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.
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. Both of these lodges combine well with their sister camp Tsika Island Camp, a much more rustic camp a reasonable distance upstream. Activities here focus much more on cultural elements and canoe trips than the wildlife.
Chongwe 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.
Country manager: Zambia
- Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
- 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.
- A light aircraft flight from Lusaka or Mfuwe takes guests to Jeki airstrip. From there it is a 1 hour and 20-minute road transfer to camp.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- 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
- Further dining info, including room service
- If you are staying in the Cassia or Albida suite it’s possible to eat here for a more private dining experience.
- Drinks included
- All drinks available in Chongwe's well stocked bar are included in the price.
- 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 ideas for Honeymoons
- 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 a great location for birdwatching in Zambia.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- 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 ideas for Wildlife safaris
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Chongwe River Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Chongwe River Camp have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Room types at Chongwe River Camp
On the south edge of the main camp, the Albida suite consists of two totally separate, quite modern, stylish, octagonal tents, each with its own adjacent bathroom. Between the two tents is an elegant, open-sided lounge area.
A series of stone walls surrounds the suite, which have been built using the same technique as Chongwe River House in order to make them curvy and organic. There isn’t a straight line in any of these walls, giving the impression that they were designed by a combination of Gaudi and the Flintstones. (The Albida and Cassia suitesare both very different in style to the more traditional safari tents at Chongwe River Camp.)
The Albida’s bedroom tents are spacious with large open windows giving a light and airy feel and good views of the river. These windows can be covered with mesh to let light and air in, but not insects, or covered completely with solid canvas in case of rain.
Each tent has lots of hanging space, a large writing desk, dressing gowns, a very comfy armchair and – in the centre – twin or double beds. The bedside lights are electric, but paraffin lanterns are dotted around outside at night for atmosphere.
The adjacent bathrooms – each with twin sinks, two open-air showers, a flushing toilet and a claw-footed bath – are mostly surrounded by curvy stone walls, and partly shaded by a large canvas roof. They look stunning, but they do feel very open and may make some travellers feel a little nervous, especially if you need to use the toilet at night.
The two bedroom tents of the Albida suite share a comfortable lounge, with a well-stocked bar, dining area, campfire and a small plunge pool all overlooking the Chongwe River. Meals can be taken here or back at the main camp, which is within easy walking distance – the choice is yours!
The Albida suite has separate attendants who act as private 'butlers' – briefed to look after their individual guests. On one of our previous visits, our attendant checked on us regularly, volunteered drinks whenever we felt like them and gave us complete freedom of where we ate. We felt he seemed to have found the perfect balance of being attentive and helpful, without being intrusive.
The Albida suite could be a superb option for a small family with older children or a group of friends, but can also be used by two unrelated couples if the main camp is full.
TThe Cassia suite at Chongwe River Camp has been built in the same style as the Albida suite, but differs in that it has just one tent, designed for two people.
Around the tent, a series of stone walls form the lounge area and the individual bathroom. These have been built, using a unique technique to make them curvy and organic – almost fluid – with scarcely no straight lines; the effect is very different to the more traditional style of the safari tents at Chongwe River Camp.
The modern, octagonal bedroom tent is spacious with large mesh windows that lend a light and airy feel. The tent's walls can be rolled up during the day and left completely open, or kept down if you prefer, although they are always down at night to prevent any unwanted night-time visitors!
At the back of the tent you'll find a hanging space for your clothes and dressing gowns. Within the tent is also a writing desk, a very comfy armchair and – in the centre – twin or double beds. The bedside lights are electric, but paraffin lanterns are usually dotted around outside at night for atmosphere.
The adjacent bathroom, which is mostly surrounded by one of these curvy stone walls, is partly shaded by a large canvas roof, and has twin sinks, two open-air showers, a flushing toilet and a claw-footed bath. It feels very open and looks stunning, but may make more nervous travellers a bit uncomfortable.
The Cassia suite has a private lounge, with a small but well-stocked bar, a dining area, a campfire and a small plunge pool all overlooking the Chongwe River. Meals can be taken here or back at the main camp, which is within easy walking distance – the choice is yours!
The Cassia suite has a separate attendant who acts as a private 'butler' – briefed to look after their individual guests. On a previous visit, staying in the Albida suite, we felt our 'butler' seemed to have found the perfect balance of being attentive and helpful, without being intrusive. He checked on us regularly, volunteered drinks whenever we felt like them and gave us complete freedom of where we ate.
This suite is designed for couples who are looking for very private accommodation, and is particularly popular with honeymoon couples, but you will still join other travellers on guided safaris.
Chongwe has eight Meru-style tents set along the banks of the Chongwe River and overlooking the Lower Zambezi National Park on the opposite bank. Shaded by a grove of tall winterthorn trees, each tent is built on a polished concrete and stone base and covered by a separate canvas roof to help keep it cool in the hot summer months.
Each of Chongwe's tents is simply furnished with twin or double beds covered with linens in neutral ivory and brown shades. At the head of the bed, the board doubles as a bench upon which solar bed-side lamps sit. Ceiling to floor mesh windows make up each end of the tent and large windows along either side also help keep the rooms light and airy.
Through a wooden door at the back of each tent is an open-air bathroom, enclosed by a low stone wall and topped by a reed screen. Each bathroom has a sink, mirror, large open-air shower and a flushing toilet screened off for privacy. Tent number 1 also has a small bath.
Other lodges in Lower Zambezi National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.
Old Mondoro Bushcamp
For an intimate safari in the Lower Zambezi, with superb guiding, Old Mondoro is up there with the best.
One of Zambia's top safari camps, Chiawa is family owned and run, offering superb service and a flexible approach from a location well inside the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Sausage Tree Camp
Sausage Tree is a high-quality safari camp offering a luxurious stay and excellent personal service deep inside Zambia's Lower Zambezi National Park.
Potato Bush Camp
Potato Bush is located right in the heart of the Lower Zambezi National Park, with privately guided activities taking you on game drives, walks, boat trips and canoeing.
Anabezi Luxury Camp
Anabezi Luxury Tented Camp offers a high degree of understated luxury in a very lovely, quiet part of the Lower Zambezi with outstanding wildlife.
Opened in 2015, Amanzi is an intimate and rustic yet luxury camp in a very quiet area of the Lower Zambezi, with plenty of wildlife and good birding.
Kutali Fly-Camp offers the opportunity to experience the wilderness of Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park, in this simple fly-camp located on Kulefu Island.
Chongwe River House
Chongwe River House is a stylish four-bedroom house designed for the exclusive use of families and small groups, affording the ultimate in flexibility on safari.
Kasaka River Lodge
Kasaka River Lodge is a relatively simple, family-friendly camp. It's outside the Lower Zambezi National Park and, with a recent change of ownership for the better, it offers a great-value safari destination.
Chula Island Camp
Chula Island Camp offers the opportunity to experience the wilderness of Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park, in this simple fly-camp located in a natal mahogany grove on a small island on the Zambezi River.
Tarafa Springs offers the opportunity to experience the wilderness of the Lower Zambezi National Park, in this rustic bushcamp located next to the main Zambezi escarpment.
A chic safari spot, luxurious Lolelbezi is the Lower Zambezi’s newest camp and offers a mix of walking, canoeing and game drives led by excellent guides.