Reviews of Chiawa Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Chiawa Camp Experience
Having not been down to the Lower Zambezi area before we thought we'd sample this area combining it with a trip to the S Luangwa Valley and this combination went very well. Old Mondoro and Ciawa Camp are a very good experience for a 5/6 night combination stay with Old Mondoro being slightly less plush than Ciawa but only marginally when you look at the fine touches at Chiwa Camp.
The camp is in a very good location fairly far away from other camps leading to a good safari experiences for those at camp. Very nice and sumptuous rooms with some nice touches of good views, nice large baths with good views across the surrounding area while you clean yourself. The camp well run run by the husband and wife team and offers a good range of driving, walking, boat, both motor lunch and canoe trips. Good touches include a nice location for lunch/dinner, white table service set-up when you are out on a game drive/walk/boat ride for your drinks or sun downer is a very nice touch, even a lunch time cruise/float down the Zambezi with fully set table and personal waiter service over a glass of wine of two.
Certainly try the canoe trip, this is very nice floating down one of the side channels of the Zambezi and viewing game/birds as you float along. My wife went on the motor boat cruise down the Zambezi and it was like "African Queen" with her floating along the Zambezi and being the only guest in a camp chair in the center of the boat spotting all the birds etc at her leisure.
Good game viewing but some places in this area of the park are more bushy than at Old Mondoro down river so their are more places for the animals to hide and harder to see/track some of the game. That said we had good sightings of most of the game species in the area. Also close viewing of game in camp with a resident elephant or two who appear to regularly walk through camp at any time of the day.
The walking guide Paul Grobler is an excellent walking guide and very passionate and enthusiastic. He's a good birder and even though this was at the end of our 2 week safari trip we managed to increase our bird count quite a bit in just one walk with him and as he spots the birds well it gives you just that bit more time to spot them and get your eye on them before they fly off, as they usually invariably do. Also Paul is very knowledgeable on most of the wildlife and game information so we leaned quite a bit from him.
Very nice and pleasant stay in a pleasant environment I challenge anyone not to enjoy a stay with a combination of Ciawa Camp and Old Mondoro.
Chiawa Camp review
Another excellent camp with great accommodations and staff.
The camp managers were very cooperative in arranging our activities and early morning departure.
The canoe ride through the lagoon cutoff with guide Paul was a definite highlight..
Excellent camp on the banks of the Zambezi
Chiawa is a lovely camp on the banks of the Zambezi, the perfect place to start our holiday. The "tents" are very comfortable and well spread out giving the feeling of privacy. A few yards from ours was a bench from which we could watch elephants, warthogs, hippos, impala, etc., many wandering past our veranda (which overlooked the river). The room had power so charging batteries was very convenient.
The staff were very friendly and helpful. The food was good as were the facilities although we didn't fancy the look of the pool.
Dining facilities were very pleasant either under cover or out in the open as you wish and there was a very nice bar area.
One lunch was a surprise set up for just us on a boat; we cruised the Zambezi with waiter service - how exotic do you want to get?
The guides we had were generally very good and we especially enjoyed Spencer and Paul. The safari drives were comfortable, with just us on the vehicle, and we saw a lot of varied life.
Chiawa Camp review
Chiawa Camp is in a beautiful location, and had a high standard of accommodation but which made it feel less authentic as an African bush camp. It is like a deluxe hotel in the bush! The managers were in their first season at the camp but were very welcoming and looked after us well.
The opportunity to spend time on the river was lovely and extremely relaxing. However, it would be better if the chairs on the boats were secured to the floor as they did tip over backwards when the boat accelerated. Fortunately on the occasion this happened with us nobody was hurt but it seems like an accident waiting to happen! especially as it would be all to easy to crack your head on the machinery on the boat. The walking here wasn't as good as we had hoped it comprised of a short, brief, circular walk, however the drives were excellent.
The food was excellent and in fact superior to the Royal Livingstone Hotel and the team made thoughtful yet unobtrusive efforts to cater to our dietary needs. However, the camp owner (on a brief visit) and some of the guides didn't appear to understand our wish not to drink bore hole water and seemed to take some offense to our requests for bottled water. Their belief is that the water is safe to drink, which it quite probably is, but they couldn't appreciate that visitors who are not used to bore hole water may be adversely affected by it and would therefore want a choice.
Expert Africa comments
We spoke with the owner of Chiawa about these guests comments on the camp. He first apologised if they fell on one of the boats. He said that if guests are leaning back in the chairs and the coxswain accelerates at the same time, this can occasionally happen. However the coxswains are meant to consistently remind guests to lean forward and not backwards, and he has talked to them all about this. He is also going to explore ways from preventing this from happening again, without compromising the flexibility of the pontoon boats as a versatile platform for game viewing, fishing and floating meals.
