Reviews of Chiawa Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
My fourth visit to Chiawa
The fact that this was my fourth visit to Chiawa says it all. Perhaps moved a little up market since my last visit!! Please leave Old M as it is, Can't wait for the 5th visit.Read more about the whole safari
We had a great stay at Chiawa. We spend 2 nights at Chiawa and wished it has been more. The camp is lovely. Excellent food, great staff and beautiful rooms. We really enjoyed all the activities too. We split our time in the Lower Zambezi between Chiawa and it's sister camp, Old Mondoro. The two camps actually complement each other really well. Despite being fairly close together the terrain and vegetation is totally different. This means you see different birds and animals.
The game drives were excellent. Our driver asked us what we wanted to do and he would always let us know where we were going. If news came through on the radio that another group from our lodge had found something interesting he would ask us first and we would decide as a group whether to go and have a look or to stay where we were. We saw lots of different animals (Including a leopard and her almost adult daughter up a tree) and some really great birds. We did a lovely boat trip on the river as well.
Night drives here are subject to a "no flash" rule. They use red lights to spot the animals. Before we went we bought a small role of red plastic lighting gel (like they use in theatres) to put over our flashes so we could still use them. This definitely helped the cameras to focus in the low light - although it's probably only worthwhile if you have an external flash for an SLR camera. The night drives weren't as good as those at Old Mondoro, but I think this is because the area has quite thick scrub so it's much harder to spot the nocturnal animals.
On our final night we all heard lions roaring very close to camp. We searched for them as we returned from our game drive. They were eventually located on the edge of the river where a dead hippo had washed up on shore. All of the guests at the lodge got onto a boat and we went and had a look from the river. There were 4 lions eating the hippo and trying to protect it from the circling crocodile. It was a brilliant final sighting to end our stay in Zambia.
Chiawa Camp review
After being at camps with 4, 5, and 6 chalets, we were initially overwhelmed by the size of Chiawa Camp. Nine tents! We were prepared to not like the bustling atmosphere, but our fears were quickly allayed by the professionalism of the staff. They do an incredible job of scheduling activities that suit each guest. When we arrived, they asked what we would like to do or see. We told them that we hadn't yet had our fill of lion sightings, so after unpacking our bags they had us get in the car and we drove an hour to find a pride of sleeping lions. After a few photos, we left to have our sundowners by a lagoon and then returned to watch the lions wake and greet each other affectionately. What a marvelous start to our stay in camp.
The variety of experiences available makes it possible for each guest to find a suitable activity. We did one walking trek with guide Paul, and it was a highlight of our trip. Seeing elephants and lions while on foot is a thrill not to be missed. The canoe excursion one afternoon was likewise exciting. And even the pontoon boat got us very close to elephants and crocs. And we both tried our hand at fishing, succeeding in getting a few nibbles but no catches.
The food was delicious, and we enjoyed the communal dining in this camp as we did at all the smaller camps we had visited. A large bull elephant invited himself to dinner one evening, approaching the dining area and standing a couple of meters away from us while we sat holding our breath and not moving. If only there had been a way to take pictures (without sending him into a panic), but the memory of watching that huge dark shape in the night will always remain. A surprise "bush dinner" on our last night gave us the opportunity to try a few Zambian dishes as well as the regular fare.
When our friends ask if we were frightened by those "up close and personal" encounters with elephants, lions and leopards, we assure them that while it is exhilarating, we always felt that our safety was the first priority of the staff and that they were very capable of keeping us from harm.
The regular camp manager was away while we visited, but Acting Manager Samantha did a wonderful job of keeping things running smoothly. She was ably assisted by Joshua and Daniel and all the other staff.
Chiawa Camp on the mighty Zambezi
Our first sight of the mighty Zambezi from the air was breathtaking: a vast river dotted with tree-covered islands, backed by the Zambezi Escarpment. It was hard to believe that we were actually on the Zambezi: the stuff of geography lessons and crossword puzzles!
A larger camp with 9 thatched tents, so lots more guests and more names to remember: sticky name labels would have been useful! Very sociable atmosphere: mostly British and Americans, who came for the fishing.
A bird watcher's paradise: on one "cruise" down the river we saw 30 different species. Canoeing down one of the beautiful and peaceful canals proved to be an adrenalin experience with elephant, hippo and crocodiles at close quarters: not for the faint hearted although we were of course in capable hands (Paul). Fascinating to watch the elephants crossing the river to the islands.
Chiawa Camp review
No details from me. I will write Ellie about some other Zambia-stuff.Read more about the whole safari
Chiawa Camp Experience
Having not been down to the Lower Zambezi area before we thought we'd sample this area combining it with a trip to the S Luangwa Valley and this combination went very well. Old Mondoro and Ciawa Camp are a very good experience for a 5/6 night combination stay with Old Mondoro being slightly less plush than Ciawa but only marginally when you look at the fine touches at Chiwa Camp.
