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South Luangwa National Park

The South Luangwa is Zambia’s premier National Park and has been dubbed as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world.  The concentration of game along the Luangwa River and its associated Ox-bow lagoons is amongst the most intense one can find anywhere in Africa.  It is truly an unspoilt wilderness, the likes of which are hard to find.

The Luangwa River itself, meandering across the valley floor, is teaming with hippos and crocodiles and provides a lifeline for a great diversity of both habitat and wildlife.  With over 40 species of large mammals and more than 400 species of birds, the South Luangwa National Park has earned its reputation accross the world.  It is home to two endemic species, the Thornicroft Giraffe and Cookson’s Wildebeest and is one of the best Parks in Africa to view leopards in their natural surroundings.

One exciting story of success in the recent years is the resurgence of the African Wild Dog population.  This species was almost wiped out by anthrax in the late 1980s but over the past decade the numbers have considerably increased.  Today, although far from guaranteed, sightings of wild dog are common.

The National Park is 9,050 km² (3,500 square miles), unfenced but bordered to the West by a steep escarpment and to the East by the Luangwa River.  Once known as ‘The Valley of the Elephants’, it was home to the world’s largest population of elephant back in the early 1970s.  Although poachers reduced the population dramatically, the Park authorities have taken control once more and the population is regenerating strongly.

Apart from its wildlife, the Luangwa Valley is also renowned for its high levels of guiding, something that any visitor to the area will appreciate.

Accommodation in the South Luangwa can be either in a permanent lodge or one of the smaller remote bush camps, rebuilt every year.  We personally know all the safari operators found in this area and no one can put together a better safari itinerary than us.

We are your independent safari and travel experts for Zambia so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions that are not covered by this site. Remember, a safari is an adventure and we are there to plan and organise your safari while Zambia is waiting to reveal its secrets to you.

Where to Stay – South Luangwa National Park

Below are some of the accommodation options found in South Luangwa National Park; please note that there are other lodges and camps that have not yet been included on our site but they are on our list of places we recommend and sell.

Flatdogs Camp

Situated adjacent to the main entrance of the South Luangwa National Park, Flatdogs Camp provides excellent facilities for the middle budget visitor.

The atmosphere in the central bar and dining area is always convivial and welcoming, there are some computers connected to the internet for guests use and a small shop selling curios and some essentials you may have forgotten to pack. For longer stays this camp could be combined with one or two of the more bushcamps around the South Luangwa.

  • 6 x standard chalet rooms, each en-suite and can accommodate a 3rd bed.
  • 1 x family chalet with 2 en-suite rooms downstairs and loft room upstairs, total capacity 7 – 8 people
  • Jackaberry Tree House, separate from main lodge, has 2 rooms it is ideal for families.
  • Flatdogs Camp is closed between 15th Jan and 15th March.
  • Jackalberry House is closed between 15th November and 5th April.
  • Swimming pool.
  • Children are Welcome.
  • 40 minutes road transfer from Mfuwe Airport.
  • Set outside the National Park, 5 minutes drive from main park entrance.
  • Drinks not included in any rates

Kafunta Lodge 

The camp is set downstream on the Luangwa from the main Mfuwe area, the drive from the bridge takes about half an hour but the pontoon across the river is close by and that provides very convenient access to the Park during the peak safari months when the water levels in the river are low.

The rooms are raised on decks with wooden walls and thatched roofs; they are large and well designed. The central bar and dining area has an open-air dining veranda and the position of the camp is great with views over water holes and grazing lawns to the Luangwa River and Chichele Hill in the background.

The rates competitive  and that makes it a good option for many that are trying to get the best experience but keep costs down just a little.

  • 8 Double chalets and 2 luxury suites (20 beds) plus family house (sleeps 4 people)
  • Open all year round
  • Swimming Pool and natural hot spring tub
  • Children aged 7 and above are welcome
  • Set in the game management area, transfer from Mfuwe Airport 50 minutes,
  • 5 minutes to the pontoon
  • and 30 minutes to the main gate

Lion Camp

This camp sleeps 18 and is the northern most camp on the western bank of the Luangwa accessible from the main Mfuwe area. Its position is one of its strongest assets, by the time you reach camp you have left the Mfuwe area, which at times can become quite busy, a long way behind. There are lagoons in the vicinity of camp and the rich riverine vegetation and mixed woodland has a high carrying capacity so game viewing is usually very good. The tents are raised on stilts overlooking an ox-bow lagoon that retains some little water all year round.

