Nsefu is Luangwa's oldest camp.
Nsefu: Our full report
Located on a wide bend of the Luangwa River in South Luangwa National Park's remote and game-rich Nsefu Sector, Nsefu is run by Robin Pope Safaris. An hour’s drive from their base at Nkwali, and originally built in the 1950s, it is the South Luangwa's oldest camp – and for years has had a reputation as a high-quality bushcamp with a strong focus on guiding.
The communal area or chitenge at Nsefu sits beside a huge termite mound and commands a spectacular view of the Luangwa River, with the sun rising upstream and setting downstream. It houses the bar and sitting area and is a great spot to watch wildlife coming to drink from the river. The rough brick floor, old black-and-white pictures, antique books and simple but comfortable furniture have a rustic colonial charm that is in perfect keeping with a remote bushcamp. Everything feels good quality, yet it is understated and modest in style.
Added in 2013, a relatively new feature at Nsefu Camp is a hide, just to the side of the camp near the communal area. It overlooks a lagoon, which draws an array of wildlife and birdlife that comes to drink.
At the opposite end of the camp is the thatched, open-sided dining room where lunch and dinner are usually served. However, when the weather is good, meals are often enjoyed under a shady tree or beneath the stars. On our most recent visit in October 2013, while enjoying an excellent lunch in the dining area, we were joined by some very relaxed elephants as they snacked on the trees and bushes around us.
The rooms at Nsefu are the original six brick-and-stone thatched rondavels, each with a shady veranda at the front and a couple of directors’ chairs. We spent a very happy hour during siesta on our last visit, watching puku and elephants wander by. No need to leave camp for some quality game viewing and some great pictures!
The rooms are simply finished, with minimal furniture, painted stone floors, whitewashed walls and pale fabrics on the beds. Small touches like Maglite torches, mosquito spray and wildlife books and magazines are thoughtful extras.
The rondavels are extended at the back to house an airy en-suite bathroom, separated from the room by a curtain. Here you’ll find a flush toilet, washbasin and large walk-in shower, with hot water provided by a log burner. Toiletries and bathrobes are supplied. There are also shelves and a hanging space for your clothes.
By modern standards, the rooms at Nsefu are a bit small and close together: as listed buildings they cannot be moved. On the plus side, this does create an intimate feel to the camp – and considering the history and atmosphere of Nsefu, we feel these minor flaws can be forgiven.
Nsefu offers a choice of activities: either walking safaris or day and night game drives. Typically there are two activities per day, each lasting around 3–4 hours and led by their excellent guides. On our last visit, we learned a bit more about the history of the area and were treated to multiple leopard and lion sightings. More unusual, we were also very privileged to spend time watching a baby elephant, just a few hours old, finding it’s feet!
Walking safaris are a staple at Nsefu and walks are all accompanied by an armed game ranger, as well as a fully qualified guide. Exclusive to Nsefu is the ‘sunrise safari’, when guests leave camp at about 5.00am in order to be in the bush at sunrise. Your guide will cook you a full English breakfast over a fire, while you enjoy the sunrise with a mug of tea or coffee. The morning game drive then continues after breakfast. Guests at Nsefu can also book in advance to venture out for a night or two on a bushcamp trip.
During the ‘emerald’ season, when the Luangwa River is in flood, Nsefu opens for a few weeks between January and March. At this time of year, the landscape around Nsefu is transformed, and land-based activities are curtailed; instead, the camp offers boating safaris, affording visitors a very different perspective of the South Luangwa.
Nsefu combines naturally with its sister camps, Nkwali Camp
and Tena Tena, as well as sometimes being part of the itinerary for RPS walking mobiles. It's also a very natural complement to trips to Kawaza Village – which was originally set up with the help of Robin Pope Safaris.
For families and small groups, Robin Pope Safaris also run Robin's House and the Luangwa Safari House – two 'houses', with two and four bedrooms respectively. Close to Nkwali, each comes with its own chef, expert guide and private safari vehicle, and both are ideal for families or small groups travelling together.
Our viewNsefu is a simple, yet stylish little bushcamp – and hard to fault. It is both laid back and intimate, with some of the best guiding we have come across in the South Luangwa. Over the years we have visited Nsefu many times and always felt instantly welcome and at ease. We can recommend it without hesitation.
