Lake Malawi & South Luangwa Road Trip

I am loving this holiday reminiscing.  Been scrolling through Facebook & Instagram to find and download our holiday pictures, only this time will save them to the cloud so we don’t have another incident.  I cannot explain to you how happy I am that I constantly post pictures on social media, otherwise I would have zero photos! I am updating my blog with all our travels, mainly as a back up for my own memories, so the posts are back dated to the actual holiday date. Luckily, I could scavenge photos from my friends for this one!

So this particular holiday to Lake Malawi and South Luangwa was beyond incredible.  It ticked so many boxes; beach (well, kind of), bush, two countries, roadtrip, greatest friends, camping and luxury, all in one holiday.

This was another one with The Brits, people we holiday SO well with.  Erik and I left Mazabuka, collected them from Lusaka airport and we spent our first night at the Pioneer Campsite on the eastern side of Lusaka.  This makes for a great early morning head start. We had our trailer and they go in our rooftop tent. After a long flight and a late night catching up, we ended up heading off to Chipata later than expected.  The road from Lusaka to Chipata took us about 8 hours and is a scenic drive, on an impressively smooth road.

We overnighted at MamaRulas camp site, which is pretty rough and ready. Having overnighted there again earlier this year, I cannot say I would recommend it. That said, if you are just camping overnight, and not eating there, it would probably do you fine. We prepared our own food then sat in the bar area, where the ongoing Dobble Tournament commenced. Best game ever, even better than Bananagrams, not quite as good as Code Names. The next morning we set off from Chipata to Chembe Eagles Nest, where we camped for the night.

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Lake Malawi is absolute beautiful, if you head away from the crowds.  What is great about Chembe Eagle Nest is they have put a barrier down the beach to make it a private beach and it has a bank of rocks to the other side. But I would not swim off that Cape Maclear area, as you have hundreds of people washing their clothes, pots, fishing nets and themselves in that water.

We headed off to Domwe Island the next day, which is like a little piece of paradise.  So peaceful.

We swam, kayaked, birded, and Dobbled. If you go to Domwe Island, I highly recommend taking your own drinks, as by the second day we were negotiating over the last couple warming beers as they are not too well stocked. We chose the catered option and were very pleased with the service and food. We stayed in the tented rooms overlooking the lake, the rooms are rustic but clean.  You place your order for the overnight shower and a bucket of water is heated up and you hoist it up into the tree.  Magical.  They have a composting toilet and solar lights in the evenings. The only thing I would change would be to stay an extra night.

We eventually left the island and had a mooch around Cape Maclear. It is a packed village atmosphere with accommodation and activity centres along the lake. There are the usual markets with curios and also a Recycling Shop.

Then we spent two more nights at Chembe, before making the drive back to Zambia to South Luangwa. It was great to have a spot to just chill by the pool and in camp catching up.

We headed off to Croc Valley in South Luangwa, and camped on the banks of the river.  A beautiful view, but unfortunately there had been maintenance issues, so the ablutions were not great. Croc Valley cater to campers as well as backpackers, and has chalets. It is fully equipped with a huge pool, games area, bar and restaurant. A great place to go if you enjoy having all the facilities, which we don’t. It is a great location to do self drives into the park and to visit the shops and organisations, like Project Luangwa in the town.

Then, the absolute highlight, and life changing experience, of Robin Pope Safaris Nkwali Camp.  We were still sitting drinking coffee in camp at Croc Valley, slightly bleary eyed, when I got a call from Kiki, the manager of Nkwali asking how our journey was going and whether they could have drinks or anything ready for us on arrival.  Things were definitely looking up!  The camp trailer and roof top tent were packed up in record time and we were off!

After a nice cold drink on the deck overlooking the river, we went for the most delicious lunch in the lapa at their watering hole, and an elephant came down for a drink.  You could not make it up!

Everything about this stay was pure perfection.  The service, the rooms, the privacy, the guide knowledge and attentiveness, the sightings. Incredible. What I especially loved here, is that whilst you are not in the park, you are directly opposite, so for each game drive, you get into a boat and go slightly up and across the river, to where their game vehicles are parked at the rivers edge, inside the park.  This is so much better than going through that busy South Luangwa main gate. We had the best sighting of wild dog I have ever had, they had just fed and were lazing about in the shade. A huge pride of lion, and all the usual animal sightings. We saw so many birds, one of which has been on my list for years, the Allens Gallinule. I cannot recommend Nkwali enough, if you are in a position to go, then do it.

We then spent our last afternoon sipping drinks in the pool at the watering hole, trying to figure out timings of staying an extra night, and if we could get The Brits to the airport on time.  But, alas.

We had one last brief morning game drive before heading back to Lusaka, which we did in one trip straight back to Pioneer Camp. We arrived late that night and had dinner in the restaurant, before heading back to our tents.  That last night is always a sad one, especially when you have to say goodbye to your friends the next day.

The next morning we squeezed in a quick Lusaka trip, a coffee at Three Trees, before the dreaded airport drop. Made all the easier for knowing we would see them at the end of the year for a New Year getaway on their land. I won the Dobble Tournament.

 

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