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Kate’s Zambia safari report with Green Safaris

Zambia Safari & Lake Malawi with Green Safaris

What an incredible experience. Probably one of the very best educational trips that I have been on! Zambia safari and Lake Malawi with Green Safaris –

Let’s face it. We all want to do our bit for both the environment and for ensuring that local communities are benefitting from our tourism dollar. BUT… we also want to have a great safari!

Green Safaris is completely orientated around the powerful idea that these are NOT mutually exclusive. And that in fact your enjoyment of a safari can be enhanced by enjoying it in an ecologically sustainable/’’green’’ way.

Their ethos is to deliver an environmentally friendly safari, with a strong focus on community development as well. BUT at the same time ensuring that their clients have a fantastic time on safari.

Potato Bush Camp

In Summary

Some of my Country/area highlights were:
  • How much being on Lake Malawi feels like you are at the ocean
  • The stunning ox-bow lakes and scenery of South Luangwa
  • The joy of seeing so many young wildlife at the start of the summer rains (birthing season) including a hours-old elephant and a minutes-old baby puku.
  • The eerily beautiful ebony trees, perfect for walking safaris
  • Serenely canoeing along the Chifungulu channel off the Zambezi river
  • The sheer quantity and diversity of predator sightings on the Busanga Plains
Some of my Lodge highlights were:
  • Luxurious tree-house ambience of Shawa
  • Amazing e-dhows and sheer sense of place of Tongabezi
  • The (deluxe) Robinson-Crusoe vibe of Sindabezi Island
  • Yes, those amazing bird’s nest rooms at Chisa Bush Camp
  • Serene luxury of Sausage Tree
  • Relaxed barefoot luxury of Kaya Mawa

It was a fantastic trip where there was not a single lodge that I wouldn’t recommend to clients.  

We started in Malawi and ended in Victoria Falls (where I attended the Africa’s Eden show.) But generally speaking I would suggest that you start in Livingstone and either end on Lake Malawi. Or – if you want to focus on Zambia, I would end on the Lower Zambezi as it’s equally relaxing, but in a completely different way.

So I will present it in the order of likely travel:

Side Note:
Green Safaris Safari Offer

The Green safaris offer is super easy!
Stay 4 nights at any combination of Green Safaris camps and the flights (and transfers) are included. This is a great deal and worth exploring for all lengths of trip.

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Zambia Safari and Lake Malawi -Tongabezi_view

Tongabezi Lodge, Zambia Vic Falls Side

Practical Comments

  • Tongabezi does airside VIP Meet and Greets at Livingstone airport
  • 30-35 mins drive to Vic Falls
  • Great choice of accommodation from Cottages to Houses
  • Most of the Houses are now enclosed (except Tree House)
  • Front pool is close to the river, great for a quick dip before lunch
  • Main pool is behind the gardens, with a pool deck and a fully equipped gym close by
  • 2024 – All Tongabezi or Sindabezi island bookings include one complimentary Livingstone Island Breezer Tour per person.

Rooms

Cottages x 5

  • These have been considerably upgraded and I would be happy to use them.
  • No private pool but all have river frontage and there are two pools to choose from.

Houses x 6 – all have private pool

  • This is the only one which is still open! Very romantic and I love the openness. It has an air-con, but given the open air concept, doesn’t really combat the heat of Oct/Nov.
  • Very stylish, enclosed
  • The most private of all Houses, slightly more expensive, perhaps because of the panoramic river view. But I didn’t particularly prefer it over the others.

Families

Garden family cottage
• Only option with no river view. But is fully enclosed by a wall, with its own pool. However note that the two bedrooms are not inter-leading so not ideal for very small kids

Dog House (sleeps 4)
• didn’t see but two very stylish suites sharing a sitting room, could be used by two couples as well.

