Managing founder on the move: Kafue, Busanga, Lower Zambezi & South Luangwa

elephant

Kafue and Busanga Plains:

I recently had the joy of getting back to The Kafue National Park and The Lower Zambezi National Park (twice) as well as my first visit to Busanga Plains in the Kafue. Firstly, I flew into Lusaka to meet my partner in crime and catch up with Edmund from Skytrails, who was quick to get us through security and onto our private charter to Lifupa Airstrip, only an hour away.

We arrived in Lifupa, where we were met by the lovely Musekese host/ driver, Bebe. She was charming and friendly and took us on a short drive to the river edge, where we changed our mode of transport to their safari boat, and had a 30-min boat ride to the Musukese concession… Ok, it’s not technically theirs but with all the good work they are doing for conservation in the area, they look after it like it’s their own! There are also no other lodges in the area or near them so you have your own piece of paradise without other vehicles.

The lodge is a combination of a rustic bush feel and luxury. There is an incredible floodplain in front of the lodge which is teeming with wildlife. We even had a huge male lion walk past us in camp as we were finishing some nightcaps- Incredible. All in all, Musekese have a top-notch spot, great vehicles and boats, great service and food and the fact that they are there managing the operation is the reason this is such a tight ship, and run so well.

Moving on from Musekese, we did the long drive through the park to the Busanga Plains. This is a long drive, and to be honest not that interesting. There were a lot of Tsetse flies. I am glad I did it to experience it but very quickly decided we would be flying back. We swung by the Musekese bush camp to look. Loved the rustic nature of the camp, but sadly didn’t have time for a game drive or walk to see the wildlife.

zebra

As we started getting onto the plains, the wildlife was very impressive. By the airstrip, we saw huge herds of sable and roan antelope, zebra, warthog and much more. As we got closer to the Wilderness camps the wildlife just kept getting better and better with amazing birdlife, large herds of lechwe, puku, buffalo etc.

The highlight for me was watching the sunrise in a hot air balloon, the views were stunning and the sheer number of animals we saw from the air was incredible, and great to see them from the aerial view. As we were about to land for our champagne breakfast, we drifted over a pride of lions on a kill, what an experience! We were then given heads up on another pride of lion hunting buffalo, so made a dash to catch a bit of the action. Leopard and cheetah sightings had been good but we were unlucky not to see any in the plains.

Busanga Bushcamp is a class camp, with amazing food and brilliant staff. We were incredibly well looked after and loved every minute of it. We also checked out the premier camp, Shumba – Another stunning spot in a great location. Next up we flew back to Lifupa to spend a couple of nights at Ila Safari Lodge.

A wild location with lions roaring all night. Elephant, buffalo and hippo in camp, great leopard sightings and stunning river trips on their “electric boat”. Staff were lovely and accommodating, rooms are extremely luxurious as is the rest of the lodge… it reminds me a bit of Mfuwe Lodge (in South Luangwa). Big but classy. It is a wild location with a lot of animals in camp so be very cautious when walking between the rooms and public areas.

Sadly, the food needed some attention but we are told they are working on it and will check back soon to keep you updated. Great specials are available when combined with Kaya Mawa on Lake Malawi (owned by the same company).

lions

Lower Zambezi: August and November

First up was Chiawa. absolute luxury in a stunning location. Food was exceptional and so was the new suite that we were given as an upgrade. The lodge manager Simon could not have done more to look after us and be more accommodating.

On our first night drive, we saw two leopards, one with a cub, as well as a pride of nine lions, loads of elephant, buffalo, antelope and the rest of the plains game you’d expect to see. Already very impressed on day one.

Chiawa ticked every box. Moving onto the sister camp, in a completely different area with more wild luxury, no Wi-Fi, and open-air bathrooms overlooking the lagoon… This was more my vibe with elephants everywhere and more leopard sightings to take the tally up to nine leopards in just two days!

Juliet and her team looked after us like VIP’s and once again this was a different but first class safari experience. Also, some great pay 2 stay 3 specials at Old Mondoro in shoulder season and great combo specials of both camps all year.

We moved on to check out the new kids on the block at Tusk and Mane. A very different, wild mobile operation in a prime location. Their locations are up there with the best in the park, stunning views, incredible forests and channels. The tents are basic with public bathrooms and bucket showers but it’s all about the experience.

Led by super guides Kyle and Luke, who grew up in the area and know the park better than anyone, this is a class product. Great food, great locations, exceptional guiding, good vehicles. boats and canoes and all round a fantastic company. watch this space… these boys are going places!

leopard

I jetted off to the USA and Europe for several trade events, talking up the amazing experiences and showing my pics of the last few months in Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi. Then back to Africa and back to South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi again to remind me of why this product is so incredible before the season winds down.

