Luangwa River Lodge lies shaded by a riverine forest on the banks of the Luangwa River
Luangwa River Camp: Our full report
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 viewLuangwa 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.
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.
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.
Honeymoons: Luangwa River Camp is a wonderful romantic spot to be pampered ; the secluded chalets have a soft, romantic feel with beautiful lighting and luxurious bathrooms, and the team here are good at making people feel special. Treats such as special private honeymoon suppers can be arranged.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Zambia
Birdwatching: Luangwa River Camp stands on a sweeping bend of the Luangwa River, and near several large lagoons; so has varied environments within easy reach. The birding here is good; with water-birds and many other species including raptors, bee-eaters and rollers.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia
Walking safaris: South Luangwa is probably Africa's best park for big game walking safaris. Luangwa River Camp offers walking safaris as an optional activity; both in the park and in the game management areas. The lodge is particularly easy to combine into a camp-to-camp walking trip with camps in the park.See more ideas for Walking safaris 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
Attitude towards children: Luangwa River Lodge welcomes children aged 2 years and over.
Equipment: An extra bed can be added into any of the chalets allowing a child to share with the parents.
Generally recommended for children: Whilst South Luangwa wouldn't be our first choice of park in Africa to bring a child to ... if you plan to bring children to it, then Luangwa River Lodge is probably a better choice of camp here than most. Thus we'd recommend it for sensible children over the age of about 10 years.
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.
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 area: 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.
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.