Tafika is a delightful owner-run camp.
Tafika: Our full report
Home to John and Carol Coppinger, the founders of Remote Africa Safaris, Tafika is a small and apparently fairly rustic camp standing on the banks of the Luangwa River, on the north side of the beautiful Nsefu Sector of South Luangwa National Park. Tafika and its two satellite bushcamps are the most northerly of South Luangwa’s operational safari camps, and so activities are mostly in areas of the park which sees very few other visitors indeed.
Our team have visited Tafika regularly since 1995, when John and Carol first came here, and we’ve seen it gradually evolve during that time – but its essential character has not really changed at all. Tafika has six chalets made to a high standard from locally-sourced poles, reed and thatch.
- The four double/twin chalets are almost identical in layout, each with two queen-sized double beds which are very comfortable; each has quality cotton bedding and its own large mosquito net. As with everything else here, the rooms are spacious and comfortable, but not flashy or showy – and very much in keeping with the feel of the bush. The floors are polished stone, scattered with locally made reed mats. Each has a simple hanging rail and shelves for clothes – all made from wood and reeds. The room is lit by efficient, solar-powered lights and traditional storm lanterns.
A door at the back of each chalet leads to a private and enclosed bathroom that's completely open to the sky. There's a large shower, with piping hot water at the turn of a tap, twin washbasins and, inside a small thatch- roofed hut – a very normal flushing toilet!
- Tafika's honeymoon suite is very similar to the other rooms, but has a double his-and-hers shower and a large king-size bed.
- Tafika's sixth room, which we often call the family chalet is very different, and ideal for a family or two couples travelling together. Its reed-and-thatch construction is the same as the other chalets, but it has two adjacent bedrooms, separated by a passageway, one with a king-size bed and the other with two double beds. Each bedroom has a large, walk-in mosquito net and the two rooms share a large bathroom built cleverly around the trunk of a massive Kigelia or sausage tree, giving a little more privacy to the toilet and shower.
Tafika’s main area is a large open-sided structure with a high, thatched roof which incorporates a comfortable lounge area, a small but well-stocked bar (which is always open; help yourself) and a dining area. Meals – served here or outside on the lawn in the shade – are very relaxed affairs for the guests. Usually guests and some of the team dine together, split between a couple of round tables. When they’re in camp, which is usually the case if camp is open, it’s the norm for John and Carol, and sometimes one of their (now adult) daughters, to join everyone for lunch – and occasionally also for dinner.
The standard of cuisine served to the table is impressive – and we like that it’s served efficiently but completely without fuss. Later, if you request, then one of them will happily take you on a ‘back-of-house’ tour. Then you’ll see that the largely open kitchen is actually a hive of very professional activity – which goes some way to explain the very high quality of Tafika’s food.
The explanation is complete when you see Tafika’s own vegetable garden, which is an extensive area surrounded by an electric fence, largely to keep the elephants out. Again, it’s a major undertaking, professionally run, but it ensures that much produce is home-grown and so exceedingly fresh.
Activities at Tafika, as with many camps in the South Luangwa, focus on 4WD safaris (day and night drives) and walking safaris. It’s a real feature of these drives that there are almost never more than four guests per game-drive vehicle, and the drives are generally conducted on purpose-built open-side and open-topped 4WD vehicles which have just two rows of comfortable, bench seats at the back.
Guests can always choose what activity they’d like to do, and it would be very unusual for the camp not to be able arrange whatever’s requested.
What distinguishes Tafika further is that it's virtually the same team of guides every year, including John Coppinger, Bryan Jackson and Isaac Zulu. The least experienced amongst these has over twenty years of guiding experience – guaranteeing the exceedingly high level of knowledge and experience that draws many of our travellers back to Tafika on a regular basis.
Also on offer at Tafika is a mountain-bike safari, usually accompanied by John, along the paths and tracks around Tafika. Most take place in the afternoon, so guests can go on to join a 4WD safari in time for sunset and a night drive.
As an optional activity, guests staying at Tafika may also visit the nearby village of Mkasanga, where they are welcome to visit the school, wander around the village and enjoy the church choir. Although it doesn’t trumpet the issues, Tafika is very much in touch with its local community, supporting its development and providing considerable training and employment – as well as charitable support.
As an additional option, John Coppinger is a qualified pilot and keeps a microlight at Tafika. Short flights over the park can often be arranged (usually costing about US$130 each extra, payable in camp) during your stay. These are usually done around dawn, whilst the sun is rising, and are breathtaking. It’s often possible to pinpoint game to investigate on the morning's walk or drive. Recently John has attached a “GoPro" video camera to the microlight; if you have a spare SD card you can use this to capture images of your flight at no charge.
A stay at Tafika combines very naturally into a longer trip including its sister walking camps, Crocodile Bushcamp and Chikoko Tree Camp, both of which are situated across the Luangwa River, in a section of the national park that has been set aside for the exclusive use of their walking safaris. See the satellite map of the area around Chikoko for a view of these camps. Walkers will note that it’s an easy three–four-hour walk between Tafika and Chikoko, or Chikoko and Crocodile.
If you want to venture further, then Tafika and its bushcamps combine well into a 10-night trip which includes their more distant sister camp, Mwaleshi Bushcamp, located in the remote North Luangwa National Park.
