Mwaleshi Camp

Mwaleshi Camp: Our full report

Rooms
Four chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (97%) From 22 reviews
Children
OK for ages 12+
Open
1 June to 31 October

Located in the remote, walking-only area of the North Luangwa National Park, Mwaleshi Camp is a rustic little safari camp. It stands beside the crystal-clear Mwaleshi River, 10km from its confluence with the main Luangwa River, in a wilderness area renowned for its huge herds of elephant and buffalo.

Simple, very unpretentious, yet comfortable, Mwaleshi Camp is constructed afresh each year from reed and thatch. The chalets are very light and airy. There are “windows" to the front (expect open spaces rather than glass!) and the eaves are open, letting a cool breeze through.

The chalets are furnished simply, but very comfortably. Canvas directors’ chairs sit by the windows – and one of the chalets boasts a hammock under the trees. Twin beds with wooden headboards and walk-in mosquito nets face the river, and on the bedside tables are a solar lamp, mosquito spray, a flask of drinking water, and a self-charging torch (you shake it to charge it!). Hanging space and two large shelves cater for even the sturdiest luggage.

The en-suite bathrooms at Mwaleshi are largely open air, with soft sand floors and a view of the river, albeit mostly shaded by trees. Each morning, a jug of hot water is passed through a ‘hatch’ behind the basin, while water for the shower is supplied on request. A separate flush toilet is the only part of the bathroom to have a ‘roof’.

Mwaleshi’s main area is a simple thatched open-sided 'chitenje', set up on the riverbank, overlooking the river. As well as a polished wooden bar with a few barstools, you’ll find comfortable armchairs and sofas covered in local fabrics, a small library of wildlife books and magazines, and an intimate round dining table.

To the front is a group of directors' chairs and a swinging hammock, close to a birdbath. Steps cut into the riverbank lead to a firepit on the edge of the river, and two well-placed sunloungers under a thatched shelter are lapped by the shallow water. During the dry season, when Mwaleshi is open, the river is usually shallow enough (often just a few inches deep!) to be a safe and very refreshing place to cool off. But never be in any doubt that this really is the wild African bush!

The wildlife around Mwaleshi is abundant, with a particularly good population of lion and buffalo – as well as large herds of the endemic Cookson's wildebeest, which are relatively rare in the more oft-visited South Luangwa National Park. On our most recent visit here, in September 2012, within minutes of arriving, we heard lion roaring not far from camp and set out on foot, with our guide, Stephen, to investigate. Ten minutes later we found lion with a kill hidden in the bush.

Activities here focus solely on walking safaris; Mwaleshi doesn't offer game drives, although a vehicle is available to drive guests to more remote walking areas. Walks from the camp normally last about three–four hours, and are fairly relaxed – so only a modest level of fitness is required.
The aim is to track and see some of the area's great wildlife, not to provide an endurance test or route march. There's usually a stop for refreshments, such as mid-morning tea, cake and, refreshingly, fresh fruit. The terrain in North Luangwa National Park is fairly flat but is occasionally uneven underfoot – so do bring sturdy shoes.

Mwaleshi is run by Remote Africa Safaris, and combines very naturally into a longer trip including its sister camps in the South Luangwa National Park: Crocodile Bushcamp, Chikoko Tree Camp and the base for the group, Tafika. Crocodile Bushcamp and Chikoko Tree Camp are small walking camps, very much like Mwaleshi, whereas Tafika also offers 4WD safaris and night drives. Keen walkers will often arrange for a week in South Luangwa, walking between the three camps there, followed by three–five nights at Mwaleshi to experience the 'North Park'.

Normally Mwaleshi is run for most of the season by Remote Africa’s team of top-notch guides. Typically one of the team comes to North Luangwa to build the camp with a small team of staff, in mid-May, and then stays for much of the season – just occasionally swapping with one of Tafika’s guides. They are a top-notch team of first-rate guides, led by John Coppinger – one of the most experienced walking guides in Africa.

Our view

Mwaleshi Camp is one of the most remote camps in Africa; it's the ultimate wilderness retreat, far from anything resembling the modern world, and exactly how a true bushcamp should be. The guides here are very experienced – which guarantees the exceedingly high level of knowledge and experience that draws many of our travellers back on a regular basis.

