Crocodile Camp, Chikoko Tree Camp and the South Luangwa National Park Walking Safari Experience
After a couple of nights at the wonderful Flatdogs Camp, we set off on a week-long walking safari adventure on the Chikoko Trails inside Zambia's magnificent South Luangwa National Park. A driver from the family-owned Remote Africa Safaris came to collect us from Flatdogs at daybreak, and we headed into the park enjoying some gameviewing en route to Tafika Camp - where we would pick up our guide.
Tafika Camp is owned by the Coppinger family who have lived for decades in the South Luangwa, and it is where all logistics for the two Chikoko Trails bush camps - Crocodile Camp and Chikoko Tree Camp (where we would stay for three nights apiece) - are organised. Around mid-morning, we pulled into Tafika, where we were offered icy cold refreshments. Overlooking a sweeping bend in the Luangwa River, this camp offers a beautiful, shady spot to rest and watch hippos wallow or elephants drink.
Then, with our guide, ranger and all-important tea-bearer sorted for the week, we hopped back in the vehicle and headed to another sandy, wide riverbank, ready to make our way to Crocodile Camp by canoe and on foot. The walking safari had officially begun!
Now, it wasn’t just us that had to travel this way – all our luggage did as well – so if you care about your porter’s back, pack light! You can also store non-essential luggage at Flatdogs if you plan to return (like we did).
Our armed ranger and all-important tea bearer
Meeting Steve, our guide, a character who insisted he was only "one week into the job"
Crossing the Luangwa River by canoe
This idyllic camp nestles beneath gnarled ebony and mahogany trees, and comprises of four thoughtfully laid out circular guest chalets with thatched roofs and walls. Comfortable beds are draped with mosquito netting, and they face out onto a dry creek bed, where we regularly saw grazing puku, impala, warthog and in the distance, giraffe. A large tank supplies hot water to the open-air shower, and in the morning, a pitcher of warm water is placed – by way of a hatch in the bathroom wall – beside your handbasin so you can wake up gently!
Sunset from Crocodile Camp
Chikoko Tree Camp
Chikoko Tree is a truly stunning place, a collection of four double-storey chalets shaded beneath a thick canopy of trees. Each chalet has an ensuite on the ground floor and upstairs, the bedroom faces out onto a winding stream and grassy plain popular with elephant, impala and endemic puku. Like Crocodile Camp, this property has a central bar, small library and fire pit.
The Camp Experience
All male, the camp staff live on site throughout the 5 months the Chikoko Trails camps are open, and they evidently lived and breathed their jobs, because the hospitality we received was superb. Our beds were warm and comfortable - and the food! Below are some of the sublime meals we were served and both our talented chefs proudly showed us their ground ovens. Needless to say, we never, ever went hungry!
The Walking Experience
A typical day at camp went like this:
9:00am – Morning tea/coffee + cake or a biscuit somewhere on the trail (earn it by making your own fire!)
We had an amazing experience but I just want to point out that we visited in June, when the grass in the South Luangwa was still thick and very tall (my head height in a lot of places). As a result, oftentimes wildlife - including elephant - were hard to see! We walked past a growling bush once - and discovered it held three lionesses who weren't particularly thrilled to see us.
For an "easier" gameviewing experience, you might wish to visit closer to the very dry months of September and October - but bear in mind that prices and daytime temperatures are much higher then. There might also be more tsetse fly activity in that period, but the inconvenience could well be worthwhile!
Note the height of the grass - this was June 2019
Hidden lions - a real hazard on our walking safari!