. But I know I’ll be back, with travel companions, to spend more time exploring the furthest reaches of the Kapamba River. 
Latitude 15 Hotel
It’s an easy 30 minutes from the airport to Latitude 15 Hotel (about 20 minutes in we pass the American Embassy). This chic, stylish urban hotspot is exactly where I want to spend my first night getting over jet lag and getting ready for the adventure ahead. There are 32 rooms and 3 apartments, as well as ample outdoor areas, shade salas along the pool, private dining rooms for groups, and an area in the back that is usually the meeting spot of local socialites for parties, music, events, and gatherings. The hotel is a gallery experience unto itself with a wide showing of great Zambian artists throughout. This is also an outpost where you can buy some of the incredible leather bags and accessories from Lightfoot Zambia. This hotel is only a few blocks away from 37d Gallery, however for art aficionados wanting to spend more time in town there is also Henry Tayali Visual Arts Center, Lechwe Trust Gallery, and Namwandwe Gallery. For a combo on art and performance, check out Modzi Arts. If you can’t get in or want something less expensive, there is also a Radison, Protea, and the Pioneer Hotel, which is a preferred go-to-alternative that is made up of safari tents located outside of the city proper.
37d Gallery
This beautiful modern art complex is located a stone’s throw from Latitude 15 and is owned by friends of Nick and Carol Aslin. We went in the morning as they were finishing hanging new works for an opening that night. They represent 20-25 Zambian or Zambian-connected artists and are looking to expand into Zimbabwean artists as well. While many of the artists were intriguing, including Natasha Evans and Mwamba Mulangala, we fell deeply in love with Stary Mwamba. Through the 37d Gallery, START is a platform for emerging and established artists to exhibit and sell their work. Profits from art sales and donations are used to support the START Foundation, which is an outreach program for local children, providing art education for underprivileged children in Zambia. Exhibiting artists also educate and mentor children via various workshops, and 100% of sales from the children’s work and the 25% commission from the sales at 37d go to workshops, the purchase of ZEduPad tablets, loans, and scholarships.
Mangishi Doll
I fell in obsessive lust with a dress I saw on Instagram, and wanted to buy it from the Zambian designer herself, Kapasa Musonda. When I spoke with her about it, she said: “oh, the one that Angela Basset wore on the red carpet; it sold out, sorry”. HA! Of course it did. I had no idea. Kapasa’s chic and stylish line, Mangishi Doll, has quickly become a favorite of mine, and not just because of Ms. Basset’s red carpet (or Susan Kelechi Watson, Vonneta Stewart, and other celebs donning her dresses), nor because Kapasa is a member of the Forbes 30 under 30 List or that one of Nick’s team members, Nozizi has modeled for her … Kapasa creates bright, fun, modern attire that is surprisingly affordable, and her client service is exceptional. Nozizi and Dani from Nick’s team set up a private appointment for me with Kapasa at her atelier, whereby she brought out pieces from the back based on our conversations, took my measurements to keep on file for future, and then I departed … she then tailored each piece to my numbers and shipped them to my home in the States when they were ready. If you bookend Lusaka with enough time on either side of safari, you could meet with Kapasa at the beginning of your trip and have the pieces ready for your departure. Watch this space as I’ll be interviewing Kapasa in a new webinar series on Africa soon …
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