Bilimungwe has four reed and thatch chalets...
Bilimungwe Bushcamp: Our full report
Bilimungwe Bushcamp is a small, stylish camp run by The Bushcamp Company in the remote southern section of the South Luangwa National Park. Set on a low rise surrounded by wildlife, it was completely rebuilt in 2011, with each chalet overlooking a group of shady waterholes where impala, puku, warthog, elephant and baboons are often seen coming to drink.
The central area at Bilimungwe is a thatched, open-sided structure, which is raised on wooden decking between the trunks of tall winterthorn and Natal mahogany trees. There is a comfortable lounge area with cane furniture and African-print cushions, as well as a dining area and well-stocked bar. Down a few steps is another deck with built-in seating, scattered with cushions, creating a quiet area overlooking the waterhole. On a nice evening, meals might also be enjoyed here under the stars. Just a stone's throw from the main area, overlooking an open plain behind the camp, is the firepit.
Bilimungwe Bushcamp has just four chalets: enormous, stylish structures set beneath shady, evergreen Natal mahogany trees that help to keep the rooms cool, even through the hottest months. Each chalet is constructed of reed and cane under a tall thatched roof, and raised up on a wooden platform. Inside, all is light and airy, with brightly coloured African textiles adding a splash of colour, yet they still retain a bushcamp feel, with half-height mosquito-gauzed reed walls allowing uninterrupted views and a free flow of air through the chalet. Two of the chalets have twin beds and the other two have doubles.
To one side of each chalet is a seating area with contemporary round cane chairs and a low table set with nature books and magazines. Doors that can fold away completely lead outside onto a massive deck, which runs the length of the chalet. The waterhole directly in front of the rooms attracts numerous animals throughout the day, meaning the deck is a perfect spot to relax and do some game viewing from camp. In 2015 we were able to watch warthogs bathing in the mud, as well as a family of elephants coming down for a drink all in one afternoon. Three of the rooms are in a semi-circle around the main waterhole which can result in a slight lack of privacy (you can easily see the deck of the room opposite), but one chalet is separate from the others, overlooking a different waterhole, providing much more privacy.
A reed wall separates the bedroom from a spacious bathroom, which has a flush toilet, twin handbasins carved into a beautiful, polished piece of mahogany, and a large open shower. A door from the bathroom leads to an outside open-air waterfall shower, beautifully crafted, and separated from the front of the chalet by a high curved stone wall.
Two activities a day are the norm at Bilimungwe, usually a safari walk in the morning and an afternoon game drive combined with a night drive, although there is a degree of flexibility built into this if you would prefer alternative arrangements. Both activities are given equal weighting, but traditionally walking has been considered the camps main activity, which is particularly good in the area. On our last visit in June 2015 we particularly enjoyed the birdlife on our morning walk, spotting purple turacos, grey crowned cranes and nesting blacksmith plovers. We were also lucky enough to find ourselves upwind of a group of elephants, which we were able to watch as they came down to the river for their morning drink – our guide and armed scout were excellent and we felt safe at all times.
Bilimungwe combines well with its sister camps in the same southern end of the park. If you are keen on walking you can do a walking transfer to Kapamba to the west, or Chindeni to the east. The riverine woodland environment around Bilimungwe, with its tall winterthorn, sausage and natal mahogany trees would contrast well with the open plains and low rocky hills found at its sister bushcamp Kuyenda.
Our viewBilimungwe is an excellent bushcamp that manages to be stylish and comfortable, while keeping enough rustic design choices to fit in well with the environment and maintain a bushcamp feeling. For those looking for a high quality, comfortable, wilderness camp, with great game viewing from the camp itself, then Bilimungwe would be a very good choice.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a two- or three-night stay at Bilimungwe. The camp combines naturally with one or more of its sister bushcamps: Zungulila, Kuyenda, Chindeni and Chamilandu or Kapamba, as well as with Mfuwe Lodge.
Directions: Bilimungwe is approximately four hours' game drive from Mfuwe airport, through the South Luangwa National Park.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: The Bushcamp Company
Staff: The resident guide at Bilimungwe when we last visited in 2015 was usually Manda Chisanga, who in 2006 was joint-winner of Wanderlust magazine's Paul Morrison Guide of the Year. Manda is a fantastic all-round guide, in his element when guiding a walk where he spends time explaining everything from how claw marks in a tree trunk show a leopard's routine to the medicinal properties of plants. Click here to read more about Manda's award and how he chose to spend his £5,000 winnings within the local community. If Manda is on leave, then you’ll be guided by one of the Bushcamp Company’s other qualified guides.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The meals at Bilimungwe are of a good standard. While it may not be gourmet they do provide an array of well-presented, tasty dishes.
