Reviews of Puku Ridge
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Wonderful, intimate place
After staying in a couple of larger places, it was a nice change to come to Puku Ridge, where there are only a few rooms, making the overall experience there much quieter and restful.
The view over the flood plain was a highlight, with so many animals to see just from our dining table or private deck off our room/tent! The food was delicious and so special mention of the chef, William, who always checked in after every meal to see if it had been to our liking and who went out of his way to share a copy of a soup recipe I particularly liked.
We were given two special experiences while here - first, one evening our guide brought us to the top of a ridge where other staff had set up chairs and a bar and were waiting to serve us champagne as the sun went down (we had sundowners with the guide on other evenings but this one was "white tablecloth" level).
Second, on our final night, our guide brought us to a site where other staff had set up a BBQ and fire pit and lanterns. Here we shared a meal of Zambian food with the other guests staying at the camp. The surprise element of both these experiences and the care that went into executing them made them very special. This care and attention to detail characterized everything at Puku Ridge.
Pleasant stay at Puku Ridge
On the Expert Africa website the description at the top of the page says Puku Ridge has 6 tents, but then says 7 tents further down ( which is correct). I understand the comments they make on the website about the decor, but improvements have been made - for example there are no chrome bar stools - they are wooden now .There are still 3 chrome side tables they could get rid of though
Furniture is a bit hotch potch but OK , and I can't say it bothered me personally but just thought I'd update the description FYI.
There was a very nice deck around a tree overlooking the floodplain - where we usually took our meals.
Very comfy beds
Robe and slippers
Wake up call 5:30 with Tea in room
Breakfast ( hot or cold) 6am
Game drive 6:30 tea at 9:00 return by 10:00
Game drive 4 - 7:30 with sundowners en route
Leaves 10:00-16:00 doing nothing though.
Might be better to go out at 6am, have snack breakfast enroute so could stay out longer ?
Transfer time from the airport according to EA is 3 hrs but it only took us 1.5 hrs and we drove through the river instead of taking the pontoon which was fun, but also indicates how much the river had dropped which isn't good for the animals.
Facilities- Mains electricity , hot and cold running water all times , hairdryer in room , floor fan
There is even a little gym box with a yoga mat and some light weights in it !
Unfortunately, I was rather ill for most of my time at Puku Ridge and I only have the notes I made on arrival to refer to.
The food that I saw seemed very good - probably the best of our trip and the staff were absolutely lovely . Personally, we didn't take to the manager during our stay who was called Evidence - but maybe that was just us. I was told by other guests that the other manager ( Levies) was away and they felt it changed the atmosphere of the place.
Our guide was Lamek ? ( apologies if misspelled but I was rather ill) He was very good and really knew his stuff .
Unfortunately, we saw no lions at all at Puku Ridge , but that's the luck of the draw
Prior to our trip I had read many reviews saying how fantastic the game viewing was - so we were just a little unlucky, I suppose.
We did however see a leopard kill from start to finish , which was amazing.
Lamek then played a little trick on us and told us that after he sees a kill, he gets sad and just has to go back to camp immediately.
We said "Okay" - and he drove off - only to take us to a hilltop where a champagne sundowner had been set up for and the other couple staying at Puku Ridge. It was a fantastic end to our visit.
The view of the floodplain from camp was great and if I hadn't visited anywhere else I would think it was the bees knees .
I think if the place you stay has a view of water , it automatically makes it more attractive.
We usually saw puku ( of course), zebra, warthogs, impala, baboons.
However , the subsequent camps we stayed at I found to have better views . The water hole in front of Puku Ridge was reduced to a muddy puddle which was neither attractive or of much use to the animals.
I can thoroughly recommend Puku Ridge , but I have to say it wasn't my favourite place out of the three camps in South Luangwa
Puku Ridge review
A little harder to get to, Puku is its own oasis in the middle of Luangwa. Absolutely stunning set up, beautiful tents, main lodge and decks overlooking the river plain. In our case, the plain was dry, but the watering hole out front keeps animals around. And they are definitely around.
For our honeymoon, we would choose Puku. Candlelight meals, impeccable food and service, but not much else to do with teenage boys. It was fun for two days, but longer would have been a challenge. Still, Levies and our guide, Alick, were top notch, and the game viewing was simply stunning.
