Puku Ridge

Puku Ridge: Our full report

Rooms
7 safari tents
Traveller's rating
Excellent (91%) From 7 reviews
Children
Best for aged 12+
Open
May to December

Set on a rocky hillside overlooking the Kakumbi Floodplain, Puku Ridge is a stylish camp, currently owned and run by Sanctuary Lodges. This camp is close to the game-rich but busy Mfuwe area of the park, but it also has access to the quieter southern areas for more exclusive wildlife viewing.

On the slopes of one of the higher hills in the South Luangwa, overlooking a large grassy plain grazed by plentiful herds of eponymous puku antelope, Puku Ridge probably has some of the best views of any camp in the Luangwa Valley. The only camp with comparable views is Puku’s larger sister camp Chichele Presidental Lodge, located one kilometer away on top of the same hill.

Accommodation here is in seven large safari tents, each with its own private viewing deck. At the centre of each tent, two double beds are pushed together to create a vast four poster bed under a walk in mosquito net. To one side is a small lounge with some traditional comfy chairs along with some more modern seating, along with a small writing desk. At the other end of the tent is a smart en-suite bathroom with a flush toilet, shower and a bath with a view. A door leads out to an open air shower with spectacular views across the plain. A ceiling fan helps to keep the room cool, as do floor to ceiling mesh windows. However these are only present along the front of the tent, so although they are spacious and fell very luxurious, their interiors are also quite dark.

The main bar/dining area has a high thatched roof hung with chandeliers, and under this you'll find a simple concrete bar with a bamboo design on the wall, and wooden barstools. In front of this is the lounge, which has one big settee, bench seats moulded into the walls, scattered with soft cushions in browns and greens, and a huge brushed chrome trunk which acts as a coffee-table. Beside the lounge, the dining area is furnished with very modern woven-plastic black chairs, green and grey cushions, and traditional reed-woven place-mats.

Below the main lounge at Puku Ridge is a shady verandah with a large cane love-seat. A series of rock pools wends its way around to the front of this deck from where the walls fall steeply away to allow for a dramatic view of the plain and the two waterholes that lie far below. These waterholes are floodlit at night. To one side a patio has been built up to a tall tree from which dangle enticing cane chairs.

The separate elements of Puku Ridge’s main areas and rooms are all very smart, stylish and individually work very well. They were no doubt costly and help to show the quality of the camp. However there are a lot of contrasting styles occurring within small areas and across the camp, with some more traditional safari fixtures such as the tented rooms and wooden decks, and some modern design such as the furniture in the main area. These clashes in style mean the camp slightly struggles to impart its own individual character, and may grate slightly on the more design conscious.

Activities from Puku Ridge include day and night safari drives and sometimes also guided walks, although drives are the norm. The camp is situated on the southern edge of Luangwa’s main all-weather road network, which means it can open and close much closer to the rainy season than other camps in the area, allowing guests to see the park at different times of the year. We thought that the guiding was particularly good here, with the guide being friendly, and very informative about the ecology and the history of the park. He was also able to track wild dog for us using tracks and alarm calls, giving us a fantastic sighting of juveniles playing with no other vehicles present.

Our view

The accent at Puku Ridge is firmly on the ‘luxury’ part of being a luxurious safari camp. With good build quality, high-spec furnishings, good food and excellent service it generally succeeds – even if, at times, we find its assortment of design styles rather motley. The camp does have access to some good wildlife areas though, and a good selection of knowledgeable guides, so if you can look past some questionable design choices it makes for a very good stay.

Geographics

Location: South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Ideal length of stay: We recommend a two or three night stay at Puku Ridge. Consider combining this with its sister camp in the Lower Zambezi National Park – Zambezi Kulefu Camp.

Directions: After being met at Mfuwe Airport, it is approximately three hours' game-drive transfer through South Luangwa National Park to Puku Ridge.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Sanctuary Lodges

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: Unlike most camps in the South Luangwa, Puku Ridge has indivual dining rather than communal dining. This provides you with more flexibility over your meal times, and is perfect if you want to stick to you own company, or that of the group you are with.

In the morning staff will typically bring you your choice of tea or coffee, along with some biscuits, with your morning wake up call. A simple continental breakfast is then available in the main area from 05:30 with cereals, fruits, porridge, toast, ham and cheese being available. This is then followed by a full cooked breakfast if you are still hungry.

Lunch is available from 11 and is one of two options from the menu (one of which typically being vegetarian) which is chosen before you head out on your morning activity. On our last visit in June 2015 we had thai fishcakes as a starter, lamb koftas as a main with a mint and yoghurt sauce and a beetroot and feta salad. For desert we had a tasty cherry parfait.

Similarly for dinner you have a choice of two options, chosen before you head out on your afternoon activity. We chose to have the minestrone soup to start, the oxtail with rice and assorted vegetables for the main, and cheese and biscuits as a desert.

All of the food we had here was very tasty and attractively presented, and was also sensibly portioned, so we weren’t left feeling hungry or over-fed.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: A stay at Puku Ridge would include most drinks. Premium brand whiskies and spirits would incur and additional charge.

Further dining info: It’s flexible where you can eat your meals in the main area, whether it’s under the main area or on the verandah. It’s also possible to dine on the private decks of some of the rooms, but not others, depending on accessibility for waiters.

Special interests

Solo Travel: For a stylish place to stay in a great wildlife area without single supplement, consider Puku Ridge Camp in the South Luangwa National Park. The lodge organizes day and night drives into the park and their small group activities are great for solo travellers.

See more ideas for Solo Travel in Zambia

Children

Attitude towards children: Children over the age of 6 are welcome at Puku Ridge. Meals times are flexible which works well for families with younger children and the camp is currently working on a children’s menu. That said this is a luxury camp, as is largely one for older children or adults.

Property’s age restrictions: The minimum age at Puku Ridge is 6 years.

Special activities & services: None

Infrastructure

Power supply: Mains Electricity

Power supply notes: The camp is on mains electricity and plug sockets are available in the rooms for charging 24 hours a day. There are also hairdryers supplied in each of the bathrooms. The camp also has a power generator in case of power outage.

Communications: There is cell phone reception at the camp. If you need to used your phone we ask that you do so in your rooms only so as to not disturb other guests in the camp. There is also Wifi available in the main area, which can sometimes be picked up in the two rooms either side.

TV & radio: The camp is in the bush so there are no TVs or radios here.

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: All of the bathrooms are plumbed in with flushing toilets and showers with hot water always available. Water from the borehole that has been filtered is provided as drinking water in all of the rooms, although bottled water is readily available if you prefer.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: As animals sometimes pass though 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.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included.

Money: There is an electronic safe in each of the rooms. There are no currency exchange facilities available on site.

Accepted payment on location: Any additional charges can be settled in Kwacha, US Dollars and travellers cheques. The camp also accepts Visa, Mastercard and American Express.

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