This safari is a true one-off, and, as far as we know, is un-replicated in Southern Africa in terms of safari type, length, remoteness, quality and authenticity all rolled into one. It offers you a chance to experience a truly wild region on foot, supported by a fully mobile tented camp set-up. It takes place in a scenically beautiful corner of the South Luangwa National Park that’s un-visited by others and where animals behave as they might have done before man intruded – walking up here, particularly at the start of each mobile season, you’ll notice that animals are more skittish and unaccustomed to human activity; you enter a wild eco-system and become part of it, treading carefully and quietly and reading signs in order to get close to wildlife. The safari is a fully immersive experience, with time to really delve deeply into nature and switch off from the modern world, in the company of an excellent guide and camp support team. RPS mobiles justifiably book up a long way in advance, so don’t think too long about it!
- Walk in remote wilderness free of man-made infrastructure and vehicle tracks
- Exemplary guiding and hosting
- A true mobile bush camp, but with the right comforts and attention to detail
- Only 6 in a group
- Long-established, well-respected safari operator, who do things well
- The Mupamadzi river is a draw to excellent wildlife
- “Time” to truly immerse yourself in the bush and to delve deeply into bush subjects with your guide
- No mobile reception – no humans!
- Fixed date departures between mid-late June and late September, following a 7 or 9 night format
the mupamadzi river environment
Other than being completely wild, the area around the Mupamadzi River is particularly beautiful and wonderful to walk through. As you move downstream over the course of the safari, you’ll walk through groves of majestic, riverine trees, cross sections of open plain, explore outlying lagoons marking old river courses (which dry out in the walking season), stomp up to outlying ridges marking the edge of the elevated Chipungwe Plain, and criss-cross the shallow river in bare feet. The upper reaches of the river environment are more wooded, intimate and undulating, but as you move downstream the terrain opens out into an open floodplain, which is punctuated by groves of trees and lagoons. All of the sundowner spots enjoy magical views across the meandering river, with the Muchinga escarpment rising in the distance.
the mobile camp set-up
All camping positions on this safari are in wonderful wild locations, in shaded positions close to the river. This is a traditional tented bush camp set-up, using large, walk-in tents with mesh windows and doors to aid air circulation. Emphasis is placed on essential comforts and thoughtful touches: framed beds with a proper mattress, bedside table, luggage rack, reed mats, pressed koi-koi, basin on a stand with mirror, wooden loos over a long-drop with a bucket of sand and a shovel, and hot-bucket showers.
The camp team ensures that tents are serviced, laundry is done on days when camp is not being moved, and hot water is provided (as a matter of routine in your basin at reveille and in the bucket showers before dinner, or at any time on request). The food produced from the bush kitchen is exemplary – including, it must be mentioned, delicious fresh sponges that are produced from the ground oven!
Evenings are lit by oil lamps, the glow of the campfire, and of course the moon and stars, all of which contribute to the magical, authentic atmosphere of camping deep in the African bush.
Having spent the first night at Nkwali Camp on the Luangwa River, you will be transferred by Landcruiser to the north side of the South Luangwa National Park, an interesting journey in its own right (there’s a petrified forest to look at), where you’ll explore the perennial Mupamadzi River over the mobile camping phase of your safari. You’ll spend 5 nights or 7 nights camping depending upon whether you are following the 7-night or the 9-night safari. One night only is spent at Camp 1 (it’s a beautiful site situated beneath giant Winterthorn trees, reminiscent of East Africa, but there is slightly less game up here owing to terrain constraints), then two nights at each of the downstream camping positions (you’ll visit three camps on the 5-night safari and four on the 7-night safari). At the end of the mobile camping phase, you’ll return to the Luangwa River for a final night in one of Robin Pope’s two permanent camps in the less developed Nsefu Sector of the park – Nsefu Camp or Tena Tena Camp.
Walking safaris commence at dawn with hot drinks, rusks, toast and porridge around the campfire before setting out on foot. Exploring the bush at this productive time of the day in the company of a knowledgeable and personable guide is a true delight. As you actively seek out game and follow spoor, your guide will help you unravel the less obvious jewels of the wild as you proceed, the things you barely notice when in a vehicle – you’ll find that smaller fauna, even insects, become interesting and important to you, as do birdlife and flora; there is an extraordinary spread of majestic, African trees. Unravelling the micro-ecosystems and interconnectivity of life cycles at every level in the bush is a constant source of wonder out here, and you have the time to delve and indulge. And, as no doubt you will, encountering larger animals in this wild corner of the park, or successfully tracking them is a highly rewarding experience. There is a resident pride of Lion you’ll very likely hear and have a good chance of finding.
You’ll cover ground slowly and interpretively, rather than “hiking”, although overall you should expect to cover a good 10kms or more in the course of each day, depending upon heat. Morning walks usually last until lunchtime in the cooler months, with a stop for tea in a shady grove accompanied by something tasty from the camp kitchen to keep you going, but in August and September you’ll likely return to camp in the mid-late morning on account of the heat. A shorter walk takes place after lunch and siesta time, usually ending at an idyllic sundowner spot on the riverbank, where you’ll often drift into an extended stargazing session – there’s really no need to hurry back! Return to camp by vehicle (there’s a narrow camp service track that’s graded each season, as it grows over), a short but often revealing night-drive, for a hot-bucket shower before dinner beneath the stars.