Kalamu Tented Camp

Kalamu Tented Camp: Our full report

Rooms
4 luxury tents
Traveller's rating
Excellent (100%) From 1 review
Open
Seasonal

Kalamu Tented Camp was built and run for a few years by Wilderness Safaris. It opened around 2008, and closed in 2012. We've no idea if or when it will re-open - watch this space ...

Kalamu Tented Camp is a relatively new camp in South Luangwa National Park, having opened in July 2007. With only four tents, it's a small camp offering an exclusive experience and excellent guiding. Situated on a wide bend of the Luangwa River, the camp takes its name from the seasonal tributary known as the Chankalamu Lagoon which runs behind it.

Giant crocodiles sun themselves on the wide sandy banks of the Luangwa whilst hippos jostle for space in the shallow waters and elephants cross in front of the camp. At the back of Kalamu, a platform set a few metres off the ground overlooks the seasonal lagoon, an area that attracts troops of baboons, impala, puku, bushbuck and the odd Thornicroft's giraffe.

Originally it was planned that the camp's main area would be built around a giant fig tree set on the banks of Luangwa River. During the early months of 2007 the Luangwa River experienced the highest flood in 30 years, and the tree toppled into the river. The fig tree now serves as the base for a wooden viewing deck over the river. It's a great spot to watch birds such as little bee-eaters, pied kingfishers or scarlet-chested sunbirds that use the tree as an ideal perch or nesting area respectively.

Kalamu Tented Camp's central area is made up of a large canvas marquee. On one side this houses a comfortable sitting area, well stocked bar and small but interesting reference library. On the other is a long dining table and buffet area for midday meals.

In front of the marquee tent, dotted along the river bank, are further sitting areas, a spotting scope and a campfire which is the perfect meeting spot for pre dinner drinks. Jutting out over the river is a wooden deck built around a fig tree that toppled off the bank during high flood waters at the beginning of 2007. This is a cool spot to watch the resident birdlife from.

The nearby plunge pool and deck overlook the wide bend and sandy banks of the Luangwa River on one side and the seasonal Chakalamu Lagoon on the other. It is a great spot for a cool dip whilst watching the wildlife feed around the lagoon or wallow in the river shallows.

At the back of the camp, overlooking the seasonal lagoon and under the shade of tall jackalberry trees, is a viewing deck set a few metres off the ground. This is a lovely cool spot to rest with a book whilst watching wildlife come to drink. As it is set a little away from the camp you will need to request an escort there.

The four spacious tents at Kalamu Tented Camp are substantial and floored wall-to-wall with heavy sisal matting. Each has two comfortable queen-size beds, both of which are enclosed in a large walk-in mosquito net, which is let down before you retire to bed each night. The canvas flaps on three sides of these tents can be rolled up, to allow a breeze to pass through the room and to give a view over the river. Gauze on the windows, and on the doors, keeps out any unwanted visitors, whilst a stand-alone fan helps to keep the room cool.

The bedroom's décor is largely coloured in muted creams, browns and shades of green, which combine nicely with gold-coloured fittings. Panels, shelves and luggage racks made of African rosewood add an air of warmth and permanence. Meanwhile soft furnishings from high-quality linens and beaded cushions, to leather pouffes and comfortable cane armchairs bring an understated feeling of luxury.

The large shower area and toilet in each tent at Kalamu can be cordoned off by a curtain, whilst the twin sinks add an air of decadence.

Kalamu Tented Camp stands in the southernmost part of the South Luangwa National Park, an area locally known as Luamfwa. It's one of the few camps found in this remote and little-visited area. In the past few decades, the area has been only used for walking safaris; this means that the resident wildlife is unused to people, and can often be skittish at the approach of a vehicle. On our last visit, in October 2007, we found that many of the game species were starting to relax in our presence, including a pride of 13 lions, whilst others such as elephants still needed some time to get used to their new neighbours.

This Luamfwa area has a very wide variety of game, and enormous potential. However, the game here simply isn't as relaxed as you will find it in northern side of the South Luangwa. Hence the camp makes a great, and very remote, destination for experienced Africa travellers – and it is a privilege to be in such an untouched area – although it's perhaps not the obvious spot for first-time visitors who want to be sure of seeing large quantities of relaxed game posing for their camera.

