Big Lagoon Camp: Our full report
Big Lagoon Camp, which replaces Crocodile Bushcamp a kilometer away, is one half of a pair of bushcamps, ...... known as Chikoko Trails. Together they form the base camps for one of Zambia's best walking safari experiences. With just three rooms, expertly made of reed and thatch, and overlooking a permanent lagoon that attracts wildlife year-round, Big Lagoon offers a tranquil base from which to explore this walking-only area of South Luangwa park.
Big Lagoon Camp is paired with Chikoko Tree Camp, and together they act as satellite walking camps for the slightly larger Tafika Camp. All three are owned and operated by one of the Luangwa Valley's top walking safari guides, John Coppinger, who is based at Tafika.
The permanent waters of Big Lagoon sustains green plants and nutritious grazing for the animals year round, affording shade from the resulting in a tall grove of evergreen ebony trees and some excellent wildlife viewing from camp
Accommodation at Big Lagoon consists of three, very spacious reed-and-thatch chalets, taking just six guests when full. The intricately constructed chalets are set on a ridge at the edge of the lagoon, where the ancient riverbank used to be, and have open picture windows to maximise the super waterfront views. Each chalet has twin double-size beds, or a double king-size bed, thoughtful dressing and storage space and an en-suite private bathroom with a separate flush toilet and shower, both of which are open-to the skies. The bedrooms have cool concrete and paved stone floors, dotted with woven mats, and a lattice shutter made out of strong reed stalks should you wish to cover your room window at night. Reed blinds can be lowered for anyone who prefers, and there are curtains that can be drawn. Each room also has a small fan and a large lockbox.
Big Lagoon Camp's main area is open to the front and covered by a shady thatched roof. Along with a small, well-stocked 'help-yourself' bar and little library, there's a wooden table laid at mealtimes with linen, glassware and crockery. Everyone eats together, usually out in the open under the trees or on the deck. Between walks, the comfortable seating on the waterfront deck, under shade, offers a great vantage point for wildlife watching.
Big Lagoon Camp is reached on foot – either a relatively short 15-minute walk from the Luangwa River crossing point, or after a longer, meandering walking safari. Porters will carry your luggage to and from camp separately, leaving you to walk just with a small daypack to hold your camera, binoculars and water bottle.
Activities at Big Lagoon Camp concentrate solely on walking safaris. Walks normally last about three to four hours, including a mid-morning or afternoon break for tea, and are led at a moderate pace. The emphasis is on taking your time to observe the area's wildlife, tracking, taking in the smells and sounds, and learning about the natural environment, so a modest level of fitness is fine. The terrain is broadly level but often uneven underfoot, making sturdy walking shoes or boots a necessity.
The top safari guides from Tafika are shared with Big Lagoon Camp – guaranteeing the excellent wildlife knowledge and experience that is the hallmark of this operation. Most guests arrive at Big Lagoon from Tafika or Chikoko Tree Camp as part of a longer walking safari, usually starting or ending at Tafika. You can easily walk between each of these camps in about three to four hours.
For an aerial view of the three camps, see the satellite map of the area. If you want to venture further, then these camps combine well with their more distant sister camps, Mwaleshi Bushcamp and Takwela Camp, in North Luangwa National Park.
Though the structures of Big Lagoon Camp are consciously rustic, they have been created with thought and great care, and the furnishings are all high quality. The standards of guiding here are exceedingly high – and even the food is top-notch (which is remarkable when you see the basic bush kitchen facilities – kudos to the chef!). The bushcamp's emphasis is firmly on enjoying the wilderness, the environment and the wildlife. For those of us who love walking safaris and remote areas, it is one of the best places in Africa.
Country manager: Zambia
- South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
- Ideal length of stay
- If you want to plan a South Luangwa walking safari including Big Lagoon Camp, it usually works best to start at Tafika for two to four nights, and then head to the bushcamps – Big Lagoon Camp and Chikoko Tree Camp – for two to three nights each. Often trips will then return to Tafika for a night or two at the end – although some will finish with a visit to Mwaleshi and Takwela Camp, in North Luangwa National Park.
