Reviews of Nkwali
Wildlife sightings and reviews
203 independent comments and wildlife information from our travellers who have visited Nkwali and kindly agreed to share their thoughts. They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa
We were able to use our CPAPs but we were surprised that the plugs were British 3 prong plugs. Everything we had read was that Zambia used South African plugs. We were able to use a converter plug provided by host Michael. It might be important to let folks know about the British style plugs! We never found any distilled water.
Service: Very attentive at meals, during activities and in general. Not happy with the way the last day in camp went (see below). We were very surprised to be met at the Lusaka airport by a Robin Pope Safari representative who made sure we were all checked in for the continuing flight to Mfue. What a nice surprise for us.
Food: Breakfast was in the bar area and cooked over an open fire. Good variety of food to include eggs cooked to order, porridge, cereal and fruit. Lunch was in dining area and was a buffet of local dishes to include hot food and salads. Dinner was in the same dining area with dinner being served individually with out asking if one wanted specific items and portions as it was doled out in the kitchen and placed in front of each guest. Dinner was very much a meat and potatoes fare as if catering European meals.
Activities: We went on one of two roads for our drives the five days we were there. Viewing was from a single road through the national park. We did leave camp to drive to the main gate of the park as there were lions seen with a kill. The guides we had, Johnny and Jobi, were very good and very patient. They were very good at spotting animals in the bush like chameleons! We saw Genet almost every day. They were also very good at identifying birds! The night drives revealed very little and should have been cancelled.
Issues we encountered:
1)one afternoon while out on a game drive the clouds were building in front of us. My husband (a pilot) kept telling our guides, that we were in for a storm and time to put ponchos on and seek shelter. They did not listen; we got our own ponchos on and the skies opened up with thunder, lightening, wind and driving rain. Pat was soaked to her skin in spite of a poncho. She said the rain pelting her arms and face hurt so much so that we wondered if there was ice in the rain. The guide, Johhny, was driving and picked up speed. At one point the back end of the car was slipping in the mud and there were visions in Pat's head of dying in a flipped over car in Zambia! We ended up at Chichele Presidential Lodge. Others from our camp were already there as their car had no lid on it (their request) yet they were not soaked to the bone as they beat the storm by one minute to the lodge . We ended up having sundowners in the lodge. This was not a good game drive!
2) We had very heavy rains which we know are normal for the time of year we visited. It was very interesting to watch the river rise and to watch the current change to extremely swift with large trees floating by. The camp used an aluminum boat with 13 seats and one 60 hp engine. As the river became higher and swifter the crossings over to the park were becoming dangerous, especially the return from the afternoon/ night drives. It meant returning back across the river in the dark. The last evening we were there was the worst crossing. There were 11 adults in the boat, including the driver and a staff member (Micheal) holding a torch (flashlight) to see what was in the water. The engine was laboring as we were overloaded (was told we were okay as there are 13 seats in the boat!) and the current was trying to push the boat sideways down river. We thought if the engine quit the boat would end up down stream or worse capsized.
Pat addressed our concerns about the lack of safety measures that were in place with hosts Michael and Kiki. She brought up the subject first with Kiki by stating there should be a "kicker" engine on the boat should the main engine fail. He was very sarcastic with his comments by asking if all boats in America have 2 engines. We explained that we are boat people and yes, boats which ply waters with tides and currents do indeed have 2 engines. He then said "this only happens two or three times a year". He stated that the boat was not overloaded as there were 13 seats. We informed him load is based on weight not seats. He also said there were paddles on the boat. which we were surprised about as no one mentioned it previously. He said there were two paddles, one for the driver and one for another staff member. We said there was no way that boat would be able to be paddled in those waters. He said the paddles would be used for steering! He also said they only encountered this kind of situation a couple times a year. We mentioned it only takes one capsizing to have a disastrous ending for guests and for Robin Pope Safaris.
And then there is the issue of life vests. There was one on each chair that were in pretty sad condition. While all the guests wore life vests the staff did not. They did not fit well enough to buckle and some of the buckles were missing.
This boat transportation is a disaster looking to happen. Someone needs to pay attention and review the issues with crossing the S. Luangwa River.
3) Our last day at camp did not end very well. We were booked on a flight at 1740 that afternoon. After breakfast, Michael, came to us and said we needed to vacate our lodge as they needed it for a couple coming in who were sick and might need a doctor. Michael jokingly said perhaps one of the British couples, who were leaving on the same flight, might want to share their lodge with us. At which point the British couple were apoplectic about having to share their lodge with an American couple! We quickly packed our bags and were out of our room by 10a. We saw the couple who was supposedly sick arrive in the camp. When they arrived they were at the bar having a beverage, went to our/their lodge and returned later to go on a safari drive. Guess they were not very sick! We sat in the main camp area, by the bar, with our baggage until our van transportation left the camp at 1600.
