Reviews of Chongwe River Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Lap of luxury down by the Chongwe River-side
A truly stunning location on the banks of the Zambezi, accommodated in the luxurious 'Albida Suite' with two double en-suite 'tents' separated by an al fresco living room (sofas of the utmost comfort) and dining room replete with handsome sideboards and the immaculate breakfast and evening cocktail services of Watson who, given the opportunity, would surely give Jeeves a run for his money. Top class service, and fried eggs and whisky porridge (breakfast!) beyond reproach.
Unusually, Chongwe River Camp is thoughtfully equipped with 'Fred and Ginger' mini-staircases, making it easier to step elegantly in and out of the safari jeeps on camp. The Albida Suite (fabulous bedrooms, with broad vistas onto the river and quasi al fresco bathrooms with steaming hot water for the shower and bath) has the communal bar and wfi a short walk away. This area is also shared with the occasional roving elephant - staff are highly attentive in escorting unwary guests including after dark when, after the merest moment, a member of the team was on hand to see me safely on my way be it in daylight or after dark.
The ebullient Flossie came by from time to time to check that all was well, in a way that was friendly, brief and never intrusive. Much appreciated.
As to the safari proper, amazing to see the 'beyond 3D' expanse and depths that Zambia's landscape has to offer, with all the associated wildlife and surprises. In navigating this unknown we were treated to the skills and enthusiasm of George and Troy whose expertise and patience knew no bounds. Particular appreciation to George who not only kept his - and our -calm in the face of the occasional flat tyre but who swiftly plucked my errant blackberry from the depths of the Zambezi and, aided by some dry rice provided by the main house (a Troy top tip) soon saw it back to working order. George's enthusiasm and alertness found us switching in the small hours from a planned boat trip to a mad dash in the jeep in pursuit of rare wild dogs - a new sight even for our most seasoned travellers, while Troy kept us calm in the face of unexpected attentions (nobody's fault) of an unhappy she-elephant. Perhaps unfortunately we didn't indulge in a canoe trip on this visit - just don't ask what happened to his binoculars and bird book!. Some really fabulous teamwork between two very knowledgeable, capable, professional - and charming - guides.
The bulk of our party stayed in the main house where we were treated to excellent buffet lunches of the highest quality and a choice of main course for dinner. in our case this was usually served on the patio, a little way from the kitchen, so (given the cool breezes of the evening) it might be helpful to warm the plates in future. No such attentions required, however, for the Mongolian-style barbecue which marked our final evening to the fabulous sung accompaniment of our various hosts. Particular culinary plaudits to the dessert chef whose pastry throughout was some of the finest I have ever tasted (and portions easily fit for two).
Chongwe emphasises engaging local staff and training them up for new roles; all were attentive while unobtrusive and took great trouble to meet our requests. The leadership team, Billy and Ben, are a year in and swiftly attended to any issues that we (as a large, and possibly occasionally demanding group) raised. Chongwe River Camp proudly displays the various awards it has won over recent years and, through sustained focus on detail, there is every opportunity for this young couple to sustain that success.
Chongwe River Camp review
Chongwe is in a beautiful setting, on the confluence of the Chongwe and the Zambezi rivers. The water activities were superb. Bird sightings from the boat were outstanding - a bird lover's paradise. The canoe trips were extraordinarily tranquil, even with crocs on the riverbanks and hippos in the water.
While the game sitings were good, they were a long way from camp, but accessing them by boat was great fun. The negative though, was canvas roof on the land cruiser. We understood they had been added to provide comfort for guests, but they really restricted the view, especially with 6 guests onboard. And although there were several excellent guides, there weren't enough experienced ones to cover the number of guests and activities on offer.
While beautiful, the style of the tents was the most hotel-like of the places we stayed. We realized that we prefer more authentic bush camps. The atmosphere around the communal table in the evening was lively and fun and the food was excellent.
My favourite.. Chongwe River Camp!
I could not wait to get back to Chongwe after staying there 2 years ago and once again was not disappointed. It remains my favourite camp with the perfect balance between gorgeous location, great comfort & service, extreme friendliness of the entire team, fantastic activities, and superb wildlife - even in the camp itself.
Fishing is brilliant (I was very pleased with a 19bs tiger fish, my best so far!). The river cruises are a lovely way to relax after some intense fishing! Canoeing is most enjoyable. On the morning game drives, I was hoping to see Wild Dogs as sightings are frequent beside the camp, but didn't this time. However, we spotted Samango monkeys, which was also exciting.
A very special thank you to CJ, Yvonne, Sam, George and the rest of the team for another memorable stay & brilliant time! I will definitely return again
Earned Our Highest Recommendation
Chongwe River Camp was one of our favorites. The accommodations were very comfortable, the staff was friendly and welcoming, the meals were lovely, delicious and tasty, the “surprises” were classy, the range of activities was varied, and the guiding was excellent.
The roomy tented cabins are well spaced providing a sense of complete privacy. Hippos, elephants and baboons are uninhibited by the camp layout and move freely through camp to the Chongwe River at its confluence with the mighty Zambezi River. Sunrise, looking out across the languid Chongwe from the sitting area in front of our cabin while sipping coffee, was exceptional.