Personal Take

Tongabezi has been upgraded and added to the original concept so it is not as cohesive in design as newer lodges. However I really liked it, especially the huge sense of space and the fact that it embodies its setting so well. Love both the Cottages and the Houses now…

Included Activities:

  • Livingstone Island tour
  • Visit to the Tongabezi School (VERY inspiring)
  • Sunrise and sunset river cruises, perhaps by E-Dhow!
  • Picnic lunch on a private island
  • Guided tour of the Victoria Falls (but the $20 pp park fee is payable by guests)
  • Guided tour of Simonga Village on foot or by bike
  • Fishing – Not good in early season as water too high and too murky. Late season is better as lower and clearer
  • Visit to Livingstone Museum and/or the markets ($5 museum fee is extra)

Tongabezi

Sindabezi Lodge, Zambia Vic Falls Side

Practical Comments

  • 5 chalets
  • Including two honeymoon chalets (recommended)
  • Now has a small plunge pool for the camp
  • Dining and sitting central mess tents
  • Treehouse, quiet chill-out area
  • Note: Fans only at moment but adding the AirBreeze over the bed in early 24 which will be a game-changer for the hot months of Oct-Nov.
  • Much more developed/stylish than before. But still with oodles of charm and romance.

Rooms

Honeymoon/Sunset/Sunrise rooms

  • Worth paying the extra for these as they are larger with own bath with a view, and hammocks Sunrise room overlooks Zambezi National Park (Zim side) so sometimes have animals coming down to opposite riverbank to drink.
  • Sunset Room is same size of room but has a large open shady area to sit in, can do private dinners there Note – all rooms have open bathrooms to the side of the bedrooms (no enclosed loo)

Standard rooms

  • These are fine but quite a bit smaller. Bathroom incl toilet is open to the room, which is not ideal!
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Chisa Bush Camp, Busanga Plains

Practical Comments

  • Busanga Plains is a must-visit destination for any safari enthusiast
  • Amazing predator sightings
  • Very water-logged until June so very short season (June to early November)
  • Can be very cold at night in June-July. But then have the mist in the early mornings so very dramatic photographic opportunities
  • 4 treetop suites, accessed by stairs
  • However one has a lift for frailer clients
  • Lovely open-sided main lodge area
  • Electric vehicles so very quiet!
  • Campfire and Swimming pool
  • Accessed by air from either Livingstone (1.5 hours), Lusaka (1+ hours) or central Kafue/Ila

Climate

1500m altitude so cold winters ! Nights can get down to 4-5c June to mid Aug) so morning game drives can be cold – hats, scarves, jackets needed

Personal Take

  • What an amazing place, both the Busanga Plains, but also the innovative architectural Chisa Camp.
  • Busanga has only 15,000 visitors versus 1.5million visitors to the Kruger National Park. But it is larger than the Kruger at 22,000sq km versus Kruger’s 19,000 sq km
  • If you only have 2-3 nights for Kafue, then spend them all at Chisa. If you have 4+ nights, we recommend 1-2 nights at Ila safari Lodge and 3 nights in the Busanga Plains.
  • There are only 5 camps in the Busanga plains, so the plains are never crowded. Most close at the end of October but Chisa stays open until the first rains.

Ila Safari Lodge

Practical Comments

(Didn’t see as rebuilding after a fire, opening in Jan 24)

  • 3½ hours Lusaka to Chisa by road (if don’t want to fly)
  • Fly onto Chisa (too far to drive)
  • Reopening in Dec-Jan 24
  • It’s in a GMA so more options available for activities
  • Pontoon across river into Kafue National Park
  • 10 tented rooms incl family , 2 with bath on deck
  • Family tent sleeping 4 with two  bedrooms separated by a curtain
  • Electric vehicles so very quiet!

