Reviews of Mwaleshi Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Doesn't get better than this
It was my third visit to Mwaleshi in as many years, and it only reinforced what I felt a year ago: that North Luangwa is one of my favourite places in the world.
Stunning scenery, fantastic sightings (especially lion and buffalo), top guiding by Brent Harris and a superb, friendly camp in one of the remotest places in Africa means that, in my book at least, it doesn't get much better than this.
I recognise it is not for everyone, however: guests should be aware that game is more dispersed than in the South, for example, and I would recommend a reasonable level of fitness to get the most out of the experience. One thing's for sure: I'll be back.
It's difficult to write this review, because it was supposed to be the high point of our trip and it ended up being slightly disappointing - perhaps because our expectations had been so high. Despite this, we did enjoy our time there.
The camp is perfect. Lovely location, good accommodation, excellent food and brilliant guiding. The ability to have a splash in the Mwaleshi river after a morning walk is a big bonus.
However, we have been spoiled on our previous trips in that all our game walks have been alone or with two other people and, unfortunately for us, the camp was full for the whole 6 days we were there and so our walks were with 4 other people, which we did not enjoy. I found being at the back of a group of 6 deeply frustrating because you knew that if the guide saw something interesting, it would be long gone before you had a chance to see it and you weren't able to ask questions till the group stopped. Fortunately (for us), one couple were getting tired of walking and missed a couple of walks and so we were able to have 2 good walks when there were only 4 of us.
This problem only arises at walking camps where walking is the only activity. For example, at Tafika, if 6 people wanted to walk we could have chosen to drive and at Musekese, with 3 guides to 8 people (and 3 activities) it is unlikely ever to happen.
Other people may be happy to walk in a group of 6 (and I understand there are sometimes 8 at other camps) but I would not go to a walking camp again unless I could guarantee walking for 4 or less - either by having a private guide or paying for 2 rooms. (Tafika guarantees a maximum of 4 per vehicle but I think a maximum of 4 is just as important for walking).
I discussed this with John when we returned to Tafika and explained that it is not a criticism of Mwaleshi, it is simply our preference, now, having been so spoilt on previous walks.
remote and please keep it so
We have been here 7 times and love its remoteness. River dried up opp camp which was a shame as it is normally very pretty and we like crossing it with shoes off. Flowing upstream 2K so we used truck to get there some times, which we would not normally do.
But worth it as lots of lion, buffalo and elephant activity. We were alone for all 5 days which meant we had Brent Harris as a personal guide. He is deeply experienced across the world so fascinating to talk with. His approach to guiding is different from others - he is more interested in how the bush works as an integrated whole and less on listing every tree, bush, animal we see. This is a deeper approach and conservation came the main topic which we liked. So we tracked lions often and close, spent time just watching, took care with elephants (once after swiftest move to behind a tree and lots of shouting), and loved every moment.
Note that a couple from Australia had so much luggage the plane could not take 4 of us and the top-up food supply to Mwaleshi.
They should have been told by their agent, or were just stupid!
We hear the Rhino Sanctuary, with 32 now, will extend in 2016 to include Mwaleshi.
a diamond in the rough
This is certainly different, we absolutely loved it, but maybe not everybody's taste, the game is much sparser and you need to work for it (it is a walking camp and the last hours of the morning get hotter by the day as you approach October). The pack of hyenas trying to steal the kill from 3 lionesses will stay in our memory for ever.... and it was during the morning tea break, what a treat!!!
The camp is more basic than Tafika, but when you think that everything (up to the ice cubes) has to be flown in, it is a logistical tour de force, and if you want to stay at a place with air con and swimming pool,....well it's not for you.
Mwaleshi Camp review
This was the very best camp and experience I have had in Africa . I have been travelling in southern Africa for over forty years so I have experienced the whole range, from the top end luxury camps and those guides that simply try to get a good tip more than exploring the flora and fauna with their guests, to those that simply take people to see the big five.
This was how a safari should be. On foot, with an expert guide (Brent) who was so knowledgeable and in touch with the bush that it made the whole experience superb. Although facilities were basic (perhaps more like 'glamping') this did not detract from the experience but reinforced your place in the ecosystem. I felt at one with nature and my world. We were also far away from any other camps and most certainly 'off grid' that it made for a pleasurable experience that I did not want to end.
Now planning my return!
