Mchenja Bushcamp: Our full report
Mchenja Bushcamp is Norman Carr Safaris' most luxurious bushcamp.It's a beautiful camp in a lovely setting within an ebony grove, beside a bend of Zambia’s Luangwa River. The whole camp has lovely wide views of the river, and is cool and shaded under the grove of tall ebony and sausage trees around it.
Mchenja means 'ebony' and the camp takes its name from the grove of tall ebony trees that tower above and behind it.
It is a relatively small but smart bushcamp, with just five tented chalets dotted along the river. The chalets are large and spacious, designed to be light and airy with a high circus-tent style domed ceiling and wide floor to ceiling canvas windows that let the breeze through - and lovely cream curtains that can be drawn for privacy.
The solid wood beds give the tents a luxurious feel, large and comfortable with crisp white linen covered with cream coloured blankets and cushions. Solar-powered lamps stand on each bedside table, along with a torch and flask of drinking water and glasses. Furnishings include an elegant wrought iron clothes stand, full-length mirror, a comfortable day bed and at the foot of the bed is a stunning antique Africa chief's bed.
Each tent at Mchenja has polished, cement floors, with makuti mats throughout, from the bedroom through to the a large en-suite, open-air bathroom with a (hot & cold) shower, a flush toilet and hand-basin in the corner, fully surrounded by reed walls and shaded by ebony trees. Meanwhile, within the main tent is a free-standing bath with views over the river. Fluffy towels and flannels are provided as well as bottles of soap, shampoo and moisturiser.
These polished floors extend out to a small patio-like area in front of the chalet, with canvas deck chairs for you to relax and enjoy the views of the Luangwa River.
One of the five chalets is designated the family chalet, it follows the same design as the other chalets but with a second en-suite bedroom to one side that can accommodate three single beds – great for families or small groups.
The open-planmain area, known locally as a 'chitenje', sits under a thatch roof, supported by a tree that gives the illusion of falling into the dining area – but all quite sturdy! In the corner is a cozy sitting area with a sofa and a few armchairs within easy reach of the small library of books. Wooden tables and directors chairs make up the dining area, although more often than not you may find yourself dining on the excellent food under the shade of one of the ebony trees or under the stars in the evening.
There is a well-stocked 'help yourself' bar with a highly polished wooden top and wrought iron bar stools that add a dash of style. The polished floor extends out from under the thatch, with a couple of comfortable wicker armchairs that we found could be easily moved into the sun or into the shade. Out closer to the river, under the shade of the trees, is another set of sofas and small tables. While we weren't able to stay overnight on our last visit, we stopped in and enjoyed afternoon tea here on our last visit in October 2019, with a herd of elephants splashing in the river while we ate.
Towards the far end of the camp is a large swimming pool, added in 2017. Surrounded by reed screens for privacy, with sun loungers, large umbrellas and baskets of towels, it’s very inviting, especially in the hotter months!
Mchenja is in a very good game area and offers both walking safaris and 4WD safaris (with more-or-less equal emphasis on both). The guides are very knowledgeable, and, as with most of the South Luangwa, sightings of lion and leopard are fairly common (we stayed just a night, but had good sightings of both in that time), and birding highlights of our stay here included juvenile saddle-billed and yellow-billed storks and some fish eagles.
Generally the game drives either head north, or you head south into the north side of the park's main network of roads around Mfuwe Lagoon. The walks usually meander in and out of the ebony grove, which runs roughly parallel to the course of the main Luangwa River. It’s also possible to walk deeper west into the park to Mchenja’s sister camps Nsolo and Luwi, which focus more heavily on walking safaris.
Mchenja Bushcamp is small, and rather more luxurious than most of the Luangwa's other bushcamps, so makes a fantastic and relaxing end-point for a safari in South Luangwa. We really liked the atmosphere here – it is smart but relaxed and unpretentious, which is a difficult balance to get right.
- South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
- Ideal length of stay
- Ideally about 3 nights. Mchenja Bushcamp combines well with its sister-bushcamps, Nsolo Bushcamp, Kakuli Bushcamp and Luwi Bushcamp - and, of course, trips will often start and/or end (or both) at Kapani Lodge, or the luxurious Chinzombo.
- Mfuwe Airport is reached by a 70-minute scheduled flight from Lusaka. From here, a road transfer/game drive lasting approximately three hours takes visitors to Mchenja.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- While we wwre only able to stay for afternoon tea on our last visit in September 2019, on previous visits the food was very good. With advance notice, the camp is able to cater for a range of dietary requests – though do make sure you reiterate your requests on arrival into camp.
