Kakuli Bushcamp: Our full report
Kakuli Bush Camp is a small, intimate camp situated in an area of South Luangwa National Park known for its ...... high density of wildlife. One of Norman Carr Safaris’ seasonal camps, it overlooks a floodplain from an elevated bank of the Luangwa River, not far from its confluence with the Lubi (pronounced Luwi) River.
Members of the Expert Africa team first visited Kakuli Bush Camp in the late 1990s – and have returned many times since then. The camp was completely rebuilt in 2008, and then underwent significant renovations in 2018 and on our most recent visit in October 2019 it was looking lovely.
Within Kakuli’s central area, a large but simple thatched 'chitenje' with wooden decking has open sides, which help to keep it delightfully cool during the hotter parts of the day. It houses the bar, dining area and lounge and is kitted out with numerous comfortable sofas and chairs decorated in neutral safari tones. The wooden deck extends out over the riverbank and has a firepit in the centre – a great focus for breakfast on a cool morning, or a drink before dinner. Beneath this deck is access down to a small hide, perfect for a midday additional activity if there are animals at the waterhole to the front of the main area.
Kakuli has just five tented chalets, each simply but well decorated with a pale blue and cream bedcover. With canvas walls and proper doors, the chalets feel very solid and sturdy, yet the front can be completely opened up to offer lovely views of the river from the comfort of your bed. A thatched roof and mesh windows are designed to keep the tents cool.
A curtain separates each bedroom from a spacious, covered en-suite bathroom, with reed walls and a polished concrete floor. As well as a washbasin set on a wooden shelf, you’ll find a storage area for luggage and clothes. A large shower with hot and cold running water is set behind a reed screen, and there is a separate flush toilet. Bodywash, shampoo and conditioner are provided.
There is no buffer between Kakuli and the surrounding bush, and the landscape here is quite barren. Young rain trees are interspersed with taller tamarind trees which offer little shade. Though the rooms and main areas are designed to remain as cool as possible, you should expect the area to get quite hot – especially in October.
The openness of this site combined with the river and small lagoon in front of the main area attracts a variety of wildlife. Expect to see impala, puku and baboons at the lagoon throughout the day and elephants pass through the camp regularly.
Activities at Kakuli include 4WD day and night game drives, sometimes going as far south as the main Mfuwe area, but more normally concentrating on the loop roads by the river around the lodge – and venturing north as far as Lion Plain. These are good areas, where you can expect regular lion and leopard sightings, amongst other game.
Guided walking safaris in the area are usually a highlight of a safari at Kakuli. More active visitors will consider combining Kakuli with a stay at Nsolo Bushcamp, one of its sister camps, and walking the 14km between them. It is usually too hot to do this walk during October, but then it is possible to take a leisurely 4km walk to another ‘sister’, Mchenja Bushcamp. That said, on a previous visit to Kakuli we had to make a detour around a male hippo standing on the riverbank!
Kakuli Bushcamp is one of the very few bush camps open during Zambia's 'Emerald Season' (mid January to early April), when it works well to combine three nights here with three nights at it's more luxurious sister camp, Chinzombo. During this lush time, safari drives are offered from Chinzombo whilst, weather dependent, walks and boat trips are offered from Kakuli. Animal viewing is still good at this time of year but the real draw is the lack of visitors and the numerous birds, many in full breeding plumage (over 700 species have been recorded here during the emerald season).
Kakuli Bush Camp is a comfortable, ‘no frills’ bushcamp in a game-rich part of the South Luangwa National Park. It’s probably best visited towards the end of a camp-to-camp walking safari, or perhaps for its walking and river trips between January to March, when very few other real bushcamps are open in the Luangwa. Note that during the hotter times of the year its open aspect and air-cooled tents provide few escapes from the heat.
- South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
- Ideal length of stay
- Two or three nights is ideal here. Most travellers combine
Kakuli with a couple of its sister camps: Nsolo Bushcamp, Luwi Bushcamp and Mchenja Bushcamp. If a luxurious stop at Chinzombo is included – then probably best to use that last in the itinerary!
- Mfuwe Airport is reached by a one hour flight from Lusaka. From here a road transfer/game drive lasting approximately two hours takes visitors to Kakuli Bush Camp.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- We've previously found the meals to be of a very good standard at Kakuli, and our last visit in October 2019 was no exception. The camp's kitchen is able to cater to a range of dietary requirements on request.
