Chongwe River Camp

Chongwe River Camp: Our full report

Rooms
8 tents and 2 suites
Traveller's rating
Excellent (95%) From 77 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
1 Apr to 15 Nov

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 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. The slopes of the escarpment provide a picturesque backdrop to the camp, which stands under the cool, shady canopy of a tall grove of winterthorn threes.

Chongwe River Camp has nine safari tents and two suites set along the river bank. They are all shaded by a large grove of tall winterthorn trees, whose seed pods often attract numerous elephants into camp.

  • The nine safari tents with en-suite bathrooms are raised on polished concrete bases and are covered by separate canvas roofs to help keep them cool during the summer months. Each of the 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 the side keep the rooms light an airy. Through a wooden door lies the en-suite, open-air bathroom enclosed by a low stone wall and topped by a reed screen. Each bathroom has a single mirror, open air shower and a flush toilet.
  • At the far end of the camp is the Cassia suite, comprised of 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.

Larger groups may prefer to stay just down the river at the stunning, four bedroomed Chongwe River House. This totally private house comes with its own chef, vehicle and guide – perfect for those who want total exclusivity and flexibility. (Read more about Chongwe River House...)

Chongwe River Camp's main area is covered by a large canvas rood suspended from the surrounding trees. This covers the bar, which is a popular gathering spot for a drink and a chat before dinner, and the comfortable lounge, which is a cool place to relax during the day while watching the wildlife around (and sometimes in the middle of!) camp. There is a continuous supply of tea, coffee and juice available and a good selection of books to browse through in the small library. You will also find points here to charge batteries.

In front of this, overlooking the camp's jetty, is the outdoor dining area and campfire, which is 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 here!

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. Boat trips and canoeing can be done on the Zambezi River, whilst only canoeing is offered on the slower moving Chongwe River. Fishing is possible on a strictly 'catch and release' basis: the local specialty is the tiger fish, named after its striped body and razor sharp teeth. Sizeable catfish and bream are also caught, and the best months for fishing are April, September and October. Day and night safari drives are offered in both the park and the surrounding game management area. If staying for a few days, opt for a full-day excursion into the Lower Zambezi National Park; this encompasses a variety of terrains 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 prefer humid, forested areas, and this is one of the most accessible pockets in southern Africa where they can be seen.

Other species usually only found in this little-visited area of the Lower Zambezi valley is the diminutive klipspringer, which prefer the rocky outcrops found in these foothills, and bush pigs which prefer 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.

Our view

Chongwe is a great camp with a stunning location. Despite being just outside of the park there is often large amounts of wildlife next to, and sometimes inside of, the camp. Due to its location it can take a bit longer to get to the best wildlife areas within the park, but this is well reflected in the camps price. Chongwe is a very good value camp – especially when compared to camps within the Lower Zambezi National Park itself.

Geographics

Location: 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.

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

Key personnel

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, with the camp able to cater for vegetarians and other dietary requirements.

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 affair. A buffet table 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 often 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.

Special interests

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

Children

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.

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.

Infrastructure

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.

Extras

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.