We enjoyed plentiful game on our driving safaris, including a leopard with an impala kill, a mating pair of lions, and amazing elephant encounters. Canoeing on the Chongwe was a great way to experience the river, giving a humbling perspective as to the size of the crocodiles basking on the shore, as well as an opportunity to observe the monitor lizards and water birds. Tiger fishing on the Zambezi was supposedly running a little slow (October is reportedly the best time), but we managed to land several nice sized fish, including a 17 pounder, whilst losing more than we caught. The hike to Chongwe Falls and bream fishing below the falls was an unexpected highlight.
Chongwe River Camp Review
A beautiful camp at the confluence of the Zambezi and Chongwe rivers. Canoeing is an activity not to be missed.
Definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
Chongwe River Camp review
Another superb camp very well run,good staff etc
See overall trip comments
Chongwe River Camp review
A wonderful location, elephants seem to be in camp about half the time.
We enjoyed the opportunity to do a variety of activities including canoeing and the walking safari
We saw less game than in South Luangwa but we didn't do the long drive in which might have revealed more.
The staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming
One improvement would be to use refillable water bottles rather than relying on a constant supply of new bottles which must generate a lot of plastic waste.
Highlight was seeing 2 porcupines on a couple of occasions by our tent!
Albida house at Chongwe river camp
The lodge in general and the albida house in particular were just perfect with an amazing setting and service. Impossible to have any negative remarks about the lodge.
The activities proposed are varied and welll executed, in particular the boat rides up to the safari ride close to Sausage tree camp, the boat rides to Mona Pools and the canoe rides.
Regarding the Lower Zambezi National Park, unfortunately, the density of animals is disappointing, partly compensated by a beautiful scenery and settings. A recommendation would be to try to combine access to Mona Pools on the Zimbabwe side and the concentrate the safari ride the further away from the entrance
Lovely River Location
A really lovely location-we had a view of both the Chongwe river and beyond that the lower Zambezi. The leg of flight from Jeki over the river was spectacular.
We were not so impressed with the tents. The bathroom lacked privacy and there was just a silly little screen around the WC.
Our first night we were only four guests (and we never set eyes on the other two) and we were well looked after. There was a problem, however with the wine. It had been decanted (from a box ?) into a jug that was stored in the chiller cabinet. It was virtually undrinkable. However, at dinner bottles were produced which were fine. So next time the jug appeared we made it clear that in our view they were letting themselves down badly by serving such rubbish. After that they made a point of serving us out of bottles.
The next day a party of fourteen arrived. Although the staff tried to look after us, seating us at our own table etc.., some of the atmosphere was lost. However, we had a lovely private dinner by the pool.
That evening we opted for a canoe trip. We found ourselves with a party of three other canoes with people not even from our camp. They included adults who tried incompetently to paddle themselves and children in different boats who chattered to one another. We were tail end charlies at the rear. So the peace and tranquillity of gliding through the water was lost and some of the wildlife didn't hang around.. So, taking your advice, we made our feelings known and the next evening we enjoyed a canoe trip just for ourselves. Lovely!!
Expert Africa comments
We forwarded these travellers comments to Chongwe River Camp and received a response from Chris Liebenberg, the camp’s owner. He explained that sourcing good wine in Africa is a problem, especially with a 300% import duty plus VAT. They also tell us that they tend to use “box” wine rather than bottled, as it keeps better. Bottled wine is often corked or oxidized by the time it reaches camp. However when these travellers commented on the quality of the wine they were offered bottled wine for the rest of their stay.
July is peak safari season in Zambia when most of the camps tend to be full. These travellers were very fortunate to have only two other guests in camp for the first night, offering a very personalized service. However the next day a group arrived and this made the camp quite full.
These travellers went on a shared canoe safari with guests staying at one of Chongwe’s other properties. Chris explained that it is considered a bit safer to have groups of canoes travelling together, rather than lots of individual canoes travelling separately, as there is less disturbance to the pods of hippos in the river channels. However on request, these travellers were offered a private canoe trip, which we understand they were very happy with. We are pleased to see that these travellers did take our advice and speak to the management whilst in camp, as it is much easier to rectify any problems there and then, rather than to wait until you get home and then it is too late!
Wonderful location by the Zambezi river.
A very comfortable, well-appointed safari camp with a superb location at the confluence of the Chongwe and Zambezi rivers - so all lodges have lovely views onto the waterfront and ample opportunities for animal and bird-spotting .Lodges are also very comfortable with good showers and a spacious sitting area by the river bank although we never got around to reading our books because there was so much to see and enjoy in our surroundings.
Safari drives and walks were well-conducted and very informative as the guides had both knowledge and enthusiasm for their task....we felt they wanted us to enjoy our time with them in Lower Zambezi NP. We had a particularly memorable bird-watching trip on the 2 rivers, and 2 canoe trips which were idyllic.
Food and service were both of good standard and we appreciated the birthday treats which were arranged for us.