Nsefu is Luangwa's oldest camp.
Nsefu: Our full report
Nsefu Camp, run by Robin Pope Safaris, is located on a wide bend of the Luangwa River in the remote and game-rich Nsefu sector of the South Luangwa National Park. An hour's drive from their base at Nkwali, and originally built in the 1950s, it is the South Luangwa's oldest camp – and for years has had a reputation as a high-quality bushcamp with a strong focus on guiding.
Nsefu Camp was built in 1951 by Norman Carr, the great pioneer of photographic and walking safaris in the Luangwa Valley, and was based around raised brick rondavels with a few steps up to the door. It moved to its current site in 1953. When one of the Expert Africa team first visited Nsefu in 1995, it was run by a company called Wilderness Trails (who no longer exist), and it wasn’t in a great state of repair. Shortly after that, in 1998, it was taken over and completely redesigned and refurbished by Robin Pope Safaris.
Nsefu Camp is sufficiently important historically that when it was being rebuilt and refurbished in 1998, the authorities insisted on keeping the original rondavels in their original locations. This does mean that by modern standards the rooms at Nsefu are a bit small and close together, but it also creates an intimate and historical feel to the camp, and we feel that these flaws can easily be forgiven.
There are six of these brick-and-stone thatched rondavels, each with a shady veranda at the front and a couple of directors’ chairs. The rooms are simply furnished, with minimal furniture, painted stone floors, whitewashed walls and pale fabric on the beds. New in 2014 were the ‘evening breeze beds’, with very gentle and quiet air conditioning that operates within the mosquito net covering each bed. These were much appreciated during the October heat of our last visit.
The listed status of the rondavels led to their current innovative design, with an airy en-suite bathroom at the back of each, separated from the bedroom by a curtain. Here you’ll find a flush toilet, washbasin and a large walk-in shower, with hot water provided by a log burner. Toiletries and bathrobes are supplied. There are also shelves and hanging space for your clothes.
The communal area, or chitenge, at Nsefu sits beside a huge termite mound and commands a spectacular view of the Luangwa River, where the sun rises upstream and sets downstream. It houses the bar and sitting area and is a great spot to watch wildlife coming to drink from the river. The rough brick floor, old black-and-white pictures, antique books and simple but comfortable furniture have a rustic colonial charm that is in perfect keeping with a remote bushcamp. Everything feels good quality, yet it is understated and modest in style.
A new feature, added in 2013, is a hide just to the side of camp, next to the communal area. It overlooks a man-made lagoon where we spent a very enjoyable afternoon with a cold drink watching hammerkop, families of warthog, waterbuck and elephant coming down for a drink. No need to leave the camp for some quality game viewing and some great pictures!
At the opposite end of the camp is a thatched, open-sided dining room where lunch and dinner are usually served. However, when the weather is good, meals are often enjoyed under a shady tree or beneath the stars.
Nsefu offers a choice of activities: either walking safaris or day and night game drives. Typically there are two activities per day, each lasting around 3–4 hours and led by their excellent guides. On our last visit we were treated to multiple leopard sightings during the day, and were able to witness a hippo charging a couple of lionesses as he came out of the river for his night-time grazing.
Walking safaris are a staple at Nsefu, always accompanied by an armed game ranger as well as a fully qualified guide. Exclusive to Nsefu is the 'sunrise safari’, when guests leave camp at about 5.00am in order to be in the bush at sunrise. Your guide will cook you a full English breakfast over a fire, while you enjoy the sunrise with a mug of tea or coffee. The morning game drive then continues after breakfast. Guests at Nsefu can also book in advance to venture out for a night or two on a bushcamp trip.
During the 'emerald' season, when the Luangwa River is in flood, Nsefu opens for a few weeks between January and March. At this time of year, the landscape around Nsefu is transformed, and land-based activities are curtailed; instead, the camp offers boating safaris, affording visitors a very different perspective of the South Luangwa.
Nsefu combines naturally with its sister camps, Nkwali Camp and Tena Tena, as well as sometimes being part of the itinerary for RPS walking mobiles. It's also a very natural complement to trips to Kawaza Village – which was originally set up with the help of Robin Pope Safaris.
For families and small groups, Robin Pope Safaris also run Robin's House and the Luangwa Safari House – two 'houses', with two and four bedrooms respectively. Close to Nkwali, each comes with its own chef, expert guide and private safari vehicle, and both are ideal for families or small groups travelling together.
Our viewNsefu is a simple, slightly old-fashioned, yet stylish little bushcamp, and we find it hard to fault. It is both laid back and intimate, with some of the best guiding we have come across in the South Luangwa. Over the years we have visited Nsefu many times and always felt instantly welcome and at ease. We can recommend it without hesitation.