Activities

  • E-cruiser game drives
  • Walking safaris
  • E-Boat safari incl lunch or breakfast on the boat
  • Bush meals
  • Lunch boa
  • Fishing
  • Floating spa

Lots of Researchers based at Ila

  • Zambia Carnivore Programme
  • Panthera Project
  • Researchers can sit visit with guests to talk to them about their research
  • Anti-poaching unit funded by Green Safaris
Cedarberg_Africa_Ila_Safari_Lodge_vehicle
Cedarberg_Africa_Ila_Safari_Lodge_boats
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Sausage Tree Camp, Lower Zambezi NP

Practical Comments

  • Lower Zambezi – 4,080sq km
  • Access: Often direct flights from Mfuwe to Lower Zambezi in peak season. But cannot be guaranteed. Direct flight from Mfuwe is 1½ hours. Via Lusaka is probably 1¼ hrs then 30 mins to change, then 25 mins so 2½ hours
  • Jeki (usual) is nearest airstrip (30 mins drive) but not always possible. Royal Airstrip is a 15 min road and then a delightful boat transfer with plenty of hippos and Ellies
  • 7 tents plus Kigelia Family House so 9 rooms (18 pax)
  • Air breeze (vital)
  • Huge 25m laptop next to the main area so perfect for people wanting to do some exercise
  • Every tent has its own pretty large pool
  • Very luxurious and spaced out
  • Guaranteed Private guiding on offer for every booking
  • Kigelia House – same set-up of rooms but sharing a central sitting area and one pool. Could be used for families or two couples as identical rooms
  • Will be introducing E-Dhow boats which will be a game-changer (see Tongabezi)

Suites / Rooms

  • The suites are huge with sitting room area (slightly separated), large wall of glass, bedroom, bathroom all looking onto river frontage and own private large plunge pool.
  • The Bathrooms have double shower, and free-standing bath, double vanity, and loo
  • ‘’Air-breeze’’ for cooling the bedroom (very effective)

Personal Take

Sausage Tree, alongside Chiawa and Lolebezi, is one of the smartest lodges in Lower Zambezi (and Zambia). I loved it.

It’s also, alongside Tongabezi, one of the flagship camps for Green Safaris. Wonderful, serene ambience, and a superb choice of activities. Great place to end a safari if only doing Zambia. Lower Zambezi is one of my personal favourite places that I’ve been in Africa: Range of game activities, very pretty reserve, beautiful mountain backdrop and the very special activity of canoeing in the channels. Plus it’s a great birding area.

Activities

Game drives, Game walks, Boating, Tiger fishing and Canoeing in Chifengulu channel (2½ to 3 hours, paddling optional)

Potato Bush Camp, Lower Zambezi NP

Practical Comments

  • Sister lodge next door to Sausage Tree
  • 4 tented chalets rooms including family suite with two bedrooms en suite sharing a sitting room
  • Charming open plan main area overlooking a sandy area for campfires
  • Only fans for cooling
  • Each tent has a small plunge pool and outdoor lounging area
  • No main pool however

Personal Take

Though not nearly as smart as Sausage Tree, it is smart enough for most people and of course the activities and the river front setting is identical. Good alternative to other mid-range lodges in the Lower Zambezi. Plus it still benefits from the Free Flights offer.

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Cedarberg_Africa_Chisa_bush_camp_landscape

Shawa Luangwa Camp, South Luangwa NP

Shawa Lodge is approx. 1 hour from Mfuwe via the villages direct to the lodge. But this route is not possible after rains. So we did the 1.5+ hour route into the main park gates and up through the park. Then pontoon boat over to the lodge.

Shawa Lodge is in the northern part of the central sector. This allows them to explore the northern OR central areas without the vehicle density of the central lodges (Mfuwe, Kafunta, Nkwali, Chinzombo etc)

It’s named after its chief guide Jacob Shawa who guided us. Note he is not always there as he sometimes does private safaris. Similarly you may not get Jacob as your guide as he also does private safaris throughout Zambia.

