Bilimungwe Bushcamp

Bilimungwe Bushcamp: Our full report

Rooms
4 chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (91%) From 7 reviews
Children
Best for 14+
Open
15 May to 01 December

Bilimungwe Bushcamp is a small, stylish camp run by The Bushcamp Company in the remote southern section of the South Luangwa National Park. Set on a low rise surrounded by wildlife, it was completely rebuilt in 2011, with each chalet overlooking a group of shady waterholes where impala, puku, warthog, elephant and baboons are often seen coming to drink.The central area at Bilimungwe is a thatched, open-sided structure, which is raised on wooden decking between the trunks of tall winterthorn and Natal mahogany trees. There is a comfortable lounge area with cane furniture and African-print cushions, as well as a dining area and well-stocked bar. Down a few steps is another deck with built-in seating, scattered with cushions, creating a quiet area overlooking the waterhole. On a nice evening, meals might also be enjoyed here under the stars. Just a stone’s throw from the main area, overlooking an open plain behind the camp, is the firepit.

Bilimungwe Bushcamp has just four chalets: enormous, stylish structures set beneath shady, evergreen Natal mahogany trees that help to keep the rooms cool, even through the hottest months. Each chalet is constructed of reed and cane under a tall thatched roof, and raised up on a wooden platform. Inside, all is light and airy, with brightly coloured African textiles adding a splash of colour, yet they still retain a bushcamp feel, with half-height mosquito-gauzed reed walls allowing uninterrupted views and a free flow of air through the chalet. Two of the chalets have twin beds and the other two have doubles.

To one side of each chalet is a seating area with contemporary round cane chairs and a low table set with nature books and magazines. Doors that can fold away completely lead outside onto a massive deck, which runs the length of the chalet. Here, a couple of chairs provide a relaxing spot to view the waterhole from your deck. On our most recent visit in October 2013, we stayed in one of the chalets closest to the main area and while there was a slight lack of privacy on our deck - it can be seen from the main area and the room opposite – we loved being able to watch – giraffe, puku, zebra and monkeys drinking from the waterhole.

A reed wall separates the bedroom from a spacious bathroom, which has a flush toilet, twin handbasins carved into a beautiful, polished piece of mahogany, and a large open shower. A door from the bathroom leads to an outside open-air waterfall shower, beautifully crafted, and separated from the front of the chalet by a high curved stone wall.

Two activities a day are the norm at Bilimungwe – usually a safari walk in the morning and an afternoon game drive, combined with a night drive. Traditionally, the camp considered walking safaris to be its main activity, but equal weighting is now given to day safari drives and spotlit night drives. We highly recommend a walk here based on our most recent experience, when we had wonderful sightings of giraffe, and elephants at quite close quarters – although our guide and armed scout were excellent and we always felt completely safe. Bilimungwe usually has one guide in camp at any one time, though, so it's usual for all activities to done as a group. Hence what you do and when will depend on the other visitors as well as yourself. So stay here for at least two or three nights to be fairly sure of doing some walking as well as some 4WD safaris.

The riverine woodland environment around Bilimungwe, with its tall winterthorn, sausage and evergreen Natal mahogany trees, would contrast well with the open plains and low rocky hills found at its sister bushcamp, Kuyenda, to offer an interesting and varied safari experience.

Our view

Bilimungwe manages to strike a balance between being rustic yet stylish, without compromising at all on comfort and quality. For those looking for a high-quality wilderness bushcamp, with good guiding, Bilimungwe would be an excellent choice.

Geographics

Location: South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Ideal length of stay: We recommend a two- or three-night stay at Bilimungwe. The camp combines naturally with one or more of its sister bushcamps: Zungulila, Kuyenda, Chindeni and Chamilandu or Kapamba, as well as with Mfuwe Lodge.

Directions: Bilimungwe is approximately four hours' game drive from Mfuwe airport, through the South Luangwa National Park.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: The Bushcamp Company

Staff: The resident guide at Bilimungwe when we last visited in 2013 was usually Manda Chisanga, who in 2006 was joint-winner of Wanderlust magazine's Paul Morrison Guide of the Year. Manda is a fantastic all-round guide, in his element when guiding a walk where he spends time explaining everything from how claw marks in a tree trunk show a leopard's routine to the medicinal properties of plants. Click here to read more about Manda's award and how he chose to spend his £5,000 winnings within the local community. If Manda is on leave, then you’ll be guided by one of the Bushcamp Company’s other qualified guides.