  • 9 canvas-and-thatch chalets
  • Open between 1st June and 31st October
  • Children 12 years and above are welcome
  • Swimming pool
  • Set inside the park, transfer/game drive from the airport to camp 2 to 3 hours

Kaingo Camp

Derek came to the Luangwa as a young man in 1993 and built Kaingo Camp, he has run it ever since with a passion that comes when you know that you have created something of which you are proud. This camp has changed little since then; the rooms are brick and thatch set in the middle of a dense vegetation on a high part of the riverbank. The area behind camp is the most interesting; it comprises of several ebony groves with channels running through them. During the rains, these channels connect the main Luangwa River with the Mwamba River and are wonderful to explore by boat but in the drier months when Kaingo is open they are home to numerous bushbuck and leopard sightings are common.

Derek has built several hides which have become a feature of this camp. It all started with a wonderful Hippo hide cut into the river bank up-stream of camp, where  guests can sit for an hour or so and be right up close and personal with the large pod of hippo that live on that bend in the river. This hide has recently been complimented by an elephant hide and also one close to a carmine colony which becomes a true spectacle in September and October when these brightly coloured birds are “swarming”.

  • 6 chalets (2 honeymoon, 2 king and 2 twin)
  • Open 20th May to 1st November
  • 3 x activities per day – including walking safaris,  game-drives, night drives and trip to photographic hides
  • Road transfer Mfuwe Airport to Kaingo Camp takes about 2 to 2 and half hours
  • Transfer to or from Mwamba usually done in the morning either as a walk or a drive

Mwamba Bushcamp

This is a rustic bush-camp set several kilometres in-land from Kaingo camp and on the Mwamba River course. It would most commonly be combined with Kaingo and the transfer would either be on foot as a morning walk with your bags being driven to camp or on a vehicle as a morning game drive.

In line with Derek and Jules’ passion for photography and the company’s reputation as one that caters more than any other to photographers, there are 3 hides in close proximity to camp each overlooking a watering hole. Ideally 2 nights in this camp would complement 2 or 3 spent at Kaingo.

  • 6 reed thatched chalets (two king, two twin and two honeymoon)
  • Open 1 June to 31 October
  • No children below 12 years
  • Transfer to or from Kaingo usually done in the morning as a drive or a walk

Chichele Presidential Lodge

This is one of the Luangwa’s historic camps that has had a refurbishment. Chichele was originally built for the then President Kenneth Kaunda who declined to take it over suggesting that such an asset should be set aside for tourism, it was then run by the Government owned National Hotels until they ceased to exist in the mid 1990’s. It was re-furbished in the 90’s and remains similar today, it has a uniquely colonial feel to it but its most notable feature is its position. Set on top of Chichele hill, it gives spectacular views to the south; there are grazing lawns in the near distance with the Luangwa snaking off through the trees and the Chindeni Hills behind.

The rooms are air-conditioned and they are still the only air-conditioned bedrooms in the Luangwa so the camp is ideal for that type of guest that demands a certain level of creature comfort.

  • 10 air-conditioned Victorian style suites
  • Open all year round
  • Swimming pool
  • Children 19 years and above welcome
  • Set inside the National park,
  • Road transfer from Mfuwe airport to the lodge is about 2 hours

Puku Ridge Camp

Puku Ridge Camp is part of the Sanctuary stable of camps and it was originally built to compliment Chichele Lodge although it is only a few hundred kilometres from the main lodge and as such not a good one to combine with Chichele in one itinerary.

Puku has 7 very large tents and hits location as one of the best and most beautiful in the Luangwa. It is on a rocky hill-side overlooking an extensive plain that always has game on it and this gives it an elevated perspective that is rare among most Luangwa camps. The central area is stylishly furnished with a rambling deck in front. Although there used to be a pool, that has been removed leaving a water feature which helps to reduce the higher temperature somewhat in the warmer months.

Guests can choose between driving or walking, the game-viewing is good in this area of the Park and as you head south from this camp there are some beautiful and very seldom used roads.

  • 7 traditional tents each with a private decked balcony
  • Open all year round
  • Children 19 years and above welcome
  • Road transfer from Mfuwe airport to the lodge takes about 2 hours

Tafika Camp

John and Carol Coppinger first set up home at Tafika in the mid 90’s although they had been running 2 camps close by – Chibembe and Nsefu for a number of years prior to setting up their own operation called Remote Africa Safaris. The atmosphere in camp is that of a family home and to be a guest at Tafika is to be a personal guest of the Coppinger family.

