Stay Longer, Stay Remoter: Remote Africa Safaris
One of the hallmarks of the safari experience is “remoteness.” In many of Africa’s wildernesses, it can seem like safari-goers have it all to themselves. The areas that offer this kind of exclusivity not only enhance the thrills and wonders of the safari experience, but can also allay concerns from those about their health.
A low density of people combined with longer stays can help minimize any health risks. By staying at fewer lodges and camps for longer durations, safari-goers can minimize in-transit health risks.
Now, we’ll explore a collection of camps in Zambia’s North Luangwa National Park, South Luangwa National Park, and Bengweulu Swamp. For those who want an adventurous, no-frills safari, these are the camps for you!
South Luangwa National Park
The Legacy of Norman Carr
Few parks and people are as inextricably linked as South Luangwa and Norman Carr. At the age of 23, Carr was appointed to the game and Tsetse Department of Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia) in 1935 as an elephant control officer.
Setting out alone for months, Carr walked through much of the country. This experience provided him the necessary knowledge to guide guests on walking safaris, set up the country’s first national parks and to personally train its rangers and wardens. It was also a sobering realization of the impoverishment so pervasive in the country.
Originally a hunter, Carr returned to Northern Rhodesia after serving in World War II a changed man. Observing the wildlife, not killing it, could be the attraction. With the local Kunda chief, he constructed a camp in the Luangwa Valley. In exchange for the right to lead his guests on walking safaris, Carr both employed locals and paid a concession fee to the chief. This was arguably the precursor to Africa’s modern day eco-tourism.
In 1960, Carr formed the Luangwa Valley National Park, and after retiring from the Game Department, set up his own camp within its borders. He would live their for the rest of his life, becoming known as the pioneer of walking safaris and a stalwart of Zambian conservation.
South Luangwa at a Glance
Today, South Luangwa is Zambia’s most visited national park. The park is dominated by the Luangwa River, which meanders across the wide valley floor. Annual flooding erodes the river banks, creating channels and ox-bow lagoons. When the river levels recede during the dry season, small islands surface to form land bridges for animals to cross.
The best area for game-viewing is in the park’s north, where the scattered trees and open plains allow large concentrations of plains game – and the predators that hunt them. Speaking of predators, South Luangwa’s riverine forests are arguably one of the best places in Africa to see leopard. Other notable predators include spotted hyena, lion, and wild dog.
South Luangwa is also an incredible place to see elephants, and especially to see them while crossing the Luangwa River! Because of their small stature, baby elephants often have to swim below water while holding their trunks up like a snorkel! Along the riverbanks, you will see plenty of hippos and crocodiles, and the occasional anxious animal coming down to drink, like giraffe, zebra, puku and wildebeest.
Split between both Central and Southern Africa, South Luangwa is also superb for birdwatching. The African Skimmer, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Western-Banded Snake Eagle, Yellow-Billed Stork, Crowned Crane, African Pitta, and Southern Carmine Bee-Eater are among the 450 species that can be seen here. The best time to see the Southern Carmine Bee-Eater is when they nest from September to October. Flocks of almost a hundred “paint the sky red” as they congregate along riverbanks to nest.
Though North Luangwa National Park is only about 10 miles away from South Luangwa, it almost seems like its a world away. However, this not because of any major ecological differences. Rather, it’s because, within an area slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island, there are merely a handful of camps – 2 of which are operated by Remote Africa Safaris.
In essence, North Luangwa is an even remoter, wilder version of South Luangwa National Park. The wildlife seen at North Luangwa is very similar to the South – with 2 notable exceptions.
First, you have a better chance of seeing black-maned lions in the North.
Second, only North Luangwa has black rhino. In 1998, black rhinos were declared extinct in all of Zambia. Since the turn of the century, conservation groups gradually translocated 25 black rhinos to the park’s Rhino Sanctuary. Since then, several calves have been born, and as they become more habituated to human presence, will become easier and easier to spot. To see these truly majestic animals is worth going the extra mile.
For the birding enthusiasts, there are also several notable species that can be seen in the North, but not the South Luangwa. Examples include the half-collared kingfisher, long-tailed wagtail, white-winged starling, yellow-throated longclaw and black-backed barbet.
The Bangweulu Wetlands are a must-see for bird enthusiasts. Designated as one of the world’s most important wetlands by the Ramsar Convention and an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, Bangweulu is a haven for over 400 bird species, especially waterbirds. It’s also the only place in Africa with a substantial population of black lechwe.
But the primary attraction is to search for the singular Shoebill by canoe. With less than 5000 adults left in the wild, the Shoebill is one of the world’s most vulnerable bird species in the world. There are a handful of places in Africa where safari-goers can see these “prehistoric-lookin” birds, but Bangweulu is indisputably the best.