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: The meals offered at Bilimungwe are of a generally good standard. Don't expect gourmet but do expect an array of well-presented, mostly delicious dishes.

A buffet breakfast is usually served in the main area in time to watch the sun rise, before heading out on a morning activity. It might include cereals, fruit, muffins, hot porridge and toast made on the fire.

The morning excursion usually ends at about 10.30am so brunch is often at around 11.00am, although this is flexible and can be altered if you see something exciting out in the bush. Brunch is served in a variety of locations; on one previous visit we enjoyed a barbecue overlooking the Luangwa River, about 50 metres from camp. This included a variety of salads, freshly baked bread, a choice of chicken, farmer's sausage and beef shish kebabs, all rounded off with fruit salad for dessert. On our most recent visit in October 2013, we had homemade pizzas. Bilimungwe and its sister camps each has a pizza oven and once a week, usually on a Tuesday, guests are invited to roll out their own dough and select their preferred toppings before handing it over to the chef to cook. We had lots of meaty morsels and veggies on ours - it was delicious!

A three-course dinner is usually served at about 8.00pm. We particularly enjoyed the unusual lemon and lentil soup served with freshly baked rolls, though this was followed by a disappointingly tough pork chop with boiled potatoes and steamed vegetables. Fortunately, the chocolate and peach tart was a very good end to the meal.

In between meals you will need to save room for homemade biscuits with morning tea, fresh cakes with afternoon tea, and tasty snacks with sundowner drinks. We particularly enjoyed the peanut brittle cookies we had for afternoon tea.

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 note that fine wines, champagne and imported spirits and liqueurs are charged as extras.

Further dining info: No

Special interests

Walking safaris: The area surrounding Bilimungwe camp is varied, with some pretty stretches of riverine woodland along the Luangwa River, thicker miombo woodlands, and plenty of open 'dambos' or waterholes. Exploring this with Manda Chisanga, an award-winning guide, can be interesting and very informative as he is particularly knowledgeable on the medicinal properties of the plants.

See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zambia

Children

Attitude towards children: Children of 12 years and older are welcome at Bilimungwe. Children under 12 can be accommodated on request and if the family group takes over the whole camp. Walking is not permitted for children younger than 12.

Property’s age restrictions: Children under the age of 12 can be accommodated at Bilimungwe on request and if the family group takes over the whole camp. Walking is not permitted for children younger than 12.

Special activities & services: None

Equipment: Some of the rooms can be fitted with an extra bed to accommodate a child sharing with their parents.

Notes: Bilimungwe Bushcamp is unfenced so dangerous animals regularly roam through the camp. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: There are no plug points in the rooms but camera batteries can be given to the manager for charging. In the event of a series of cloudy days, charging facilities may be limited, or charging could take longer than normal.

Communications: Bilimungwe has 24-hour radio contact with its sister camps in South Luangwa and with its base at Mfuwe Lodge.

TV & radio: Bilimungwe has no TV or radios

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: The showers and handbasins are plumbed in. Water is solar-heated so it may take a few minutes to reach your shower. Each chalet has a flushing toilet.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There is a doctor based at Mfuwe Lodge, Bushcamp Company's main base. In a medical emergency it is possible to arrange evacuation by air to Lusaka, and potentially to Johannesburg.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Guests are escorted between the main area and their chalets after dark by a member of the Bilimungwe team.

Fire safety: Bilimungwe has a central borehole with a nearby tap and waterhoses available in case of fire. There is also a fire extinguisher in the main area.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: A complimentary laundry service is included, with items hand washed by male staff and then line dried. The exception is ladies' underwear, for which washing powder is provided in the bathrooms.

Money: No currency exchange is available. There are no safes in the rooms, but if you’re concerned then small items could be given to management for safe keeping.

Accepted payment on location: We recommend you carry US dollars or Zambian kwacha if you’d like to leave a tip. In the unlikely event that payment for anything else is needed, this would be arranged through Bilimungwe's sister camp, Mfuwe Lodge.