Mwamba Bushcamp is a small, traditional camp in the bush of South Luangwa.
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 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. Meals are usually served at the large wooden dining table (which Derek made), although lunch can also be set up under a thatched gazebo overlooking the Mwamba River.
The four thatched chalets at Mwamba Bushcamp are equally simple, with reed walls and mud-packed floors, their neutral tones offset by colourful African prints, wall hangings and grass mats on the floor. One of the chalets has twin beds, two have regular king-size beds, and the chalet furthest from the chitenge, designated as the honeymoon suite, has a four-poster. Above each bed are solar-powered lights, a mosquito net, and a large gauze skylight – designed to give the feeling of sleeping under the stars. There are wooden cupboards and shelves for storage (with African print dressing gowns for your comfort), bedside tables, and 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, enclosed by a tall reed wall and with 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 during our last visit in October 2014.
Like Kaingo, Mwamba Bushcamp also has a couple of stunning photographic hides, both overlooking perennial waterholes. One lies within the camp itself and the other is just outside the perimeter. Guests at Mwamba can also make use of the carmine bee-eater hide, which is shared with Kaingo and is best in Sepetember and October. For those really interested in hides it would be ideal to combinea 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. With advance notice, guests can even enjoy a magical nights sleep in the elephant hide.
These hides have been used by the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery Channel and many independent film-makers and photographers, including François d'Elbée.
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 tea/coffee and biscuits around a campfire, before setting off on an early morning game drive or walking safari. You will usually return to camp around 10.00am for a large breakfast, after which there’s an opportunity 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. However the waterhole was much quieter on our last visit – because the local ‘Mwamba’ pride of lions was napping next to the water. After a light lunch there’s time for a quick siesta before afternoon tea and 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. There are 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.
Our viewWe’ve visited Mwamba often since about 1995, most recently in October 2014. We’ve found that the remote area and basic 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.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a minimum of three nights at Mwamba Bushcamp, or 5–8 nights for a combined stay of Mwamba with its sister camp Kaingo.
Directions: 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: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Derek & Jules Shenton
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
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 October 2014, the food was very good. We are always amazed by the quality of food that the chefs can produce in their bush kitchens.
Meals are announced with the banging of drums. Tea, coffee and biscuits are served around the campfire before the early morning activity. When you return to the camp around 10.00am there's a very relaxed buffet breakfast with cereals, fruit, muffins and yoghurt, as well as toast. This is followed by a cooked breakfast, which changes on a daily basis. On our last visit we had fried mushrooms, fried egg, spicy sausage and homemade baked beans.
A few hours later, after a visit to one of the hides, a light lunch is served al fresco on your own veranda. On previous visits, we have enjoyed a delicious lasagna and green salad, followed by fruit salad; and on another occasion a falafel wrap with tsatziki and salad, with pawpaw for dessert.
Afternoon tea is served at around 4.00pm, before your evening game activity – with cake and biscuits on offer, as well as drinks. On our last visit we had a delicious, moist chocolate cake.
Dinner is a three-course plated meal, accompanied by your choice of red or white wine. This may be something like French onion soup for starter, fillet of beef with baked potato and salad for main, and apple pie with custard for dessert.
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 at Mwamba, but note that fine wines, champagne and imported spirits and liqueurs are charged as extras.
Further dining info: No
Birdwatching: The two hides at Mwamba Camp, or the private veranda outside each chalet, are great spots for birdwatching in Zambia. Thousands of carmine bee-eaters may be seen in their hide between Sep – Oct below the nearby riverbank.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia
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 beanbags and camera covers – and their guides are acutely aware of what photographers want.See more ideas for Photography holidays in Zambia
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 more ideas for Walking safaris in Zambia
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 more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia
Attitude towards children: Mwamba is happy to take children over the age of 8 who are sensible and well-behaved. However, families with children aged 9–10 years are required to book a private vehicle, unless the family has sole use of the camp. This can make Kaingo Camp an expensive option for a family of just three or four.
Property’s age restrictions: Mwamba prefers children over 8 years of age who are well-behaved. Children under 12 years are not able to join walking safaris.
Special activities & services: None.
Equipment: An extra bed can be put in the parent's room for a child to share. This 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.
Notes: 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 an elephant in camp and a lion walk past our chalet. Children must never be left unsupervised.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There is no power in the rooms. The power in the camp is switched off during the middle of the day, and devices for charging must be given to staff at 4.00pm.
Communications: 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 TV's here.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: The handbasins are plumbed in and each room has a flush toilet. The bathrooms have bucket showers which are filled up with hot water after your afternoon game drive, or on request.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The closest doctor is in Mfuwe (1¼ hours’ fast drive away). For 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 the room, in case of an emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers at every chalet and around the camp.
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.
Money: No exchange facilities offered.
Accepted payment on location: Additional payments may be made in cash only; kwacha – the local currency – is preferred, but US dollars are also accepted.