Mwamba Bushcamp: Our full report
Mwamba Bushcamp is set beneath the shade of tall ebony trees, overlooking a waterhole in the usually dry ...... bed of the seasonal Mwamba River. Owned by Derek and Jules Shenton, it is a very natural yet comfortable camp: small, intimate and very remote.
Mwamba is the smaller sister camp of the Shenton's Kaingo Camp, which can be reached in a morning's walk or a short game drive.
The four thatched chalets at Mwamba Bushcamp are simple, with reed walls and mud-packed floors, their neutral tones offset by colourful African prints, wall hangings and fabric mats on the floor. One of the chalets has twin beds, two have regular king-size beds, and the chalet furthest from the main area,,designated the honeymoon suite, has a king size bed, as well as a larger veranda and a bit more privacy than the other chalets.
Within a large walk-in mosquito net, you’ll find solar-powered lights on the bedside tables to each side of the bed - a large ebony tree recently fell into the main area, and you’ll find the wood has been used to create many of the camps’ new pieces of furniture, including these tables!
A dedicated solar-powered battery panel ensures your room has enough power to run these lights, as well as the standing fan in each room. A charging point for batteries was added to each room in early 2018, though there's also a communal charging station for batteries in the main area. Large gauze skylights above give the feeling of sleeping under the stars, with handy covers for the rainy season. There are wooden cupboards and shelves for storage (with African print dressing gowns for your comfort), plus a little wooden box to lock away your valuables. Outside each chalet is a shaded veranda with a wooden table and chairs overlooking the riverbed.
Attached to each chalet is a large, open-air bathroom, which is enclosed by a tall reed wall and has a real bush feel. Built around enormous ebony trees for shade, they have sandy floors covered with grass mats. Although simple, they still have flushing toilets, natural stone basins, and hot bucket showers which are filled for guests after their game drives (or on request). Cold water is available from the showers all day, which provided some welcome relief from the afternoon heat on a previous October visit.
The open chitenge (main area) at Mwamba is very simple and natural, with sandy floors and a low reed wall, and is lit at night by a combination of solar-powered lights, candles and paraffin lanterns. The wooden bar here is a real feature: built around a huge ebony tree entwined with python vines that support the drinks shelf. It's a great spot for a social drink before meals! There are also some cushioned chairs and a sofa, plenty of reading material and a few board games to keep you entertained.
Our meals at Mwamba were delicious - complemented by the fact that the majority of the fresh produce used in the camp’s kitchen is grown or produced in the Shentons’ large garden plot, just outside Mfuwe. Dinner is usually served in the main area, at a large wooden dining table (which Derek made), whilst lunch and breakfast are generally taken under a thatched gazebo overlooking the Mwamba River.
Like Kaingo, Mwamba Bushcamp also has a couple of stunning photographic hides overlooking perennial waterholes. One of these, ‘The Last Waterhole Hide’, is situated within the camp itself, exclusively for Mwamba guests’ use - on our last visit in September 2017 we spent several enjoyable hours here, watching a wide variety of birds and animals from Cookson’s wildebeest and lion, to mongoose and queleas, coming down to drink. The hide now has a webcam set up to capture the action - it’s not as good as the real thing, but it may help with the withdrawal symptoms once you’re back home!
On request, guests at Mwamba can also make use of the carmine bee-eater hide, which is shared with Kaingo and is best in September and October. For those really interested in hides it would be ideal to combine a stay at Mwamba with Kaingo, which has a hide dug into the riverbank parallel to a hippo filled section of river. Kaingo also has a platform in a high riverside tree next to a regularly used crossing point, allowing for some fantastic photo opportunities.
These hides have been used by the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery Channel and many independent film-makers and photographers, including François d'Elbée.
With advance notice, guests can even enjoy a magical night’s sleep at Mwamba’s ‘Numbu Starbed’ - a small platform on stilts overlooking the Numbu Plains and best enjoyed at new moon to experience the clarity of the night sky.
Unusually for most safari camps, Mwamba – like Kaingo – operates three activities per day. These include walking safaris, game drives (day and night) and visits to the hides, all led by excellent guides.
