It was already well into the evening when I arrived at Kuyenda, a remote bush camp in the South Luangwa National Park. It was my first destination in the park, at the end of a lengthy journey from the United States, and the start of my maiden safari. I immediately felt transported to a timeless Africa I had expected to be long vanished, other than in my imagination! The camp was nestled in a grove of giant trees, facing a grassy meadow that gently sloped down about three hundred feet to the edge of the Manzi River. It consisted of four spacious guest rondavels, traditional South African circular huts built entirely of local wood, reed and thatch. They were clustered around a thatch-roofed, open-wall dining and lounge area. The entire camp was bathed in the soft glow of oil lanterns, as was the long dinner table invitingly set at the edge of the dry riverbed. The darkness echoed with a rich cacophony of sounds that hinted at abundant wildlife nearby.
Overlooking a tranquil oxbow lagoon, the luxurious Mfuwe Lodge was one of only two permanent, year-round lodges within the 3,500 square miles of pristine wilderness of the South Luangwa National Park. In addition to the large lobby and reception area, the striking open-plan main lodge housed a lounge, bar and dining room under a soaring thatched roof. The space was anchored at both ends by spectacular matching stone fireplaces. A wide boma (timber deck on stone pillars) overlooked the lagoon, as did the swimming pool. Both were ideal spots to enjoy the constant parade of game that visited the lagoon.
The South Luangwa National Park is a 3,500 square mile stretch of pristine wilderness hidden away in the north-eastern corner of Zambia. The eastern border of the park follows the Luangwa River as it makes its convoluted way toward the Zambezi, leaving behind a patchwork of oxbow lakes and lagoons. According to experts, this remote valley, with its ruggedly varied landscape of savanna and forest, has one of the highest concentrations of game in Africa. It is host to approximately 60 animal and 400 bird species, including most of the Big Five.
The common areas at the Chichele Presidential Lodge were beautifully appointed, combining European flair with classic African design. They were open, airy spaces overlooking the African bush that undulates over rolling hills finally giving way to a river in the distance. Chichele is located on a hilltop above the Luangwa river bottoms, which are teaming with wildlife. Evening meals were exceptional, served out under the stars on a patio situated near the swimming pool. The patio provided a quiet, private, and intimate setting. We especially enjoyed the candle light dinner for two with a dedicated waiter who served our table only. On our second night, the evening meal was an excellent Bra i (barbeque) served at a banquet style table. The service was attentive, helpful and gracious.
Located within the borders of South Luangwa National Park, Puku Ridge Tented Camp had a traditional safari feel with modern comforts and amenities. Each tent was built on a concrete slab for a sturdy yet sophisticatedly rustic feel. The décor was simple and romantic, highlighting a beautiful sunken bathtub. The camp was situated on a ridge overlooking the African veldt (a field), which had abundant wildlife and beautiful sunrises in the mornings. Because the camp was inside park borders, animals wandered through as they pleased.
Victoria Falls is in the northwest corner of Zambia.