The Bushcamp Company's Bilimungwe Camp, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Up since 0530, and post-prandial after a delicious lunch, a midday siesta sounds like an excellent plan. But it is not to be at Bilimungwe. The watering hole below our balcony is a veritable National Geographic documentary. The hippopotamus has been there since we have arrived, languid and large. The baboon family circle the edges, ripping up water cabbage and frolicking in the green water. The warthogs arrive and cavort delightedly in the silty mud, while a water monitor slides into the shallows with a splash. Terapins emerge and bask balanced on exposed logs. A giraffe comes to bend gracefully and drink with long throaty gulps, then departs briefly before returning to drink some more. And then the elephants come… one at first and then the whole family, crashing down the banks, stomping in the mud, creating new channels wherever they desire. They snort water and throw mud, slapping the clay over their hides, but when this is not sufficient, they lay down and roll, creating tsunamis of sloshing water. A baby elephant, not more than a few months old, struggles to climb the bank at the edge of the pond – two aunties rush over and assist with their trunks, levering him up and over, and he trumpets as he returns to his mother to suckle at her muddy teat. A thousand photos later, we finally lay aside our cameras to just relax and enjoy the show. So much for the siesta…
The Bushcamp Company have six small, upmarket camps in the southern sector of South Luangwa National Park, in addition to their larger lodge based just inside the National Park border, Mfuwe Lodge. Our second camp was the delightful Bilimungwe.
All of The Bushcamp Company camps are designed to be intimate, sleeping just six to eight guests. On this occasion, our party of three were, by chance, the sole occupants at Bilimungwe for the duration of our stay, for a truly exclusive experience.
We left our previous camp, Chamilandu, just after sunrise, for a famed South Luangwa walking safari. Paw-prints, droppings, the trail of a large snake and the drag-marks from a kill - our guide and our scout had us attuned to the signs of the wildlife all around us as we traversed the savannah. Eventually we came to a clearing, where our team from Chamilandu surprised us with a delectable lunch of make-your-own pizza (complete with wood-fired pizza oven), with some of the best pizza dough we have ever tasted.
After lunch, we continued our journey to Bilimungwe, with leopards, giraffe and elephants en route. While Chamilandu is open and expansive, facing a scenic stretch of the Luangwa River, Bilimungwe feels more cosy, nestled in a grove of huge mahogany and winterthorn trees. The four cottages are raised on stilts and constructed of wood, reeds and thatch. Externally they blend seamlessly with the natural environment, while inside they are warm yet luxurious.
But the true highlight of Bilimungwe is its waterholes. While being led to our room, I was briefly saddened that our room didn't face the waterhole, before realising our room actually had a waterhole all of its own, right under our balcony. Each of Bilimungwe's three permanent waterholes are a mecca for all the surrounding wildlife. From the lounge chairs on the deck or the beautiful outdoor shower, it is possible to view a never-ending procession of animals large and small as they come to drink, eat, wash and play.
The camp has four chalets each catering for two (two are doubles and two are twins). All look out over at least one of the three water holes located at the camp.
Rooms have an open plan indoor bathroom (which arguably makes them less desirable for sharing non-couples), plus an outdoor shower on the balcony.
The camp is an approximate two hour thirty minute drive from Mfuwe Lodge (if you went direct and didn’t stop for animal sightings; much, much longer if you do). It is around 30 minutes from the lodge to Mfuwe Airport. The flight from Lusaka is around one hour 20 minutes.
Water is from a bore and we were advised is okay to drink. Filter water is provided as an alternative regardless.
Charging is not possible in the rooms, instead a charging station is provided in the main lounge.