The Bushcamp Company uses the slogan: “From a Vehicle You See Africa. On Foot You Feel, Hear, and Smell Africa.” This week I was fortunate enough to sit down and talk with The Bushcamp Company owner Andy Hogg about this philosophy that we both share. A proper walking safari is the ultimate safari experience as it is one that defies time, transporting you back through the years to return to a time when our ancestors made their living on foot as an integral part of the African natural world. On foot all of a sudden sounds, smells, tracks and dung all become important as guides use these environmental cues to navigate the environment and they will teach you what they mean. Being on foot allows you to learn more about all of the surrounding life, the plants, insects, small mammals and such that are often missed when moving in a vehicle from one large mammal sighting to another. Large mammal sightings can take work and patience for a careful approach but when you see a lion on foot it is burned into your soul forever as the ancient bushman sixth sense within is triggered awake.
South Luangwa National Park is the birthplace of walking safaris, beginning around 1950, and remains the premier location for them. There are a number of reasons why I think The Bushcamp Company offers the ultimate walking safari experience.
- Guiding is always critical and even more vital when on foot than in a vehicle. The Bushcamp Company guides include the legendary Phil Berry and renowned Zimbabwean guide Derek Solomon who might be the foremost expert on animal sounds as well as an author of four bird field guides. All guiding is of an exceptional standard.
- It is possible to walk a circuit between camps, typically spending two nights to explore a camp area before walking to your next camp
- There are 6 different camps with each being unique in style allowing for flexible combinations according to individual taste and it makes the experience more diverse since each has its own character.
- Camps are small and typically a maximum of 6 people will be on walks and guests in camp unless booked privately by a group, when 8 people is possible.
- The camps are in the remote southern portion of the park where walkers are unlikely to see any vehicles or other people – essential for creating the explorer of wilderness quality for the walking.
- Animals are accustomed to people on foot due to the history of it being the primary activity in the area. This is very important as most animals have an instinctive fear of humans on foot and can be very skittish.
Speaking with Andy this week I was able to get some great tidbits from the person who knows The Bushcamp Company operation better than anyone.
- October is the best month for diverse wildlife sightings but it is also very hot, up to 105 degrees in the peak of the day.
- September and October are prime for wildlife but can be hazy from fires that are burned outside the park.
- November, December, and May are amongst his favorite times. It is considered the Green Season and some rain is possible but game sightings remain strong while the park is at its most beautiful. An added bonus is the rack rates are $375 with a 7 night or more stay, about 30% less than the high season.
- The newly launched Zungulila Camp can be booked privately with a group as small as 4
- In selecting camps for a walking circuit he believes the best experience comes from including one of the most rustic camps for an ‘old school’ Zambian experience with one of the most luxurious for a balanced and diverse experience.
Each Bushcamp property has its own style but all are small and intimate, located in remote areas, well staffed with outstanding service, and all have en-suite bathrooms with showers and flush toilets. At all camps except for Zungulila it is common to do two walks a day followed by a night drive after sundowners. It can be possible to arrange daytime drives as well. Brief Descriptions of the Camps:
Bilimungwe Camp is located in a remote area that is very rich in wildlife making it an ideal base for walking. Four rustic reed and thatch chalets make for a very comfortable camp. There is a very productive waterhole in front of the camp.
Chamilandu Camp has a magical setting amongst seven oxbow lagoons. Accommodation is in chalets raised two meters from the ground creating a tree-house feel to them. Simple luxury is delivered bringing class, comfort and style to this remote location.
Chindeni Camp is nestled on a serene lagoon. This camp is one of the two most luxurious of the Bushcamps, consisting of well-appointed tents on wooden floors. The location is ideal for relaxing in camp while watching wildlife around the lagoon but it is also located in a wonderful area for exploring on foot.
Kapamba Camp is the other most luxurious camp with open-fronted chalets that have stunning views of the Kapamba River. The area is very rich with wildlife and there are a number of excellent walking trails by the river. Oversized stone bath tubs with a view are not to be missed during the mid-day heat.
Kuyenda Camp is a classic bushcamp that maintains the authenticity of the camps of past decades. It has a simple elegance and provides all the comfort you could want but the focus is firmly on the surrounding plains and wildlife rather than what kind of furniture is provided. Guiding legend Phil Berry, who has more than 30 years of guiding experience in the area, manages the camp ensuring that the entire experience resonates as a vintage safari.
Zungulila Camp is The Bushcamp Companies newest offering having opened in 2008. Here you find simple but large tents in an area that only has walking. Each of the other camps has a vehicle for driving options but here it is all walking, even to arrive at the camp. This is the most untamed area and the best location to capture the feeling of being an explorer.