Reviews of Chiawa Camp
Wildlife sightings and reviews
74 independent comments and wildlife information from our travellers who have visited Chiawa Camp and kindly agreed to share their thoughts. They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa
"Chiawa Camp review"
Staff had excellent adherence to masking and social distancing, and most if not all staff by the time of our visit had at least one dose of a covid vaccine. I'm not sure exactly which one they received, though.
We stayed at tent 8, and it was beautiful. The wall looking out to the river is replaced by a giant black screen and allows for the magical sights and sounds of the bush to really come through.
The landscape and wildlife via game drives at Chiawa was remarkable. Our guide was Boaz, a longtime veteran. He had a great sense tracking animals and was very easygoing. We had excellent sightings of leopards both at night and at day. The leopards there are particularly comfortable around safari vehicles. Boaz was so good at following them and anticipating their direction when the leopards would disappear into the bush. We were also lucky to see lion cubs. While there is a general diversity of landscapes throughout our game drives, most of the area immediately surrounding camp is dense with bushes and thickets. While beautiful, it was sometimes a little nervewracking when we would run into a breeding herd of elephants head to/from the river during a game drive.
In addition to the drives, we also did a canoe and a walking safari. We really enjoyed the canoe as it was mostly tranquil and an easygoing way of appreciating the banks of the park from the water, but had a brief moment of terror when we got too close to one of the hippos. Thankfully, our guides were experienced with this and handled it with poise, scaring the hippo away with the boom of the paddle against the water. Walking safari was very educational but in the area chosen there was a lot of bush and thickets. Still the guide and armed ranger were excellent at avoiding any dangers, in particular the elephant breeding herds we encountered.
In this area of the park during this pandemic, the amount of vehicle traffic was low. Many of the vehicles we saw came from outside the park. The lion cubs generated the most amount of vehicles at a sighting, routinely 2-3 but on one occasion up to 5. Almost all other sightings we had exclusively to ourselves.
The camp was operating at about half capacity – 4 or 5 tents occupied - when we were there. Hopefully the pandemic will improve in their country and that their traffic increases, they deserve it." See all these reviews: 10n in Zambia
"Chiawa Camp review"
Even as we were landing at the Jeki airstrip, there were elephants on the runway, and as soon as we got on the jeep, we saw a big breeding herd wallowing in mud. The area was filled with elephants and hippos and we ended up spending quite a bit of time dodging both.
We arrived by boat and our room was huge and gorgeous with multiple sitting areas, 2 showers (one indoor and one outdoor) and a big bath tub. We can see animals right from our room, including some elephants who kept us in our room for a little while longer than we wanted.
Our guide was Chris, another 20+ year veteran, who was also the camp activities director (?). He came by at lunch to go over all the activity options. Since we only had 3 days and wanted to do everything, we opted to go for a boat cruise, do some finishing and a night drive back to camp on our first afternoon
Having never fished before, we were extremely inept. The fishing soon turned into drinking while we enjoyed the scenery. After the sundowner it was time for our night drive where the first action movie occurred.
We started hearing baboon alarm calls and Chris soon spotted a leopard. There were also impala alarm calls in front of us, and another jeep said there was another leopard a short distance away. We decided to keep following “our” leopard until some hyenas came along and the leopard ran away. While we were parked trying to figure out what to do, a big male impala sprinted out of a bush, with hyenas at its heel, and smacked into the side of our truck. We were so lucky that the truck had doors, or our spotter Fraser would have been toast!
Minutes later the hyenas succeeded in killing the impala, and started calling other members of the clan, and we saw 10 hyenas feeding. It was a bit like watching wild dogs interact with all the behavioral rituals. Super interesting!
Next day we decided go canoeing followed by a night drive. Drifting along the Zambezi in a canoe was serene unless we had to dodge hippos – then it was a bit nerve wracking. However, Chris and Fraser were very skilled canoers. As we neared the end of the channel, we started hearing baboon alarm calls again, and Chris thought there was a leopard in a tree, but it turned out to be a young male lion with an impala kill. We hopped in our waiting vehicle and soon found him hiding. Unlike South Luangwa, there were guests at Chiawa and other camps, and this was our first multiple-vehicle sighting for the entire trip. Since we couldn’t see the lion, we decided to go have our sundowner instead.
When we returned, the lion had moved into the open. We watched him for a while and Chris said we should to check out the stomach of the impala, to see if it attracts other animals, such as a crocodile. Just as he finished his sentence, we saw a huge crocodile with the stomach in its jaws right in front of our jeep and quickly scurried into the bushes. 5 seconds earlier or later we wouldn’t have seen it. Again, it was like a movie, and I have pictures to prove that this really happened!
On the way back to camp, we saw a bunch of lights, and Chris said they were illegal campers. But instead, we were surprised with a barbeque dinner under the stars. We have always loved looking at the southern sky and the Milky Way, so the dinner was extra special. Chiawa has all sorts of these little surprises for guests!
On our third day, we had another mini-documentary movie. Again, we saw another vehicle and were pointed to a lioness with 3 very small cubs – maybe only 2-3 weeks ago. We found them walking with Mom in the open. All three cubs were struggling, but one fell behind and couldn’t keep up. He started mewling but the Mom just kept going and left him behind. It was really pitiful as it couldn’t possibly survive on its own. We followed the Mom and the 2 cubs for quite some time off road and found a sister lioness with a slightly older cub next to waterbuck kill. The first Mom had been leading the 2 cubs to food and safety. As soon as she dropped off the two cubs, she headed right back out, presumably to find the other cub. It’s tough being a mother of three! The story had a happy ending: when we went back in the afternoon, all cubs were accounted for. That night, the camp surprised us again with a private dinner on the river, just us. We would radio and the staff would bring our next course. It was lovely to have dinner by ourselves on the last night of our trip.
