As the name suggests, Chongwe River Camp is right on the banks of the Zambezi River.
Chongwe River Camp: Our full report
Chongwe River Camp is located at the confluence of the Zambezi River and its tributary, the Chongwe River, which forms the western boundary of the Lower Zambezi National Park. It lies in a game management area (GMA) that reaches a further 80km west along the Zambezi – so while it is outside the (unfenced) park boundary, it is still in a very productive wildlife area, with elephants regularly seen in camp.
Set on the west bank of the Chongwe River, Chongwe River Camp has one of the most picturesque locations of any camp in the Lower Zambezi valley. It stands under a large grove of tall winterthorn trees, whose seed pods often attract numerous elephants into the camp.
Chongwe River Camp has nine safari tents and two suites all with a river frontage.
- Nine safari tents with en-suite bathrooms are raised on polished concrete bases and covered by separate canvas roofs to help keep them cool during the summer months. (Read more about the safari tents at Chongwe River Camp...)
- The private Albida suite, at the south end of the camp, incorporates two spacious tents that share a private lounge, dining area, swimming pool and campfire. (Read more about the suites at Chongwe River Camp...)
- The Cassia suite, at the far end of the camp, comprises a single spacious tent with its own bar, private lounge and pool. Where the Albida suite accommodates a group of four family or friends, the Cassia suite is designed to be a private hideaway for two.
Chongwe River Camp's main area is covered by a large canvas rood suspended from the surrounding trees. Beneath is the bar, which is a popular gathering spot for a drink and a chat before dinner, and the comfortable lounge – a cool place to watch the wildlife around (and sometimes in the middle of!) camp. There is a continuous supply of tea, coffee and juice, and a good selection of books in the small library. You will also find points here to charge batteries.
In front of the main area, overlooking the camp's jetty, is an outdoor dining area and campfire, surrounded by comfortable wooden armchairs. On one of our previous visits, we were treated to the sight of a leopard drinking on the opposite bank just after our own afternoon tea break!
Separate from the main area is a refreshing swimming pool, surrounded by a sturdy wall to keep the elephants out.
Numerous activities are on offer from Chongwe River Camp. Both boat trips and canoeing can be done on the Zambezi River, while the slower-moving Chongwe River is restricted to canoeing. Fishing, best in April, September and October, is possible on a strictly 'catch and release' basis. The local specialty is the tigerfish, named for its striped body and razor-sharp teeth, but sizeable catfish and bream are also caught. Day and night safari drives are offered in both the park and the surrounding GMA. If you’re staying for a few days, opt for a full-day excursion into the Lower Zambezi National Park; this encompasses a variety of terrain and includes a sumptuous and lengthy picnic lunch.
Walking safaris are recommended, especially to the north where the foothills of the Zambezi escarpment form the Chongwe Falls. In this area you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the elusive Samango or blue monkey (Corcopithecus mitis). Although this species isn’t rare, they inhabit humid, forested areas, and the Chongwe area is one of the most accessible pockets in southern Africa where they can be seen.
Other species usually found only in this little-visited area of the Lower Zambezi valley is the diminutive klipspringer, which prefers the rocky outcrops found in these foothills, and bush pigs, which favour the forested areas.
The birdlife is also particularly good around Chongwe River Lodge, with sought-after species including Schalow's and Livingstone's turacos, Pel's fishing owl and ospreys.
Friends or family groups travelling together may prefer to stay just down the river at the stunning, four-bedroomed Chongwe River House, which comes with its own chef, vehicle and guide, whilst those on a tighter budget might find Kasaka River Lodge, a little further west, a better option. All of these lodges combine well with their sister camp Tsika Island Camp, a much more rustic camp a reasonable distance upsteam. Activities here focus much more on cultural elements and canoe trips than the wildlife.
Our viewChongwe is a great camp with a stunning location and it is very good value – especially when compared with camps within the Lower Zambezi National Park itself. Due to its location it can take a bit longer to get to the best wildlife areas in the park, but this doesn’t detract greatly from your game viewing experience, partly due to the excellent guiding you’ll find here, but also due to the plentiful wildlife around the camp itself.
Ideal length of stay: A three-night stay at Chongwe River Camp is ideal in order to enjoy the full range of activities offered, though you could easily stay longer.