A light breakfast is served at sunrise on the grassy rivers edge, before your early morning activity. There is a good selection of cereals, fruit and yoghurt, homemade flapjacks and biscuits as well as toast cooked on the open campfire along with tea, coffee and fruit juice. Porridge is served in the colder months.
Brunch is a buffet and is served in the main area at about 11:30 - there is usually a hot and cold choice. On one of many trips, we had a quiche and lasagna along with a selection of salads followed by a choice of fruit salad or coconut ice cream.
After a midday siesta, everyone gathers for afternoon tea and delicious homemade cake, often sat out by the river, before heading out for their afternoon/evening activity. On our last trip we had delicious scones, jam and cream. A chocolate and hazelnut crunch cake was also on offer.
Sundowners are served whilst out on your game drive and a wide choice of drinks is normally available along with some nibbles.
Dinner is served at about 20:00 on your return from your evening game drive. We enjoyed feta, olive and tomato filo parcels for starter, followed by balsamic chicken, couscous and green beans, then delicious individual fruit pavlovas for dessert.
- Mchenja’s tented chalets have a soft, romantic feel, and special touches such as private dinners under the stars can be arranged, a lovely romantic touch for your honeymoon to Zambia.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Mchenja Bushcamp stands beside the Luangwa River, and near several large lagoons – so has several different environments within easy reach. The birding here is good; with water birds and many dry-country species. On one of our short visits we saw flocks and solitary yellow-billed storks, fish eagles, white-fronted bee-eaters, kingfishers and many others.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Walking safaris
- Mchenja Bushcamp is in a good game-viewing area and always offers good walking safaris. Mchenja is particularly easy to combine into a camp-to-camp walking trip, it’s only a morning's walk from its sister-camps, Kakuli Bushcamp and Luwi Bushcamp.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Wildlife safaris
- Zambia’s South Luangwa is one of Africa's top safari destinations, with high densities of wildlife; Sightings of lion and leopard are particularly common on night drives. On one of our drives from Mchenja Bushcamp during the dry season, we saw many antelope – including impala and puku – a slender mongoose, a genet and a bushbaby, before an exciting hour or more following a pride of three lion out hunting.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Children over the age of 12 are welcome at Mchenja.
Younger children of 9 and above are accepted on a case-by case basis, and often only if the camp is booked exclusively for the family group. However, park rules mean that children under 12 years are not allowed out on guided walks, but they can join game drives.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No children under 12.
- None for smaller children, though the camps family chalet works well for families with older children.
- Generally recommended for children
- Given the environment and the slightly more adult atmosphere of the camp, we’d recommend for children over the age of 14.
- The camp is unfenced, and big game wanders through it regularly. It's also beside the steep, unfenced and occasionally unstable bank of the Luangwa River – with crocs and hippos below. Children must be closely supervised at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Mchenja Bushcamp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Mchenja 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.
- Power supply notes
- Mchenja has a back-up generator, and batteries can be charged in the main area.
- Mchenja Bushcamp has 24-hour radio communications with its sister camps in South Luangwa National Park and with its base at Kapani Lodge.
- TV & radio
- Mchenja has no televisions or radio.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The bathrooms have plumbed hot and cold showers, and flush toilets.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Staff have first-aid training, and the nearest doctor is based in the Mfuwe area (about 1 hour fast drive). In a serious emergency guests would need to be airlifted to Lusaka or Johannesburg.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- The camp is located within the National Park and is unfenced. You are requested not to walk alone after dark and will be escorted to and from your tent by a guide. An emergency horn, and whistle, can be found in each chalet.
- Fire safety
- There is a fire extinguisher in each chalet and in the main area.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is included – but it is hand washed and line dried and so you may wish to wash delicate items yourself. For cultural reasons ladies will need to wash their underwear themselves and soap is provided in the rooms for this.
- Each room has a lock-box. There are no currency exchange facilities at Mchenja.
- Accepted payment on location
- A stay at Mchenja is fully inclusive, but if you would like to tip the staff, we recommend that you use US dollars or Zambian kwacha if possible. In the unlikely event that payment for anything else is required, this can be arranged through Norman Carr Safaris' base camp, Kapani Lodge.
Other lodges in South Luangwa National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.