South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Photo: The Bushcamp Company
Photo: The Bushcamp Company

This safari begins like many others. Your wake-up call arrives before the sun. You fumble to get dressed and quickly brush your teeth. The moonlight illuminates the path between your room and the dining area. You gulp down porridge and toast. The walking safari is about to start. Birds chirp as the sky slowly brightens. You follow fresh tracks in the sandy dirt. They lead you to an even fresher pile of dung. Three bushbucks eat their breakfast in the distance. And a head peaks around a mopane. A Crawshay’s zebra–distinguished by its brownish shadow stripe–is the highlight of your morning.

You make your way back through the tall ebony grove and return to camp to finally shower. Your stilted treehouse only has three reed walls. The fourth wall, or at least where the fourth wall should be, is open. As in completely exposed. Instead of staring at a white wall or supposedly native artwork from your four-poster bed, you stare out at the Luangwa River, the Chindeni Hills, and the African sky. So it’s not surprising that as you’re washing in your rain shower, you hear noise outside. You peek out. You’re not the only one bathing.  A crash of hippos is stumbling into the river. Right outside your room. Definitely not your average safari.

Chamilandu Bushcamp is located in South Luangwa National Park. The Eastern Zambia park, near the Malawi border, is known as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The Bushcamp Company operates six remote camps in the area, and the three-bedroom Chamilandu Bushcamp has one of the best locations. And September, with lots of humidity and low water levels, is one of the best times of the year to spot game right near the edge of the river.

Photo: The Bushcamp Company
Photo: The Bushcamp Company

So back to the river. While eating brunch in the sandy floored dining area, Cape buffalo and warthogs stop by for a drink. The oxbow lagoons attract thirsty animals. While you’re almost falling asleep in a hammock, two white-legged Thornicraft’s giraffes glide toward the edge of the bank. And you jump up when you hear a bark in the distance. A few seconds later, the next bark is even closer. The baboons are coming.

As you leave for the evening drive, a puku darts out in front of the jeep. This is a type of antelope you’ll rarely see outside of Zambia. Watch scrub hares and porcupines emerge from the scrub as the sun starts to dip. It’s the perfect time for a sundowner. Just keep an eye out for leopards. Though notoriously difficult to spot, the park has a high density of the gorgeous cats. The rest of the evening is spent eating a gourmet dinner, sitting by the fire pit, and constantly listening for movement.

When you’re finally escorted to your room at the end of the evening, you almost run into an elephant, which stands directly in your pathway. Your guide starts to shoo it away, but you just stare at the massive animal. Best safari ever.

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