Luangwa River Camp

Luangwa River Camp: Our full report

Rooms
5 brick-and-thatch chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (96%) From 23 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. 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. The result, set under shady trees on the banks of the Luangwa River, was the contemporary Luangwa River Lodge. In April 2011 the management was taken over by Robin Pope Safaris, and the lodge renamed Luangwa River Camp.

The Moroccan villa-style main building, complete with water features, banana trees and enormous red earthen plaster pillars, is fairly unusual for a camp in the South Luangwa and may not appeal to the traditionalist, but these features of Luangwa River Camp do give the building an air of luxury.

At one end is a large wooden bar lined with tall bar stools, balanced at the other end by Luangwa River Camp’s dining area. To the front of the bar, with an equally good view towards the river, white armchairs and sofas scattered with lovely blue-and-white cushions really brighten up the space. A variety of reference and photographic books are usually scattered across the table, and further books of interest can be found in a small library at the back.

A double-level infinity pool is sunk into the tiered wooden deck that runs along the front of the lodge, overlooking a large manicured lawn dotted with sausage and African ebony trees, and the Luangwa River beyond. On our most recent visit in October 2014, we could imagine spending many a happy hour during siesta relaxing on the sunloungers under elegant ‘hanging’ umbrellas, whilst watching elephants crossing the river and puku grazing on the lawns.

Luangwa River Camp has five spacious chalets built of brick and thatch, shaded by evergreen Natal mahogany trees. Inside are twin beds or a large double beneath a capacious walk-in mosquito net; behind you’ll find some shelving and hanging space for clothes. There’s also a sitting area with a daybed which we think is perfectly designed for napping or reading – we tested it! Adding a touch of style are some unusual fittings and furniture designs, such as the beautifully carved coffee table and bedside tables.

To the side of each room is an enormous bathroom with a flush toilet, twin handbasins, a huge open-sided shower and a bath. In some of the chalets there are vast sunken baths, which certainly look impressive, but can take over an hour to fill; a problem if you want a hot bath. Others now have more traditional claw-foot baths instead, and there are plans to replace the rest in time. If the ceiling fans aren’t enough to keep you cool during the day, louvred doors from both the bathroom and the bedroom open out onto a wooden deck, looking out over the Luangwa.

Activities from Luangwa River Camp include both walks and 4WD day and night drives. The lodge is situated in a game management area (GMA) across the Luangwa River from South Luangwa National Park. Most of the guided walks take place in the GMA, under the tall canopy of a pretty grove of African ebony trees behind the lodge, where herds of elephant, bushbuck, the odd leopard and various other animals are often seen, but some take place within the park itself.

In the earlier part of the season, drives and walks in South Luangwa National Park start with a short boat trip across the river, while later, when it’s drier, you’ll be driven 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 also one of the busiest. However, because the lodge has its own private entrance to the park, guests here have a head start, though there will still be occasions when you might see three or four vehicles at one time.

Luangwa River Camp is one of the few lodges in South Luangwa National Park that is open during part of the 'green season', also known as the ‘emerald season’ in Zambia. Although drives at that time of year are limited to areas of the park with ‘all-season’ gravel roads, boat trips on the flooded Luangwa River become possible as the river levels rise – and are often a highlight at this time of year.

Our view

Luangwa River Camp is an attractive safari camp with a high degree of design and style. It is set in a fantastic location and there is often plenty to see without having to leave camp. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth venturing out on game activities into a part of the park that is known to offer some great wildlife viewing – though you may share some of your sightings with other vehicles in this busier area near to Mfuwe.

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, to include some of the park’s more remote bushcamps, we recommend a shorter stay of two nights here at the beginning of your safari.

Directions: From Mfuwe Airport, it’s a slow, 90-minute meandering drive through South Luangwa National Park to the crossing point on the Luangwa Wafwa lagoon. From here, you’ll have a quick boat or vehicle transfer 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: Meals at Luangwa River Camp are varied, tasty and of a high standard, and we have always enjoyed the food here on previous visits. The team at the camp are more than happy to cater for special diets if warned in advance.

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 taken at a communal table at around 8.00pm. This is usually a three-course meal beginning with a starter such as soup or a vegetable spring roll served with sweet chilli sauce. On our last visit in October 2014, we weren't able to eat here, but on a previous stay we enjoyed a main course of lemon baked chicken with a side of mashed potato topped with cheese and vegetables. Dessert was a tasty trifle – elegantly 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: Meals and activities are communal at Luangwa River Camp, but secluded chalets provide quiet spots to watch elephants crossing the river. As with all Robin Pope Safari’s lodges there is no single supplement, making it perfect for solo travellers in Zambia.

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Honeymoons: Luangwa River Camp is a wonderful spot to be pampered. The secluded chalets have a romantic feel to them, and the team are excellent at making people feel special on their Zambian honeymoon. Treats such as private suppers can be arranged.

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Birdwatching: Luangwa River Camp stands on a bend in the Luangwa River near several lagoons. These varied environments are within easy reach, making this a great camp for birdwatching in Zambia. There are numerous species including spoonbills, raptors, bee-eaters and rollers.

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Wildlife safaris: South Luangwa is one of Africa’s top big-game destinations, and high densities of wildlife make Luangwa River Camp a good option for wildlife safaris in Zambia. Night drives make sightings of lion and leopard particularly common.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia

Walking: South Luangwa is one of Africa’s best parks for walking safaris. Luangwa River Camp offers these in the game management area, in the park, and between camps in the area, making this a great camp for walking safaris in Zambia.

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Children

Attitude towards children: Luangwa River Lodge welcomes children over the age of seven.

Property’s age restrictions: The minimum age limit is seven years but due to park regulations, children under the age of 12 years are not allowed to walk in the South Luangwa.

Special activities & services: None

Equipment: An extra bed could be added into any of the chalets, allowing a child to share with the parents, but this would make it a bit of a squash.

Notes: The lodge is unfenced, so dangerous animals do roam through the camp. The pool is also unfenced. Children must remain under parental supervision throughout their stay.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Mains Electricity

Power supply notes: Three-pin UK style plugs are provided in the chalets. (Adaptors are available on request.)

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

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: Tap water is from a borehole and we are advised that it is safe for drinking, although for those who prefer it, bottled water is also available. The chalets all have flushing toilets, as well as hot and cold running water for the handbasins, bath and shower.

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.

Money: Each of the chalets has a small lock-box for valuables. The camp does not offer currency-exchange facilities.

Accepted payment on location: Payment for all extras can be made either by Visa credit card or in cash; Zambian kwacha, US dollars, euros and pounds sterling are accepted.