On a typical day you'll be woken to the sound of drums, followed by a quick breakfast around the campfire, before setting off on an early morning game drive or walking safari. You will usually return to camp around 10.30am, then brunch will be served, after which there's an opportunity to siesta or, as the majority of guests prefer, to head out to one of the hides. The hide close to camp is particularly good in the late morning, usually allowing close-up views of impala, buffalo, elephant and bushbuck as they come down to drink, as well as a myriad of different bird species. The waterhole can sometimes be much quieter – because the local 'Mwamba' pride of lions likes to head down to nap next to the water!
Afternoon tea is served down by the dry riverbed before your third activity.
Some guests choose to venture further afield on a full-day excursion. A half-day drive from Mwamba Bushcamp is a stunning open plain where you will find hundreds of 200–300-year-old baobab trees. Here, there is also a good chance of seeing some of the more elusive antelope such as eland, roan and hartebeest.
If you'd like to end off your day in camp – rather than out on an afternoon or full-day activity – then Mwamba has a great spot for sundowners! Just behind the camp Derek and his team have created a comfortable thatched seating area on top of a termite mound, with wide views over the bush.
Adventurous guests at Mwamba can also experience the exhilarating Mwamba Camp-out, which is one of the truest wilderness experiences in the South Luangwa. After heading deep into the bush on an afternoon walk with a senior guide and armed scout, you'll camp out for the night under the stars, with your bedroll set under a mosquito net beside the fire.
Like Kaingo, the Mwamba area has a very good diversity of game and birdlife. With varied habitats including wide open plains, mopane woodlands, waterholes, lagoons, thick riverine bush and the Mwamba River itself, expect to see plenty of zebras, Cookson's wildebeest (it's probably the best place in South Luangwa for these endemic animals), puku, impala, elephant, giraffe, waterbuck and bushbuck. On a night drive you'll also have a good chance of seeing leopards, porcupines, civets and the white-tailed mongoose.
Whilst only novice bird-watchers, we have during various short stays spotted many species of kingfisher (including pied and brown-hooded), as well as fish eagles, lilac-breasted rollers, white-browed coucals, giant eagle owls, lovebirds, weavers and even a greater painted snipe.
We've visited Mwamba often since about 1995, most recently in September 2017. We've found that the remote area and simple design of the camp give it a true bushcamp feel, but the spacious rooms, large beds and excellent en-suite bathrooms add a surprising level of comfort that complements the experience nicely. The food was great – and we loved the flexibility of the activities (especially the hides!) and the obvious passion of the guides.
- South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
- Ideal length of stay
- We recommend a minimum of three nights at Mwamba Bushcamp, or 5–8 nights for a combined stay at Mwamba with its sister camp Kaingo.
- Fly to Mfuwe airport, then transfer by road to camp. The drive, partly through villages, partly through the national park, takes approximately three hours.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- The team at Mwamba know how to keep both your days and your stomachs full! On our last trip to Mwamba Bushcamp, in September 2017, the food was very good. We are always amazed by the quality of food that the chefs can produce in their bush kitchens. With advance notice, the camp can also cater for vegans and vegetarians, also to a wide range of dietary requirements.
Breakfast is served around the campfire before the early morning activity and generally consists of tea and coffee, plus a selection of cereals, fruit and yoghurt, as well as freshly baked muffins or rusks.
When you return to the camp around 11.00am there's a very relaxed buffet brunch - we chose from spinach and egg filo pies, an Asian chicken noodle salad, red pepper pizza, grilled corn on the cob, broccoli salad and chicken brochettes, served with freshly baked bread and a selection of chutneys and sauces.
Afternoon tea is served at around 4.00pm, before your evening game activity – with sweet and savoury choices on offer, as well as drinks. On our last visit we chose from red pepper and cream cheese croutons and a delicious passionfruit cake.
Dinner is a set, three-course plated meal, accompanied by your choice of red or white wine. We had light and crispy tempura vegetables with a soy and chilli dipping sauce for starter, then a lamb and barley stew, followed by a delicious rooibos panacotta with raspberry coulis.
