Absolutely fascinating to meet Grant Cumings, the owner, who was being transferred from Old Mondoro up to Chiawa with us. He was clearly a little sensitive about the arrival of Anabezi on the scene and that we would feel that Chiawa was dated. To a certain extent he was right but that did not take into account the wonderful atmosphere and friendliness of the staff that we experienced throughout our stay. We were only at Chiawa for 2 nights and I would say that this area of the game park looked rather worn and well-trodden compared to Anabezi and the guides had to work a little harder to find game. Having said that we had some amazing close-up viewings of leopard and our canoe trip was a brilliant experience - slightly nerve-wracking at some points but the reassuring experience of our guide managed to keep me calm! Food gets 5 stars and we really enjoyed dining together, sharing stories and listening to their lovely choir. Having mentioned that it was our 25th wedding anniversary holiday, they arranged some lovely, personal touches; lunch floating on the river, private dining in our tent - we felt very touched and very well looked after. It seems like a camp that has a loyal following for good reason but perhaps Grant is right to think that he needs to keep on his toes.
I think you know these camps personally, so I am probably only repeating what you already know. They are simply two of the most enjoyable camps we have stayed in ever .For us, although fairly seasoned now, camping on the banks of a huge river was a delightful new experience. The game was fantastic, particularly at Old Mondoro e,g six different leopards on our first day! The scenery, especially at Old Mondoro was also superb. The quality of everything, huts, management, guiding, food and service was unsurpassed. They put British and European service to shame. Grant Cumings was also very interesting and entertaining.
I do remember you worrying that six nights in the two camps might be too long. Not at all! The variety of activities ( and surprises) was exceptional - game drives, walking, canoeing (fantastic!), boat trips for various purposes - water based game viewing, mid river lunch, and of course sundowners. Elephant intruders in both camps and a leopard under our tent in Chiawa. Nightly hippo choruses.
We could happily have stayed another week without being bored. Both camps are brilliantly managed, with a great atmosphere and very likeable guests.
Luxury “tented” camp with 6 “standard” tents, 2 “luxury” tents and 1 family suite. Very comfortable large rooms with inside and outside showers plus a big veranda. Comfy beds and good mosquito net. We had tent 8 which I think is one of the luxury tents. Hot water and power available all day. Wifi available in the tents but not in the main lodge. Everything very professional – down to the last detail. All staff excellent.
Food was excellent …. among the best we have had in any safari lodge. Wine & beer good and also plentiful. All meals are “communal” with an option to dine separately if required. They add some nice touches for dining … e.g. we had one lunch on a boat, another meal in the small “upper” lounge area which is lovely.
Manager, Juliet, is a very capable Zambian lady. (As we know from the past in a different life!)
Guiding here is a bit different. You do not have one guide throughout but have different guides for different activities. As you would expect standard varies although all were competent.
Activities include games drives, walking, canoeing, boat safaris. We declined walking due to the excessive heat. Boat safaris were good and very productive. Game drives were very good … the habitats in area are quite varied and very conducive to wild life activity.
Vehicles were comfortable with 2 or 3 rows of seats. I think policy is never to have more than 4 in a vehicle. However – vehicles do not come as “standard” with a roof. In the baking sun that was quite an issue. They need advised in advance if a client wishes that. But unless one knows in advance to do so, it won’t happen. Typically we had a vehicle to ourselves.
The only small negative with this camp is that you cannot move unaccompanied around the camp during the day. In most camps, you need to be accompanied to and from your tent in the evening, but here the restriction applied during the day. Each room has a shortwave radio so it was always quick to get someone to accompany you … it was just a little restrictive. Wandering round the camp often throws up a lot of good bird life.