Geographics

Location: North Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Ideal length of stay: About 3–5 nights. Mwaleshi is probably best combined with one or more of its sister camps in the South Luangwa National Park – Crocodile Bushcamp, Chikoko Tree Camp and Tafika. As the most remote of these very remote camps, Mwaleshi is often visited last. For more specific ideas and actual examples of trips like this, with prices and full details, click on some of the links to safaris on the Trip ideas tab, above. To see if there’s space, check Mwaleshi’s availability.

Directions: Mwaleshi is a 50 minute flight from Mfuwe airport and 30 minutes from Lukusi airstrip (for Tafika)

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Independent / Owner Run

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: Meals at Mwaleshi are served either in the main 'chitenje' or on the banks of the Mwaleshi River. The food on our last visit was consistently delicious and very well presented. The camp can cater to special requests, if some notice is given.

Meals at Mwaleshi usually start with a light breakfast around the campfire before the morning walk, followed by brunch on return to camp. After a relaxing siesta, tea and freshly baked cake are enjoyed before the evening walk, and then a full three-course dinner is served at around 7.30 pm.

On our recent visit, breakfast was a selection of cereals and fresh papaya (locally known as pawpaw), as well as eggs and sausage, with tea and coffee to drink. Toast was grilled over the campfire.

Our buffet brunch included sausages stuffed with dates, ratatouille, a green salad and rice fritters. Brunch is always served with freshly baked bread and finished off with fresh fruit.

Dinner is a slightly more formal occasion. We had lentil soup served with freshly baked rolls, with a main course of delicious roast chicken with stuffing, roast potatoes, green beans and a green salad. A dessert of fruit salad and cream followed.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Soft drinks, house wine and local spirits are included in the rates, but fine wines, champagne and imported spirits and liqueurs are charged as extras if they are in stock.

Further dining info: No

Special interests

Solo Travel: Set in beautiful surroundings, in the remote North Luangwa, Mwaleshi Camp focuses purely on walking safaris; it’s one of Africa’s top walking camps with very high guiding standards! It is a great choice for a solo traveller holiday and charges only a low single supplement.

See more ideas for Solo Travel in Zambia

Birdwatching: The guides at Mwaleshi are consistently top-notch for birdwatching. Most flora and fauna are common to the whole Luangwa Valley, but specials include the white-winged starling, the chestnut-mantled sparrow weaver and the yellow-throated longclaw.

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia

Walking safaris: Mwaleshi is one of Africa's top walking camps, dedicated to walking safaris, and run by Remote Africa Safaris, one of the Luangwa Valley's most experienced safari companies. Walks from Mwaleshi usually involve cooling paddles across the shallow Mwaleshi River. Bliss!

See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zambia

Wildlife safaris: The game in North Luangwa is similar to that in South Luangwa – although there are more Cookson's wildebeest, and generally better populations of eland and hartebeest. Giraffe are absent, but buffalo are more numerous; lion seem slightly more common (and in larger prides) as the result. Then there are the re-introduced black rhino!

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia

Children

Attitude towards children: Sensible children aged 12 and over are welcome at Mwaleshi.

Special activities & services: None

Equipment: None

Notes: Mwaleshi is open to the bush and the river, so parents need to be constantly aware of their children’s whereabouts. They should note, too, that there were a few tsetse flies about when we last visited, as children tend to react more than adults to the bites.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Communications: There is no cellphone reception here although the camp is in constant radio contact with its main camp Tafika – which has excellent communication facilities.

TV & radio: No TVs or radios – this is a particularly remote Bushcamp. Communications from here are not easy at all.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The closest doctor is in Mfuwe – a 50 minute flight from Mwaleshi, then a road transfer of approximately 25 minutes.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Your guide as well as the camp staff are all in camp with you

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all common areas and sand buckets outside each chalet.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A complementary laundry service is included, but this does not include ladies underwear; soap for this is provided in each room. Note that clothes are hand washed and coal ironed.

Money: No exchange facilities are provided.

Accepted payment on location: No money is required at Mwaleshi. Any payments may be made at Tafika which accepts cash payment for any extra’s in UK pounds, US dollars, euros and Zambian kwacha. They are not able to accept credit cards or travellers’ cheques.