In October 2020, we made a trip with a group of friends to McBrides’ Camp in the north eastern section of Kafue National Park. I took some rather awful pictures on my phone, but I know you won’t judge; I have since treated myself to a proper camera so will aim to do better in future!
Those of you who know Zambia will be thinking; “You went to a bush camp, in Kafue, in October?!”. Yes, indeed we did. It was hot, but not nearly as hot as you might expect. There is plenty of shade, and with wet kikois draped over us, it was not at all unpleasant, with surprisingly cool nights.
Owners, Chris & Charlotte McBride have been at McBrides Camp for nearly 20 years. This is not your average Zambian lodge experience; and Chris & Charlotte are very involved hosts, I almost felt I had been welcomed into their home. They are passionate about this place that they call home and they have a genuine desire that you have enjoy every moment of your stay, whether that is on an activity, or just quietly reading a book.
There is a communal lounge and dining area under thatch, where you can help yourself to refreshments like tea, coffee and water. From the comfy seating you can take in the views straight onto the Kafue River; here you will often find Chris taking in the sights and the sounds. Chris, who has recently celebrated his 80th birthday, is a Michaelhouse boy, has written four books about lions, made an appearance on Animal Planet and spent years in the bush, so he is overflowing with stories to tell!
If you are a keen birder, you will soon have quite a few species to add to your birding list from the comfort of the couch! Black-backed Barbets are a regular visitor to their bird baths placed nearby.
Another treat is meeting one of Chris’s many ‘Lindas’; Yellow Bellied Greenbuls that visit daily for their sneaky little snack from Chris at his armchair.
The rooms are basic with a combination of mud and grass walls with concrete floors and low thatched roofs. They have a rustic charm, with varied artwork, solid wood furniture and selections of books in each room. The beds are very comfortable, each with mosquito nets and extra blankets as the nights are surprisingly chilly, even in October. Each room also has a private open air bathroom attached, with lovely showers; quite something to have a steaming hot morning shower and watch a bushbuck and their baby eat their breakfast. Drinking water is provided every day in reusable bottles.
Another resident I am sure you would get to meet, hopefully from a distance, is The Lone Ranger. A rather enormous hippopotamus who can be found napping in the undergrowth or making his way back to the water. Often passing by the ‘internet café’ to head back to the water.
To the front of the lodge on the river bank is an old barge, filled with cushions and a couple of books. This was a wonderful quiet spot where we unintentionally met up with our friends for some morning prayer, reading, chats and taking in the views before breakfast.
We had delicious meals that were well thought out and we were surprised with a different table setting at each meal. Charlotte clearly has an eye for detail and she, along with her chefs are keen and accommodating cooks. As there is one dining area, you will eat your meals together with Chris & Charlotte and any other guests.
There are the usual activities available such as bush walks, game drives as well as boating and fishing trips. These you do with your own group, unless you choose to share an activity with other guests. We opted for a short bush walk, an evening game drive and a few boat trips. They have a double deck barge as well as a smaller fishing boat available.
I think my most memorable part of the McBrides experience, was their pontoon boat, the Finfoot. The Finfoot is so quiet that you get the feeling of just drifting along up and down the river. The top deck allows for fantastic sightings right into the trees and onto the banks. There is enough shady space upstairs and downstairs for seating in comfy camp chairs and they offer hot & cold drinks and snacks as arranged per your package.
One of our activities included going further along the river, on the Finfoot, to their secluded bush/fly camp. This was a full day activity and included lunch in the camp as well as a short siesta for some and chatting for most!
Our best sighting was without a doubt, the Pels Fishing Owl. On our last boat trip, heading back into camp, having given up on the Pels, something made me turn and look back along the river. Right there, in broad day light, on the most obvious, exposed branch hanging over the river was a Pels Fishing Owl. We turned the boat around and made our way towards it, and there was not one, but two gorgeous owls, looking straight at us. After some hopping around, both them and us, the owls flew across the river right in front of the boat. It was incredible!
We managed to spot 104 bird species in our time at McBrides, which included a few lifers too; Pels Fishing Owl, White Winged Tern, African Skimmer.
We saw a Crowned Eagle on its nest, as well as two African Barred Owlets at their nest site too. Daily sightings of the Black-backed Barbets. A birding paradise!
Gather some friends and make your way to McBrides. At just 5 hours from Lusaka, it’s an easy getaway. For the campers, there is a rustic shady campsite available too.
Support local tourism if you can; book a holiday, follow their social media pages and like & share their posts to help create awareness. Every bit helps!