The camp itself, set on a bend in the river is simple by design with reed and thatch chalets under shady trees. Whilst guests are not immersed in the sophisticated trappings that many safari camps offer these days, the care and attention to detail offered by the Tafika team can only be compared to staying in a private family home. John’s passion for adventure means that he has many stories to tell, he is also a keen flier and 20 minutes spent with him in his micro-light soaring over the Park with the eagles will be a memory that will last a lifetime.

  • 6 grass & thatch chalets.
  • Open 1st May – 30th November
  • Children over 12 yrs welcome, younger children at camp’s discretion.
  • Set outside the National Park but in a game-viewing area, 5 minutes from Park Gate.
  • Road transfer from Mfuwe Airport between 1 and 2 hours
  • An alternative flight transfer from Mfuwe Airport takes only 15 minutes

Chikoko Tree Camp

This camp is under the Remote Africa Safaris portfolio. It is situated 8km upstream from Tafika.
The Chikoko Tree Camp’s uniquely raised en-suite chalets enhance the views of the spectacular surrounding Acacia grove, the array of wildlife that frequent it and the associated wildlife activity that unfolds throughout the day.

At Chikoko Tree Camp the well-trained staff attend to a guest’s every need; everything from the preparation of excellent daily meals and snacks to the organisation of romantic dinners under the stars is taken care of.

  • 3 twin chalets
  • Only walking safaris
  • Open between 1st June and 31st October
  • Walking transfers from Tafika or Crocodile Camps
  • Road transfer to Tafika or Lukuzi Airstrip takes 15 minutes

Crocodile River Camp

This is another one of the Remote Africa Safaris bushcamps; the camp has 3 chalets that all rest beneath a grove of spectacular Mchenja (Ebony) trees. Each chalet overlooks a dambo and is perfectly situated to enable guests to observe the daily wildlife action as it unfolds.

The Crocodile River Camp chalets are a delightful combination of natural building materials and imaginative architecture. The end result is a simple, comfortable and personal experience for guests.

At Crocodile River Camp the staff are trained to attend to a guest’s every need. This ensures that everything from delicious meals and snacks to the organisation of dinners under the stars is taken care of.

  • 3 twin chalets
  • Only walking safaris
  • Open between 1st June and 31st October
  • Walking transfers from Tafika  or Chikoko Camps

Chinzombo Lodge

This lodge is a new addition to Norman Carr Safaris flagship. Wildly luxurious, designed by award winning architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, Chinzombo brings levels of comfort, style and elegance previously unseen to the Luangwa Valley. The camp is super-luxurious but retains its bush feel with grass and canvas walls and spacious living areas that melt into the exquisite surroundings of the beautiful, tranquil site.

The camp is set within 60 acres of private land with Luangwa River frontage; the views from its riverside location which teems with wildlife, plus the private, direct access into one of the most game rich areas of the National Park all combine to make this a truly special place. Chinzombo Camp is the perfect place from which to explore the majestic wilds of the Luangwa in style, luxury and exclusivity – all year round.

  • 6 stunning villas (1 of which is a luxury family suite)
  • Swimming pool in front of each villa
  • Road transfer from Mfuwe Airport takes about 1 hour
  • Open all year round
  • Wi-Fi access available in each Villa

Kapani Lodge

This is an excellent place to start your Zambian safari experience from and to acclimatize yourself to what lies ahead. The rooms are very comfortable and built of brick rather than grass or canvas which is probably what lies ahead of you somewhere in the trip. The camp is on mains electricity which means fridges in the rooms and fans above the beds.

It falls under the well known Norman Carr Safaris portfolio and the company is actively involved with the local communities and it would be from this camp rather than any of its associated bushcamps that guests would visit the school run by the company’s charity or the SEKA community theatre group, the local clinic, or the anti-poaching base.

  • 8 standard suites easily large enough for a 3rd bed
  • 1 Lagoon House which is much larger and suitable for families or honeymooners
  • Open all year round
  • Swimming Pool.
  • Children welcome.
  • 40 minutes drive from Mfuwe Airport
  • Set outside the National Park, 5 minutes drive from main gate and 15 minutes from the pontoon.

Luwi Bushcamp 

Luwi is one of the 4 bushcamps operated by Norman Carr Safaris. It is one of Zambia’s most “traditional” bushcamps, the rooms are re-made of grass and thatch at the start of every season so there is always that fresh feel to the camp. It is situated in the middle of the National Park; there is an access road into camp and very few game-viewing loops in the area so this is predominantly a walking camp. If your guests are not interested in walking then this is not the camp for them. Usually morning and afternoon walks are complimented with a short night-drive after dark.

