Renowned safari journalist and expert Lisa Grainger recommends her favourite African camps, from savannahs teeming with Big Five, to star-lit desert wildernesses.
Recommended place to stay:
Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia|www.chiawa.com|
Official star rating:
This classic tented safari camp is on one of the loveliest and most game-rich spots on the Zambezi River. It’s owned by the Cumings – one of the first families to live in this area and highly respected for their standards of service and conservation.
The tents are among the most spacious, comfortable and luxurious in Africa, with treats such as river views from both bed and bath. The double-storey thatched bar deck offers some of the most beautiful views, and is a wonderful place to watch elephants swim while sipping a G&T. Sunsets on the Zambezi are spectacular, as are the stars.
The Zambezi is still wild and very beautiful, and Chiawa is scenically located right on its shores.
Game & game viewing
This is one of the best places in Africa to see game from the water: elephant, buffalo, hippo and dinosaur-sized crocodiles. The surrounding national park also teems with game – day and night – and the birdlife is wonderful. Even if you’re not a twitcher, paddle downriver on a canoe to see everything from red-breasted carmine bee-eaters to great goliath herons.
See it all by canoe, riverboat, game drive and bush walk. The team of guides is extremely professional and knowledgeable and has won the Best Guides in Africa award.
The fishing is fantastic here – from fighting tiger fish to 40kg vundu catfish. The wily and strong tiger fish, a cross between a trout and piranha with ferocious-looking sharp teeth that shred most fishing lines, is an irresistible challenge for any angler. It’s offered all year round, but best late-Agust to mid-November.
Local conservation & community
More than three-quarters of all staff are local, and trained to help in conservation education elsewhere in the area. The Cumings family has been involved in conservation, education, Aids prevention and community projects for decades. The camp annually raises money for conservation, school uniforms, educational tools and subsidised guide training – one of the reasons it wins Best Guides in Africa awards.
Taking the kids
Children over 8 are welcome; it is very wild here though, so children have to be strictly supervised. Children may join in their parents’ activities, as well as spending time in the camp, learning about tracks, plants, insects and fish. Canoeing and walking safaris are restricted to those over 12.
The camp is a 30-minute flight from Lusaka, then an 80-minute game drive from Jeki airstrip – or a three-hour drive then a two-hour boat trip on the Zambezi.
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