Directions: A light aircraft flight from Lusaka or Mfuwe takes guests to Royal airstrip. From there it is a 20-minute road transfer to camp.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Chris Liebenberg
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals at Chongwe River Camp are delicious, wholesome and of a high standard. They are well able to cater for vegetarians, and other special meals are certainly possible if they are given advance notice.
Breakfast is usually a self-service buffet, taken at the communal breakfast table. There is always a good variety of cereals, yoghurts, juices and fruit. Porridge will be warming over the campfire and toast and eggs are made to order.
Lunch is usually a relaxed buffet, which often includes a selection of salads, fresh bread and a hot dish. We have enjoyed chicken sosaties (shish kebabs), quiche, rice salad, Mediterranean salad, a large green salad and freshly baked bread. For those who like a little spice, try the homemade 'Chongwe chilli'.
Dinner is a three-course meal served under the stars. On our most recent visit in October 2014, we started with cucumber and celery soup with homemade rolls, followed by beef fillet with roast potatoes and a selection of vegetables. Dessert was a pleasantly light orange sponge dusted in cocoa powder.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks available in Chongwe's well stocked bar are included in the price.
Further dining info: If you are staying in the Cassia or Albida suite it’s possible to eat here for a more private dining experience.
Honeymoons: The Cassia suite at Chongwe offers a private and romantic space, while still offering the chance to join other travellers on excursions during your Zambia honeymoon. The suite’s private lounge, bar, plunge pool and outdoor bath add to the romance.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Zambia
Birdwatching: With special species such as the red-winged pratincole, Verraux's eagle, Pel's fishing owl and the stunning narina trogon, which visits in the summer (Oct–Apr), Chongwe River Camp is an exceptional location for birdwatching in Zambia.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia
Wildlife safaris: Chongwe’s location near the foothills of the Zambezi escarpment allows sightings of species that you may not see elsewhere on your wildlife safari in Zambia. Such species include the Samango monkey (Corcophithecus mitis), and the crested guineafowl (Guttera pucheroni).See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia
Attitude towards children: The minimum age welcomed at Chongwe is 8 years. Walking activities are only possible for children aged 12 and above. Although the decision on whether youngsters aged between 12 and 16 can join walking activities at the discretion of the guide.
Equipment: The Albida suite has two rooms separated by a private lounge and plunge pool. Accommodating up to four guests, this suite is ideal for small family groups. Larger families may prefer Chongwe River House, which is a four bedroomed private house situated just a little down the river.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Chongwe for sensible, mature children who are interested in wildlife and will understand the full safety implications of being in an area with dangerous big game.
Notes: Parents should be aware that the camp is unfenced and dangerous animals pass through exceedingly frequently. (During the dry season, there are elephants wandering around almost constantly.) Children should be supervised at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: There are plug points in each of the rooms. The generator means there is power for these, as well as the lights, 24-hours a day.
Communications: Email facilities are available for guests on request, though those with their own laptops can make use of the WiFi around camp. There is no cell phone reception around Chongwe River Camp.
TV & radio: Email facilities are available for guests on request, though those with their own laptops can make use of the WiFi around camp. There is no cellphone reception around Chongwe River Camp.
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: Water is pumped from the Zambezi River and is filtered. Showers and bathtubs are plumbed in, with hot and cold running water. There are flushing toilets.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The guides at Chongwe are trained in first aid. In a medical emergency, guests would be flown to Lusaka by light aircraft.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Nightwatchmen are on duty in the camp after dark, when they will escort guests back to their tents.
Fire safety: There is a fire extinguisher in the camps kitchen. Water hoses are available throughout the camp in case of fire.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is offered at the camp and included in the price. This does not include ladies’ underwear which cannot be washed by the camp staff for cultural reasons. Washing powder is supplied for guests who wish to handwash any items.
Money: A stay at Chongwe River Camp includes all meals, drinks and activities. It is possible to purchase a cap or T-shirt bearing the camp's logo, but otherwise the only additional cost would be any tips or gratuities.
Accepted payment on location: Payment in cash are preferred in US dollars and Zambian kwacha. Visa and MasterCard may be used with a 5% surcharge. Amex and Travellers' cheques are not accepted.