The Bushcamp Company's Chamilandu Camp, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
“Aiii! Look, look! This is amazing!! Take many photos! Take many many photos!” The command is superfluous, but our guides enthusiasm is infectious. The reason for his excitement – a large bull elephant we have been observing for the last half hour has finally decided the time is right and has mounted a female. Seeing the deed in elephants is apparently a rare sighting, and we have a prime viewing position from just a short distance away. We snap away with our long lenses with a rather impolite disregard for elephantine privacy. Our guide, almost as excited as the elephant, and also a keen photographer, grabs his camera for his own highlights reel. The act is logistically impressive, but is over in a short time, and the elephants unromantically go back to munching on the grass.
“Aiiii! This is terrible, terrible!” Startled, we look around to see what has upset our guide. The elephants look fine, as does all the other wildlife around us. But our guide is not looking at the wildlife, he is looking at the LCD of his camera. Despairingly he curses ISO, and we soon realise the cause of his distress – his camera was still set for the previous evening's night photography, and his super-high ISO has meant that all his mating elephant photos are white-out over-exposures. He shakes his head at his mistake, tsk-tsking his folly, but soon returns to his jovial self: “Now, should we go and find those leopards?” …
The Bushcamp Company have six small, exclusive camps throughout the South Luangwa National Park. They also have their main lodge based just inside the National Park border, Mfuwe Lodge.
Chamilandu is the most recently established camp and it is the most exclusive with only three rooms (catering for a maximum of just six people in camp at any one time).
The camp is right on the shore of the Luangwa River. When it was built it was a little more removed, but erosion has brought the river edge right to the camp (don’t worry, the feeling is the erosion on that side of the river has halted, at least for now).
The camp has a large communal area including a well stocked, self-serve bar, lounges and dining area. The floor is well manicured sand (raked multiple times a day) providing a relaxed feel.
Just outside the main communal area are additional sitting areas, one used for high tea, the other for breakfast (encircling a warming, early morning fire).
The rooms are stilted tree houses each with a small reception area, a large main bed and sitting room, a substantial bathroom and a large verandah looking out over the Luangwa River. As suggested, the rooms are villas, not tents. Modern materials are used throughout including wood impression floor boards. Some might not like the fact non-natural materials have been used in such a setting. But to be honest it works well, and means the villas are just that little more clean, comfortable and durable.
The front of the villa in both the bedroom and the bathroom can be completely opened via folding doors, genuinely making you part of the park. The offer of leaving them open at night is made, though we were never quite that brave (apparently the lions and leopards don't climb the stairs, but who's to say they won't learn)!
The bathroom enjoys two shower heads and two basins plus a spectacular view thanks to that open front.
During the day the rooms are as light and airy as they get. At night, lighting is provided via solar powered lamps. Your room won’t be bright in the evening, but they get the job done in an efficient, emission free manner.
Of note, the top of the external walls, where they meet the roof, are open, with no mesh. This adds to the airy feel and obviously it has been assessed that bugs and creepy crawlies are not a major problem in that location. But that isn’t to say that you won’t get the occasional visitor to your room (in our case a few frogs and a bat).
Water is sourced from a bore and we were advised is suitable for consumption but filtered water is provided as an alternative regardless.
Unfortunately charging is not possible in the rooms, instead a charging station is provided in the main lounge. There is of course no wifi nor phone coverage.
The honeymoon room has an additional secluded outdoor lounge area accessed via a raised walkway (effectively an extension of the verandah). It provided us with an exclusive view of an elephant family who came nearby the camp.
The camp has a rather sophisticated hide available to all. It includes an undercover lounge area, open viewing platform and underneath a secluded, discrete viewing deck putting you at eye level with the animals (you can even lay on the floor, point your camera through the flexible mesh and achieve that super low perspective many professional photographers endure much worse to achieve).
The Head Chef at the time of our visit was George. Our understanding is he is the most senior and experienced chef throughout the group. Suffice to say, his food was amazing and really adds that extra something to your visit. Luckily one of the reasons to stay with The Bushcamp Company is the guided walks, which you may well need them after enjoying a little too much of George’s creations.
The camp manager and head guide is Fanuel. He is a lovely chap and goes above and beyond to ensure your stay is a memorable one. On our arrival we informed Fanuel that despite a number of visits to Africa, we had still yet to see leopards on the continent and that we were hopeful our luck would soon change (given the reputation of the Park for great leopard viewing). Fanuel took the challenge head on, vigilantly seeking out our prize, finally securing us two separate sightings with perfect photo opportunities.
Between Fanuel, George and all the smiling, friendly support crew, you will want for nothing and am certain of sadness upon your eventual departure.
The camp is approximately one hours drive from Mfuwe Lodge (if you went direct and didn’t stop for animal sightings, much, much longer if you do). It is about 30 minutes from the lodge to Mfuwe Airport. And it is a one hour 20 minute flight from the capital Lusaka.