Lion Camp

Lion Camp: Our full report

Rooms
9
Traveller's rating
Excellent (100%) From 4 reviews
Children
ages 7+
Open
1 June to 31 October

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 (a real rarity in South Luangwa) 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. Perhaps as a result, Lion Camp doesn’t have the ‘bushy’ character that’s typical of most of the camps in the park. Having said that, for a camp in this comparatively remote northern area of the national park, it is cheaper than its neighbours, and the cost difference does become even more significant during the peak season.

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 have visited and stayed at most of the Luangwa’s camps regularly over the last 20 years. Typically someone from our team gets to the camps at least every two years, and often every year. So we know the camps, and their owners, exceedingly well. However, Lion camp is something of an exception to this: our team have only visited it three times since the current owners bought it in 2004.

Unfortunately, when we stayed here to research the most recent edition of the Bradt Travel Guide to Zambia, we found the guiding disappointing. 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. In fairness, we understood 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 seeing lion were not the 'be all and end all'.

Since that stay, we have had four sets of guests visit the camp, none of whom seem to have had the same issue with the guiding that we experienced. Two specifically describe the guiding as excellent, which chimes well with what we’ve heard from other well-informed sources. Thus while our own experience of Lion Camp was negative, others have been very positive – leaving us a little unsure of how to rate the camp, and how strongly we should be recommending it.

We will revisit Lion Camp ourselves very soon – so that we can update our assessment of the camp and its guiding.

Our view

We have been impressed by Lion Camp’s facilities: on past visits its main area was attractive and well designed, and its food and service were good. The substantial rooms were very comfortable, albeit less 'safari' and more 'hotel' than some might like. We remain unsure of the guiding, as our own poor experience has been contradicted by more positive recent reports and reviews.

Geographics

Location: South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Ideal length of stay: 3 – 4 nights

Directions: Lion Camp is about a three-hour drive through the Park from Mfuwe Airport

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

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.

Further dining info: No

Children

Attitude towards children: Lion Camp welcomes children 7 years and older, but a private vehicle must be booked for families travelling with children aged between 7 and 12. 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 7 years and older are welcome.

Special activities & services: None

Equipment: None

Notes: We recommend this camp for well behaved children 7 years and older.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Communications: There is a phone in the office which may be used by guests in case of an emergency. There is no cellphone reception or WiFi 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, the guest rooms and on board the game drive vehicles.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A complimentary laundry service is included.

Money: There is no currency exchange available.

Accepted payment on location: Lion Camp accepts Zambian kwacha or US dollars as payment, but guests are welcome to tip in other foreign currencies.