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“At 23:56 on 23rd October 1963, Zambians rose in reverence of the Union Jack, the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom, for the last time as it lowered, signifying the end of British rule in Zambia.”

― Precious Mwansa-Chisa

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Mukambi Safaris

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I begin my journey to Mukambi Safaris at the airport, having arrived off the plane, not so fresh. The driver named Jabes was waiting eagerly for me, not only with a sign, but also with a smile. The drive to the lodge took about 3 and a half hours, with a stop on the way where the driver organised some refreshments and snacks for me. He told me people also fly into camp, which I think next time I would definitely try. We passed many an animal, most of all the impalas the most common antelope in Zambia.

On arrival at Mukambi Lodge I was greeted by the receptionist Purity, as well as one of the managers Victor, who offered me a drink as I entered the lodge. I couldn’t resist a cool local beer, which they call a ‘Mosi’.

On entering the main lodge itself, I was stunned by the beautiful view of the Kafue River and again greeted, not by a member of staff this time, rather the echoing sound of a hippo’s laugh. The introduction was taken by Purity, during which she noted I should take care around camp as there are wild animals around (I took this lightly thinking she meant only impala, baboons and monkeys, until the following day, when a small herd of elephants came to play in the waterhole at the back of the lodge).

I chose to start my safari off boldly by doing an afternoon game drive. After some tea and snacks and a small chat with my guide we took the pontoon boat across to the other side, where the vehicles are parked and started our drive. The drive began quietly, while the guide keenly pointed out some birds and trees, a part of me was thinking ‘Where is the big game’. Only a few minutes later we came across a herd of elephants, and I was given even more of a surprise when a young baby appeared behind the mothers back, apparently less than a year old as he crawled under the belly of the matriarch. We stopped for a brief sundowner, again indulging in some Mosi, I think this is going to become my ‘usual’, and then continued into the night. The spotter spotted bush babies, impala, a civet and then even a lion seated on the side of the road. After watching him for 10 minutes we were about to move on, when he decided to start walking, we followed him for a while and soon came across another male lion, and they made their way deep into the bush.

As I was greeted back at camp I felt very chuffed with my sightings, and though tired from my journey, I indulged in a well-prepared three course dinner, and was escorted by a night guard to my room. I quickly fell asleep to the sound of hippos snorting and lions roaring. I was awoken for my morning game drive, not only by the same night guard, but also by the sound of birds chirping away. The drive was successful, having spotted many types of antelope, birds, some buffalo and even a leopard staring at us from a treetop where the cars were parked. Apparently a mother and two cubs have marked their territory here for a while.

After lunch I was driven to Fig Tree Bush Camp on a game drive loop, although quite quiet as I am told most animals sleep in the hot hours of the day. I was met at camp with a Malawi Shandi, and shown the boma area, which I must say is quite a funky design, consisting of a dining area, some couches and a small library.  The whole camp looks over a lovely lagoon and there is even a big hammock where I could relax and have a read, while checking out the occasional crocodile.  That evening I went on another drive, and was lucky enough to catch sight of a pack of wild dogs quite close to camp. These were spectacular animals, yet the sound they made did not at all resemble that of my dog at home!

The next morning I opted in for the walking safari, it was a bit different from what I had expected, but a real nature walk. We discussed the sausage trees, dung beetles, insects, even how the elephants grate their tusks against the trees. We also spotted the birds, my favourite became the rather common lilac breasted roller and Zambia’s National Bird, the Fish Eagle.

I had decided before my trip to take the game drive up the Busanga Plains Camp, although I know it is possible to fly, which would be a completely different experience. However I enjoyed watching the vegetation change as we progressed through the park and up towards the flood plain. We saw several antelope along the way which I am told are endemic to Zambia, including the puku and defassa waterbuck, which were also around the other camps, and then the red lechwe, which we only see near the Busanga Camp. That evening I decided to relax in camp, watching the wide open plains from the raised viewing platform you don’t even need to go on a drive. I saw zebras, hippos and even some lion cubs sneak underneath the mile long walkway in the heat of the day.

On my game drives here, it made me realise that at no point during my stay had I encountered another safari vehicle, something which I had not experienced on any other safari. It made me feel like every sighting was a little secret between my guide and I (and all the people back at home who I share my pictures with!) Although I didn’t manage to see any cheetahs, a couple who joined me on the plains (it has 4 private safari tents with bucket showers, that make you feel like you’re really in the bush, well a bush with nice hot water), had seen some brothers during their stay at Mukambi just after I left. I am told there are only a handful of cheetah in the whole Park, so this must have been really spectacular.

I never wanted to leave Busanga, it was once in a lifetime. However I reluctantly returned back to the lodge for my last night of this adventure. After fishing during the day, although a bit quiet I managed to catch the odd silver barbell and catfish. Having enjoyed it on the river during the day, I thought the sunset cruise must be the one to do that afternoon. This was a great way to end my trip, relaxing, taking in one of the most beautiful African sunsets, the river pink with clouds dotted around the sky, clashing the shades of blue, orange pink and purple. All I could think about was how relaxed I was here, how different this safari had been to any previous holiday.

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