Absolute Zambia Safaris

Chiawa Camp

Chiawa Camp blends in effortlessly with its idyllic surroundings and provides a retreat which guests are invited to make their home away from home. Guests receive the friendliest of welcomes, the biggest of smiles and leave as friends to return time and again, to experience the very best in Africa.

On the banks of the Zambezi River, under a grove of evergreen Mahogany trees, Chiawa Camp holds the prime position in the heart of Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park.

It is at this very spot where the Cummings Family first explored this area for themselves decades ago, the place where David Livingstone ventured nearly 150 years previously, and where, in 1989, they created the very first photo safari operation in the Lower Zambezi National Park. Through their efforts, Chiawa has since become one of Africa’s most desirable, sought after safari destinations.

A stunning thatched lounge/bar area with upstairs viewing deck provides one of the best views of the Zambezi River, and a fantastic setting to watch the sun set over another day in Africa. After enjoying Chiawa’s renowned cuisine on the al-fresco dining veranda, one can relax by the open camp fire with a cocktail in-hand, reminiscing upon the day's adventures before retiring for the night. Each of the tents are a sanctuary of luxury and tranquillity.

Also available for guests' enjoyment and relaxation are two perfectly positioned game viewing hides and a gorgeous swimming pool with timber sun deck overlooking the Zambezi.

For the more active, a small but well equipped, secluded Exercise Area with a splendid view of the Zambezi is available for guests who might wish to work off some calories or keep up their fitness levels.

ACCOMMODATION
The tents all have timber floors and verandas with excellent views and are accessible by paths running behind them, to maximize privacy.

All share ample comforts, conveniences and unexpected luxuries, complemented by high quality, eco-friendly amenities. These include:

  • Free Wi-Fi
  • 24/7 lighting and charging facilities (220v UK plugs)
  • 24/7 hot & cold running water
  • Super-King size beds
  • Egyptian cotton linens
  • His & Hers washbasins
  • Indoor and outdoor showers
  • Ball & Claw Baths

We believe these tents set the standard for luxury Lower Zambezi National Park accommodation; however, they still retain the rustic and unpretentious feel that Chiawa is so well-loved for.

ACTIVITIES AT CHIAWA CAMP
1. DAY & NIGHT DRIVES
A game drive tends to be the most popular Zambia safari activity and is conducted in an open 4x4 safari vehicle. This is the most effective way to see Zambian wildlife, as these cover much ground and can get close sightings without placing our guests in harm’s way or disturbing the wildlife. We eschew canopies as these interfere with the views of the trees and birds during the day, and at night the stars.

Each vehicle has 3 bench seats with a back rest and a foot rest for each, so up to 6 guests can each travel comfortably with a ‘window seat’ however we typically restrict each game drive to 4 guests maximum. These leave camp in the morning and return before brunch, halting for a mid-morning coffee stop. Cooler boxes and a First aid kit are carried on each vehicle, which is also equipped with a VHF radio for safety and for our guides to share news of interesting sightings so that the likelihood of any of our guests missing out on a great sighting is minimized.

Your Zambian safari guide is an expert in the bush and will point out interesting subjects as if by magic: a flick of a tail here, a curve of an ear there, a movement wherever. If one opts for a game drive in the afternoon, this will depart after high tea and then stop at sunset for sundowners (snacks and a drink, usually a cocktail, of your choice) before an experienced tracker assisting the guide switches on a red filtered spotlight and looking for the nocturnal creatures on a “night drive”. The light will be handled sensitively, avoiding shining on the eyes of any animals but particularly the herbivores so as not to influence any behavior or outcomes. Even the vehicle’s head lamps are covered with red filters, as the red light reduces discomfort and improves the viewing experience for all concerned.

Photographers are also well catered to on our night drives whereby Chiawa Camp & Old Mondoro are the only camps we know of in Africa that offer diffused white lights for photography which eliminates any "hot spot" and creates a more naturally lit subject without any disturbance whatsoever, however effective range is limited to about 15M. Our guides will help you set your camera for best results, and ensuring your flash is switched off. Night drives will return to camp before dinner.

