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Fam Trip: South Luangwa, October

A Journey through South Luangwa's Untamed Beauty

Kukaya | Kafunta River Lodge | Three Rivers Camp | Island Buscamp

The 11th to 22nd of October marked an extraordinary expedition into the heart of Zambia’s wild and wondrous South Luangwa National Park. Our adventure began with a picturesque 5-hour drive from Lilongwe, Malawi, leading us across the border into Zambia. The border crossing, while time-consuming, was worth it as it only heightened the anticipation of what awaited us on the other side.

Our destination was Kukaya, a hidden gem in the wilderness, offering an alternative to the larger Mfuwe Lodge. Kukaya stood out for its promise of exclusivity and privacy, where private dining and private guiding were the norm. With a minimum requirement of four adults for a two-bedroom villa and two for a one-bedroom villa, Kukaya provides an intimate and personalized safari experience. We spent two amazing nights in their beautifully tented villas with private plunge pools.

From Kukaya, our journey took us to Kafunta River Lodge, where we were treated to a scrumptious lunch and introduced to the enchanting surroundings by their delightful manager, Kolo.

Our final stop for the day was Kafunta’s Three Rivers, where we would spend a night, a wildlife haven accessible via a 2-hour drive from Kafunta River Lodge.  Our group split up, and the boys proceeded to Kafunta’s Island Bushcamp for their first bushcamp experience, complete with bucket showers and open-viewed chalets right on the riverbank – an awe-inspiring immersion into the wild. The ladies opted for the more comfortable Three Rivers Camp, where our guide Joseph and his perpetual smile, would attend to all our safari requests. Three Rivers, led by the exceptional TJ and his team, ensured a memorable stay, ensuring every need was met, no matter how big or small the request.

The camp featured five chalets, each equipped with a star bed that guests could choose for sleeping under the stars or within the chalet itself. After a quick tour, we enjoyed some tea and delectable jam tarts before setting off on another game drive. Even though we didn’t encounter abundant wildlife during the drive, Joseph’s knowledge and patience made it an enjoyable experience, and after this, we returned to camp for a well-deserved dinner.

At the Island Bushcamp, our colleagues Chifundo and Fabiano were warmly welcomed by the charming Martin and his team. This camp’s biggest selling point is its exclusivity. Nestled in the remote Lusangazi sector, it offers a genuine wilderness experience.

Island Bushcamp


Meeting up again the next morning, we regrouped and joined Chifundo and Fabiano’s game drive turned transfer to Sungani, the furthest south lodge in the South Luangwa National Park.

Sungani, an enchanting property on the edge of a lagoon, was another highlight of our journey. Everything exuded comfort and uniqueness, from the beautiful main area to the luxurious tented villas. You truly have to visit Sungani to comprehend its splendour. Mike and Jared’s dedication was apparent in their attentive team. Brian, our guide, was the most animated and exciting guide we have ever met, with an infectious enthusiasm and a wealth of knowledge. Sungai is not only a marvellous property, but its location is perfect; sitting on the edge of a lagoon, you don’t need to go out on a game drive for prime game viewing. You can see it all from the main area.

cape buffalo, Sungani

Kulandila | Kaingo

Our stay at Sungani ended early the next day, where after a scrumptious breakfast, we met with Michael, Sungani and Kulandila’s ( it’s bush camp) operations manager, who is the embodiment of a passionate, zealous conservationist. We had a lovely 3-hour transfer from the south of the park that seemed much too short owing to Michaels’ ability to keep us entertained with his stories on wildlife, how they built Sungani, their antipoaching efforts in the area, and everything in between. We did a small site inspection at Kulandila, which, as mentioned before, is a Sungani-tented bush camp that honestly still has all the bells and whistles of a modern luxury lodge, just slightly less luxurious and smaller than Sungani.

Tribal Textiles was our meeting place with the next lodge, which was Chikunto, where we spent a lovely afternoon watching wildlife by their main area overlooking a welcoming pool (especially in the October heat), sipping cool drinks, having a light and scrumptious lunch and even receiving a relaxing foot massage (which is complimentary for every guest on arrival J). From here, we proceeded to the lovely Kaingo. 