As you can imagine this camp was an experience we would rather forget. The camp had 7 British individuals who basically turned their backs on us at meal time. One of them got stuck with riding with us in our vehicle on a game drive. She later told Scott that we weren't so bad after all. Really? The individuals were seasoned safari folk with some having been to the Robin Pope Safari camps 7-9 times. They even mentioned Claire at Expert Africa's London office who did their bookings.
Sadly we would not recommend this lodge to anyone based on our experiences." See all these reviews: 9n in Botswana; 6n in Zambia
The team at Nkwali Camp extended their apologies to these guests for the issues they encountered. The outcome of being stuck in a rain storm and the manager making light of their safety concerns has been discussed with the individuals concerned and learned from.
The team at Nkwali apologised that these guests felt unnecessarily evicted from their room early on the last day. The camp team had received a report that the incoming guest was sick and did what they felt best given the information that they had.
The Robin Pope Safaris operations manager explains that the boating operations have been in existence at Nkwali without incident for the last 15 years. During that time the only thing that they have changed is to upgrade the boats from 22 foot banana boats to more stable and more comfortable flat bottomed aluminium craft. Each boat has direct radio communications with the main office and this system is there for emergencies. The flat-bottomed aluminium boats are designed specifically for the Luangwa River, and the reason for the 60hp engines is so the craft do not go too fast on the river. He adds that an auxiliary engine on a relatively fast flowing river is not an option. But that upgrading the auxiliary engine to another same size engine poses weight issues.
Instead, because the river is relatively shallow, poling poles are part of each boat so that the boats can be poled to the bank in case of engine failure. This has been tried and tested and he assures us that it works well. So the procedure in case of engine failure is to steer to the side. Get the boat to the bank and radio camp to come with the other boat to pick up guests.
Nkwali Camp has taken steps to check and upgrade the life jackets they use. They have ordered new life jackets that will be in place for the next Green Season, when the boat crossing will be utilised once more. There are also steps in place to better monitor the ongoing condition of the life jackets.
The guides are still very well trained and ever willing to discuss the days programme." See all these reviews: 16n in Zambia
The game management area where Nkwali is located offers very good opportunities for wildlife sightings and you will not find many other cars because its Robin Popes property. In the National Park where you get via Pontoon or by boat is is maybe a bit more busy than the areas deep in the park like Nsefu. But it is still possible to avoid too many cars if you tell your guide that you don't like it. We had also leopards , wild dogs etc. just for ourselves but than you have to skip some of the leopards (which are plenty) or the lions. All in all we recommend Nkwali a lot and are looking forward to return as soon as possible." See all these reviews: 20n in Zambia
The food was delicious, especially the flaky croissants and vegetable tarts, and served in an open air dining pavillion. A small lagoon is next to the dining pavilion, and a hippo usually hangs out there - except for the afternoon that an elephant stood in the lagoon having a drink! The monkeys joined us for breakfast.
Game drives with Kiki were amazing - elephants, lions, lionesses & cubs, giraffes, hyena, leopards, wild dogs - every day something new.
From now on, when I can't sleep I will imagine the wonderful sounds of night at the camp." See all these reviews: 3n in Zambia; 2n in Zimbabwe
"Great place to start from."
All of the staff were very friendly and went about their jobs in a very professional manner.
The meals were excellent along with the beverage." See all these reviews: 7n in Zambia
"Great start to our wonderful Safari holiday"
We had done a lot of research before choosing Expert Africa who advised us to travel to the Robin Pope camps and we were not disappointed, rather we found the experience exceeded our expectations.
We went on Safari both day and night with Fred who was very knowledgeable and we saw a great variety of wildlife. Food was great and was better than we expected and the informality of the camp suited us very much.
We would recommend commencing a safari experience at this camp." See all these reviews: 8n in Zambia
"Great game drives at Nkwali"
Hints for visitors -
- Hat and long sleeves need to be at hand for the drive from the airport at midday in an open vehicle. It was very hot.
- The pool edge is very slippery with wet feet.
- Be prepared for the very early starts in the morning" See all these reviews: 14n in Zambia
"What a place!"
Great place, highly recommended." See all these reviews: 9n in Zambia
The river crossing by pontoon and boat added to the overall experience.
We stayed (randomly as not requested) in the honeymoon suite and this was spacious and delightful." See all these reviews: 10n in Zambia
"Finally Wild Dogs at Nkwali"
Beautiful camp and setting. Highly recommend -it will not disappoint." See all these reviews: 6n in Malawi; 5n in Botswana; 5n in Zambia
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