For those looking for a truly authentic safari, staying at a remote bush camp is hard to beat.
Traditionally simple affairs, bush camps have evolved somewhat in the 21st century but the core experience remains the same; take a top local guide, find a spot amongst wildlife rich wilderness far away from humanity, pitch a tent (or nowadays, have someone else do this for you), enjoy al fresco dining, a roaring fire and a healthy supply of drinks and immerse yourself in nature for a several days of pure bliss.
As a pioneer of this concept, Zambia remains the destination to enjoy a bush camp and it seems the readers of Condé Nast Traveler agree. Chindeni, in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, stands proudly at Number 5 amongst the ‘Top Resorts in Africa: Readers' Choice Awards 2018’, surrounded by luxury lodges that charge four times as much for a nightly stay.
Located on the banks of the Chayumba Lagoon in the southern section of the park, frequented by wildlife all year round, Chindeni has four spacious canvas tents raised on wooden decks with stunning views towards the Chindeni Hills.
The camp is owned and run by The Bushcamp Company who have successfully managed to merge the historic bush camp impression with modern comfort. The result is a crisp, clean, safari- chic design that utilises green technology to appease both the fashionista and the eco-warrior.
It can be hard to escape the wonderfully relaxing vibe where many an hour is passed swinging in a hammock watching a herd of elephants, amongst others, drinking and playing in the lagoon’s valuable waters.
However, Chindeni does have some top-drawer professional guides on hand to take you further afield for some more serious safari viewing. Aside from the traditional day and night game drives, the latter of which the South Luangwa has an enviable reputation, walking safaris are a core staple in these parts.
Usually conducted in the cooler morning hours, these slow-paced nature strolls aim to highlight the smaller and more subtle elements of the African bush.
Your guide may, for instance, teach you how to detect an elephant’s gender from its dung, which trees and plants can provide clean drinking water and nutritious food sources, the tracks of the local lion pride and what they were hunting the evening prior.
You also witness the antics of nature’s smaller animals, such as the inner workings of an active termite mound or a dung beetle rolling its latest build.
As always, responsible tourism is a key factor in determining any worthwhile operation. The Bushcamp Company is fantastic in this regard, having supported schools in deprived rural areas; building them, purchasing equipment and sponsoring students as well as providing over 2,000 nutritious school meals a day.
In 2014, they started a Clean Water Fund that aims to provide safe, clean, reliable tap water to all communities in the surrounding area and are also involved in tree-planting projects and the funding of several wildlife research projects within the park.
Like most bush camps, Chindeni’s more remote, exclusive location requires a certain level of determination to access. The reward is a safari where it is quite possible not to see another soul for the duration of your stay.
The most common entrance is to fly from Lusaka International Airport to Mfuwe International Airport, then a 3.5 hour game drive transfer through the park to Chindeni.
There are also airstrips close to the camps, which service private charters only. For the more active, and for those with a bit more time, it is possible to link Chindeni with the Bushcamp Company’s other properties in the park and walk between them – a true safari adventure!
Note that many bush camps are seasonal with Chindeni operating between 5th May – 1st December each year. If you would like to discuss fabulous bush camps in Zambia please feel free to get in touch.
Images kindly supplied courtesy of Chindeni Bushcamp and the Bushcamp Company