It would be challenging if we had to pick three of our favourite things about Kaingo, as this place is brimming with wonders. The hides offered incredible wildlife viewing opportunities, the food was beyond amazing, and the private decks of each chalet allowed us to connect with nature personally. And let’s not forget the captivating décor, the outdoor baths, the charismatic Sylvester who was our amazing Guide, the friendly bushbucks that roamed around camp – the list goes on.

As our safari adventure continued through the enchanting landscapes of South Luangwa, we bid a fond farewell to the captivating Kaingo Lodge, where our stay felt like a dream woven into the fabric of the wild. Sly, our guide extraordinaire, and the entire Kaingo team left an indelible mark on our hearts.

crafted africa at Kaingo

Lion Camp

Our journey led us to the doorstep of Lion Camp in October, a pure delight that surpassed all expectations. Adorned with warmth and charm, the lodge welcomed us into the caring embrace of hosts Dottie, Vicky, and Wayne. Wayne’s infectious enthusiasm for the bush and his profound knowledge ensured that every moment was comfortable and a deep dive into the wonders of the wilderness.

Lion Camp’s unique charm extends beyond its beautiful rooms and communal areas. The presence of resident wild elephants, Charlie and Scooter, added a touch of magic to our stay. Witnessing Scooter’s gentle welcome, resting his head on the dining wall, was a heart-warming moment etched in our memories. The spacious rooms, with culinary delights curated by Vicky and expertly paired with fine wines, elevated our stay to pure indulgence.

As we strolled along the lengthy boardwalk, it felt like a thrilling adventure, a unique immersion in the untamed beauty surrounding Lion Camp. This extraordinary lodge left us in awe with its charismatic hosts and unforgettable wildlife encounters.

leopard in south luangwa

Tafika Camp | Tena Tena | Puku Ridge

Our next destination was Tafika Camp, an enchanting haven in the wilderness. Under the thoughtful management of Jen and her family, Tafika’s host Val welcomed us to the lodge, which boasts a unique charm and intimate ambiance. Guided by the remarkable Billy, our experience unfolded as a tapestry of authentic African safari encounters. Billy’s expert guidance catered seamlessly to the diverse interests of our group, whether it was the thrill-seekers chasing big games or the avid birder (myself) delighting in the myriad avian species.

What sets Tafika apart is its exceptional hospitality and connection to a network of camps under the same ownership, which we sadly didn’t have time to see. After our one night at Tafika, our exploration continued to Tena Tena, a Robin Pope Safaris Camp in the Nsefu sector, where the name “temporary home” truly resonated. Hosted by the bubbly and enthusiastic Rachel, our temporary home felt warm and inviting.

Our safari adventures that afternoon with Bertram, our guide (and the Manager) at Tena Tena, took us to a sundowner spot filled with large flocks of all kinds of storks against the backdrop of a mesmerizing sunset – a delight for me. The evening was a delightful night of laughter and storytelling with fellow guests, amused by Rocky’s incredible tales as a ranger in Australia.

From Tena Tena, our journey flowed to Puku Ridge, an oasis of luxury in the scorching October heatwave. The private plunge pools and air-conditioned rooms provided a welcome relief, allowing us to recharge amid natural splendour. Steven, our incredible guide, shared tales of the bush with an insight that surpassed the ordinary, connecting our South Luangwa experience to our day-to-day experiences in Malawi.

team in tafika

Nkonzi Safari Camp

On the morning of our last night, our Innocent whisked us on a game drive transfer to Nkonzi Safari Camp, a camp that’s a true testament to Gavin Opie’s passion for the wild. This is where we spent the last night of our South Luangwa Adventure.  Owned by Gavin himself, this no-frills gem embraced authentic safari experiences. Bev, the gracious host, and Jacob, the skilled barman, added personal touches that made our stay unforgettable. We went out on our first walking safari of the trip, a short but rewarding walk taking in the little things we often miss on game drives. Our stay at Gavin’s camp was a short but memorable one. We loved that he is passionate about the big sightings and having his guests immersed in the wild with more senses than just sight,  the smells, the sounds and the overall feeling of the bush. 

Our South Luangwa journey, from the 11th to the 22nd of October, was a thrilling, breathtaking, and unforgettable experience. The untouched beauty of this African wilderness, the exceptional lodges, and the passionate guides made it a lifetime journey. South Luangwa is a place where the wild heart of Africa beats, and we feel truly blessed to have embarked on this unforgettable adventure.

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