Nkwali Camp overlooks the Luangwa River across from South Luangwa National Park.
Nkwali: Our full report
Built on the banks of the Luangwa River, Nkwali Camp sits under the shade of tall mahogany, ebony and sausage trees. Owned and run by Robin Pope Safaris the camp is well situated a relatively short drive from Mfuwe Airport and overlooking South Luangwa National Park.
Nkwali Camp has six stone-and-thatch chalets, each overlooking the Luangwa River and the park beyond. High ceilings and flagstone floors help to keep these spacious rooms cool in the summer and warm during winter (See Zambia's weather). The chalets are completely open-fronted allowing guests to lie back on their comfortable beds whilst watching animals visit the river to drink. At night, large mosquito nets are lowered to cover the beds, whilst bamboo and metal shutters are drawn across the front of the room to keep out unwanted visitors. Each chalet has a large en-suite bathroom with twin sinks, flush toilet and an open-air double shower.
At the centre of Nkwali lies a homely, open-sided thatched main building and a large wooden deck over the river. Various comfortable sitting areas are scattered throughout this 'chitenge' which also has a small reference library and the camp's bar – the place to gather for pre-dinner drinks and to exchange stories of the day's wildlife adventures.
Across the lawn and beside the camp's waterhole is the thatched dining area, built in the shade of a grand jackalberry tree. It is here that many of Nkwali's delicious meals are eaten, though they may be served at a table set out in the open air as well. Nkwali Camp has a swimming pool around which comfortable sunloungers offer a welcoming spot to relax between game-drive safaris.
Nkwali Camp is situated in a small game management area (GMA) on the opposite side of the river to South Luangwa National Park. Whilst animals are common residents of the GMA, activities usually take place across the river within the national park. These include short walking safaris and 4WD game drives – during the day and at night. Typically there are two activities per day, each lasting around 3-4 hours and led by an expert guide. All walking safaris are accompanied by an armed game ranger, as well as a fully-qualified Robin Pope Safaris guide.
Nkwali's 4WD game safaris operate in the heart of South Luangwa, where the game is at its most relaxed – but the density of other vehicles is also at its highest. This is seldom problematic, as just downstream of Nkwali Camp, Robin Pope has a private pontoon over the river which enables its vehicles to swiftly enter the park, south of the main (and sometimes busy) gate at Mfuwe Bridge –the usual access point for a number of camps which are located outside the park.
A trip to Nkwali combines naturally well with its sister-camps, Nsefu Camp and Tena Tena, as well as being part of the itinerary for trips that use Robin Pope's mobile walking camp, in the north of the park on the Mupamadze River.
Close to Nkwali, Robin Pope Safaris also run Robin's House and the impressive Luangwa Safari House. These are two private 'houses', with two and four bedrooms respectively. Each comes with its own chef, expert wildlife guide and private safari vehicle, and both are ideal for families or small groups traveling together.
Further afield, in the Lower Zambezi National Park, Robin Pope Safaris has also been instrumental in building the spectacular Chongwe River House, which works on the same basis.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a stay of 2 or 3 nights at Nkwali Camp in conjunction with time at either Nsefu Camp or Tena Tena in the Nsefu Sector of South Luangwa. Nkwali is also a natural complement to trips to Kawaza Village - which was originally set up with the help of Robin Pope Safaris.
Directions: After an hour flight from Lusaka or Lower Zambezi, guests are met at Mfuwe Airport for a 40-minute drive through Mfuwe Village and a game management area to Nkwali Camp.
Owner: Robin Pope Safaris
Staff: Managers: Kiki & Zebron Guides: Kiki, Zebron, Kanga, Freddie Jason – walking safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals at Nkwali Camp are varied, tasty and of a high standard. When we were last here in June 2010 we thought the food was fantastic.
The day will often begin with a light breakfast buffet beside the camp fire. The fare usually includes a selection of cereals, toast, fruits and porridge with tea and coffee.
A large brunch is usually served upon returning from your morning activity. On the day you arrive you might be offered a light lunch instead. A buffet that might include a choice of salads, fresh bread, a meat option and a cheese board is often laid out for you. When we last visited Nkwali we enjoyed a choice of green salad, cucumber salad, chicken kebabs, capers and artichoke pasta, fresh bread and a fruit mix. During brunch a hot option of eggs, sausages, tomatoes, beans and bacon can be made to order.
Dinner is sometimes laid out under the stars. Though on our last visit we sat in the thatch dining area overlooking the camp's waterhole whilst enjoying roast pork with crackling cooked to perfection, potato gratin and stir fried vegetables followed by sticky date pudding.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included including local spirits and beers. Premium brands such as champagne and many whiskies are not included.
Family holidays: Nkwali is one of few of the top safari camps that really welcomes families; their rates are especially good March-June. However, close by is Robin's House and also the Luangwa Safari House which have been designed specifically with families in mind.See more ideas for Family holidays in Zambia
Solo Travel: Thanks to excellent guides Nkwali is a great place to stay and explore the wildlife areas of the South Luangwa National Park on the opposite bank of the Luangwa River on solo safari holidays. There are no single supplements at Nkwali, and the game viewing is great!See more ideas for Solo Travel in Zambia
Birdwatching: The Luangwa Valley's birding is varied and Nkwali is in a superb location, overlooking the Luangwa River, to take advantage of this. Add to that first-rate guides who know their birds well, even the more obscure species, and you've the recipe for a great camp for bird-watchers.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia
Wildlife safaris: Nkwali camp has first-rate guides, most fully-qualified to lead walking safaris as well as 4WD safaris, and South Luangwa allows night drives, and some off-read driving. These factors make for a superb wildlife safari experience in one of Africa's best game areas.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia
Attitude towards children: Children over the age of 7 are welcome.
Property’s age restrictions: Walking safaris are not possible for children under 12 years old.
Generally recommended for children: As the camp is unfenced and in a wildlife reserve, children will need to be supervised by their parents at all times.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is cell phone reception at the camp. If you need to use your phone we ask that you do so in your rooms only so as not to disturb other guests at Nkwali Camp. If you carry your phone with you to the main areas please set the mode to silent.
TV & radio: No TVs or radios – this is the bush!
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: All the guides at Nkwali Camp are trained in first aid. The camps and lodges of South Luangwa National Park usually club together to provide for a doctor to visit them and their staff regularly. The doctor is based at a camp just down the road from Nkwali.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: As elephants are regular visitors to the camp, guests are escorted to their chalets and around camp after dark.
Fire safety: Each of the chalets has a fire extinguisher in case of fire. The camp has water, sand and fire beater sources ready in the unlikely event of a fire.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included at Nkwali Camp. However, as items are hand washed, ladies undergarments cannot be included for cultural reasons. Washing powder is made available in the rooms for you to hand wash these yourself.
Accepted payment on location: American Dollars, Pounds sterling, Euro, South African Rand and Zambian Kwatcha are all accepted forms of cash. Visa and Mastercard are also accepted as payment for souvenirs or premium brand drinks.