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Puku Ridge
Puku Ridge
Puku Ridge
Puku Ridge
Puku Ridge
Puku Ridge
Puku Ridge
Puku Ridge
Puku Ridge

Puku Ridge: Our full report

Set on the side of a rocky ridge, the smart, luxurious Puku Ridge is almost unique in the Luangwa Valley ...

... in having a little elevation, which gives its main areas and suites a stunning view from its vantage point over a vast grassy plain, often frequented by plentiful wildlife. To the north lies the relatively busy areas around Mfuwe, where the game is habituated and relaxed, but visitors more numerous; whilst to its south, the quieter roads are a little ‘less travelled’.

Away from the escarpment which lines the Luangwa Valley, there are few hills – and very few in what are now the prime game-viewing areas at the centre of the park, most likely accounting for the reason Zambia’s founding President, Kenneth Kaunda, chose the Chichele Hill for the location of his ‘Chichele Presidential Lodge’ in the early 1970s.

Built on the slopes of the opposite hills from the ‘Presidential Lodge’, Puku Ridge overlooks a large grassy plain which is usually frequented by scattered groups of the eponymous puku antelope and, between the two, they have some of the best views of any camp in the Luangwa Valley.

The camp underwent an impressive rebuild and renovation, and re-opened in late 2019 under new ownership, in part by the Cumings family, owners of Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro Camp in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Eight tented suites, all with either a super king bed or large twin beds, sit along the ridgeline of the hills, overlooking the plains.
The suites are elegantly designed, with beautiful attention to detail, like the contour lines of the local area etched into the headboards, and stunning black and white photos adorning the walls. With the style comes practicality: there’s an overhead fan inside the four-poster mosquito net, and air conditioning as well for the hotter months. USB sockets and reading lights are each side of the bed, and bedside tables with lamps, mosquito spray and insect repellent too.

A small seating area and drinks cabinet are to one side of the suite, with a tea and coffee station and well-stocked minibar.

Ensuite bathrooms each have a large bath, double sinks and both indoor and outdoor showers.

Screened sliding doors lead out to a multi-level outdoor deck has comfortable seating area and a private plunge pool, looking out across the vast flood plains. Each tented suite also has its own private star bed; an outdoor staircase winds up to the top of a small observation tower where a large bed is located, draped under a dark mosquito net, all the better to see the night sky above – though your bedroom is always made up and ready inside, in case of a change of heart!

The expansive main area stretches across split level decks, with a covered dining area, outdoor lounge areas, a lower ‘breakfast deck’ and a fire pit surrounded with comfortable directors’ chairs. Telescopes are available for viewing both stars and wildlife, and there’s a small library area with some informative wildlife books.

A gift shop sits to one side, and down some steps to the other end of the decking you’ll find a sunken viewing hide, looking out to the waterhole in front of camp.

Activities from Puku Ridge focus on day and night safari drives, with guided walking safaris also on offer.

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. The game drive areas are varied in this section of the park, with a mix of open plains and riverine grasslands, wooded with evergreen sausage trees, winterthorn, tamarind and dotted with baobab.


Our view

The accent at the old Puku Ridge was always firmly on the 'luxury' part of safari and while the camp is changed in many aspects, this element is still very much the same, but combined now with more respect for nature and a better game-viewing experience. Meanwhile every time we visit, we're reminded that looking over the Kakumbi Floodplain from camp gives Puku one of the best views in the valley.

Maruska AdyeRowe

Maruska AdyeRowe

Zambia expert

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 camps in the Lower Zambezi National Park – Old Mondoro or Chiawa.
Directions
From Mfuwe Airport, it is around a 90-minute drive through Mfuwe Village into the South Luangwa National Park and to Puku Ridge.
Accessible by
Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis
Full Board & Activities
Food quality
On our last stay in October 2022, as on previous occasions, the food was very good and the portions sensible, but not excessive. The team can also cater for a variety of dietary requirements, with advance notice.

A light breakfast is served around the campfire before the morning activity, which usually consists of toast, muffins, pancakes or pastries, cereal, yoghurt and porridge, along with tea, coffee and fresh fruit juice, plus the morning ‘special’ – on our last visit, we enjoyed French toast with bacon and banana.

Though we didn’t have the chance to experience brunch during our last visits, it’s usually a buffet along with an optional full English breakfast, served around midday once you've had some time to freshen up after your morning activity.

Afternoon tea is served before the afternoon activity, and usually involves a freshly baked sweet dish along with a savoury option.

Dinner is generally a four-course meal, with wine pairings. We enjoyed baked cheese and focaccia, then a delicious beef fillet served simply with grilled vegetables, though a vegetarian curry option was also on offer. We had a light fruit plater for dessert, though other guests enjoyed what looked to be a rather good chocolate mousse!
Dining style
Individual Tables
Dining locations
Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included
Tea, coffee, soft drinks and a selection of spirits and wines are included. Premium brand liqueurs and spirits incur an additional charge, and may need to be requested in advance.

Children

Attitude towards children
Children over the age of 12 are welcome at Puku Ridge.
Property’s age restrictions
The minimum age at Puku Ridge is 12 years.
Special activities & services
A pack is available for all guests, including children, which contains several useful spotting guides and a pair of binoculars. It’s possible for children to take part in short walks around camp, on request, but there are no specific activities for children.
Generally recommended for children
We recommend this camp for mature, well-behaved children over the age of 12.
Notes
Puku Ridge is an unfenced lodge, and dangerous wildlife often wanders through. The plunge pool are also not fenced. Children must be closely supervised by a parent or guardian at all times.

Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Puku Ridge

Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Puku Ridge 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.

Buffalo

100% success

Elephant

100% success

Giraffe

100% success

Hippo

100% success

Lion

100% success

Spotted Hyena

100% success

Zebra

100% success

Leopard

91% success

Wild dog

75% success

Wildebeest

63% success

Eland

14% success

Aardvark

0% success

Pangolin

0% success

Roan antelope

0% success

Sable antelope

0% success

Communications

Power supply notes
The camp is on mains electricity, and multiple international charging points are available in the rooms for charging 24 hours a day. There are limited 3-pin 240V plug sockets and USB charging points in the game drive vehicles. The camp also has a generator in case of power outage.
Communications
There is some cell phone reception at the camp, and complimentary WiFi is available in the suites and the main area, though the speed can be slow at times.
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, and each guests is given a personal water bottle for use during their stay, although bottled water is readily available if you prefer.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended
Yes
Medical care
Management staff are first-aid trained. The closest clinic is located in Mfuwe, a drive of a couple of hours. There is also a visiting doctor who is usually based at one of the safari lodges in the Mfuwe area.
Dangerous animals
High Risk
Security measures
As animals sometimes pass though the camp, guests will be escorted to their chalets and around camp after dark. There is a radio located in each suite in case of emergency.
Fire safety
Each of the suites has a fire extinguisher in case of fire, and further extinguishers are located throughout the camp and main area.

Activities

  • 4WD Safari

    4WD Safari

  • Birdwatching

    Birdwatching

  • Cultural excursion

    Cultural excursion

  • Guided walking safari

    Guided walking safari

  • Night drive

    Night drive

Extras

Disabled access
On Request
Laundry facilities
A full laundry service is included at Puku Ridge, and washing powder is provided in the bathroom to wash any delicate items.
Money
There is a small safe in each suite. No money-exchange facilities are offered.
Accepted payment on location
Payments for curios, spa treatments and any additional items can be made in cash using US dollars, and Zambia kwacha. Mastercard and Visa are also accepted for card payments, though not American Express.

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