This trip to Zambia was the best of our three African safari experiences.
For reference, our past trips included 8 nights in Botswana in 2012 (4 nights with a private guide camping in tents in the Chobe National Park and 4 nights in the luxury of a tented camp in the Okavango) and 8 nights in Tanzania in 2014 (all in tented camps in the Ngorongoro Crater and on the Serengeti chasing the Great Migration). Both trips were amazing.
But, this was the best.
After 3 safaris it is clear for us that it’s not so much about the game, the scenery or the accommodations. It’s about the guide.
We had very good guides in Botswana and Tanzania, but our Zambia guide, Suzyo Zimba, who works for The Bushcamp Company, was over the top.
We stayed at 3 Bushcamp Company camps in South Luangwa Park: Kampamba (2 nights), Chamilandu (2 nights) and Kuyenda (3 nights). All were small (only 6-8 guests) and luxurious. A review of each camp is provided under the respective TA accommodation listing. Our trip organizer, Safari Consultants in the UK, was able to get a discount because we used Bushcamp exclusively.
We retained Suzyo as our private guide for the entire 7 days. This option is more expensive than using the guide at each respective camp, but this way our learning experience was more cumulative vs. the likelihood of repetition by using multiple guides.
Each day began with a quick breakfast at dawn. Suzyo would then drive us to a different destination and we’d get out and walk for about 2 hours in the bush. Zambia is famous for its walking safaris, which are not available in most other countries. We were always accompanied by a Park Ranger carrying a loaded rifle. On the walks Suzyo would explain the “small things” about the bush you can’t learn by sitting in the Land Rover: plants, insects, tracking, etc.
We would return to the camp about 11AM for an excellent lunch after which we would relax in our chalet. In each camp there was always game nearby. On one occasion 3 elephants came right next to our chalet.
At about 3.30PM we would head out in the Land Rover for a game drive. During our week in country we saw leopards 4 times, lions 5 times and hundreds of elephants, giraffe, zebra, antelope, baboons and a wide variety of wonderful birds.
At 6.30, when the sun was setting, we would stop sundowner cocktails and hors d’oeuvres would be served out in the bush. Next would be a night game drive using a high-powered spotlight.
We usually returned about 8.00PM, had more cocktails and then great dinners. The camp manager and our guide always dined with us.
The chalets were relatively open to the environment, so there is a night watchman to make sure there are no intruding animals. That said, we could hear animals passing through the camp at night.
The weather in September there is perfect: nights go down to about 55º and days maybe 80º to 84º. Zero rain. Blue skies. Amazing sunsets.
We didn’t encounter any insect problems. No flies. No mosquitoes.
Getting to South Luangwa Park takes some effort. We flew overnight from JFK to Heathrow and then took a day room at the Sofitel in terminal 5 to rest a bit because we then took an overnight flight (11 hours) to Johannesburg followed by a 2-hour flight to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. One could then take Proflight onward to Mfuwe, the starting out point into the park, but we chose to crash for the night at the Taj hotel in Lusaka and then proceed to Mfuwe the following day so we would be rested when we started the safari routine.