Starting in 2013, we can also offer day-trips from Tafika to Shiwa Ng’andu and Kasanga National Park – using a small aircraft which is stationed at the camp’s airstrip.
Our viewAlthough Tafika’s reed-and-thatch rooms give it a deliberately rustic feel – don’t be deceived, this isn’t a basic bushcamp. It is one of the very best camps in Africa, with highly experienced guiding, excellent food and consistently high standards of quality throughout. It is also one of the longest-standing, and last-remaining owner-run camps in Zambia. John & Carol and their children have called Tafika ‘home’ for 19 years or so, and they remain dedicated to it. You won’t find a camp which retains such a genuinely 'bushy' feel, with fundamentals which are of a higher quality.
Ideal length of stay: In the dry season, it's perhaps most popular to start a safari in the South Luangwa at Tafika for 3 or 4 nights, and then head to the bushcamps – Crocodile Bushcamp and Chikoko Tree Camp for a few nights each. Often trips will finish with a night or two at Tafika – although some will finish with a visit to Mwaleshi in the North Luangwa. To check for space at Tafika see the Availability tab – above right.
Directions: From Mfuwe Airport it's approximately 1½–2 hours by road to Tafika. A flight transfer from Mfuwe to Lukuzi airstrip (Tafika) takes 12 minutes.
Owner: Owner run – John and Carol Coppinger
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Tafika has always offered high-quality meals, and our last visit in June 2013 was no exception. The head chef, Rona, has been with Tafika for 11 years, and the food has been consistently outstanding.
A buffet breakfast is normally available in the main area before the early morning activity and guests generally eat on their laps around the campfire. There is a wide choice, from freshly baked bread, muffins, cereals, fresh fruit salad and yoghurt. Accompanying this one morning, there was a platter of cold meats, cheese, pickles and tomato; while the following day we had a cooked breakfast with bacon, tomato, sausages and eggs.
Lunch is served at about midday, when everyone has returned from their morning activity. We enjoyed a starter of refreshing orange, followed by mini vegetable quiches, spaghetti bolognaise, as well as avocado and green salads. This was finished off with a dessert of cheesecake.
Dinner, when everyone has returned from the evening activity, is usually served around two large round tables, although barbecues are often arranged on the banks of the river near to the camp. On our last visit, we had a sweetcorn soup to start, followed by pork chops with mashed potato, gravy, butternut squash. This was also accompanied by spinach, which we'd seen the chef picking fresh from the vegetable garden just that afternoon! Decadent profiteroles completed the meal.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, house wine and spirits are included in the rates, but fine wines are charged as extras.
Family holidays: Having brought up their own children up at Tafika, John and Carol Coppinger do welcome families – although for those with children under 12, we need to check in advance. The camp's family chalet is particularly well-suited to small families, as it has two adjoining bedrooms which share a large bathroom.See more ideas for Family holidays in Zambia
Birdwatching: Tafika guides are knowledgeable birders and highlights include large flocks of crowned cranes during the dry season, a yellow-billed stork colony May-July, and Pel's fishing owl all year. Tafika has a hide overlooking a colony of carmine bee-eaters, where these colourful birds nest between September and October.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia
Traditional Cultures: Tafika is a camp firmly rooted in its local community, and located not far from the village of Mkasanga, whose villagers kindly welcome guests to visit the school, wander around the village and experience the local church choir. Some of Tafikas staff are from the village as well.See more ideas for Traditional Cultures in Zambia
Walking safaris: Tafika is owned and run by John Coppinger, one of the Luangwa's most experienced walking safari guides and a 'guide-examiner' who monitors the standards of guiding in the valley. Camp-to-camp walking trails are possible between Tafika, Crocodile and Chikoko camps.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zambia
Wildlife safaris: Tafika's excellent guides lead walking safaris as well as 4WD safaris, and night drives around the Nsefu Sector of South Luangwa National Park. It's an excellent area for big game, which can be prolific: relaxed antelope, good elephant and buffalo, and notably good sightings of leopard on night drives. Serval are often seen here and occasionally wild dog.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia
Attitude towards children: John and Carol brought their two daughters up at Tafika; this was their home in and out of season when they were growing up. Hence they’re very relaxed with children. That said, the camp is largely one for older children or adults.
Property’s age restrictions: Tafika welcomes children 12 years and older. Younger children may be accepted at Tafika's discretion – depending on the circumstances and season. Talk to us if you’re thinking of bringing children here.
Special activities & services: None
Generally recommended for children: We recommend this camp for mature, well-behaved children over the age of 12.
Notes: The camp is on the edge of the Luangwa River and is not fenced, so animals roam freely through the camp. Children must be supervised at all times by a parent or guardian. Children must be 12 years or older to participate in walking safaris.
Communications: There is no cellphone reception at Tafika, but in an emergency the camp has access to very good communications facilities.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio at Tafika
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a doctor in Mfuwe, about an hour’s drive away, as well as a local Doctor at the clinic closer to Tafika. For more serious emergencies Tafika has links with a flying-doctor service.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Several night watchmen patrol the camp at night
Fire safety: There is a central fire extinguisher and a bucket of sand in each chalet as well as a high pressure water point.
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: Tafika can accept cash payment for any extras in UK pounds, US dollars, euros and kwacha as well as Visa and Mastercard payments. They are not able to accept travellers' cheques.