Luangwa River Camp

Luangwa River Camp: Our full report

Rooms
5 brick-and-thatch chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (95%) From 22 reviews
Children
Best for aged about 10+
Open
1st April to 30th November

Luangwa River Camp was built by a young English couple, Barry and Tara, who arrived in Zambia in 2001 with a host of ideas and huge enthusiasm, and the determination to carry them through. Their experiences were chronicled by the BBC TV programme “No Going Back", which followed their day to day lives as they designed, built and furnished the lodge. Six years later, and Luangwa River Lodge is a beautiful contemporary lodge set under shady trees on the banks of the Luangwa River and run by a friendly and competent management and staff team. In April 2011 the management of Luangwa River Camp was taken over by Robin Pope Safaris and included in their portfolio of properties.

A Moroccan villa-style main building complete with water features, banana trees and enormous red earthen plaster pillars, give the lodge an air of grandeur. In the middle, wooden steps lead through a water feature to tiered decking and a sunken pool.

At one end is a large wooden bar lined with tall bar stools. To one side, with the best view across the river to the plains beyond, is a lounge area made up of squishy sofas and a large coffee table. A variety of interesting reference and picture books are strewn across the table and further books of interest are found in a small library. At the other end of the main building is the dining area.

A mixture of furniture fashioned into trendy designs and fittings in various shapes and sizes give the lodge's main area and chalets a stylish air. The darkness of the wood-panelled walls and polished floors is balanced by the light flooding through the open sides and large windows or by the soft glow emanating from yellow-coloured lightbulbs.

There is a swimming pool built into the decking which overlooks a large lawn area dotted with sausage and African ebony trees. Canvas chairs sit on the edge of the riverbank which is a prime point to view elephants crossing the river in the evenings.

Luangwa River Camp has five spacious chalets built of brick and thatch. Each chalet is built on wooden decks and shaded by evergreen Natal mahogany trees. Inside each chalet are twin beds or a large double bed, a small lounge area and a vast bathroom with flush toilet, shower and sunken bath. Louvered doors open out onto wooden decking and a boardwalk leads to the river bank where a small pergola shades a canvas chair for a pretty vantage point.

Activities from Luangwa River Camp include both walks and 4WD day and night drives. The lodge is situated in a game management area across the Luangwa River from South Luangwa National Park. Most of the guided walks take place here, under the tall canopy of a pretty African ebony grove behind the lodge. Although not part of the national park, herds of elephant, bush buck, the odd leopard and various other animals are often seen in this game management area.

Drives and walks in South Luangwa National Park start with a short boat trip across the river in the earlier part of the season or, in the later and dryer part of the season, driving straight across the river. Luangwa River Camp utilises an area of the park renowned for its game numbers and amazing wildlife sightings. The flip side is that it is one of the busiest. Because the lodge has its own private entrance, visitors have a head start into the park but there will still be occasions when you might see three or four vehicles at one time. Because of this we recommend Luangwa River Camp be your first or only destination in the South Luangwa, or else it could be a disappointment after exploring more remote areas of the park.

Luangwa River Camp is one of the few lodges in South Luangwa National Park that is open during part of the 'green season'. Although drives are limited to areas of the park with main gravel roads, boat trips on the flooded Luangwa River are possible and often a highlight.

Our view

Luangwa River Camp is an attractive safari camp, with high degree of design and style. It is quite close to the busier Mfuwe area, so would work well with another bushcamp that we set deeper into the park.

Geographics

Location: South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Ideal length of stay: If you plan Luangwa River Camp to be your only destination in the Luangwa Valley we recommend a three or four night stay. If you visit the lodge as part of a longer visit including some of the parks more remote bush camps, we recommend a shorter stay of two nights here at the beginning of your safari.

Directions: From Mfuwe Airport, Luangwa River Camp is reached through South Luangwa National Park – it's a 90-minute slow, meandering drive to the crossing point (the Luangwa Wafwa lagoon), and then a quick boat or vehicle trip across the river depending on the water levels.

Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Robin Pope Safaris

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: The food at Luangwa River Camp is well cooked and tasty. Perhaps, given the up-market feel of the lodge, you might expect fancy, gourmet dishes and arguably you could be right. Despite this we were not disappointed with the meals, especially with the delicious and moist chocolate cake we enjoyed for afternoon tea.

Breakfast is usually served as a buffet in the dining room before the morning activity. This might include cereals, fruit, muffins, hot porridge and toast. For guests who decide to sleep in or who are transferring to an early flight this might include a cooked option with eggs made to order.

Upon returning from the morning walk or drive there is a little time to freshen up before lunch. Served as a buffet, dishes often include a variety of salads, freshly baked bread and a meat option.

Snacks are served with sundowner drinks whilst out on activities and then dinner is served at a communal table at around 8pm. This is usually a 3-course meal beginning with a starter such as soup or a vegetable spring roll served with sweet chili sauce. On our last visit in June 2010 we weren't able to eat here, but on a previous visit in 2008 we enjoyed a main course of lemon baked chicken with a side of mashed potato topped with cheese and vegetables. Desert was a tasty trifle served in a martini glass.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: All drinks are included with the exception of premium brands such as malt whiskies or bottled wines. All drinks are included with the exception of premium brands such as malt whiskies or bottled wines. Bottled water is provided, though Luangwa River Camp also has its own bore hole and can provide plenty of safe drinking water.

Further dining info: No

Special interests

Solo Travel: At Luangwa River Camp you can watch elephants crossing the river in the evening or take part in a guided walk through a shaded ebony grove. As with all Robin Pope Safaris’ lodges, there is no single supplement for people travelling alone.

See more ideas for Solo Travel in Zambia

Honeymoons: A wonderful romantic spot to be pampered; the secluded chalets have a soft, romantic feel and luxurious bathrooms, and the team here are good at making people feel special on their honeymoon to Zambia. Treats such as special private honeymoon suppers can be arranged.

See more ideas for Honeymoons in Zambia

Birdwatching: Luangwa River Camp is near several large lagoons, on a bend of the Luangwa River. Varied environments attract water birds and other species including raptors, bee-eaters and rollers. This could be a good addition to a Zambia birdwatching break.

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia

Wildlife safaris: South Luangwa is one of Africa's top big game destinations, with high densities of wildlife; night drives make sightings of lion and leopard particularly common. During our sundowners at Luangwa River Camp, we spotted hippo, crocodile, antelope coming to drink and a large herd of elephants crossing the river.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia

Children

Attitude towards children: Luangwa River Lodge welcomes children aged 2 years and over.

Property’s age restrictions: Children under the age of 12 years are not permitted to do safari walks.

Special activities & services: Luangwa River Camp can offer baby sitting from the house keeping team, though be aware that they will not be specially trained in child care.

Equipment: An extra bed can be added into any of the chalets allowing a child to share with the parents.

Notes: The area around the lodge is unfenced so dangerous animals do roam through the camp. Children must remain under their parent's supervision throughout their stay.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Mains Electricity

Communications: Telephone, email and internet are available for guests to use. The lodge also has mobile reception although guests are requested to set their mobile phones to silent when in communal areas and phones must be switched off during all game drives and walks.

TV & radio: None

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The operators in the South Luangwa have grouped together to sponsor a doctor who is constantly on call.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: There are two watchmen at that patrol at night and escort guests to their room. Each of the rooms has lockboxes where guests can store any cash of valuables.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the rooms and in the bar, kitchen and workshop.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is Included at Luangwa River Camp. Washing powder is available on request if guests prefer to hand wash delicate items.

Accepted payment on location: Pounds sterling, Euros and Kwatcha and accepted forms of payment, however, US Dollars are the preferred currency. Visa is the only credit card accepted although this carries a 5% surcharge.