Nkwali: Our full report
Built on the banks of the Luangwa River, Nkwali Camp sits under the shade of tall mahogany, ebony and sausage trees.Owned and run by Robin Pope Safaris the camp is well situated a relatively short drive from Mfuwe Airport and overlooking South Luangwa National Park.
Nkwali Camp has six stone-and-thatch chalets, each overlooking the Luangwa River and the park beyond. High ceilings and flagstone floors help to keep these spacious rooms cool in the summer and warm during winter (See Zambia's weather). The chalets are completely open-fronted allowing guests to lie back on their comfortable beds whilst watching animals visit the river to drink. At night, large mosquito nets are lowered to cover the beds, whilst bamboo and metal shutters are drawn across the front of the room to keep out unwanted visitors. Each chalet has a large en-suite bathroom with twin sinks, flush toilet and an open-air double shower.
At the centre of Nkwali lies a homely, open-sided thatched main building and a large wooden deck over the river. Various comfortable sitting areas are scattered throughout this 'chitenge' which also has a small reference library and the camp's bar – the place to gather for pre-dinner drinks and to exchange stories of the day's wildlife adventures.
Across the lawn and beside the camp's waterhole is the thatched dining area, built in the shade of a grand jackalberry tree. It is here that many of Nkwali's delicious meals are eaten, though they may be served at a table set out in the open air as well. Nkwali Camp has a swimming pool around which comfortable sunloungers offer a welcoming spot to relax between game-drive safaris.
Nkwali Camp is situated in a small game management area (GMA) on the opposite side of the river to South Luangwa National Park. Whilst animals are common residents of the GMA, activities usually take place across the river within the national park. These include short walking safaris and 4WD game drives – during the day and at night. Typically there are two activities per day, each lasting around 3-4 hours and led by an expert guide. All walking safaris are accompanied by an armed game ranger, as well as a fully-qualified Robin Pope Safaris guide.
Nkwali's 4WD game safaris operate in the heart of South Luangwa, where the game is at its most relaxed – but the density of other vehicles is also at its highest. This is seldom problematic, as just downstream of Nkwali Camp, Robin Pope has a private pontoon over the river which enables its vehicles to swiftly enter the park, south of the main (and sometimes busy) gate at Mfuwe Bridge –the usual access point for a number of camps which are located outside the park. When the river is in full flow, there's also the possibility of a river crossing by boat - life jackets are provided and you'll be transferred to the other side of the river to your waiting safari vehicle.
A trip to Nkwali combines naturally well with its sister-camps, Nsefu Camp and Tena Tena, as well as being part of the itinerary for trips that use Robin Pope's mobile walking camp, in the north of the park on the Mupamadze River.
Close to Nkwali, Robin Pope Safaris also run Robin's House and the impressive Luangwa Safari House. These are two private 'houses', with two and four bedrooms respectively. Each comes with its own chef, expert wildlife guide and private safari vehicle, and both are ideal for families or small groups traveling together.
Further afield, in the Lower Zambezi National Park, Robin Pope Safaris has also been instrumental in building the spectacular Chongwe River House, which works on the same basis.
Nkwali is an excellently run camp with impressive open fronted chalets that truly allow you to feel like you're staying in the bush. Its position close to the airport and lower price makes it a great option for accessing the park, while taking advantage of its own pontoon across the river to avoid the worst of the crowds in the game rich Mfuwe area. With its location on the river and year round opening, it also allows rare access to the park when it transforms during the rainy season.
- South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
- Ideal length of stay
- We recommend a stay of 2 or 3 nights at Nkwali Camp in conjunction with time at either Nsefu Camp or Tena Tena in the Nsefu Sector of South Luangwa. Nkwali is also a natural complement to trips to Kawaza Village - which was originally set up with the help of Robin Pope Safaris.
- After an hour flight from Lusaka or Lower Zambezi, guests are met at Mfuwe Airport for a 40-minute drive through Mfuwe Village and a game management area to Nkwali Camp.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board
- Food quality
- Meals at Nkwali Camp are varied, tasty and of a high standard. When we were last here in June 2017 we thought the food was fantastic.
The day will often begin with a light breakfast buffet beside the camp fire. The fare usually includes a selection of cereals, toast, fruits and porridge with tea and coffee.
A large brunch is usually served upon returning from your morning activity. On the day you arrive you might be offered a light lunch instead. A buffet that might include a choice of salads, fresh bread, a meat option and a cheese board is often laid out for you. When we last visited Nkwali we enjoyed a choice of salads, butternut frittatas, chicken kebabs, vegetable pasta and fresh bread, followed by a light lemon and berry cheesecake. During brunch a hot option of eggs, sausages, tomatoes, beans and bacon can be made to order.
Dinner is often served under the stars, and can be a buffet or a set 3-course menu. On our last visit we sat overlooking the camp's waterhole whilst enjoying a delicious 'braai' (the local name for a barbecue), with a variety of grilled meat and fish, roasted vegetables and a selection of salads on offer, accompanied by home made bread and pickles. We rounded the meal off with a gooey chocolate pudding - perfect!
- Solo Travel
- Thanks to excellent guides Nkwali is a great place to stay and explore the wildlife areas of the South Luangwa National Park on the opposite bank of the Luangwa River on solo safari holidays. There are no single supplements at Nkwali, and the game viewing is great!
- See ideas for Solo Travel
- Nkwali is an excellent camp, and a really great first stop on your safari honeymoon to Zambia. Offering home comforts like mains electricity and a swimming pool, it’s a lovely way to ease into your honeymoon. The service is fantastic; very attentive, kind and considerate.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Nkwail has first-rate guides who know their birds very well – even the more obscure species. The superb location will also appeal when planning a birdwatching holiday in Zambia, as Nkwali overlooks the Luangwa River.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Wildlife safaris
- Nkwali camp has first-rate guides, most fully-qualified to lead walking safaris as well as 4WD safaris, and South Luangwa allows night drives, and some off-read driving. These factors make for a superb wildlife safari experience in one of Africa's best game areas.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Children over the age of 7 are welcome.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Walking safaris are not possible for children under 12 years old.
- Generally recommended for children
- As the camp is unfenced and in a wildlife reserve, children will need to be supervised by their parents at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Nkwali
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Nkwali 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
- The camp has a back-up generator.
- There is cell phone reception at the camp. If you need to use your phone we ask that you do so in your rooms only so as not to disturb other guests at Nkwali Camp. If you carry your phone with you to the main areas please set the mode to silent.
- TV & radio
- No TVs or radios – this is the bush!
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- All the guides at Nkwali Camp are trained in first aid. The camps and lodges of South Luangwa National Park usually club together to provide for a doctor to visit them and their staff regularly. The doctor is based at a camp just down the road from Nkwali.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- As elephants are regular visitors to the camp, guests are escorted to their chalets and around camp after dark.
- Fire safety
- Each of the chalets has a fire extinguisher in case of fire. The camp has water, sand and fire beater sources ready in the unlikely event of a fire.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A laundry service is included at Nkwali Camp. However, as items are hand washed, ladies undergarments cannot be included for cultural reasons. Washing powder is made available in the rooms for you to hand wash these yourself.
- Accepted payment on location
- American Dollars, Pounds sterling, Euro, South African Rand and Zambian Kwatcha are all accepted forms of cash. Visa and Mastercard are also accepted.
Other lodges in South Luangwa National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.