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“Fantastic Starting Camp for SLNP”
Review of Nkwali Camp

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Nkwali Camp
Certificate of Excellence
Cincinnati, Ohio
Level 6 Contributor
138 reviews
72 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 205 helpful votes
“Fantastic Starting Camp for SLNP”
Reviewed December 25, 2013

4.5 of 5 Stars

Nkwali Camp is a Robin Pope camp located approximately 40 minutes via road transfer
from the Mfuwe Airport. It is set on a private conservation located on the banks of the Luangwa River, just across from the South Luangwa National Park. Nkwali is a small intimate and authentic bush camp. For us this was an ideal start off point for yet another safari in Zambias' South Luangwa. It's location is ideal as it is near enough to main gate but offers much more intimacy than the far too large Mfuwe Lodge and keeps things more low key and personalized than the many lodges in the area. Additionally there are no "greenies" here, the people in this camp seemed to understand they were on safari not at a spa or zoo. It can be along trek to get to SLNP from the US and this is a good place to stop for a night or 2 before heading deep into the park for your safari.

There are six ground level chalets. Each chalet is constructed with (3) bamboo woven walls and a thatched roof. One side of the chalet is completely exposed offering views of the riverbanks below. Our chalet had a large bed with the typical mosquito netting protection hanging above. There are no closets in the chalets, only a couple of shelves and a couple of hangars in which to hang clothing on a couple of hooks on the walls. The chalet has an open en-suite bathroom complete with double basins and dual shower heads. The showers being located under the trees and open to the sky above. I do not recommend leaving toiletries out (or anything else for that matter) as the baboons may very well steal them from your bathroom, especially if they are shiny items. We pretty much kept everything in our duffles as we only spent our first night on arrival here and then headed deeper into the camps in SLNP, but we did return for 2 more nights before heading to other parts of Zambia and I must admit a closet with some kind of lock to prevent the baboons from getting in would be a good idea for the chalets. Being the chalets are completely exposed on the riverbank side, at night for "protection" from the wildlife that comes and goes through camp, there is a grid-like wrought iron and woven set of panel doors that are pulled together to "close" the open room fronts. Of course they are still open on the top to allow the views of things outside in the night. We actually had a family of mongeese walking around our chalet and a very young hippo eating grass right outside our patio (no mother around) at night and could see him in the moonlight. During the daytime hours there are chairs and a table to sit out on your patio to watch the animal life coming down to the river to drink.

The bar and lounge area is an open air thatched roof structure and is quite large with a deck platform that extends out overlooking the river. There is a telescope for better viewing on the platform deck. Plenty of seating for a camp this small. Tea is served (along with all the goodies) in this area. Dinner and brunch are served in the Dining Area (another thatched roofed building) and it is family style. The food was excellent and they accommodated my husbands odd dietary requests without any problems.

The small "infinity" pool area is located next to the dining area and overlooks a small waterhole and the bridge that accesses camp. There are several chaise lounge chairs for sunning in the day by the pool. Throughout the day smaller antelope and of course the baboons come in and drink at the waterhole and play on the bridge.

Game Drives and walks are both offered in camp, as are other activities that take you into Mfuwe. We had asked for "special" arrangements to meet with some people in Mfuwe and the staff at Nkwali accommodated our requests. In fact they went out of their way for us (Thank you my brother Daudi!). After spending our initial few hours in Mfuwe meeting some friends from our previous trips here, Daudi took us on a short game drive closer to Main Gate - but in a direction few head, as we only saw 1 other vehicle during our drive. Within the first 30 minutes we saw 3 leopard, a female and her daughter with a kill still on the ground and a short distance away was a male with a kill he had just dragged up a tree. Wow what a start to our trip to SLNP. After a wonderful breakfast, we departed the next morning for our next camp about 4 hours away and saw all kinds of animal life en route. We returned to Nkwali for 2 additional nights at the end of our stay at SLNP, sadly Daudi had to take a walking group to Tena Tena and we had a different guide. On our game drives the last few days here, it was during "dry" season when the river is at its lowest so they drive the vehicles directly across the river without entering through the main gate area. There is a "loop" on the other side of the river within SLNP where a number of Robin Pope and Norman Carr safari vehicles do game drives. I noticed that the game was sparser here, so on our final 2 drives we requested to go in through the main gate area and how glad we were, the game in that area (again not in the same direction as most vehicles go) was incredible. We even found a rock python hiding up in a tree, an animal my husband has looked for on all our trips sine 2004 and had been elusive up until now. We found him thanks to our wonderful guide's hunch!