Ideal length of stay: We usually suggest a minimum stay at Nsefu of three nights, although many repeat visitors choose to stay longer. In the dry season, from June to October, we suggest 2–3 nights at Nsefu's sister camp, Nkwali , before heading north to Nsefu and/or Tena Tena for a further 2–4 nights.
Directions: It’s approximately a one-hour flight from Lusaka to Mfuwe Airport, followed by a road transfer to camp. The drive takes approximately an hour from either Mfuwe airport, or Nkwali.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Robin Pope Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Nsefu has always offered high-quality food, a standard that was maintained during our last visit in October 2014.
Breakfast is usually set around the campfire, overlooking the Luangwa River, at around 5.30–6.00am before heading out on the morning activity. Hot porridge, cereal, fruit, and toast cooked on the fire are available, alongside tea, coffee and juice.
A buffet brunch is served in the dining area or under a shady tree at around midday, when everyone returns from the morning activity. We had a tasty spinach quiche with coconut rice and some cold cuts of pork , along with a variety of salads and freshly baked bread. This was rounded off nicely with a lemon curd cheesecake.
Save space for afternoon tea at 3.30pm; Nsefu's chocolate-chip biscuits are worth it!
After drinks at the bar dinner is usually served at 8.00pm. On our last visit to Nsefu this started with a tasty tomato, mozzarella and aubergine salad, followed by garlic chicken served with grilled sweetcorn and pumpkin. For dessert we had a delicious and moist bread-and-butter pudding.
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 Nsefu, but note that fine wines, champagne and imported spirits and liqueurs are charged as extras.
Further dining info: No
Solo Travel: As a high-quality and intimate bushcamp, Nsefu’s exclusive feel and friendly professional team make everyone feel at home. This social atmosphere and a lack of single supplement make this a great choice for solo travel in Zambia.See more ideas for Solo Travel in Zambia
Birdwatching: Beside the river, with bush, open plains and salt pans nearby, Nsefu is a great location for birdwatching in Zambia. Knowledgeable guides, flocks of crowned cranes in the dry season, and yellow-billed storks during the rains are a bonus.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia
Walking safaris: The area surrounding Nsefu is open and flat with excellent game and varied vegetation, which makes it a great base for walking safaris in Zambia. Keen walkers might opt to sleep under the stars at a Robin Pope Safaris bushcamp.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zambia
Wildlife safaris: On a wide bend of the Luangwa River, where elephants regularly cross, Nsefu is in an area with a high density of game and birdlife – but relatively few visitors. This, along with top-notch guides, results in excellent Zambian wildlife safaris.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia
Attitude towards children: Nsefu is happy to accommodate children 12 years and over.
Property’s age restrictions: 12 years and over are welcome at Nsefu
Special activities & services: None
Generally recommended for children: Nsefu is a remote bushcamp with quite an adult atmosphere so is suited only to older children with a high degree of maturity. Families with children may prefer to stay at Luangwa Safari House or Robin's House, which both offer more privacy and flexibility for family groups.
Notes: Children will need to be constantly supervised by their parents as Nsefu is not fenced in, and game wanders freely throughout.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: The camp is run on solar power, with a back-up generator for cloudy days. As well as plugs in the rooms for charging, there is a camera-battery charging station in Nsefu's main area.
Communications: Nsefu is in radio contact with its sister camp, Nkwali, which has a landline phone as well as internet. There is usually no cellphone reception at Nsefu.
TV & radio: Nsefu has no televisions or radios.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: The showers and handbasins are plumbed in, and each chalet has a flushing toilet. Tap water from the borehole is safe for drinking, but bottled water is provided at the camp free of charge.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a doctor based at a lodge in the Mfuwe area, about an hour’s drive from Nsefu. First-aid kits are provided in the camp and in the vehicles, and all the guides are trained in first aid. Nsefu has links to a flying-doctors service for serious emergencies.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted between their rooms and the main areas at night – either by a guide or by one of the camp's watchmen. There is a digital safe in each room to lock away valuables.
Fire safety: Nsefu has fire extinguishers in the main areas and fire buckets at each room.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A complimentary laundry service is included, but this does not include ladies’ underwear; soap for this is provided in the rooms. Note that clothes are hand washed and ironed.
Money: No exchange facilities are provided.
Accepted payment on location: Nsefu accepts cash payment for any extras in UK pounds, US dollars, euros and Zambian kwacha. Visa is accepted, with a charge of 5.5%, although this is subject to change. They are not able to accept travellers' cheques.