There is a large lagoon just 100 meters or so away from the camp which is dripping with hippo and croc and of course acts as a necessary water source for the animals around this area.

  • 4 grass chalets not really large enough for a 3rd bed.
  • Open 20th May – 31st October
  • Not suitable for children below 12 years.
  • Activities are predominantly walking as very few roads.
  • Set inside the National Park, about 1.5 hours drive from Kapani Lodge, and 30 minutes drive from its sister bushcamp, Nsolo.
  • Transfers from Luwi to Nsolo usually done by foot and take between 3 and 4 hours.

Nsolo Bushcamp

The sister camp to Luwi, Nsolo is also set away from the permanent waters of the Luangwa River and also has only limited roads in its vicinity. Like Luwi, this camp is predominantly a walking camp. The 4 rooms are very spacious, set on raised wooden decks with grass walls and thatch roofs; each room is designed differently and has its own veranda and private views across the Luwi sand river bed.

Both Luwi and Nsolo Bush-camps work well as a combination with one or two camps that are closer to the main Luangwa River, to appreciate contrasts between the more arid and remote regions of the National Park away from the main river and the riverine area where most camps. For any guest staying more than just a few days in the Luangwa a day or two in one of these in-land camps is highly recommended.

  • 4 chalets on raised decks with grass walls, 3rd bed in room is possible.
  • Open 20th May – 31st October
  • Not suitable for children under 12 unless full camp booking.
  • Activities are predominantly walking as very few roads.
  • Set inside the National Park, about 1.5 hours drive from Kapani, and 30 minutes drive from Luwi Bushcamp,
  • A road transfer from Kakuli Camp takes about 1 hour.
  • Transfer to Luwi or Kakuli usually done on foot as a morning walk. 

Kakuli Bushcamp

Another of the Norman Carr Safaris bushcamps, this tented camp is set on a raised bank overlooking both the Luangwa river and also a floodplain lying adjacent to its confluence with the Luwi River. If you have spent previous days at either Luwi or Nsolo Bush-camps then you will be familiar by now with the Luwi sand river as it snakes its way across the Valley floor. Transfers between the Norman Carr Safaris bush-camps are usually done on foot and there is a great sense or achievement when you have followed the Luwi River for a few days and finally glimpse its destination – the main Luangwa river and find you next camp waiting for you.

The area surrounding Kakuli Camp always provides excellent game-viewing and activities are a mixture of walking and driving.

  • 4 tents under thatch.
  • Open 20th May – 10th November
  • Not suitable for children below 12 years unless full camp booking.
  • Set inside the National Park, about 1 hour‘s drive from Kapani, 1hour’s drive from Nsolo Bushcamp and 30 minutes drive from Mchenja Camp.
  • Transfer to Nsolo or Mchenja usually done on foot as a morning walk.

Mchenja Bushcamp

This camp also belongs to the Norman Carr safaris portfolio. Mchenja is the local name for the ebony tree and this camp is set under an impressive grove of these trees. The 5 tents are custom designed and very well furnished; each has a roll-top bath inside as well as the customary outside bathroom and a small deck overlooking the Luangwa River.

The main chitenji area is home to the bar, a small sitting area and also a plunge pool which provides welcome relief from the mid-day heat towards the end of the season. Similar to its sister camp Kakuli, guests are able to choose between drives or walks as there is access to the more extensive road network that runs up and down the main river. Areas north of this camp past Kaingo and towards Lion Camp are lovely to explore.

  • 5 tents
  • Open 20th May – 10th November
  • Swimming pool
  • Not suitable for children under 12yrs unless full camp booking.
  • 1.5 hours drive from Kapani or short morning walk from Kakuli 

Nkwali Camp

This is one of the camps under the Robin Pope Safaris. The company’s logistical head-quarters for their camps in the Luangwa lie behind this camp but as a guest you would never know. The rooms are well appointed with open fronts and open-air bathrooms each of which overlooks the Luangwa River. The main chitenji is built around a stunning clump of ebonies and has a deck extending over the river. A few adjustments to the open nature of the rooms enable this camp to run year round and it is the base for River safaris in the early part of the year when the river is running full.

Activities will be very much determined by the guest, although there is structure to the program, guests at RPS usually get a pretty free hand to decide what they want to do.

