Q: What is it? A: One of the world’s finest safari lodges located where you will find the world’s highest concentration of leopards. Renovated in 2010. Voted Zambia’s best park in 2009.
Neil, a seasoned traveller and bird-watcher is sitting in the backseat, spotting rare birds while we’re driving at about 50 km/h on good roads in the South Luangwa National Park. Suddenly he calls out:
–Misheck! On that side road, what was it?
–To the left? Zebra. Female and young, Misheck Milanzi, our guide calmly responds without slowing down.
–Can you really spot them that fast? Neil asks, adding: Please, go back there. I’ll buy you a beer if you’re right!
Misheck stops, puts the Land Rover in reverse, and after driving backwards almost 200 meters he stops again. On the tiny side road; a female zebra with her young. Neil watches the animals in silence, smiling, knowing that he suddenly owes our guide a cold one.
Myself, I barely managed to even notice the side road itself.
One of the best parks in the world?
There are plenty of zebra in Zambia, so why go here in the first place? For a start, this park is rather big – 9050 sq. km – and boasts the world’s highest concentration of leopards. Actually, there’s plenty of everything; elephants, giraffe, buffalo, hippos and even wild dogs. There’s one sad exception, though. All black rhinos has been poached to extinction.
So why is the South Luangwa National Park not mentioned alongside the Masai Mara or Etosha? I think the main reason is that the location isn’t exactly Times Square. This is of course an advantage if you want to avoid the crowds, (don’t we all?). But it takes a little extra effort to get here; after flying in to Lusaka, there’s either a 16-hour-drive or a domestic flight to Mfuwe. I’d highly recommend the latter.
Sleeping next door to the hippos.
The lodge itself has 18 chalets, overlooking an oxbow lagoon where the hippos like to muck around. It’s not a fenced lodge, which means that those who visit in November, are likely to see “Wonky Tusks” lead her group of elephants through the reception, their sight set on the fruits growing on a large wild mango tree. Photos of this event has made the lodge world-famous and according to Andy it happens year after year.
Managed by the Bushcamp Company’s Andrea Bizzaro and Andy Hogg, the Mfuwe Lodge runs like a Swiss watch in the bush. As mentioned, guides are nothing less than superb – among the best I’ve ever met. Thanks again, Misheck and Peter!
The Bushcamp Company also runs six small camps, each with a capacity of 6-8 guests, located in the park.
And it comes with an unusual bonus:
Another gem at this lodge is not the pool that overlooks the Luangwa river. Nor am I talking about the goodies that the chefs deliver. I’m talking about the library. Andy has turned one building into a reference library containing more than 300 wildlife books and videos. This also doubles as a conference room. After watching a BBC video featuring the unique tactics of hunting leopards, we spotted a few locations that looked somewhat familiar. –That, said Andy when asked about it, was filmed less than two kilometers away. The BBC spent three months out here to get those scenes.
For us, who didn’t manage to spot a single spotted cat during our five-day stay, the response felt somewhat comforting. And Mfuwe Lodge is not a zoo. It’s a vast national park, one of the best.
P.O. Box 91
Telephone: +260 (6) 245041
Sat phone: (+871) (76) 228 0123
FINALLY, A QUICK (BUT IMPORTANT) NOTE:
There is a project called the The Chipembele Pupil Sponsorship Scheme which enables orphaned and otherwise vulnerable children in Mfuwe to attend school. This is a project with zero administration costs, where donations are not used to buy shiny new LandCruisers but to actually help children hands on. It operates as a UK registered charity (number 1107698). I promise you that £25 will make a huge difference. If you wish to donate through JustGiving.com, click here.