I would HIGHLY recommend Nkwali as a camp to start off your journey into SLNP. The staff is excellent and RPS did a fabulous job in keeping the true safari experience feel in the camp so close to main gate. We will definitely return and we may even do a walking safari to Nsefu and Tena Tena instead of returning to our favorite SLNP camp next trip, or maybe we will incorporate them all. Thank you again everyone for yet another incredible safari!

Room Tip: Ask for a chalet farthest from Main Camp
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
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6 Thank Cindy-Milford
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (17)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • German first
  • Any
English first
Norwich, United Kingdom
Level 4 Contributor
13 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed December 17, 2013

We travelled for over three months in southern Africa and I think this was our favourite lodge. It is luxurious in the best way with fantastic attention to detail. Greg, the manager was the most hands on manager setting very high standards. His french heritage was evident in the menus and provided a welcome relief from the usual fare in most lodges.

One small note is the informal breakfast provided before game drives, its pretty poor compared to everything else, particularly waiting for toast being cooked over a fire.

The game drives are good and very rewarding, never more than four in a truck, often just the two of us. The rooms are comfortable and of the standard you would expect for a lodge in this price range.

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank langham1954
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
Level 4 Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed November 19, 2013

I stayed at Nkwali for 7 nights the first week of November. Everyone at the camp was incredibly welcoming, the food was fantastic and the game drives superb. Kiki and Tomas were excellent guides and went above and beyond in providing amazing wildlife viewing, including 3 days running of African wild dog sightings, a very newborn baby elephant, giraffe and those elusive tiny newborn impalas! Lots of leopards as well, and some lion cubs way out in the bush. I was very spoiled my last day, as I was the last one left of the guests, before new ones arrived, and I was given my own choice for the dinner menu, besides having guides all to myself! The chef never disappointed. I definitely look forward to returning again in the future.

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled solo
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Helpful?
1 Thank Phnompenh1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Harare, Zimbabwe
Level 2 Contributor
6 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed November 17, 2013

Location is everything when you visit Nkwali, fantastic views of the river and wildlife where ever you may be at the lodge. Kiki , The Nkwali Team and namely ,Tomas(The letter H has been removed intentionally),words cannot surmount to one of our most fabulous hospitality experience Amazing food , the chefs showcasing their culinary skills , we could not wait for the next meal time as it was always a mouth watering experience to look forward to. Our designated guide Tomas , was very insightful , super efficient , during our short stay there we left more knowledgable of the ins and outs of South Luwanga from the traditions , tribes across the valley, folk lore and to the wildlife . What more would we want? We could not stop saying "awesome" during our stay. Nkwali Team thank you for making our anniversary so memorable you will definitely see us soon.

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank Rodney G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oundle, UK
Level 5 Contributor
46 reviews
39 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 103 helpful votes
Reviewed October 15, 2013

We are just back from Zambia and the whole trip was fantastic. Nkwali was our first stop and so we were not sure what to expect. Greg and all of his staff were fantastic, such a warm welcome,
and the camp exceeded our expectations. The tent was beautifully appointed with fantastic views
over the Luangwa river, which was low at this time of the year. The outdoor bathroom was very nice, and although personally I would probably prefer an indoor one, that does just not seem to happen in safari camps! The camp was beautifully set out and very artfully designed, with different eating and drinking spots. The food was delicious. Our safari drives were just the best, the leopard sighting with Chilumba was brilliant.

We also loved the swimming pool, it was exceptionally hot while we were there, and we spent a very happy afternoon between safaris watching elephants in the lagoon, just a few metres away from us. Also a lovely warthog, who spent ages trying to improve his appearance with mud !

We didn't see lions while we were there, but weren't worried as we were staying next at Tena Tena, where we had heard there were lots of them. The wildlife in South Luangwa was amazing, the animals seemed so relaxed, giving ample opportunities for great viewings, and we only saw a handful of other vehicles in all the time we were there.

We were very sad to leave, and would have no hesitation in recommending Nkwali.

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
3 Thank janetatt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Poole
Level 4 Contributor
39 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
Reviewed August 31, 2013

A superb location on the river where you can watch game without having to move. The managers Chloe and Greg are charming and efficient as are their staff. The star however was Obi our game guide and driver; an absolute gem and most interesting to talk to about all things apart from game.

We stayed in Robin's House and two of the Lodges as we were a party of seven. The house I can unreservedly recommend The lodges I am less sure about. They are open to the elements around the roofs which also means open to baboons, insects, ants and in theory leopards of which there are many in the park. at night you can hear hippos outside your room and on the last day an elephant came to our breakfast table just as we left it.

Our shower was full of fallen leaves each morning, our friend had ants regularly in her thermos of drinking water.