Breakfast is served around the campfire before heading off on the early morning activity. Porridge and toast are cooked on the fire and a cooked breakfast is made to order.
Lunch is generally served buffet style in the shady dining area. You'll generally find a selection of hot and cold salads, alongside home made bread. We enjoyed a selection that included meatballs in tomato sauce, patatas bravas, vegetable quiche, bean salad, and a mixed green salad. This was accompanied by fresh bread and finished off with a fruit salad and pavlova.
Afternoon tea and delicious freshly baked lemon cake were served in the ‘chitenje’ before the afternoon activity.
On returning from the evening activity, dinner was served in the open under the stars. On the menu was a vegetable soup starter, followed by stir fried chicken served with rice and mixed vegetables. A tasty chocolate mousse rounded this off.
- Walking safaris
- Norman Carr pioneered photographic walking safaris in the Luangwa Valley and his legacy lives on at Kakuli Bushcamp, and its sister-camps, which have some of the park’s best walking guides. Kakuli can be used as one ‘stop’ on a longer camp-to-camp walking safari.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Wildlife safaris
- On a bend of the Luangwa River at the confluence of the Luwi River, where elephants regularly congregate, Kakuli Bushcamp is in an area with a high density of game and bird life. Combine this with great guiding, and the result a superb wildlife safari experience.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Kakuli is happy to accommodate children of 12 years and over.
- Property’s age restrictions
- 12 years and over are welcome at Kakuli
- Special activities & services
- Generally recommended for children
- Kakuli is a bushcamp with quite an adult atmosphere so is suited only to older children of 12 plus with a high degree of maturity.
- Children will need to be constantly supervised by their parents as Kakuli is not fenced in and game wanders freely throughout.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Kakuli Bushcamp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Kakuli Bushcamp 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.
- Kakuli Bushcamp has 24-hour radio contact with the other Norman Carr Safaris camps and with their administration base at Kapani Lodge.
- TV & radio
Legacy of Zambia’s first community-focused safari
As part of Norman Carr Safaris, Kakuli Camp operates with the commitment of carrying on the legacy of the first safari company in Zambia to use tourism as a way to protect the natural environment for generations to come. All the support for the local community is now done through the Time+Tide foundation, the managing company of all Norman Carr Safaris, which combines donations from Kakuli with support from other safaris in the group to achieve results that would improve the lives of entire villages. Committed to preserve South Luangwa National Park by enabling local people to benefit from conserving its wildlife, Kakuli is focusing especially on children’s education.
The bush camp is an active supporter of Kapani School Project, initially initiated by Norman Carr in 1986 to provide education for students in Mfuwe, Zambia. Given that education fees in Zambia are unaffordable for families oftentimes living below the poverty line, the support of the camp is essential for providing access to education for disadvantaged children. So far, the project has funded the re-painting of all 13 Yosefe School classrooms and the building of 9 additional teacher houses, 3 new classroom blocks and a borehole. Moreover, 80 students are now financially supported by donations through Time+Tide Foudation. Additionally, to increase conservation awareness among students living close to the wildlife of Mfuwe, the lodge’s staff participates in Chipembele Nature Nights, exposing students to the wonders of the South Luangwa National Park.
Kakuli Bushcamp’s donations for children’s education are ongoing, as they are directed towards encouraging young girls to remain in education despite pressures of following the familiar rural lifestyle.
See more great sustainability projects in Zambia
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The guides and manager at Kakuli are trained in first aid. The various safari operators in South Luangwa National Park sponsor a doctor who is based in the Mfuwe area and who is available to tend to anything more serious. Kakuli has links to a flying-doctors’ service for serious emergencies.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- The camp is unfenced so dangerous animals roam through freely. Guests are escorted to their tents after dark.
- Fire safety
- The camp kitchen has an extinguisher readily available. Water hoses can quickly be utilised in case of fire in the camp. A firebreak has been created around each of the solid-fuel water boilers as a preventative measure.
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 the chalets. Note that clothes are hand washed and coal ironed.
- No exchange facilities are provided.
- Accepted payment on location
- MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted. Cash payments may be made only in Zambian kwacha. However, tips are acceptable in US dollars.
Other lodges in South Luangwa National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.