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:
South Luangwa National Park , Zambia|www.robinpopesafaris.net|
Official star rating:
Robin Pope Safaris has been operating in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park for more than 30 years – and understands what is essential to a great safari (friendly staff, superb guiding, good food and lodging) and what is not (western luxuries).
Nkwali, one of Pope’s three South Luangwa camps, has six comfortable, rustic thatch and bamboo rooms, all with stunning views over the Luangwa River.
There’s fantastic wildlife in the area, from leopards, lions and elephants to unusual birds (including the Pel’s Owl). Sadly though, there’s no rhino in the South Luangwa; they have been poached out.
While the camp does have little treats, such as a swimming pool, riverside bar, and meals served in the bush, it isn’t a designer retreat – you’re here for the experience rather than the creature comforts.
Game & game viewing
This area heaves with big game (except rhino). In the green (rainy) season, about 450 birds can be seen, including the rare Pel’s Fishing Owl. Good wildlife sightings are guaranteed. It’s rare for guests to leave Nkwali without seeing a leopard.
Their walking safaris are renowned – particularly with Robin Pope (who, despite retiring, still works as a private guide – and is known as one of the best in Africa).
Many camps have to close during the rains; Nkwali doesn’t, and offers adventurous boating safaris, to spot game from the water. A particularly good time for birders, too. Because Nkwali is just outside the national park (where night drives banned), it can offer them – for spotting leopard, aardvark, porcupine and little creatures such as bush babies and genets.
Guides & guiding
Robin has trained guides for decades – which is why his are among the best on the continent: knowledgeable, friendly, kind and bush-savvy.
More than three-quarters of the guides come from local Kawaza Village, where RPS also funds the school. Guests can visit and even stay overnight, a unique experience to Nkwali.
Taking the kids
They welcome children over the age of 7. Excellent safari for children; as well as track-identifying, bird walks and spotlight night drives, there are trips to the local school – and even overnight stays in a hut.
Guests fly into Mfuwe Airport from Lusaka (90 minutes). They’ll collect you from there – it’s then a 40-minute drive through a colourful village and game-viewing areas to the camp.
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Food & drink
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