Wilderness Safaris' Shumba Camp, Busanga Plains, Kafue National Park, Zambia
“Good mahniing!” The lilting wake-up call emerges from the darkness. It is cold in the pre-dawn of the Busanga Plains, and we emerge from our thick and cosy blankets to a tent that is open-fronted and chilly. From the marsh in front of our villa, unseen hippos chuckle at our predicament. Fortunately, the shower is piping hot, and we fill the tent with steam as the light begins to lift outside.
And what a sunrise it is…
The Busanga Plains are heavy with mist this morning, and the grazing puku and lechwe are hazy silhouettes against the purple dawn. From our deck, we watch the shrouded plains come alive as antelope, buffalo and birds rouse from their slumber.
Eventually, a blood-red African sun bursts through the haze and the mist begins to lighten. It is time to go on a game drive …
Shumba Camp is one of two camps operated by Wilderness Safaris in Busanga Plains, Kafue National Park, the other being Busanga Bush Camp or “BBC”. We are reliably informed Shumba is considered the slightly more luxurious and exclusive of the two ;)
We have previously stayed at a number of Wilderness Safaris camps in Namibia and they were all first rate and highly enjoyable destinations (Hoanib being of particular note) so we were pleased to find one of their camps in Kafue National Park.
All camps in Busanga Plains share a bush air strip which was a one hour and twenty minute flight on board our chartered Cessna 210 from Lusaka. Travel time from the strip to Shumba will vary throughout the year based on the water levels and accessibility by vehicle. In our case, it was a short drive (including a sighting of two cheetah males relaxing after a recent kill), a short mokoro trip (Zambian canoe), followed by a further short drive. Total from strip to reception, ignoring photo and wildlife opportunities, was a bit over one hour.
The camp is built on raised foundations and walk ways, so there is no mud or dirt to contend with and movement is considerably safer (in terms of unexpected animal encounters) than might otherwise be the case.
This is particularly helpful given the fact there are two unofficial resident male buffalos who have made a home for themselves in the middle of the camp. They return each evening (unless of course a cat is in visitation) and nest amongst the trees and bushes. They are largely, typically, grumpy buffalos if a little older and slower than many. But as you remain raised above them at all times there is no risk of confrontation.
As mentioned however cats and other wildlife can visit the camp from time to time. Just three nights prior to our arrival a leopard had brought its kill into camp, climbed on the camp managers tent roof, then place its kill in the tree above. It spent the next three days regularly returning to feast, spending one of those nights sleeping literally in the entrance way to said camp managers tent!
The potential for wildlife visits means that during the evening all movement around the camp is escorted.
The camp has six twin/double tents plus one family tent (which caters for a family of four).
Our favourite tent was number 4 (see below for room photos), which looks directly out over the plain and the stunning sunrise. We were lucky enough to enjoy thick morning mist over the plain providing spectacular views and photo opportunities at sunrise.
As a luxury African safari facility, the tents are permanent structures with canvas shells. They include running hot and cold water through beautiful copper fittings, both an indoor and outdoor shower (the outdoor shower looks like it is a bucket shower, but that is just for decoration, it is in fact plumbed), a flushing toilet, power, etc, though no wifi nor phone access. Throughout the day the wall flaps are rolled up, with just the mesh between you and the wilderness.
A stay at Shumba is on a full board basis (including most alcoholic drinks, including spirits).
Food was plentiful and of a very high standard.
Meals are designed around wildlife viewing activities and are completely flexible. A light breakfast with porridge, toast, cereal and fruit is made available prior to your morning game drive.
Upon returning to the camp brunch is served, which is literally a combination of breakfast and lunch. A cooked breakfast centred around eggs served your way are enjoyed along with more lunch like elements such as Colonial Pie, honey and soy chicken and supporting salads.
High tea is served just prior to your afternoon game drive and dinner will be ready to go when you return.
The staff, as always, are what makes or breaks an accommodation option, and the team at Shumba really do make your stay. They are all super friendly and willing to help at every opportunity. The Guides are very experienced and knowledgable and will do what is necessary to ensure your visit to Busanga Plains is a highly memorable experience.
In terms of wildlife viewing, the Busanga Plains are rich with a diverse range of animals, though South Lungwe and Lower Zambezi produced even higher density on our visits. Hippos in particular dominate the water ways of the Plains.
Night game drives are offered in addition to your regular morning and afternoon expeditions. There is also plenty of wildlife viewing from the camp itself if you prefer to stay home.
We would highly recommend a visit to Busanga Plains be included in any Zambia trip, and while there we suggest Shumba is the only accommodation option to consider.
P.S. We fully intend to enjoy even more Wilderness Safaris have to offer when we venture to Botswana and South Africa in the not too distant future.