Chikoko Trails is a unique walking safari operated from two refreshingly simple bush camps, named Chikoko Tree Camp and Crocodile River Camp, located in an un-spoiled, game rich, walking-only concession of the South Luangwa National Park. This truly means no vehicles – you cross the Luangwa river in a canoe and then walk in to the first camp on foot, with your luggage portered ahead of you. The camps are built from natural grasses laid and tied on to wooden frames, refreshed each season, and reed mats are spread on compacted earth floors. This is bush living in the style of Tarzan and Jane, bolstered by good, fresh food, comfy cushions to flop on, cold drinks from the gas fridge, en suite hot bucket showers and flushing loos. Each camp accommodates a maximum of 6, ensuring intimacy and flexibility, and guiding and camp hosting is of a high standard. A far cry from image-conscious lodges located further downstream!
- A pure walking safari – no vehicles and no vehicle tracks
- Two simple yet delightful “grass, wood and reed” camps offering an authentic bush experience
- A superb area for game and a beautiful walking environment, with exclusive access, well away from the busier central area of the park
- One of the few family-run safari operations in the Luangwa valley
- Excellent guiding and hosting focused on just 6 guests in camp
- Wholesome, fresh and imaginative food from a bush kitchen
- Combine with the excellent Tafika Camp, the home of John and Carol Coppinger
- Extend easily to the remoter North Luangwa National Park, where Remote Africa Safaris have two further camps, Mwaleshi (another walking camp) and Takwela
- Season: 25th May – 31st October (Tafika is open from 1st May to 15th November)
- 7 nights minimum recommended (3 nights Tafika + 4 nights Chikoko Trails)
The Chikoko concession area
The Chikoko Trails camps are located in an exclusive concession area that has been designated for walking – a quiet section of the park right up in the north-east, beyond the Nsefu sector. It’s completely unspoiled, with no man-made infrastructure or vehicle tracks save for the site of an old national park’s camp fallen to ruin up in one corner, which you may stumble upon during one of your walks. The concession contains large stands of Cathedral Mopane and beautiful groves of majestic African trees, peppered with lagoons, dambos and seasonal streams, which, along with the Luangwa River on its eastern border, provide a draw to wildlife. It’s a superb area for walking.
chikoko trails in detail
The Chikoko Trails camps are pure walking camps, sited very close to where David Livingstone first crossed the Luangwa River in 1866 and noted in his diary “I will make this land better known to men that it may become one of their haunts. It is impossible to describe its luxuriance.” In Livingstone’s day there were of course no roads or vehicles up here, and this continues to be the case – you spend your days traversing a beautiful, unspoiled wilderness area that’s rich in wildlife. Each camp is unique and special in its own way and refreshingly simple – the very essence of a proper bush camp that blends with its environment.
Chikoko Tree Camp is situated 8km upstream of Tafika, beside a small, seasonal channel that’s a 10 minute walk away from the Luangwa river. As the name suggests the three wood and thatch chalets are raised above the ground, within the tree canopy. This enhances the view of the acacia grove and small plain in front of camp where a constant array of wildlife activity unfolds throughout the day.
Crocodile River Camp is similarly constructed of thatch and wood, this time on one level – chalets are again delightfully simple yet perfectly comfortable. The camp is in a beautiful setting, strung along a river bank shaded by a line of magnificent ebony trees – the dry Crocodile River is a corridor for wildlife and there is a small water hole that tempts animals close to camp.
walking and safari format
Morning walks normally last a leisurely 4 hours, with a mid-morning break for refreshments, and a shorter afternoon walk takes place after siesta time and tea. When out walking, you’ll be led by an experienced walking guide, accompanied by a Zambia National Parks’ scout who will be armed. A tea bearer will bring up the rear. You’ll pursue walks on the maze of animal footpaths that cover the area, frequently linking lagoons, dambos and small floodplains that provide a draw to wildlife. To get the most from the area, the recommendation is to spend no less than 2 nights in each of the trails’ camps. When transferring between the two camps, all luggage is portered ahead by camp staff whilst guests enjoy a 3-4 hour walking safari between the two – en route, you’ll pass through an extensive stretch of beautiful Cathedral Mopane woodland. We recommend that you spend two or three nights at Tafika first, enjoying what the Nsefu sector has to offer on game drives (it’s a fantastic area for Leopard). Tafika is an extremely pleasant and welcoming camp to spend time in, and it has a spectacular location on the Luangwa river.
atmosphere and ethos
The Chikoko Trails camps are operated by Remote Africa Safaris, which is owned by the Coppinger family, who are well-respected, long-time residents of the Luangwa valley. This is one of the few owner-operated safari outfits in the valley and Tafika Camp, which one naturally chooses to spend a few nights at before moving to Chikoko Trails, is located just across the river, on the edge of the Nsefu sector – Tafika is John and Carol Coppinger’s home as well as being the base for their operations. John has retired from guiding and the camp operations are now run by their daughter Jenny and husband Nick, but he and Carol still sit with guests at dinner each night. This is as close to home-from-home as safari camps get.
There’s a strong feeling of tradition and authenticity running through their operation, with emphasis placed on conservation and the involvement and support of local communities. Although there is much more to Tafika than the Trails Camps, which are more simple, all of the camps are built from natural materials, with grass thatch being placed on and tied to wooden frames – the frames have to be re-clad in fresh grass before the start of each season, as soon as the rains have finished, an operation that takes about a month and which provides work for teams from the local villages. Even the glazed bricks that form the floor of Tafika were made on site. You’ll notice that the Coppinger’s safari vehicles are much older than most of those being used by other safari camps – Tafika has an in-house workshop which ensures their fleet is properly maintained, another manifestation of their attitude towards conservation. Something that you’ll notice out on game drives is that guides maintain radio silence unless communication is absolutely necessary – another small but important detail in keeping things natural and traditional. We wish other safari operators would do this!