A buffet breakfast is usually served in the main area in time to watch the sun rise, before heading out on a morning activity. It might include cereals, fruit, muffins, hot porridge and toast made on the fire.
The morning excursion usually ends at about 10.30am so brunch is often at around 11.00am, although this is flexible and can be altered if you see something exciting out in the bush. Brunch is served in a variety of locations; on one previous visit we enjoyed a barbecue overlooking the Luangwa River, about 50 metres from camp. This included a variety of salads, freshly baked bread, a choice of chicken, farmer's sausage and beef shish kebabs, all rounded off with fruit salad for dessert. On our most recent visit in June 2015, we had homemade pizzas. Bilimungwe and its sister camps each have a wood-fired pizza oven, and once a week guests are invited to roll our their own dough and select their own toppings before handing it over to the chef to cook. We had plenty of cheese and chicken, along with a few peppers just to make it healthy.
Dinner is usually comprised of three courses served at around 8.00pm. On previous visits we particularly enjoyed the unusual lemon and lentil soup served with freshly baked rolls, followed by a pork chop with potatoes and vegetables, with a chocolate and peach tart for desert. Our dinner on our last trip though different slightly from the standard format as the camp put on a brie with a great selection of grilled meats, vegetable kebabs, baked potatoes and squashes. There were also some more traditional dishes on offers such as nshima (a kind of maize porridge), a bean stew and a tomato relish.
In between meals you will need to save room for homemade biscuits with morning tea, fresh cakes with afternoon tea, and tasty snacks with sundowner drinks. We particularly enjoyed the peanut brittle cookies we had for afternoon tea.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, house wine and local spirits are included in the rates, but note that fine wines, champagne and imported spirits and liqueurs are charged as extras.
Further dining info: No
Birdwatching: The varied habitat around Bilimungwe, including areas of forest and numerous waterholes, means the birdlife is varied and prolific, great for birdwatching in Zambia. With the help of our guide we were able to spot jacanas, grey crowned cranes, and the elusive Pel’s fishing owl.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia
Walking safaris: The area surrounding Bilimungwe camp is varied, with some pretty stretches of riverine woodland, thicker miombo woodland and open waterholes. Excellent walking guides and the ability to walk between camps make this an excellent choice for a walking safari in Zambia.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zambia
Attitude towards children: Children of 12 years and older are welcome at Bilimungwe. Children under 12 can be accommodated on request and if the family group takes over the whole camp. Walking is not permitted for children younger than 12.
Property’s age restrictions: Children under the age of 12 can be accommodated at Bilimungwe on request and if the family group takes over the whole camp. Walking is not permitted for children younger than 12.
Special activities & services: None
Equipment: Some of the rooms can be fitted with an extra bed to accommodate a child sharing with their parents.
Generally recommended for children: We think Bilimungwe has quite an adult atmosphere and so is better suited to mature, sensible children over the age of 14 years.
Notes: Bilimungwe Bushcamp is unfenced so dangerous animals regularly roam through the camp. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There are no plug points in the rooms but camera batteries can be given to the manager for charging. In the event of a series of cloudy days, charging facilities may be limited, or charging could take longer than normal.
Communications: Bilimungwe has 24-hour radio contact with its sister camps in South Luangwa and with its base at Mfuwe Lodge.
TV & radio: Bilimungwe has no TV or radios
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: The showers and handbasins are plumbed in. Water is solar-heated so it may take a few minutes to reach your shower. Each chalet has a flushing toilet. Water bottles can be filled up from the supply of filtered drinking water in the main area.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a doctor based at Mfuwe Lodge, Bushcamp Company's main base. In a medical emergency it is possible to arrange evacuation by air to Lusaka, and potentially to Johannesburg.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted between the main area and their chalets after dark by a member of the Bilimungwe team.
Fire safety: Bilimungwe has a central borehole with a nearby tap and waterhoses available in case of fire. There is also a fire extinguisher in the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A complimentary laundry service is included, with items hand washed by male staff and then line dried. The exception is ladies' underwear, for which washing powder is provided in the bathrooms.
Money: No currency exchange is available. There are no safes in the rooms, but if you’re concerned then small items could be given to management for safe keeping.
Accepted payment on location: We recommend you carry US dollars or Zambian kwacha if you’d like to leave a tip. In the unlikely event that payment for anything else is needed, this would be arranged through Bilimungwe's sister camp, Mfuwe Lodge.