2. BUSH WALKS
Bush walks are an interesting way to get a back-stage pass look at the Zambian wildlife, and how the ecology of the Lower Zambezi works. Our guides are trained naturalists who can not only identify spoor, birds, plants and insects but also explain in interesting detail how these all interact with each other, how each relies on each other in this, the great circle of life. Taking advantage of the cooler weather, bush walks usually take place in the early morning and are led by one of our pro guides and a Zambia Wildlife Authority armed “escort scout”. Sometimes walks happen right out of camp but usually we drive a short distance into more open country. Guests are given a thorough safety briefing and orientation, and although the pace is much like a stroll in the park (no pun intended) and are by no means exerting, in the interests of safety, mediocre fitness and mobility is required in order to participate. Your professional guide will be carrying additional water, a first aid kit, radio, pencil flare and a “bear banger” to warn off any aggressive animal. After the walk, which will last between 1-3 hours, a short (or long if you prefer) game drive will take you back to camp. It is important to note that although both our camps have sufficient pro guides licensed to walk, each camp is only provided with one ZAWA escort scout and as we are able to only take 6 guests on a walk at any one time, occasionally guests may not get to walk on a day or time of their choosing – circumstances which are unusual and beyond our control.

3. CANOE TRIPS
Our Lower Zambezi River Canoe trips always head downstream, eastwards, as the current of the Zambezi is deceptively powerful. The canoes take either 2 or 3 people. All trips are led by at least one pro guide with current experience of that stretch of the river, and all canoes are paddled by one experienced “back paddler”, usually a trainee guide or other member of staff who has grown up and spent his young life paddling on the Zambezi. All canoe trips carry a dry bag, cool box, first aid kit and at least one VHF radio – guests are required to wear the floatation vests provided throughout the trip.

The best canoeing experience is to be had in the channels above camp, the Inkalange Channel above Chiawa and the Discovery Channel Above Old Mondoro offer world class canoeing. Otherwise canoeing amongst the islands down the main river close to shore makes for an equally memorable experience. Drifting in near silence past birds, crocs and a variety of mammals makes for an amazing experience of a lifetime however this is the Zambezi River at its most natural and unfortunately, also at its most dangerous. Our camps have a perfect safety record, follow best practice, and take steps to mitigate the risks, we cannot eliminate the risks, and it is important that all guests who participate in canoeing and indeed any activity at our camps, understand and accept these risks and the associated liability with them.
Canoe trips usually leave camp at about 14:30, by boat towing the canoes in tandem behind after which you are dropped off at the channel entrance around 15:15 followed by a safety briefing and orientation. These float back into camp just before sunset and sundowners after which guests have the choice to relax before dinner by the camp fire and enjoy perhaps another cocktail or two or join a night drive.

4. RIVER SAFARIS
Boat Cruises, or Zambezi River Safaris are conducted on custom built, stable pontoon boats with a canopy that can be raised or lowered according to circumstance and powered by near-silent, environmentally sensitive 4-stroke outboard motors. Thus, each river safari gives guests the opportunity to see more of the river and perhaps more Zambian wildlife by being able to cover more area – and in more comfort and safety than a canoe. Each boat carries a first aid kit, flares, VHF radio, sufficient life vests, fire extinguisher, and of course the obligatory cool box.

Guided by one of our expert river guides who will have grown up on the Zambezi, explore the main bank, islands and channels coming across fish eagles, herons, perhaps a buffalo lurking in the reeds, a crocs and hippos sunning themselves, or elephants crossing the river – these are a relaxing way to enjoy wildlife viewing all the while in awe of the scenery. As the sun sets, your guide will pour your cocktails of choice and serve you snacks before gently motoring back to camp or dropping you off at a waiting 4x4 to take you on a night drive. Sometimes we use the boats to drop off our walks on the mainland or – for those wanting a walk on a totally pristine habitat with no vehicles - on the permanent islands.