The camp is in a very good location fairly far away from other camps leading to a good safari experiences for those at camp. Very nice and sumptuous rooms with some nice touches of good views, nice large baths with good views across the surrounding area while you clean yourself. The camp well run run by the husband and wife team and offers a good range of driving, walking, boat, both motor lunch and canoe trips. Good touches include a nice location for lunch/dinner, white table service set-up when you are out on a game drive/walk/boat ride for your drinks or sun downer is a very nice touch, even a lunch time cruise/float down the Zambezi with fully set table and personal waiter service over a glass of wine of two.
Certainly try the canoe trip, this is very nice floating down one of the side channels of the Zambezi and viewing game/birds as you float along. My wife went on the motor boat cruise down the Zambezi and it was like "African Queen" with her floating along the Zambezi and being the only guest in a camp chair in the center of the boat spotting all the birds etc at her leisure.
Good game viewing but some places in this area of the park are more bushy than at Old Mondoro down river so their are more places for the animals to hide and harder to see/track some of the game. That said we had good sightings of most of the game species in the area. Also close viewing of game in camp with a resident elephant or two who appear to regularly walk through camp at any time of the day.
The walking guide Paul Grobler is an excellent walking guide and very passionate and enthusiastic. He's a good birder and even though this was at the end of our 2 week safari trip we managed to increase our bird count quite a bit in just one walk with him and as he spots the birds well it gives you just that bit more time to spot them and get your eye on them before they fly off, as they usually invariably do. Also Paul is very knowledgeable on most of the wildlife and game information so we leaned quite a bit from him.
Very nice and pleasant stay in a pleasant environment I challenge anyone not to enjoy a stay with a combination of Ciawa Camp and Old Mondoro.
Chiawa Camp review
Another excellent camp with great accommodations and staff.
The camp managers were very cooperative in arranging our activities and early morning departure.
The canoe ride through the lagoon cutoff with guide Paul was a definite highlight..
Excellent camp on the banks of the Zambezi
Chiawa is a lovely camp on the banks of the Zambezi, the perfect place to start our holiday. The "tents" are very comfortable and well spread out giving the feeling of privacy. A few yards from ours was a bench from which we could watch elephants, warthogs, hippos, impala, etc., many wandering past our veranda (which overlooked the river). The room had power so charging batteries was very convenient.
The staff were very friendly and helpful. The food was good as were the facilities although we didn't fancy the look of the pool.
Dining facilities were very pleasant either under cover or out in the open as you wish and there was a very nice bar area.
One lunch was a surprise set up for just us on a boat; we cruised the Zambezi with waiter service - how exotic do you want to get?
The guides we had were generally very good and we especially enjoyed Spencer and Paul. The safari drives were comfortable, with just us on the vehicle, and we saw a lot of varied life.
Chiawa Camp review
Chiawa Camp is in a beautiful location, and had a high standard of accommodation but which made it feel less authentic as an African bush camp. It is like a deluxe hotel in the bush! The managers were in their first season at the camp but were very welcoming and looked after us well.
The opportunity to spend time on the river was lovely and extremely relaxing. However, it would be better if the chairs on the boats were secured to the floor as they did tip over backwards when the boat accelerated. Fortunately on the occasion this happened with us nobody was hurt but it seems like an accident waiting to happen! especially as it would be all to easy to crack your head on the machinery on the boat. The walking here wasn't as good as we had hoped it comprised of a short, brief, circular walk, however the drives were excellent.
The food was excellent and in fact superior to the Royal Livingstone Hotel and the team made thoughtful yet unobtrusive efforts to cater to our dietary needs. However, the camp owner (on a brief visit) and some of the guides didn't appear to understand our wish not to drink bore hole water and seemed to take some offense to our requests for bottled water. Their belief is that the water is safe to drink, which it quite probably is, but they couldn't appreciate that visitors who are not used to bore hole water may be adversely affected by it and would therefore want a choice.
Expert Africa comments
We spoke with the owner of Chiawa about these guests comments on the camp. He first apologised if they fell on one of the boats. He said that if guests are leaning back in the chairs and the coxswain accelerates at the same time, this can occasionally happen. However the coxswains are meant to consistently remind guests to lean forward and not backwards, and he has talked to them all about this. He is also going to explore ways from preventing this from happening again, without compromising the flexibility of the pontoon boats as a versatile platform for game viewing, fishing and floating meals.
He was also surprised to read the comments about the bottled water. For environmental reasons, all guests are provided with souvenir metal water bottles on arrival for filtered water. However he thought it was always made clear that there is abundant bottled water provided as well. He apologised for the misunderstanding.
Chiawa were keen to highlight that later into the dry season, when the bush is not as dense, they are able to offer longer walks.
Chiawa Camp review
Bigger than Old Mondoro and therefore not as much to my liking , although I could not fault the staff and facilities.
The ornate baths were a bit over the top and I suspect little used as showers are the order of the day. Daytime temps up to 45C and elephant spending literally hours just standing in the Zambesi almost totally submerged. Sadly , the lower Zambesi was suffering one of its worst anthrax outbreaks , with several elephant , hippo and buffalo succumbing.