  • 12 guests, 4 standard chalets plus a family room sleeping 4 in 2 bedrooms (both en-suite)
  • minimum age is 7 yrs
  • open all year round
  • swimming pool
  • transfer time from Mfuwe Airport takes about 45 minutes

Luangwa River Camp

This camp is one of the recent additions to the Robin Pope Safaris operation. Set on a bend in the Luangwa River, this small camp offers seclusion in the otherwise fairly busy central Mfuwe area of the South Luangwa. Both the rooms and the central area are stylishly designed and the pool overlooks the main river. Activities start and finish with a short boat ride over the river as they leave their game-viewing vehicles on the opposite bank inside the Park.

  • 5 brick and thatch Bush Suites each with private decks
  • 1st April to 30th November
  • Children 12 years and older
  • Holistic massage and Spa therapies on request
  • Set in the game management area, 45 minutes from Mfuwe airport and 5 minutes into the park
  • Swimming pool

Tena Tena Bushcamp

For many years this was Robin Pope Safaris’ flagship camp and it is still one of the Luangwa’s best camps; the tents are in quite thick vegetation overlooking the Luangwa River. It is in the southern most part of the Nsefu sector of the Park on the eastern bank of the Luangwa. Most guests will approach camp from the Western bank, even if coming from Nkwali, this means driving through some excellent game-viewing territory and then crossing the river by boat before being driven the last part into camp.

RPS is the only operator in this section of the Park so you are pretty much protected from encroachment and there is a feeling of exclusivity.

  • 5 tents
  • 10 guests maximum
  • Minimum age 12 years
  • Open late May to end Oct
  • Transfer time from Mfuwe Airport takes about an hour and half.

Nsefu Bushcamp

Being the first photographic camp in the Luangwa Valley, this is an historic site. The first camp, although long gone now, was established in 1950 and the current camp was built not long thereafter, it was then re-designed is the late 1990’s when it was taken over by Robin Pope Safaris. They were not allowed to change the structure of the main buildings which has left the rooms as traditional colonial style, raised brick-built rondavals. The re-design was cleverly done though and the result is a pleasant mixture of the past and present, the central chitenji has been furnished stylishly with a 1950’s feel complete with a gramophone and various antiques.

Game-viewing in this area is perhaps not as varied as other areas of the Park but again exclusivity counts for a lot, the only camp within reach is Tafika and they are just as keen not to trip over their neighbours and so are rarely seen.

  • 12 guests
  • minimum age 12 years
  • open end January to 31 March for River Safaris and re-opens from late May to end of October
  • Jan to March only boating and walking offered
  • transfer time from Mfuwe Airport takes about an hour and half 

Luangwa Bushcamping 

The concept of fly-camping centres around very simple camps set up as part of a journey from one place to the next. Robin Pope Safaris offer an excellent experience for 2 nights between Tena Tena and Nsefu camps, you will probably walk for 8-10 kms per day and there is no option to drive rather than walk.

The camps are indeed simple, with smallish stand-up dome tents, a bucket shower strung from a tree and a long-drop toilet. Diner is cooked over the fire and the simplicity of this style of product when compared to some of the opulence on offer in today’s safari world, is very refreshing.

  • 1-3 nights (except Oct, due to temperatures) camping,
  • Walking only
  • Intimate camp of 2 – 4 guests
  • Battery charging can be done if essential

Luangwa House

This is a stunningly designed private house with 4 rooms and a central living area. There is a pool in front and a deck leading out to a clump of trees under which meals are sometimes taken. It is on the same site as Nkwali Camp although guests are secluded and do not join any camp activities. There is a watering hole in front of the house which attracts plenty of elephant, giraffe and buck so there is usually something to watch.

This property is ideal for larger families or groups of the right size that are looking for that little bit more exclusivity. It obviously combines excellently with its sister house in the Lower Zambezi – Chongwe House, and there are also a couple of similar properties in Livingstone to complete the circuit.

  • 4 spacious bedrooms 2 upstairs and 2 down strips
  • Transfer time from Mfuwe Airport is about 45 minutes
  • Plunge pool overlooking the lagoon
  • Open all year round

Robin’s House

 This house sits on the edge of Nkwali Camp and was originally built by Robin and Jo Pope as their home; they turned it into guest accommodation when they built another house a bit further away from camp. The house sits right on the river bank under shady trees and is ideal for families or small groups who are happy to be secluded from the main camp. There is no pool at the house but guests are free to use the pool at Nkwali Camp.

  • Up to 4 adults, more with smaller children
  • 2 bedrooms with very large en-suite bathrooms
  • Open all year round
  • Swimming pool – shared with Nkwali guests
  • transfer time from Mfuwe Airport takes about  45 minutes