5. CATCH & RELEASE ANGLING
Fishing for tiger fish is a seasonal specialty of the Zambezi River. We say seasonal as the best time to catch them is from late August to mid-November during the hotter months, however, tiger fish and other species can be caught throughout our Zambian safari season. Netting and killing of any fish is not permitted within the National Park, and a 100% catch & release applies for all species.

Additionally, no live or cut bait is permitted (artificial lures only), no ultra-light tackle (minimum 20lb) and only one single de-barbed hook per line is allowed. These measures have all been proven by science to reduce stress and mortality of caught and released fish, making this activity in the National Park more sustainable, and hence making this stretch of the Zambezi River the most protected stretch along its length. Consequently, this stretch of the river also offers some of the most productive sport angling opportunities available. Both Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro have expert river guides who have grown up on the Zambezi and who have been guiding anglers, novice and expert alike, for a decade and more. With our custom built 18’ pontoon boats and intimate, local knowledge of the river there is nowhere else on the Zambezi that offers finer opportunities to fish from. Over the years absolute beginners and world-class anglers alike have set a number of IGFA World Records for tiger fish at Chiawa Camp.

The tiger fish is a wily and strong adversary. Somewhere between a trout and a piranha on the evolutionary scale, they are equipped with large bony jaws and a mouthful of razor sharp interlocking teeth. Wire leaders and strong, sharp hooks are a must. Apex predators, they eat smaller fish up to 75% their own length including their own species, and even young ducks and swimming reptiles.

Your guide will position the boat to help you get the right cast to the fish, usually towards the bank behind cover and structure, in eddies and over sand bars on the drop offs. Casting slightly upstream you will let your lure sink to about 7 foot depending on water depth, and then retrieve as the current brings your lure roughly adjacent to you, with an erratic jigging action. One often gets the strike on the pick-up, but in reality, tigers are so aggressive they are known to strike at pretty much any lure at any speed at any depth. Getting them to strike is the easier part, setting the hook is less easy – 50% skill and 50% luck - a sharp snap of the wrist on conventional gear and a strong strip on fly is the best you can do. Getting them to stay hooked is trickier still with strike to catch ratios of roughly 10:1 whereby after their initial and unmistakable hit, they tear line off the spool with a short, intensive run before leaping into the air, shaking their heads and usually throwing the hook at that point. At this point keep your rod tip down and your fingers crossed, don’t allow any slack line, ever, and don’t stop working until the fish is at the boat or lost! Tiger fish are strong fighters but don’t have much stamina so even big ones should be gotten to the boat quickly – we strongly discourage fighting fish to exhaustion which otherwise increases stress and mortality.

Once secured by the boat side, whilst watching out for crocs and ensuring the boat does not drift over a pod of hippos, your river guide will help revive your fish before lifting it out briefly for you to hold and photograph and then release.

Like fishing anywhere, some days you are going to get skunked and catch nothing, but most days anglers can expect multiple bites and boat perhaps half a dozen. On a really good day an accomplished fly fisherman can boat 40+ fish. Most common size is about 3lbs, average size 5lbs, a trophy would be in excess of 8lbs, and a monster in excess of 12lbs. Camp record is 21lbs and there are still stories of the one that got away, so we believe that there are fish in excess of 25lbs waiting

6. HIDES
There are two photographic/viewing hides close to Chiawa Camp (not available at Old Mondoro). These are treated as a walking activity inasmuch that there will be a pro guide and armed ZAWA escort accompanying any guests due to their locations. The Scouts Hollow, just by the edge of the Zambezi River, is fabulous for many types of Zambian wildlife, and another just above camp by the water tank overflow has shown to be very active. This provides an eye-level, completely unobstructed view of the animals that drink there during all times of the day or night.
the en suite facilities which include indoor flush loo and wash basin and outdoor shower & huge “splash-tub” all overlooking the Zambezi River. Each room also has a shaded timber sun deck complete with comfy daybed for relaxation with the very best of views.



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