Last year, my husband and I decided to spend Independence Day in Mfuwe. When we arrived, we were greeted by the friendliest staff. We enquired about where they were from and they all happened to have been recruited from the surrounding villages. We were particularly impressed by the culinary skills of the Chef, and actually thought that he was internationally recruited but to our delight, we were told that he was a Zambian. After settling in, we went outside and sat by the river front and enjoyed the view of hippopotamus cooling down by the river. I sat there, having a glass of juice, enjoying the view and wished that I could own property right here. It was the most relaxing and peaceful place I had been to in a while. My husband and I began to dream about owning a hotel in Mfuwe and how we would make it nice for tourists but also affordable for the average Zambian; for those two nights in Mfuwe we had spent over to $1,500 (ZMK 15,000) for accommodation as well as visiting the South Luangwa National Park.
Seven months down the line I came across the investment opportunity called Chibembe.
Chibembe is owned by Wilderness Trails Limited, a company established by Norman Carr in 1975 to operate the first walking safaris in Africa. The earliest recorded visitor was David Livingstone who crossed the Luangwa River at Perekani, just to the south of Chibembe in 1866. Having been in use as a hunting safari camp since 1932, in 1975 Norman Carr built 22 safari chalets and three satellite walking safari camps accommodating up to 60 tourists, mostly families, establishing his signature walking safaris. Acquired by Simon Bicknell and private investors in 1996, Chibembe is located 20 km north of Chikwinda Gate in the Nsefu Sector of the South Luangwa National Park, on the Luangwa River. I am particularly intrigued by this because the question of how I can own river front property in the South Luangwa has never left the back of my mind. Up until now, there has been little or no privately owned property on the riverfront. Chibembe boasts an amazing 850 acres of land that has 3 kilometres of Luangwa river front land. The animals often cross over to Chibembe from the South Luangwa National Park and come and graze from the front of Chibembe allowing a tourist the opportunity to take amazing pictures and experience the real Africa from the comfort of their own accommodation. Wilderness Trails Limited are looking to sell eighteen plots at Chibembe averaging three acres with 80 metres of Luangwa River frontage to investors who would like to develop safari style family ‘safari houses’ in the South Luangwa. The idea is to create 18 self-contained 4 – 5 bed roomed safari houses on 55 of the 850 acres, with each plot owner having a 1/18th share of the remaining 795 acres of Chibembe’s private wildlife reserve.
One of the directors of Wilderness Trails Limited, Henry Hallward, founder of The Safari Awards, has worked in the safari tourism sector for over 25 years. Having personally visited over 1,300 safari lodges, camps and hotels throughout Africa he has identified a gap in the safari tourism market for multi-generational family safari accommodation that is in increasing demand. Chibembe provides a great opportunity for investors to build their own bush home, or to develop a safari house that can be placed in the rental pool to attract local, regional and international family groups of tourists to generate an investment return on Chibembe owner’s safari houses. This also provides an opportunity to build property that is comfortable enough for one to come on vacation to, but also affordable enough for the average Zambian in order to get to enjoy some of our natural beauty without the price hindrance of many luxury safari lodges. It is a matter of fact that Zambian citizens and residents taxes are used to maintain the National Parks but it is quite expensive for the average Zambian to afford to take a local holiday and enjoy the natural assets their taxes maintain.
Zambian investors are particularly invited to invest in Chibembe. In addition to the income earning opportunity, one cannot overemphasise the social investment that would result from investing in Chibembe. Similar to the Chef that I was impressed by in Mfuwe, this would be an opportunity for one to invest in the development of the community in Mwanya. All the safari houses will be in need of members of staff to clean the surroundings, wait on the tourists, cook the meals as well as provide tour guidance when tourists wish to go to the South Luangwa National Park. In addition to direct employment, there will be a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities for the members of the community in Mwanya. This is because the Chibembe safari houses will need to buy goods such as vegetables, fruit, chickens and fish as well as laundry services that can be offered by members of the community. Investing in Chibembe would definitely have a ripple effect in economically developing Mwanya area. The people in Mwanya are currently geographically marginalised with little or no sources of regular income and this would provide the boost that they need to lead better lives and to be able to afford their children better quality of necessities such as nutrition or education.
The target returns for investors in Chibembe safari houses is 8% of their total investment per annum, should the property be developed within the development guidelines and budgets and rented out through the Wilderness Trails Limited rental pool and management service. It is definitely an opportunity that I will not pass on and I hope you do not either. I am heading to write my expression of interest as I put the full stop at the end of this article! See you at Chibembe.
How do you get to Chibembe?
Option 1: Fly to Mfuwe from Lusaka or any other airport, and then charter a flight to Lukuze airstrip. From Lukuze airstrip, it is a 20 minute drive to Chibembe.
Option 2: Fly to Mfuwe from Lusaka or any other airport, and then hire a Landrover and drive 2 hours north through the Nsefu Sector of the South Luangwa National Park to Chikwinda Gate and it’s a 40 minute drive to Chibembe.
Option 3: Drive from Lusaka to the South Luangwa National Park, cross the Nsefu Sector to Chikwinda Gate and it’s a 40 minute drive to Chibembe.
Option 4: From any safari lodge in the South Luangwa national park Contact Carol Hamaimbo +260 (0) 96 4665578 who will arrange a collection for a visit to Chibembe.
How to invest in Chibembe
A call for expressions of interest is currently open until end of July. This can be done through the website www.chibembe.com. An investor pack will be sent to interested parties with site visits to Chibembe in August for interested investors. Having viewed the properties investors will then be invited to bid for the property they wish to buy. Successful bidders will be contacted in September to finalise property transfers. Interested investors can view the plans and photographs of Chibembe at the Homenet offices in Lusaka. Appointments with Janet or Adrian can be arranged by calling +260 963 100957.
Further information can be obtained from the Wilderness Trails Limited office by emailing [email protected] or calling Carol Hamaimbo on +260 96 4665578. South African investors should contact James Arnott on +27(0) 83 625 8078 or [email protected] and UK/EU investors should contact Henry Hallward on [email protected] or +44 7776 131807.