Having said that, there are plans for a new sister-camp to Kalamu, called Kwena Lagoon Camp, to be opened in August 2008. This is about 15km away, on the site of the old Luamfwa Lodge – and we're sure that this will also help to habituate the area's game to seeing more people around.

During a stay at Kalamu Tented Camp you will be able to drive (day and night) or walk through mopane woodlands, open grasslands and riverine forest where gigantic African ebony (jackalberry), sausage and wild fig trees also grow. Small shallow lagoons, open grasslands and wooded islands make this an excellent and varied area for walking and we recommend that you plan to do this for at least one of your activities.

Geographics

Location: South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Ideal length of stay: 2–3 nights. Note that Kalamu Tented Camp will often be preceded in a longer safari with stays at its sister camps in Kafue National Park: Shumba Camp or Kapinga Camp. Sometimes Kalamu might be followed by another camp or lodge in the Luangwa Valley – or possibly the Lower Zambezi.

Directions: Kalamu Tented Camp is reached by light aircraft. It is a 75-minute flight from Lusaka and a 20-minute flight from Mfuwe. From the airstrip it is a 20-minute game-drive to the camp.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Property Chain – Wilderness Safaris

Staff: Camp Managers: Dave & Cathy. Guide: Luckson. Very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Always keen to offer up information and takes time to explain all he knows about the flora and fauna of the area. Scout – Moses. Local ZAWA tracker who joins all activities including drives just in case you see something worth going on foot for.

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: Kalamu Tented Camp serves very good quality food. We tasted a wide variety of dishes during our stay here, and found them all to be delicious, well presented and plentiful.

An early morning breakfast is served before the morning activity. This usually includes the option of cereals, fruits, yoghurts, juice, toast and porridge with tea and coffee. Fresh muffins or mini pancakes with syrup are an added treat!

Brunch is served soon after you return from your morning activity and is hearty enough to set you up for an extended siesta. The meal is set up as a buffet with dishes that range from grilled tomatoes to sausages, steak pie to marinated chicken legs and salad to eggs made to order.

Afternoon tea is served around 3.30pm, and is usually a combination of a light savory snack, such as chicken wraps and some form of cake – with tea, coffee, iced rooibos (redbush) tea and juices. This can be eaten at the main area, or at the viewing platform overlooking the seasonal Chankalamu Lagoon.

The 3-course dinner will either be served by lantern light on the banks of the Luangwa River, or in the dining area of the central marquee tent. Meals usually begin with a tasty starter, such as coconut and pumpkin soup with a fresh bread roll. This is followed by a main course which is served at your table, by the waiters (often silver-service). The meal is rounded off nicely with a light desert followed by tea or coffee.

When we last visited - we especially liked the filo pastry packet filled with orange mousse!

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: All beverages are included, including house wines, beers and local spirits. The only exclusions are as few premium brand drinks and a small selection of fine vintage wines.

Further dining info: No

Children

Attitude towards children: Children from the age of 8 are welcome at Kalamu Tented Camp.

Property’s age restrictions: Families with children between the ages of 8 and 12 are required to book a private vehicle. The minimum age for walking activities is 16 years.

Special activities & services: Activities such as treasure hunts or lessons in recognizing animal tracks can be arranged for children.

Infrastructure

Communications: The camp has radio communications with Lusaka, and between guides on the activities. The camp has email and the internet which is only used by management and in emergencies. A satellite phone is available in case of emergencies. There is no mobile phone reception in the area.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: All the guides are trained in first aid and a good first-aid kit is kept at the camp. A doctor is on call in the Luangwa Valley (usually Mfuwe area) 24-hours who will advise the camp managers and guides with any emergency treatment whilst the Medivac aircraft is dispatched.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Guests are escorted to their tents after dark.

Fire safety: There is a fire extinguisher outside every tent which is serviced regularly. Beaters and sand buckets are set up at a 'fire station' by the camps office ready to go in the case of a fire.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included. Collections are at 8am and returned the same day, weather permitting. As all the camp staff are men, for cultural reasons woman's underwear / delicates cannot be washed. A container of washing powder is made available in each room for guests who wish to wash their own small items.

Accepted payment on location: Cash – Euro, US Dollars, South African Rand, Zambian Kwatcha and Sterling. Visa and MasterCard.