To some all this will be a big plus as you are "really" in Africa but frankly I did not like it.

The food was "good honest cooking" no haute cuisine at all, maybe that is what you should expect. I have said the coffee was instant!! Now come on; that's not good enough. The wine was as grim as the coffee.

The tipping policy was $10 per day per visitor; as we were seven that was a big extra bill. You were meant to give it to the manager for distribution; we didn't and gave it where possible directly to the staff.

Room Tip: Avoid the lodges unless you like communing with insects,baboons and other creepy crawlies.
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank Davidofpoole
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
RPS2011, Owner at Nkwali Camp, responded to this review, September 3, 2013
Thank you for your review. Your time and effort to give us feedback are appreciated.

We are also very happy that you enjoyed the Robins House and will surely pass on your positive comments to our staff. They will be delighted.

Of course we are sorry that you did not enjoy the camp as much. I understand from your comment that the camp was to close to nature for your liking.

A few comments. This is indeed the time of year that leaves fall from the trees and we do have open showers. We clean out the showers everyday but of course the leaves that fall during the night will be in the bathroom.

We do not serve instant coffee, but filtered coffee using a plunger in the camp. We serve Fleur du Cap, Leopards Leap and Zonnebloem wines which are a respectable brands. We are sorry if you did not like the wine offered and if you would have asked we could have looked at trying to find something different for you.

Tipping policy. We do not have a tipping policy. We do offer guidance for people that are unsure of the amount for a tip. The reason we request that the tipping is handed to the manager is that the service you receive is a team effort and not only the persons you meet. We make sure the tips are distributed evenly to all staff working at the camp. We do offer the option on the tipping envelope to give tips to certain members of staff.

I hope you find these comments fair and just. I would also like to advise you that these issues are best addressed while in camp as we would have loved to have had the opportunity to explain some of these things to you while in camp and also been given the opportunity to address some of your concerns. This would have also helped you in having an even better holiday.

We hope to see you again sometime in the house or at one of the camps!

Very best,
Ton de Rooy
Owner and Managing Director Robin Pope Safaris
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Swindon, United Kingdom
Level 3 Contributor
7 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed July 28, 2013

What an amazing setting, with excellent staff and so incredibly welcoming. Greg, the manager, and his team of staff, were constantly making the stay unique and special. The comfort, food, surprises and thoughtfulness that were above and beyond expectation or dream! A constant 'wow' experience. The guides were knowledgeable, the wildlife abundant and the setting serene.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
1 Thank Backpackerto5star
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Nkwali Camp

Property: Nkwali Camp
Address: Robin's private land, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Location: Zambia > South Luangwa National Park
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #19 of 44 Specialty Lodging in South Luangwa National Park
Hotel Class:3 star — Nkwali Camp 3*
Number of rooms: 7
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Many places claim to be "among the remaining wilderness areas" or "one of the last wildlife sanctuaries"; South Luangwa National Park lives up to both and more. The Luangwa Valley is vast, remote and home to both people and a truly impressive variety of game. The South Luangwa Park is 9050 sq. kilometer; with the river, its tributaries and the riverine strips being the focus of the wildlife viewing. There are diverse habitats, from huge ox bow lagoons of varying stages of maturity, woodlands, ebony groves, grassland and thickets, that host a great variety of wildlife. The birdlife is also excellent with over 450 species to be seen. Nkwali is located on the banks of the Luangwa on a magnificent meander in the river overlooking the National Park where leopards roam along the bank and can often be spotted from camp. Situated on Robin Pope Safaris’ private land outside the park there is a private game viewing area behind camp as well as exclusive access into the park either by boat or across the pontoon. The six chalets with bamboo woven walls and thatch roofs offer a rustic luxury opening up to magnificent views of the river as well as open air en-suite bathrooms. Nkwali offers understated elegance, seclusion and superb service. Nkwali is dominated by an enormous ebony tree around which the bar is moulded. It is this tree which, when Robin and Jo Pope found it cemented the location of the camp. From the bar deck cantilevered over the river a cool drink can be enjoyed whilst watching the sun set over the Luangwa. The six chalets are spacious and during the day are fully open to wonderful river views, in the evenings the Constantia grill doors are pulled together to close the open room fronts. The en-suite bathrooms are spacious with double sinks and showers from which you can enjoy the enormous African skies. Set back from the river on a lagoon are the dining room and swimming pool from which guests are often treated to elephants and other game coming down to drink during the day unperturbed by our presence. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Nkwali Camp Hotel South Luangwa National Park
Nkwali Camp Zambia/South Luangwa National Park

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