South Luangwa: Oct/Nov

First stop was the star of Luangwa the premier camp, whether you think you need luxury in the bush or not you can’t fault the pure luxury of Chinzombo. It is classy and incredibly comfortable with suites designed on another level, incredible food, exceptional guiding and a stunning view to wake up to.

It is in a busier part of the park so I do encourage you to get out to the wilder and off the beaten track parts of the park and combine Chinzombo with the wild and luxurious Norman Carr Bush camps. Which is exactly what I did next and spent a night each at Nsolo, Mchenja and Kakuli.

Nsolo is wild and perfect for walking safaris (Luwi is the other bush camp near Nsolo but I did not have a chance to check Luwi out, or maybe I was saving it for next time!). Million, the cook at Nsolo could have literally come straight out of MasterChef in the bush, his cooking was 6 star. The hosts were incredible, the wildlife amazing, we saw a pack of nine lions. No leopards but not a worry as we saw so many between Mchenja and Kakuli – I was nearly tired of those spotted cats!

elephants

Across the board the standard of food, guiding, hosting was incredible and the wildlife off the chart. Leopard with a kill, lions by the dozens, buffalo, elephant, Zebra, giraffe, amazing birding and breath-taking scenery. These guys have a great mix of product and I am so grateful to have experienced this first hand. Some great NCS/ Chongwe specials when combining Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa.

I took a night off between the wild luxury in Luangwa before heading to the mighty Lower Zambezi once more. I enjoyed a night with our friends at Croc Valley, the cheap and cheerful lodge based in Mfuwe. This is where the journey in Luangwa all started and I will always call the Croc team great friends and family, who are one of the main reasons our company is where it is today…

Lower Zambezi Nov:

Off to the Lower Zambezi. No direct flights in the off-season so I had a change in Lusaka and then the quick 25-minute flight into the valley. It was a stunning day. The view of the mountains and river were incredible and my excitement was hard to contain. I landed and was met by my main man Luke from Baines camp. A short 30-minute game drive through the GMA (game management area), with a beer in hand and watching the sunset was the perfect way to begin the Lower Zambezi adventure… oh and the elephant roadblock, which caused a little delay!!

Baines is not your typical luxury tented camp. It is more your old school colonial brick building luxury camp, but done in a very classy way, with air con in all the rooms, amazing staff, tasty food and very good vehicles and boats.

The water bottles they provide were the best. Firstly, showing their commitment to avoid plastic but secondly the quality of them that they stay hot or cold for 24 hrs. Baines is in the GMA and about 30-min by boat to the national park, so worth bearing this in mind. Don’t forget the pay 2 stay 3 all year in 2019 – a great offer.

buffalo

Next stop Anabezi. Wow, the higher water meant that all the little channels flowed up to the beautiful luxury safari tents overlooking the floodplains. Absolute luxury, incredible food, amazing hosts, good vehicles, good boats and a stunning location. We were looked after like gold, and super glad I made it back to Anabezi. Don’t forget the pay 3 stay 4 all year in 2019.

Next stop Sausage Tree. Amazing revamp, the most luxurious camp on the Zambezi. Again, everything was perfect, from the food, service, location, amazing swimming pool etc. Loved our stay here. Some great specials to consider between Sausage Tree and the sister camp next door, Potato Bush Camp.

Finally, The Royal Zambezi… Such a charming lodge that has kept the old school rustic atmosphere but modified the rooms to meet international standards!! The rooms are charming, all with stunning views and their own plunge pools. Host’s Natalie and Hannah are amazing, and nothing is too much to ask. The guides are brilliant, the food is excellent, all in all, a great lodge with amazing value.

The Royal Zambezi is in the GMA so a short drive from the park, but still has an abundance of wildlife around especially elephants in camp all the time. Do not forget the pay 2 stay 3 all year in 2019.

If you would like to know more about any of these lodges and destinations, let us know. You can email us at info@malawianstyle.com

 

mike varndell

Mike was born in Zimbabwe but raised in Malawi having ventured across the globe working in the finance industry he realised he wanted a life of adventure. He threw in the towel in London and travelled across South America before the lure of home called and he moved back to Malawi. Realising a gap in the market he set up Malawian Style 8 years ago creating exciting adventures across the warm heart of Africa. With a keen passion for uniting like minds and showcasing this beautiful continent, he continues to strive to get tourists to visit his home nation.