Since our flight doesn’t leave until early afternoon, we were able to go on another game drive in the morning and watched the cubs some more. On our way back, the camp radioed that they saw a big male lion while working on the road. They stayed with the lion so we can find it easily, and gave us the first and only male lion sighting of our trip. This was typical of “above and beyond” service we received at Chiawa. Everything was meticulously arranged to maximize guest enjoyment. Truly a first-rate operation!" See all these reviews: 10n in Zambia
"Chiawa Camp review"
Again, Amanda, many thanks for getting us our room request---room 7----without doubt the best room to date---apart of course from the Honeymoon suite which we had last time in Sept 2017
Room 7 was very large and beautifully appointed with the best open view of any of the other rooms---it also had a huge beautiful terrace from which to watch the game, and the game did indeed visit the open area outside our room
Evidently, Simon, the General Manager, is about to convert Rooms 1-6 to a similar standard as our room ----room 7---and work is starting in late November this year
The food was good, albeit we did find that 4 courses was too much for dinner to be honest
Great breakfasts also
The game viewing here was a bit disappointing this time unfortunately
We again saw loads and loads of elephants and also impala and kudi, but only a couple of lion sightings, after having eaten a kill, so they were effectively "dead lions" each time----doing nothing except sleeping!
We did have 2 very good afternoon / sunset boat cruises with some great sightings of birds and elephants
Staff and guides were good
Also spent some dinners with the Front of House Manager and the Operations Manager + the General Manager
As previously, they organised a superb outside BBQ dinner at Bedrock---amazing the organisation that goes into this dinner!
Plus they do a special lunch on a boat]
All in all a lovely camp" See all these reviews: 8n in Zambia; 6n in Mozambique; 3n in Botswana; 3n in Zimbabwe; 1n in South Africa
"loved the camp"
"Chiawa Camp review"
Large and well maintained comfortable rooms, with internal bathrooms.
Attentive staff. Excellent award winning guiding team.
Excellent on land and river safaris.
Elephants roam through the camp, as did 2 sub-adult lions at 2am one morning." See all these reviews: 14n in Zambia; 2n in South Africa
"Chiawa Camp review"
In general our stay at Chiawa was really great. Our accommodations were lovely though we had come from a more luxurious camp and our suite at Chiawa wasn't as spacious, plus we shared a bathroom with our teenage children rather than having one for each room, which wasn't quite as easy - but all in all it was very nice and comfortable. Additionally, the food was excellent and the chef did a lovely job of catering to our gluten-free needs.
Because we were on the Lower Zambezi River, we got do enjoy water activities as well as game drives. We spent a morning fishing (though unfortunately didn't catch anything) and an afternoon canoeing which was amazing. The guides took us down a channel off the river and we were scarily close to hippos and crocodiles - even the guides got tense on a few occasions. We also got 'stuck' when a herd of about 15 elephants decided to cross the channel in front of us and we had to stay put for about an hour while they entered the water, a few at a time, took a drink, and enjoyed the water until eventually all of them had crossed. That was a truly spectacular hour.
Our game drives were also excellent. While we didn't see such a wide variety of animals as we had in South Luangwa (there are no giraffes and we didn't see zebras in the part of the park that we spent time in, although they are in a different part), we did see excellent and close up lions and leopards every time we went out, more than we had in South Luangwa. We went with different guides each time and all were superb.
For us, the only downside of Chiawa was that the meal schedule was a little rigid and usually communal. Lunch and dinner were at a set time and because everyone ate together no one sat down until everyone had gathered. At our previous camp we enjoyed one communal lunch and some chatting over drinks but had meals at our own table which suited us better and also meant there was flexibility on timing. I know many camps have communal meals and it was really nice to share information with other people but we did feel rushed a few times to get to dinner or lunch (including once when we were on a game drive watching a leopard stalk a prey)." See all these reviews: 9n in Zambia
The Safari Suite is a one bedroom/one bathroom suite, with a lounge with a separate loo and washbasin. This works well for families with young children who are happy to share, but for families with older children it may not be as ideal as a 2-bedroom house, or even taking another safari tent for the older kids.
"Luxury in the Bush"
All the staff were friendly, helpful - they couldn't do enough. Due to the presence of animals in camp you were escorted from you room to reception on all occasions - the staff were prompt, efficient and really cared about you. Outstanding management that runs this place so well - Simon and Juliet.
Game drives brilliant - exceptional guides. Took the opportunity to go canoeing (well sat in the boat whilst the guides paddled) - this was a highlight to see the place from a completely different aspect, no shortage of animals on any of the safari activities.
Cannot praise Chiawa enough for the entire experience and would never have thought you could get such perfection in the "middle of nowhere" - credit to the all the staff." See all these reviews: 14n in Zambia
"Chiawa Always Delivers"
Our guide Boaz was great, and had an awesome time fishing with Clement.
New room decor was very nice, but they need a place to unpack clothes." See all these reviews: 16n in Zambia
"Chiawa Camp review"
There has not been as much rain as hoped during the rainy season so the surroundings were dry with little vegetation and consequently we saw far more game than anticipated at this time in the season. Impala, baboons and elephant seemed to be everywhere and is a reflection on the conservation work being carried out.
My companion follows a vegan diet and, with prior knowledge, was well catered for." See all these reviews: 9n in Zambia
Holiday styles & special interests in Zambia
From birdwatching breaks to walking holidays, find great ideas for your trip in Zambia.
Other lodges in Lower Zambezi National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.