Chongwe River Camp wasn’t quite our thing (although we had a great time anyway). We felt it was a little geared towards first-timers, a bit ‘touristy’. The Fred Flintstone pretend-mud walls sort of set the scene, we thought, and the guiding was a little cynical. They worked pretty hard to persuade everyone in camp to do the same activity at the same time, (on one occasion resorting to fibs to achieve this) which was strange as they had no shortage of guides… On the other hand, the Cassia Suite was lovely, and camp manager Flossie is a lovely friendly lady. No specific problems, just not our ideal camp.
This camp is of course NOT in the National Park but is just outside the Park on the Chongwe river where it meets the Zambezi. This means that to drive into the park requires driving up the side of Chongwe river to a crossing point (not sure what they do when the river is higher) then driving through a very unproductive part of the park before reaching the better game viewing areas. 40 minutes+. Actually
There is some, but limited wildlife around the lodge without needing to go too far and the camp has a watering hole with a hide – although we didn’t use it as there appeared to be limited activity.
Having spent 3 days at Chiawa which is inside the National Park, Chongwe was a bit disappointing from a wildlife perspective …. Our guide had to take us to the Park area close to Chiawa/Sausage Tree/Potato camps where all the “action” took place and the environment was more conducive to good wildlife viewing.
Chongwe is a pleasant “classic” bush camp but bigger than the two in South Luangwa with 9 standard tents and 2 separate suites. Standard tents are comfortable with good mossie nets, comfy bed, semi- outside bathroom and shower. Hot water, power and wifi are available 24 hours. The suites look great, if a bit decadent … two big bedrooms, your own bar, dining area and plunge pool. Overkill for 2 people (we were offered one for a night but politely declined … couldn’t face packing and unpacking for 1 night) …. but probably great for a family.
Food was pretty average but plentiful although they tried hard with the presentation. Wine & beer good and also plentiful. All meals are “communal” with an option to dine separately if required. Occupants of the suites can dine separately but they have the option to join “the big table”
Standard of guiding (we had Clement) was “adequate” but no better. He is quite a new guide and lacked experience and confidence.
Management (Alan & Flossie) are very welcoming and helpful and appear to be very committed to staff development. It was noticeable here that all staff from kitchen staff, gardeners etc. to trainee guides went out of their way to communicate with guests.
Activities include games drives, walking, canoeing, boat safaris and apparently just doing nothing (a strange but quite enjoyable concept !).
River based safaris are usually very rewarding from a wildlife perspective but Clement’s lack of boating skills and experience reduced this to a simple boring boat trip right up mid-channel, with sundowners … not very rewarding. We mentioned this to George (the good guide David had last year) who we think knew of’ the problem’.
Vehicles were comfortable with 2 or 3 rows of seats and roofs to protect from the sun (removable). Typically we were 2 to a vehicle.
Typically evening game drives were followed (after sundowners) by a night drive with spotlight.
If taking an evening cruise on the river, the boat just returned to camp after sundowners.