At the Wedding of my sister in 1996, we promised to visit relatives in Malawi, Africa and finally completed the Mission last month. It was a Trip of a Life Time thanks to support and planning of my sister Karen and her Husband Andrew. We’re posting articles to share a portion of our African Experience and encourage anyone who’s considered the journey to accelerate their plans and visit the most exciting and wild real-estate left on the planet.
South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is the African Wild Life Sanctuary and one of our Planet’s finest destinations for activities associated with an African Safari. It is 9050 Square Kilometers of untamed wild life well visited for Safaris by car, horse and on foot. Accommodations range from Camp Sites to 5 Star Hotels and an equally wide range of services relative to Animal Site Seeing is available thru Agencies and the Internet. We were gratified for the opportunity to visit this incredible location while the forests and animals exist in the Pristine State. Poachers have eliminated the Rhino Population and animals such as Leopards remain endangered.
We elected to travel from Lilongwe, Malawi by car to the Nkwali Camp located in the Southern tip of the Luangwa Valley. The ride to Zambian Border was uneventful on paved roads and took about 70 minutes at speeds comfortable to African Drivers.
Crossing the Border was hard work. Exit passes for vehicles, conformation of insurance, yellow fever inoculations certificate review, Zambian Tourist Visas and other related bureaucracy took about 90 minutes to complete. (It helps to complete as many forms in advance and by all means get your visa the nearest Zambian Embassy or Consulate.)
Once on our way thru the Border Town of Chipata, Zambia the ride got fun. (Make sure to review maps as land marks referred to in “fool proof directions” often disappear and routes to the Park are not marked well.) Roads graduated from “sealed” technology to dirt and rock surfaces and heavy rain added to the treacherous course. (Our Toyota Hilux had brand new Firestone 4x4 Off Road Tires and Old Man Emu Suspensions that got us thru it.)
We passed several highly populated villages and stopped at one Trading Center to gather our bearings. We shared potato chips with local children. (It was a Mardi Gras and the young Zambians were natural photo models.)
Arriving at THE LODGE
We continued and swerved & bounced past large rocks and pot holes for four hours before finally reaching the Robin Pope Nkwali Camp Lodge located in the Luangwa Valley. We wouldn’t do this trip at night. Add wild life to the equation and you would have far too much excitement. The road trip was worth the effort even though my wife said she “felt spanked”. Soon after arriving at our destination we were greeted by 6 men who were introduced as guides, cooks, waiters and coordinators.
They assisted with our luggage and made us a welcome cocktail from the fully stocked bar. Our Hosts gave a tour of an incredible four bedroom home designed to complement the surrounding environment. It was built with local materials including pillars made from tree trunks installed with natural bends, concrete, stone and a thatched roof. The concept maximizes open air exposure to African Wild Life and incorporates safety features crucial to repeat business. Each room had its own theme including sand, glass, copper and metal. Accommodations included King Beds covered by mosquito nets and a spacious bathroom inclusive of large walk in showers and vanity. A pool is situated at the front of the house and a walk way takes you to the river. The view rivals anything I ever witnessed on the big screen.
DINING: Meals were sensational. (Breakfasts as early as desired followed thru the day by lunch, high tea and dinner.) Each course presented was first rate. Breakfast included porridge, eggs cooked to order, toast, cereals, bacon, sausage, potatoes and tomatoes. Lunches served included Italian Breads, Pasta Salad, Tuna Pizza, Sandwiches and Cutlets. High Tea came with fresh pastries and cakes. Dinners featured roast chicken, beef steak, fish fillets and pork sauté inclusive of fresh vegetables, salads, breads and dessert. Fresh Coffee, tea and soft drinks were always available on demand. The whole experience was kicked off with a bottle of Champagne opened for our first lunch.
SAFARI: The Robin Pope Safaris use Open Air Land Cruisers which are the best four by four by far. These allowed transport thru rivers, muddy patches up to the bumpers and over consistently rough terrain.
Our Lodge was a 30 Minute ride from the Bridge that crosses the Luangwa River and leads to the Nature Preserves Front Gates. Ironically we saw more wild life and the most dangerous and exciting varieties of the same within 1 Kilometer of our Camp. This included the following:
-A Crocodile attack on a small reptile in the pond located 5 meters from the Lodge’s Deck. (Our daughter witnessed the National Geographic Performance from the swimming pool.)
-Two Evening Leopard Sightings; one in a tree which followed his graceful decent to the bush floor and departure;& later a dramatic chase that caused our guide to jam the breaks as an Impala Youngster bounded in front of the Land Cruiser followed by a Gorgeous Leopard in full stride. We subsequently watched stocking and chase until sight was lost in the dark foliage. We don’t know the outcome but grass was growing green and every animal caught on camera looks well fed.
-Meeting a 4 Lion Pride 400 Meters from the Lodge. This adrenaline rush sobered our party up as we were well lubricated from evening cocktails. The drama continued as early morning growls literally amounted to our final days wake up calls. (I looked out the window as tentative as a five year old child scared of the dark.)
-Stopping and waiting for herds of Elephants, Giraffe, Impala, and a families of Hippos & Baboon to leave the road way. (Don’t drive around the Elephants if you value your vehicle and personal welfare.)
Executive Summary: You can live the high life and witness the World’s Last Great Wilderness at the South Lilongwe Game Park. We’ll do it again and will certainly contract the Robin Pope Safaris Company to host and Coordinate another Life Time Experience. Take the path less traveled but remember your map.