Chikoko Tree Camp: Our full report
Chikoko Tree Camp is an exceptionally small, intimate and rustic bushcamp that overlooks the seasonal Chikoko ...... River – a scenic, winding channel lined by shady ebony trees. It is set in a remote area of Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park that is exclusive to walking safaris; there are no vehicles here to break the silence, and other visitors are rare.
Together, Chikoko Tree Camp and Crocodile Bushcamp (sometimes called 'Crocodile River Camp') form Chikoko Trails Camps: satellite walking bushcamps of Tafika.
Visitors at Chikoko stay in one of three rustic, two-storey reed chalets – so the camp accommodates just six people when full. Upstairs, under a canvas roof, the bedrooms have either a double or twin beds inside a walk-in mosquito net. Windows are simply open spaces within the reed walls, and directors’ chairs face one side, which is completely open, looking out across the dry riverbed or the adjoining plain. Solar power provides electric lighting for the rooms, and small hand-held solar lights are provided as back up.
Downstairs is a private bathroom with a handbasin, flush toilet and (hot!) shower. Basic toiletries are provided.
Meals at Chikoko are communal and very relaxed, taken either outside or under the thatched but open-sided central area. The kitchen team produces the most impressive cuisine from the simplest of bush kitchens, with the oven being just a hole in the ground! The well-stocked bar is always open on a help-yourself basis; cushions are scattered across wooden chairs and benches; and a couple of directors' chairs are set above the sand river, from which animals are often seen; we had a small herd of zebra passing through during our last stay, in June 2017. It's all very easy going.
As Chikoko's activities encompass purely walking safaris, with no vehicles allowed in the area, your luggage will be carried to and from camp by porters. (They'll walk separately; they won't be with you when you walk to camp.) You can easily walk between Tafika and Chikoko, or Chikoko and Crocodile, in three to four hours. During the dry season the river between here and Tafika is sometimes shallow enough to walk across; otherwise you'll be ferried across in a small boat. During our last visit, the grass was too high to walk directly from Tafika in safety, necessitating a road transfer to the river crossing, where we started our walk.
Walking safaris from Chikoko Tree Camp normally last about three–four hours, and are fairly leisurely, with a mid-morning or afternoon break for tea. The terrain is reasonably flat but occasionally uneven – so it's a good idea to bring sturdy shoes. That said, the focus is on seeing the area's great wildlife, and only a moderate level of fitness is necessary; these walks aren't designed as route marches or endurance tests!
The walking safari guides from Tafika are shared with Chikoko Tree Camp – guaranteeing the very high level of knowledge and experience that is a hallmark of this operation. Our guides were incredibly knowledgeable about the different animal spoor and plants that we saw along the way, and their tracking skills were fantastic: we followed a leopard’s trail for over an hour, finally getting a glimpse of him racing through the bush ahead!
Most guests arrive here from either Tafika or Crocodile Bushcamp as part of a longer walking safari, usually using Tafika as a more comfortable base at the beginning or end of their trip. However, if you're feeling really adventurous you can combine Chikoko with its more distant sister camp, Mwaleshi Bushcamp, in North Luangwa National Park.
Chikoko Tree Camp appears to be very simple, yet this belies a comfortable bushcamp run to very high standards. The walking guides are among the most experienced and best in the business, and you'll be amazed at the quality of food here given the simplicity of the kitchen. For those who love walking safaris, we would highly recommend Chikoko.
- South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
- Ideal length of stay
- If you want to plan a South Luangwa walking safari including Chikoko, it usually works best to start at Tafika for 2–4 nights, then head to one of the bushcamps – either Chikoko Tree Camp or Crocodile Bushcamp – for a few 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 in the North Luangwa.
For more specific ideas and actual examples of trips like this, with prices and full details, click on some of the links to safaris on the Trip ideas tab, above.
To see if there's space, check Chikoko's availability here.
- From Mfuwe, it is approximately 1½–2 hours by road to Tafika. A flight from Mfuwe to Lukuzi airstrip (near Tafika) takes 15 minutes. From Tafika you walk to Chikoko, taking about 3–4 hours.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- On our most recent visit in June 2017, we were very impressed with the quality of the food, especially given that meals are cooked in the bush kitchen's 'oven' – a hole in the ground surrounded by hot coals! Vegetarians can be catered for, as well as most allergies or particular food requirements.
A light breakfast is usually served around the campfire before the morning walk, and consists of toast, yoghurt, cereals, fruit, ham and cheese, together with tea, coffee and juices. Eggs are available upon request.
We enjoyed lunch in the shady main area at midday. This included a refreshing grapefruit starter, followed by marinated pork, an aubergine and cheese tomato bake, a variety of salads and freshly baked white and brown bread, plus a selection of very tasty pickles and chutneys. Pears in red wine sauce complemented the lunch nicely.
For afternoon tea, at 3.30pm before the second walk of the day, we were offered fresh tea and coffee and crumbly jam-filled biscuits.
Dinner was served shortly after we returned from our evening walk, at about 7.30pm. The camp serves a set menu, and on our last visit we enjoyed a starter of tomato soup with croutons, followed by delicious roast chicken, served with roast potatoes, butternut squash, green beans and gravy. Decadent profiteroles completed the meal,
- Solo Travel
- Walking safaris at Chikoko Tree Camp are with other guests, and well-informed guides. The camp is small and intimate with communal meals, and the low single supplement adds to its attraction for solo travellers in Zambia.
- See ideas for Solo Travel
- Walking safaris
- Chikoko is run by Remote Africa Safaris, a company with considerable experience of running walking safaris in Zambia. The lack of roads and vehicles, and the camp-to-camp trails, make this one of the best spots for walking in Zambia.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Attitude towards children
- ChikokoTree Camp welcomes children 12 years and older.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Minimum age of 12.
- Special activities & services
- Generally recommended for children
- We would recommend Chikoko for mature, well-behaved children over the age of 12.
- Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Chikoko Tree Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Chikoko Tree 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
- Chikoko has battery-charging facilities in the main area, though staff will remind you not to leave anything charging overnight, as hyenas apparently have a tendency to chew on anything left out!
- There is no cellphone reception or WiFi here, although the camp is in constant radio contact with Tafika – which has excellent communication facilities.
- TV & radio
- 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 and left by your basin each morning. The bathrooms have bucket showers, and these will be filled with hot water ready for your return from the afternoon walk.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a doctor in Mfuwe, about one hour’s drive from Tafika. For medical emergencies,Tafika has links with a flying doctors’ service.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Your guide, as well as the camp staff, are all in camp with you.
- Fire safety
- There are sand buckets outside each chalet as well as in the main area.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A complimentary laundry service is included, but this does not include ladies' underwear; soap for this is provided in each chalet. Note that 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 Chikoko. Payment for any extras may be made at Tafika in cash in UK pounds, US dollars, euros and Zambian kwacha, or by Visa or Mastercard, though this will incur a 4.5% fee. They are not able to accept travellers' cheques.
Other lodges in South Luangwa National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.