It was an early start for my latest adventure driving from Lilongwe to Zambia for a stint in the valley to check out some new (to us) lodges and see some old friends! Arriving around lunchtime I dropped into Flatdogs Camp to say ‘hi!’. Inundated with tea and cake already this was going to be a week of feasting and it started now!
Jess took me off to see the incredible Croc Tent and Jackleberry Tree House (both great options for those with families or small groups). Both are far enough from the camp to feel intimate, but close enough it isn’t a hassle to get to the main areas. They can be combined for larger groups or kept separate.
After a quick chat, I was off to Mfuwe Airport to pick up a partner in crime – after all, even Batman has a sidekick! I met up with some of the guides and gave them a little gift for our lodge friends- We recognize all the hard work that our friends in the valley do, so we rounded up all of Malawi’s finest (gin, coffee, red wine -ok that’s not from Malawi- and chocolates). After all, it’s not like they can pop into the shops when they need a quick chocolate fix! Not all heroes wear capes!
After setting off from the airport and back to the park we went into the Nsefu sector to head to Tafika, stop number 1 on the itinerary. I think you all know by now I am not a safari guide but this was my friends first game drive so we made the most of it, stopping for huge herds of elephants, buffalo and of course the famous hungry hippos in the waterholes. If that wasn’t enough we were lucky enough to see one of the parks famous leopards-not bad for her first drive!
Tafika has a perfect location on the Luangwa River, we watched a stunning sunrise after waking up one morning to the sound of hippos within, after a quick bush breakfast we headed out on a wild walking safari to the Chikoko Trails Bush Camps. Known for their excellent walking safaris; in a part of the park with no roads, cars or other guests.
We had such a peaceful yet exciting journey with an adrenaline-fuelled encounter with buffalo and we saw a huge flock of lovebirds! Not to mention this was a great opportunity to walk off some of the many sundowners, 3-course meals and cake we were inhaling!
The Chikoko Trails camps were both beautiful and rustic, with super friendly staff and incredible food. The camp is authentic yet it has all the necessary luxurious comforts, we particularly loved the underground oven at Chikoko-it still amazes me what incredible things they can make in the most remote parts of the bush when I struggle to make a cheese toastie!
The views and the sounds of wildlife at night were spectacular and we had a real sense of the “Wild Africa”. All in all, a great experience checking out Tafika and The Chikoko Trails Bush Camps. Pity we did not have time to stay longer or get to Mwaleshi (their camp in North Luangwa). 5 leopards in 3 days – awesome!
Next, we headed to the much-anticipated Lion Camp which has recently re-opened. In a wildlife prolific area of the park, we saw its namesake as we drove in! We went from one extreme to the other with Lion Camp having an incredibly modern feel to it, away from the rustic African bush camps it was more like a top end bush hotel. So, for those who are maybe nervous about being open to the elements on safari, this would be a good high-end option.
For me, I missed the coffee and toast cooked over the fire and felt like I might have to open my laptop with the addition of a desk in the room! With slightly different meal timings (and more of them!!) you have a shorter siesta time but with so much going on in the area you may not want to go for a nap at all! All in all, we had a great time, amazing guide, exceptional food and the new rooms are stunning.
We were also able to pop in and see our good friends, Julz Shenton and Agata, at the Shenton Hippo Hide for coffee, one of my favourite spots in the valley. I made full use of our time there to get close-ups of the many yawning hippos! Being so close you felt like you were in the water next to them and after all that food I wouldn’t have minded wallowing for a few hours!
I was also lucky to be able at pop into the Norman Carr Bush Camps (Mchenja and Kakuli) on route to Chikunto. Great locations and a true example of luxury in the wild. I look forward to getting back there to stay in October/ November and get the real experience and of course update you all!
From here we went to the new Lodge, which I was in the total dark about and had no idea what to expect. We were met with a very warm welcome from Josephat, the Chikunto manager, and we were the only guests in camp!
Our two days here were a highlight. Everybody looked after us like we were royalty and I loved the layout, location and general vibe of the lodge. The locations and sunsets are spectacular, the rooms (luxury safari tents) have a perfect mix of class and bush feel, the food was exceptional and Josephats guiding was brilliant and entertaining. The wildlife was also sensational.
Watch this space… this Lodge will go on to become one of the best in the industry.
Botswana point of view coming soon from #yourheromike