Practical Comments

  • 4 tented rooms on platforms in amongst the treetops
  • One comprises two linked platforms to make a family unit for 4 people
  • Great main areas with beautiful views over the Luangwa floodplains
  • Large swimming pool
  • Wifi in main areas and rooms
  • E-land cruisers for silent game drives (cannot always be guaranteed)

Rooms

  • Front and sides can be opened so it feels very much like a treehouse
  • Air-breeze for cooling
  • Bathroom and dressing area behind the bed
  • Outdoor shower and enclosed loo
  • Sunken baths in the tented suite

Activities:

  • Game drives, bush walks, combined bush walks/drives
  • Only operator in South Luangwa to have Electric land-cruisers so your game drive is much more silent.  

Personal Take

Loved this lodge! The staff were some of the warmest and well-trained staff I have encountered Great team ambience. Location was excellent as can explore to the north but even after the rains (as now), we could traverse the central area to the south. 

Really liked the treetop ambience of the tented suites, with enough luxury that you can team it with the likes of Sausage Tree.

Loved the Electric land-cruisers

Even though it was mid-November (and after the rains), we had pretty good game-viewing with lion, elephant, brand new baby elephant and new-born puku.

Loved the bush brunch at the pretty lagoon

Kaya Mawa, Lake Malawi

Practical Comments

  • On Likoma Island in middle of Lake Malawi so must fly there from Lilongwe, generally in the early afternoon. 
  • Cannot fly to the island too late so late arrivals would need to overnight in Lilongwe.
  • 50 min flight each way. But free flights if stay 4+ nights at any combo of Green Safaris camps
  • 11 units with 14 rooms (incl 3 x 2-bedroom family unit)
  • 100% Solar power with fans in the rooms and electricity. Summer storms can temporarily affect the solar power for a few hours
  • Planning to add Air-Breeze system in rooms in 2024
  • Fully inclusive of non-motorised activities so E-bikes, guided walks, dingy sailing, kayaking, snorkelling
  • Scuba diving is an extra cost
  • Excellent food!
  • Wifi in main areas only
  • Big sustainability focus

Personal Take

Quite simply one of the most magical places to stay, certainly in Malawi, and possibly across the region. Great way to end the safari.

However,  even with the free flights, it will be the most expensive. The chalets are all unique with a unique island vibe, excellent food with the chef using as much local produce from his own organic garden. Amazing to visit Katundu Workshop (beautiful chandeliers, tableware, and décor.) There are a lot of steps, and some rooms are far away (with curiously coarse sand to walk on).

There are also a lot of steps in general. So it’s NOT suitable for people with mobility issues. If possible, I would stump up the extra money to have a Premium room for not much more.

Community

Kaya Mawa (and Green safaris) has a very clear community upliftment footprint on the island.

Rooms

We saw virtually every room and EACH one is different. Generally speaking (with one exception), the Premium rooms have their own private plunge pool (and even larger pool in some cases.)

  • All rooms are lovely except possibly #5 (with very steep stairs down to the room.)
  • Rooms 1, 6, 7 and 8 are closest to main area with least sand walking.
  • Numbers 3, 4, 5 and 10 have quite a few steps to them

The standard rooms are smaller and slightly less interesting, but all very charming.  However, all the rooms and suites had either direct beach access, stunning lake views, or every direct lake access in some cases.

Best recommendation are Rooms 1, 6 and 7

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Ending Notes on Zambia Safari and Lake Malawi with Green Safaris

Tree planting

32,000 trees per year
Offsets entire carbon footprint of Green Safaris

Future projects:

  • Plastic processing machine which creates eco-bricks
  • Organic farm at Livingstone

Pack for a Purpose website

They list what their communities need on their website

Download our Insiders Guide to Zambia Safaris

Major attractions, sample tours & camps, and the low-down on best areas to visit! Get our free guide here
 

Mari Jacobs

Africa Travel Specialist

Hi I’m Mari, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

“Kate’s Trip Report on Zambia Safari and Lake Malawi” was written by Kate Bergh of Cedarberg Africa


Cedarberg Africa is a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa. We focus on upmarket tailormade safaris for discerning and inquiring people. Several of us have visited Rwanda and so we can chat to you about a possible trip from personal experience, weighing up the different options, to plan a trip that is just right for you.

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