Ideal length of stay: We usually suggest a minimum stay at Nsefu of three nights, although many repeat visitors choose to stay longer. In the dry season, from June to October, we suggest 2–3 nights at Nsefu's sister camp, Nkwali , before heading north to Nsefu and/or Tena Tena for a further 2–4 nights.
Directions: It’s approximately a one-hour flight from Lusaka to Mfuwe Airport, followed by a road transfer to camp. The drive takes approximately an hour from either Mfuwe airport, or Nkwali.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Robin Pope Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Nsefu has always offered high-quality food, a standard that was maintained during our last visit in October 2013.
Breakfast is usually set around the campfire, overlooking the Luangwa River, at around 5.30–6.00am before heading out on the morning activity. Hot porridge, cereal, fruit, and toast cooked on the fire are available, alongside tea, coffee and juice.
A buffet brunch is served in the dining area or under a shady tree at around midday, when everyone returns from the morning activity. We had tasty spinach tart served with a variety of cold meats and salads, along with freshly baked bread. This was rounded off nicely with a delicious crêpe suzette with black cherries!
Save space for afternoon tea; Nsefu's chocolate-chip biscuits are worth it!
After drinks at the bar, dinner on our last visit to Nsefu started with a tasty pumpkin soup with crunchy croutons, followed by chutney-marinated chicken with roast potatoes and grilled vegetables. We really enjoyed the unusual coconut tart they served for dessert.
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 at Nsefu, but note that fine wines, champagne and imported spirits and liqueurs are charged as extras.
Further dining info: No
Solo Travel: A high-quality bush camp in a game-rich area, Nsefu's exclusive feel and friendly, professional team make everyone feel at home. It is a great choice for solo travel – and there’s no single supplement.See more ideas for Solo Travel in Zambia
Birdwatching: Beside the river, with bush, open plains and salt pans nearby, Nsefu has a great location for birdwatching in Zambia. Very knowledgeable guides plus large flocks of crowned cranes in the dry season, and a nearby colony of (mostly yellow-billed) storks during the rains.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia
Walking safaris: The area surrounding Nsefu is open and flat, which lends itself particularly well to walking safaris. You'll find old lagoons, excellent game and varied vegetation. Keen walkers might opt to leave camp to sleep under the stars at a Robin Pope Safaris bushcamp.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zambia
Wildlife safaris: On a wide bend of the Luangwa River, where elephants regularly cross, Nsefu is in an area with a high density of game and birdlife – but relatively few visitors. Combine this with top-notch guiding, and the result in a superb wildlife safari experience.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia
Attitude towards children: Nsefu is happy to accommodate children 12 years and over.
Property’s age restrictions: 12 years and over are welcome at Nsefu
Special activities & services: None
Generally recommended for children: Nsefu is a remote bushcamp with quite an adult atmosphere so is suited only to older children with a high degree of maturity. Families with children may prefer to stay at Luangwa Safari House or Robin's House, which both offer more privacy and flexibility for family groups.
Notes: Children will need to be constantly supervised by their parents as Nsefu is not fenced in, and game wanders freely throughout.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: The camp is run on solar power, with a back-up generator for cloudy days. There is a camera-battery charging station in Nsefu's main area.
Communications: Nsefu is in radio contact with its sister camp, Nkwali, which has a landline phone as well as internet. There is usually no cellphone reception at Nsefu.
TV & radio: Nsefu has no televisions or radios.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a doctor based at a lodge in the Mfuwe area, about an hour’s drive from Nsefu. First-aid kits are provided in the camp and in the vehicles, and all the guides are trained in first aid. Nsefu has links to a flying-doctors service for serious emergencies.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted between their rooms and the main areas at night – either by a guide or by one of the camp's watchmen. There is a digital safe in each room to lock away valuables.
Fire safety: Nsefu has fire extinguishers in the main areas and fire buckets at each room.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A complimentary laundry service is included, but this does not include ladies’ underwear; soap for this is provided in the rooms. Note that clothes are hand washed and coal ironed.
Money: No exchange facilities are provided.
Accepted payment on location: Nsefu accepts cash payment for any extras in UK pounds, US dollars, euros and Zambian kwacha. They are not able to accept cards or travellers' cheques.