Lion Camp is located on an oxbow lagoon which attracts game all year around.
Lion Camp: Our full report
Lion Camp is located in the north of South Luangwa National Park, close to the game-rich Lion Plain, and a three-hour drive through the park from Mfuwe airport. Comfortable and well appointed, it overlooks a plain on the edge of an oxbow lagoon, or wafwa, which is a real magnet for game all year round.
Lion Camp’s location in the park is good, far enough north of the main Mfuwe area for visitors to see relatively few other game-viewing vehicles when out on drives. Like it nearest neighbours, Kaingo to the south-west, and Tafika to the north-east, Lion Camp is privately owned – although in contrast, its owner isn’t a long-term resident of the Luangwa Valley.
Lion Camp is dominated by a large thatched main building with polished wooden floors and, in the centre, a large recessed firepit. Brightly covered fabrics adorn the wooden chairs and sofas, which are grouped in separate seating areas overlooking a long narrow swimming pool with sunloungers, and the open plain beyond. An extensive welcoming bar sits to one side, and below is the dining area, dominated by a large dining table; there’s even a billiards room! A library and a very good shop complete the picture.
Two-metre-high wooden walkways link the main area to nine solidly built chalets, leaving the ground free for game to wander through camp. On our most recent visit to Lion Camp in September 2012 (which was very brief) there were a few elephant in camp, the smaller ones being able to walk under the walkways, as well as a lion asleep in the shade beneath one of the chalets!
Despite their thatched roofs, wooden frames and canvas walls, the large chalets have something of the feel of hotel rooms, complete with locking doors. Each is raised on a wooden platform with views over the plain, and has double doors that open out onto a private deck with a couple of wooden chairs – a great spot to do some game viewing. Inside, double or twin beds are draped in mosquito nets and covered with brightly coloured African fabrics, and an extra bed can be added if required. Each room also has a standing fan as well as a couple of easy chairs and a wardrobe.
Separated from the bedroom by a floor-to-ceiling wooden partition is the bathroom. The basin, shower and toilet each have separate cubicles, but with wood-paneled walls and a small window it all feels rather dark.
Safari activities at Lion Camp include a choice of walking safaris, 4WD game safaris and night drives. Typically there are two activities per day, each lasting around 3–4 hours and led by a fully qualified guide, and for each you'll have a choice of what you do. As with all of the Luangwa’s camps, all walking safaris are accompanied by an armed scout, as well as your guide.
The Expert Africa team haven’t had extensive experience of Lion Camp: one of us has stayed here recently, and another has dropped in subsequently. However, we were staying here to research the most recent edition of the Bradt Guide to Zambia – and the lodge knew that we were guidebook authors on a research trip. Even so, the guiding was a huge disappointment. Our guide spent most of his time desperately trying (and failing) to find lion for us – despite our protestations that these were not our focus – whilst ignoring many of the other things we passed. Then he made a mad dash to get to a particular sundowner spot. In fairness, we understand that the manager (and main guide) was away at this point. When we mentioned the problem to his assistant, she assured us that they were working to convince that particular guide that lion were not the ‘be all and end all’. Nevertheless, our confidence in the camp’s guiding standards is currently limited.
Our viewIn many ways, we were impressed by the facilities at Lion Camp. The main area is attractive and well designed, and both the food and service in the camp were good. The rooms were substantial and very comfortable, albeit less ‘safari’ and more ‘hotel’ than some might like. However, for us the experience was let down by the guiding, which was unimpressive – and particularly so given the high standard which is the norm in South Luangwa.
Ideal length of stay: 3 – 4 nights
Directions: Lion Camp is about a three-hour drive through the Park from Mfuwe Airport
Owner: Privately owned.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We had good food here when we visited, and were very happy. Typically, a continental breakfast is served before the early morning activity. This normally consists of a selection of cereal, fruit, yoghurt, porridge, toast, coffee and tea.
A buffet brunch is served at around 11.00 when everyone has arrived back in camp after their morning activity. You can expect a selection of warm food as well as salads, such as chicken peri-peri, butternut and tomato gratin, Greek salad, bok choi and apple slaw, all served with freshly made bread. A light dessert generally follows this.
Afternoon tea, served before guests head out on their afternoon activity, comprises something sweet or savoury, served with tea, coffee or homemade iced tea.
On returning from the evening game drive canapés are served around the bar, followed by a three-course plated dinner. A typical meal could be a starter of Thai fishcakes with mango and onion salsa, followed by fillet steak with mushrooms and potatoes. This is finished off with a dessert such as sticky toffee pudding.
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. Note that fine wines, champagne and imported spirits and liqueurs, are charged as extras.
Attitude towards children: Lion Camp welcomes children 12 years and older. Children will need to be constantly supervised by their parents as the camp is not fenced and game wanders freely throughout.
Property’s age restrictions: Children 12 years and older are welcome.
Special activities & services: None
Generally recommended for children: No - this is a remote bushcamp and we feel that it is only suited to older, sensible children.
Notes: We recommend this camp for well behaved children 12 years and older.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is a phone in the office which may be used by guests in case of an emergency. The main area has free Wi-Fi, but guests would need to bring their own laptops. There is no cellphone reception here.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a doctor based at Mfuwe Lodge, about three-hours’ drive away. Lion Camp has links to a flying-doctors service for serious emergencies.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is a night porter on duty.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the main area.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A complimentary laundry service is included. Items are hand washed by male staff and then line dried. Ladies’ underwear is not included; washing powder is provided in the bathrooms.
Money: There is no currency exchange available.
Accepted payment on location: Lion Camp accepts only Zambian kwacha as payment, but guests are welcome to tip in foreign currency.