5 star look and feel
Beautiful setting against an open plain where puku,impala, elephants, baboons, zebra and giraffes frequently graze and take advantage of the small bit of remaining water. The bar/dining/sitting area is inviting. I particularly loved the wicker swings and circular chaise to curl up and watch animal life. They also have wifi in that main area so it gave me an opportunity to share my experience with friends.
The room is equally nice. I was in buffalo. The room is huge with amazing views of the plain. The outdoor shower is totally open to the wild life. I was able to watch a group of 8 elephants, a number of baboons and puku close up from my shower on one of my two days. It was the best of the 3 showers across my lodges for its feel and view. The room also has a large tub inside with a similar view but protected by screen. I meant to try it but ran out of time. The decor was inviting. The veranda was also fantastic with similar views to the main area and more or less spanned the entire room. The furniture was comfortable too. A nice plus that the others didn't offer was the shower cap and slippers.
The manager, Evidence, Limbi and the rest of the staff were extremely attentive, warm and professional. I appreciated that the primary guest facing people were local Zambians as the other lodges often seem compelled to hire foreign young white people to tend to the guests. I arrived with a cold and the staff were most accommodating including making me some special concoction of ginger and honey to try to soothe my throat. Unfortunately, as a result of being sick, I didn't get to have as much of their delectable cuisine due to lack of appetite. Unlike other lodges, puku ridge gives guests a choice of starter, main and desert as well as custom ordered hot breakfast. Tea break and sundowners are similar to the others. The food was top notch.
My drives at puku were okay. I had Elias one day and evening. He was very good and tried hard to have me see my priority animals. Elijah took care of me for a night drive and a transfer. While nice, he didn't seem to be as good about soliciting input/questions, finding animals not coincidentally next to the car or stopping for extended periods. It required me being a bit more assertive to ensure a good drive.
Reasons to stay: seeking more flexibility, quality time with a significant other or family (rooms are romantic and meals are not eaten as a group) , good game area, top notch food, romantic setting/room, demand high level of service and personal attention, seeking R&R.
Great game viewing from the camp
There were a lot of things to like about Puku Ridge. The location is great and the animal viewing from the camp is the best I've ever seen, we even had 2 honey badgers go past one evening. The rooms were lovely with indoor and outdoor showers and a nice day bed on the veranda for siesta time animal viewing. The food is excellent, and some people will like having a choice of meals (although I'm personally not bothered).
My guide Lameck was very enthusiastic and even took us out straight after lunch one day to follow up a tip off about wild dogs which I was keen to see. No luck, but it was much appreciated that he put in the effort. The managers were also very friendly and professional, especially Claire, and they quite sensitively allocated a very hardcore birding couple their own vehicle.
The main thing I didn't warm to was the lack of communal dining which, as a solo traveller, I really missed. I was sat with another solo lady but it would have been nice to have managers or guides join us for at least some meals. I realise not everyone likes communal dining, but other camps seemed able to accommodate those who requested separate seating.
I also prefer vehicles with no canopies, as at the RPS camps and Tafika, but again that is a personal preference.
Puku Ridge safari
Puku Ridge camp was very comfortable, the most spacious and luxurious safari accommodation we have experienced. The staff were extremely welcoming. We were the only guests so we had their very personal and undivided attention, but missed the contact with other guests that is part of the experience. Our guide on the game drives was excellent and very informative on details.
Overall the game did not live up to what we had experienced on previous days staying in the northern part of the South Luangwa Park, which had been exceptional. We saw two pairs of lions (one pair male, the other female), a leopard in a tree towards dusk and on another occasion on the ground at night, and 2 male giraffes fighting, as well as many hippos.
Puku Ridge review
We enjoyed the fact that this was the only Lodge run entirely by Zambian nationals, and that they were making an excellent job of doing so.
Our Guide was not as personable or as knowledgeable as the others we dealt with, but the room and meal quality andservice was impeccable.
The setting of the Lodge was wonderful, but the overall number and variety of the animals and birds seen was perhaps a little less than our experience of Flatdogs and Lion
Cannot fault them. A bit strange the absence of women on the staff (at least they were not visible) but this was not a problem.
Loved the lunch in the bush.