He was also surprised to read the comments about the bottled water. For environmental reasons, all guests are provided with souvenir metal water bottles on arrival for filtered water. However he thought it was always made clear that there is abundant bottled water provided as well. He apologised for the misunderstanding.
Chiawa were keen to highlight that later into the dry season, when the bush is not as dense, they are able to offer longer walks.
Chiawa Camp review
Bigger than Old Mondoro and therefore not as much to my liking , although I could not fault the staff and facilities.
The ornate baths were a bit over the top and I suspect little used as showers are the order of the day. Daytime temps up to 45C and elephant spending literally hours just standing in the Zambesi almost totally submerged. Sadly , the lower Zambesi was suffering one of its worst anthrax outbreaks , with several elephant , hippo and buffalo succumbing.
Chiawa Camp review
We really enjoyed Chiawa though, compared with some of the luxurious Sabi Sand camps, it is a little difficult to see Chiawa as the best in Africa. The rooms were the best of the 4 camps we visited. The water activities were enjoyable and the walking safaris great. As with the other Zambia lodges we visited, the game on the game drives was not as good or plentiful as Sabi Sand.
We understand about cultural matters but it was irritating to be told not to put ladies underwear in the laundry particularly since neither the website nor the Expert Africa information (including the Brandt book) gave advance notice of this.
Chiawa Camp review
Set in a well shaded area looking out over the Zambezi. Tented rooms on platforms relatively close to one another but spacious. Indoor and outdoor shower plus bath a bit OTT. Food excellent but just too much throughout the day finished by a 4 course dinner and a ferrero-rocher on your pillow when you get back to your room - enough!!! Superb range of activities: game drives, walking, boat trip, canoeing and fishing. We did all bar the fishing but the canoeing was a real highlight which is generally not available on safaris: working your way round an obstacle course of hippo, buffalo, elephant and lion along a channel of the Zambezi was one of the best things we've ever done in Africa. Guiding is first-class and guides are assigned based on activity so you experience a mix during your visit rather than the usual single guide - a good thing. New management couple for 2011 who have recently moved from the superb Beho Beho in Tanzania so I'd expect Chiawa to improve even further. One amazing touch was to arrange a candlelight dinner on a boat moored out on the river for my wife's birthday - how good is that?!!Read more about the whole safari
Another great time at Chiawa
Chiawa was known to us – but under different management – and the camp has been very successfully upgraded without losing its unique atmosphere. Loved the dinner on the island at full moon, brilliant idea and well managed. The canoeing was a great experience. All the guides v knowledgeable and good company. Well done Steve and Lyn.
The bath was badly positioned in the room- you couldn't get past it from that side of the bed. The outside shower not easy to get to – because the netting of the tent needed to be secured at all times and that was also difficult to open.
Our arrival by boat along the Zambezi was a suitably impressive introduction to this outstanding camp and its stunning location. The greeting from our hosts, Steve and Lyn, was warm and welcoming and their friendly, good-humoured presence and attention to detail was in evidence throughout our stay.
The accommodation (to call it a 'tent' redefines the meaning of the word) was luxurious beyond expectation; the staff, service and food outstanding.
A wide range of water and land-based activities were available. We particularly enjoyed the walks, with elephant encounters, guided by Paul who has a truly encyclopaedic knowledge and the ability to impart that knowledge in an accessible and interesting way.
This was a truly memorable, luxurious and relaxing way to end our holiday in Africa.
"Simply messing about in boats"
For us, Chiawa is all about the river. The vegetation ashore is thicker than elsewhere, but we had great elephant sightings. Good guides (particularly Paul) do make the most of it, but it's the river that is special.
We spent most of our time on canoe trips and river cruises. There are two very different canoe trips which bring the river to life and give a different perspective on hippo in particular! The so called "river cruises" were the highlight for us. We had a boat to ourselves with very obliging guides (Clement and Ruben) and were able to get very close to photograph birds, reptiles and mammals. While not specialist birders, close up views of beeeaters with food for their chicks and malachite and giant kingfishers with their catches provide some of our best memories.
Steve and Lynn are great camp managers, who show constant enthusiasm and try their hardest to meet individual needs. This is very important as Chiawa is a relatively large camp that might lose intimacy, while it has been upgraded to a luxurious level which erodes some of its bush feel. It's also a hotspot for anglers in Sept/Oct and this can be an issue - we saw several couples who were trapped on a fishing table listening to the merits of a blue fly etc.
We very much enjoyed our time there, but the camp needs the strong management it currently has.