- The two hides at Mwamba Bushcamp, or the private veranda outside each chalet, are great spots for birdwatching in Zambia. Thousands of carmine bee-eaters may be seen from the camp’s hide , below the nearby riverbank, between Sep – Oct.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Photography holidays
- Mwamba has two hides allowing you to get close to the wildlife, great for photography holidays in Zambia. In addition, all Mwamba's vehicles have clamp stabilisers, beanbags and camera dust covers – and their guides are acutely aware of what photographers want.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Walking safaris
- Mwamba lies in a game-rich area which, combined with expert guides, makes it a great spot for walking safaris in Zambia. Guests combining their stay at Mwamba with its sister camp, Kaingo, can walk from camp to camp.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Wildlife safaris
- The game hides at Mwamba camp are one of its main attractions, and they allow you to see some fantastic wildlife. The game-rich area and high-quality guides make this a great camp for wildlife safaris in Zambia.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Mwamba is happy to take children over the age of 12 who are sensible and well-behaved.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Mwamba has an age restriction of 12 years, though this can be flexible for group family bookings.
- Special activities & services
- An extra bed can be put in the parent's room for a child to share, though this is not recommended, it will be a bit of a squash as the rooms are not big.
- Generally recommended for children
- This is a remote bushcamp that is better suited to older children.
- Parents need to be aware that this camp is not fenced and animals do walk through the camp. On previous visits here we have had elephants in camp and a lion walk past our chalet. Children must never be left unsupervised.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Mwamba Bushcamp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Mwamba 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
- Dedicated solar battery panels run the lights and fan in each room. There is a communal charging point in the main area, which is turned on between 06.00am and 7.30pm.
- This is a bush camp, without a direct phone line or cellphone reception, so you should consider yourself out of communication for the duration of your stay. However, Mwamba does have a radio and keeps in touch with Kaingo and other camps in the park.
- TV & radio
- There are no radios or TVs here.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The handbasins are plumbed in and each room has a flush toilet. Bathrooms have bucket showers that are filled up with hot water for when you return from your afternoon game drive, or at other times on request.
Authentic stay boosted by home-grown ingredients
Owned by Shenton family who has a proud history of three generations of wildlife conservation, Mwamba Bushcamp strives to create each experience #NourishedByNature, from the energy used in the camp solely powered by the sun ensuring nothing interferes with nature sounds, to the close-up wildlife hides, specially designed by the owner. Located deep in the South Luangwa National Park, far from the busy Mfuwe area to further limit its carbon footprint, Mwamba’s farm-to-fork initative comes to highlight the camp’s dedication to environmental protection.
The majority of the ingredients used in cooking guests’ meals are home-grown in an organic garden right outside the camp. The plot allows Mwamba to offer an array of quality fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit which would not be available otherwise. It also and acts as a playground for the hens supplying the camp with eggs used for brunches and in baking. Not only does the camp have an ongoing fresh herb supply throughout the season, but it also uses seasonal fruits and vegetables which make up the bulk of ingredients in guests and staff meals.
Additionally, to educate tourists on the importance of home-grown ingredients, Mwamba ensures that guests are aware of the origins of the ingredients. When presenting the menu, the Executive Chef reiterates which of the meals are created solely from the Shenton Plot. Guests also get the chance to stop at the plot on either their arrival or departure while the staff briefly stops to collect fresh products for the camp, and get to see the lush gardens.
At the moment, careful waste management is used to benefit the nutritious compost fertilizing the plot and bring a minimal environmental impact on the area.
See more great sustainability projects in Zambia
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Members of management are first aid trained. The closest doctor is in Mfuwe (1¼ hours' fast drive away). For medical emergencies, Mwamba has links to a flying-doctor service.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Guests are not allowed to walk around alone after dark, and will be escorted to their chalets at night. There is a whistle in each room, in case of an emergency.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers located at every chalet and around the camp.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A complimentary laundry service is included, except for ladies’ underwear, for which washing powder is provided in the bathrooms.
- No exchange facilities are offered.
- Accepted payment on location
- Everything, excepting gratuities, is included at Mwamba, but additional payments may be made in cash only; kwacha – the local currency – is preferred, but US dollars are also accepted.
Other lodges in South Luangwa National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.