- From Mfuwe Airport it's approximately 2 hours by road to Tafika (or 15-minute flight transfer at an additional cost). From here, guests walk to Big Lagoon Camp, either on a relatively short 15-minute walk from the river crossing point or taking about 3 to 4 hours on a walking safari.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- The small kitchen team at Big Lagoon Camp produces really excellent cuisine from a remarkably simple bush kitchen. This includes delicious freshly baked bread cooked underground in the wood-fired 'oven'. They are also able to cater for vegetarians, vegans and a wide range of other dietary requirements on request.
On our last visit we arrived after our walk in time for a buffet lunch of a refreshing mint and apple starter, followed by beefburgers in freshly baked sesame buns. Accompanying this we enjoyed grilled pineapple, tomato and onion, plus chips, a selection of pickles and chutneys and fresh salad from Tafika's vegetable garden. Dessert was a light lemon mousse.
After returning from our afternoon walk, we were served the camp's set dinner: Thai pancakes followed by a pork and vegetable stir fry and coconut rice, rounded off with a tasty apple crumble and hot custard.
A very early morning breakfast is served around the campfire. On our visit there was a choice of cereal, fruit salad, toast and a cold platter of ham, cheese, pickles and tomato, as well as tea, coffee and juice.
- Dining style
- Group Meals
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Drinks included
- Soft drinks, house wine and a good selection of local spirits are included in the rates. Flasks of filtered water are provided in the chalets and personal, refillable water bottles are provided for drinking water throughout the day.
- Solo Travel
- Walking safaris at Big Lagoon Camp are with a small group of other guests, led by well-informed guides who are keen to share their knowledge. The camp is small and intimate, and the low single supplement adds to its attraction for solo travellers in Zambia.
- See ideas for Solo Travel
- Overlooking a verdant lagoon, Big Lagoon Camp is in a great location for birds, with first-rate guides who know their birdlife. Even sitting in the main area or on the shaded deck with some binoculars provides a great opportunity for birdwatching in Zambia.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Walking safaris
- Located in a remote area with great wildlife and no interruptions from vehicles, Big Lagoon Camp is one of the best camps for walking safaris in Zambia. Top walking guides, and porters to transfer your luggage between camps, add to the experience.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Big Lagoon Camp welcomes children 12 years and over who are keen walkers and interested in nature.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to take part on a walking safari as per national park rules.
- Special activities & services
- Generally recommended for children
- We recommend this camp for mature, well-behaved children over the age of about 16 years. With walking the only activity here, there is nothing else to keep children occupied, and there are no family rooms available.
- Big Lagoon Camp is very remote and is not fenced in, so animals do roam freely through the camp. Children should be supervised at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Big Lagoon Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Big Lagoon 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 is a charging strip in Big Lagoon Camp’s main area to charge camera batteries and the like. Guests will need to bring their own adaptors.
- There is no cellphone reception or WiFi connectivity here. Big Lagoon Camp is in radio communication with its base at Tafika Camp.
- TV & radio
- No TVs or radios
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The handbasins are plumbed in and each chalet has a flushing toilet. A jug of hot water will be brought to your chalet each morning. The bathrooms have showers plumbed in to cold water. An attached drum is filled with hot water ready for your return from the afternoon walk.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Walking safari guides are first aid trained and carry a first aid kit. There is a doctor in Mfuwe, about an hour's drive from Tafika. In a medical emergency, Tafika will contact a flying-doctor service.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Fire safety
- There are sand buckets outside each chalet as well as in the main area.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- A simple complimentary laundry service is included, but this does not include ladies' underwear; soap for handwashing these items is provided in the chalets. Clothes are hand-washed and coal-ironed – so we suggest that you don't have very delicate items laundered here.
- No exchange facilities are provided.
- Accepted payment on location
- No money is required at Big Lagoon Camp. Payment for any extras may be made at Tafika, which accepts both Visa and Mastercard (with a 5.5% surcharge), as well as cash in UK pounds, US dollars, euros and Zambian kwacha. They do not accept travellers' cheques.
Other lodges in South Luangwa National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.