It was my second year at Mwaleshi, and it cemented itself as one of my favourite camps in Africa. It's not for everyone, given its remoteness and walking-only activities (and supposed less animal density in the south), but I love it for both.
I was incredibly fortunate with my sightings, including what Special (the long-time spotter with very special eyes) said was his best walk ever: a morning with leopards, lions and wild dogs, all at very close quarters. Brent is a superb guide, and wonderful company besides.
The camp itself is simple but perfect, with delicious food and the luxury of hot showers in the evening.
Sadly, the riverbed was completely dry already, so there was no afternoon swimming in the Luangwa this time! In short, I can't recommend it enough.
Mwaleshi Camp review
Truly a remote camp and a unique experience! Very well organised and managed, the staff produced outstanding service.
The walking and guiding was exceptional. Brent has unrivalled knowledge and passion of the flora and fauna and of the local environment particularly, taking our understanding to another level. Safety was paramount demonstrated by Special's instinctive move to place himself between us and a threatening elephant.
Wildlife encounters were great and leaving after 4 special days was quite emotional
Walking the North Luangwa Park
Let me start with a caveat: North Luangwa National Park, and Mwaleshi Camp, is not for everybody! I would not recommend this park or camp to first-time safari goers, or those looking for a "Big Five Experience." You won't get that here.
However, for those who A) Have been on safari a few times and are interested in something beyond "game drives," B) Want to get off the beaten track, C) Want to get as close to the bush as possible, with a high degree of comfort, and D) Enjoy walking, Mwaleshi is a FANTASTIC option!
The experience from walking at ground level is very different from sitting in a Land Rover and driving around looking for game. It is much more exciting, even if you don't spot the "Big Five." We did some terrific walks (none were what I would describe as "overly taxing"), and were able to really learn a great deal about the bush. We also had some amazing wildlife sightings, including huge herds of buffalo, elephants at close range, Cooksons wildebeest, crocodiles and hippos, and the best honey badger sighting I've experienced yet. We tracked lions for close to five kilometers one day, but never did get to see them....
The camp itself is laid out with the bush huts in a row on the bank of the Mwaleshi River. The accommodations are comfortable and attractive. A bowl of hot water is provided in the morning and buckets of hot water for showers are placed in the tank in the afternoon; if you wish additional hot water it is never a problem, as the staff is always willing to provide for you. The lounge and dining area is well-designed and also overlooks the river. Staff is experienced and friendly. Catering is fantastic; they follow the same menu as the "mother camp" Tafika and the meals are, along with that camp, the best I've had on safari.
Quality of guiding was extremely good. My only point of contention is that there is only one guide at Mwaleshi. This means that all of the guests in camp must agree on and participate in the same activity. If you have strong walkers and not-so-strong walkers (which, unfortunately, was the case while I was in camp), the group must tailor the walk to accommodate the needs of the weakest walker. This is a bit of a problem, in my book....
Privacy personified in the North Park.
Firstly thanks to Ed for the two fantastic flights in the RemoteAfrica Cessna. The views of the park from the air are magical. Ernst- great guiding, mostly walking safari with some drives.
The river provides a warm bath of relief in the very high temperatures and we could hear the hyena splashing through at night.
Very private stay here shared with friendly staff who all do RemoteAfrica proud and very much part of the extended Coppinger family. Excellent food, many drinks and stories shared with other guests and the grand event of the frisbee match in which the United Nations team beat the Zambians at their own game. Great fun, fantastic experience- thanks to everyone.
Mwaleshi Camp review
Mwaleshi Camp is in an extremely beautiful and remote part of North Luangwa. If you are happy to be in a very remote and unspoiled wilderness and in adequate but basic accommodation then you will enjoy the peace and tranquility of this beautiful place. However, we would say it is not for the faint hearted as you need to be prepared for paddling across the river, animals coming through the camp and plenty of insects.
We absolutely loved it and were fortunate enough to have the place to ourselves - but we don't think it would be for everyone. We understand that at the time of our visit we were the only two visitors in the whole of North Luangwa National Park - which was just amazing to have this pristine wilderness all to ourselves.
The food prepared by Brightwell in nothing more than a hole in the ground was the best food we have ever eaten in an African camp and the guiding team of Alex and Special were first class. We were hosted at the camp by Karen and family and they made our stay very special.
We will certainly return to Mwaleshi on our next trip.