One of the greatest appeals of a Remote Africa Safaris‘ camps is the diversity of activities available. Along with game drives, safari-goers may go on night drives, walking safaris, mountain biking, and visit a photographic hide during their stay.
Staying at a Remote Africa Safaris camp means that you’ll be in an open vehicle for all your game drives. Photographers and non-photographers alike can enjoy unobstructed views of the park’s wildlife in-action.
A major highlight of the South and North Luangwa experiences are night drives. As a rule of thumb, predators tend to be more active during the night. You’re also likely to bump into some nocturnal critters, including civets, porcupines, honey badgers, serval and owls.
With the exception of Shoebill Island Camp, all Remote Africa Safaris camp offer both day and night game drives.
For many, the idea of walking safari can be both thrilling – and a little bit scary. But here’s some important information to keep you at ease:
First, each walk is escorted by not only a licensed walking guide, but also an armed national parks’ game scout. They know which situations are ok, and which to avoid.
Second, you don’t require a high level of fitness. You will be walking at a leisurely pace on terrain that is rugged, but not steep.
Beyond the trill, walks are supremely educational. Walks are the best time for your guide to explain the little things and the things you often miss while on a game drive.
Depending on your preferences, you can either go on a walk as a half day activity, or if you’re particularly keen, go on an actual “walking safari.”
Remote Africa Safaris has it designed where guests begin and end their trip at a “base camp” (Tafika for South Luangwa and Mwaleshi or Takwela for North Luangwa). In between, guests will walk all-day from their base camp to a “fly camp” set out in the bush.
Just as one doesn’t require a high level of fitness for walking safaris, nor is it required for biking. At Remote Africa Safaris’ Tafika Camp (South Luangwa), guests have the option of biking along the Luangwa River’s floodplain. Or they can visit the local village where most of the camp’s staff resides.
There are certain spots where high animal activity is likely to occur, namely around waterholes. Remote Africa has 2 photographic hides, both located near Tafika Camp. The elephant hide is best accessed from August to November when elephants frequently visit the waterhole. The bee-eater hide is best accessed during the Southern Carmine Bee-Eater breeding season in the months of September and October.
Remote Africa Safaris Camps
All camps are accessible through road transfers or scheduled charter flights from Mfuwe Airstrip.
Tafika Camp has 6 thatched chalets, 2 of which are a family and honeymoon suite. This means the camp has a maximum capacity of merely 14 people. Each chalet is separated from each toher by at least 10 meters.
Families interested in bringing young children should be aware of the camp’s age requirements. No child under 6 years old may stay, while no child under 12 years may go on walking safaris.
Tafika Camp is owner-run whose staff strives to provide professional, yet informal service. The guiding is excellent, and with a 4 person per vehicle limit, each guest can pick their guide’s brain to their heart’s desire.
Each bed has a mosquito net. The bathroom is also outdoor, but directly connected to the chalet’s bedroom – enjoy the outdoor showers! The limited wi-fi is also perfect for those looking for a “digital detox.”
Chikoko Trails – Chikoko Tree Camp & Crocodile River Camp
Guest who desire to do a “true,” multi-day walking safari will stay at both Chikoko Tree Camp and Crocodile River Camp. Each camp has merely 3 chalets, meaning a maximum of 6 guests can stay at a time. The difference is that Chikoko Tree Camp’s chalets are elevated 3 meters above the ground. It’s a cool experience to be among the trees!
Like Tafika Camp, each of the Chikoko Trails camps have outdoor showers.
North Luangwa National Park
Located on the south bank of the Mwaleshi River, Mwaleshi Camp is your gateway to North Luangwa’s pristine wilderness.
The camp has allows up to 6 guests to stay within its 4 thatched chalets. This makes it a great option exclusive-use option for small groups!
Located not too far from Mwaleshi Camp near the confluence of the Mwaleshi and Luangwa Rivers is the newly built Takwela Camp.
The 4 chalets conform to the thatched, dressed-down style of Remote Africa Safaris’ other camps.
Bangweulu Swamp – Shoebill Island Camp
Starting next year, Remote Safaris will manage Shoebill Island Camp. The are within the Bangweulu Wetlands will continue to be managed by African Parks, who has an excellent track record of revitalizing downtrodden wildlife areas throughout Africa.
The 4 canvas tents have all the necessary comforts for those looking to spot a shoebill. With the Shoebill Guardian program (GPS tracking), guests have a very high chance to spot a shoebill on their trip, especially during their nesting season (June to October).
A visit to South Luangwa can easily be combined with other destinations in Zambia. If you would like to visit North Luangwa or Bengweulu Wetlands, contact one of AAC’s safari consultants to begin the planning process!