“Africa – You can see a sunset and believe you have witnessed the Hand of God. You watch the slope lope of a lioness and forget to breathe. You marvel at the tripod of a giraffe bent to water. In Africa, there are iridescent blues on the wings of birds that you do not see anywhere else in nature. In Africa, in the midday heart, you can see blisters in the atmosphere. When you are in Africa, you feel primordial, rocked in the cradle of the world. ” -Jodi Picoult
Within the first few moments of our arrival at Chiawa Luxury Camp, we were swept away by the sheer authenticity of the experience.
Set in stunning Lower Zambezi National Park, on the banks of the majestic Zambezi River in Zambia, indigenous trees surround the large, immaculate huts that are scattered throughout the property. The array of resident wildlife is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Nothing prepares you for the breathlessness you feel when you round a corner and see a grown elephant, mere yards from you, taking a sip from the water. He is comforted by the fact that the dense thick of trees beyond will render him invisible should the need arise. This is when you realize that the Big Five really is hiding in these shadows, not far away and ready to be discovered.
A RICH HISTORY
Our hosts were most gracious, and spoke of their 30-year history of running this special place. In 1989, along with her husband Grant, Lynsey Cumings came upon the land in partnership with Chichele Safaris Limited, and have lovingly honed the property into the incredible safari camp it is today. The Cumings Family are 5th generation Africans and pioneered tourism in lower Zambezi National Park.
It all started with James Cuming in 1898. A young gold prospector in the Klondike goldfields, he survived a winter by eating a bear, then made his way to England. There, he married the daughter of the surgeon general of the British Navy. Eventually the couple found their way to South Africa, where James worked as a diamond buyer for De Beers. As the years went on, James’ sons and grandsons, in their business dealings with the tourism industry, encountered guerilla fighters who had become prevalent in the area. They put their dreams on hold to help fight them and the senseless poaching that was taking place in the region. This laid the groundwork for incorporating conservation into their tourism business.
Today, the exceptional team of Chiawa employees run the camp with a special blend of individuality and professionalism, all while keeping the importance of conservation forefront in their minds. The uniqueness of the property and the quality of the staff provide guests with the safari experience of a lifetime.
GLAMPING AT ITS FINEST
The warm glow of the early morning sun entered our tent. Filtered by our mosquito nets, we were gently awakened by its first light. Here, in that moment of awakening when you realize where you are in the world, my heart fluttered for a few seconds, and a blissful feeling took over.
The minimal yet perfectly thought out design of the tent is what moves you – a perfect blend of comfort and elegance, form and function – and privacy unparalleled. Each tent features comfortable beds with pure cotton linens, en suite bathrooms with indoor/outdoor showers, and his/hers washbasins complete with Charlotte Rhys bath amenities.
The common areas of the camp provide exceptional viewing of the Zambezi River and all of its wonders. The split-level timber deck has daybeds and locally made furniture, offering a mix of modern and historic African style.
The cuisine served at Chiawa was some of the best we had in Africa, eclectic and flavorful. Chiawa describes it as Afro/Euro fusion. Prepared by dedicated chefs and served with a flair unrivaled in the African bush, our pallets were taken for an exotic ride with only the freshest ingredients. Dinners were usually served under the stars, and breakfasts were cooked and served around the campfire. We were even treated to afternoon tea, accompanied by sweet and savory snacks, overlooking the river. One day we booked a special lunch out on the water, which was served on a boat as we passed by hippos and alligators.
BEYOND GAME DRIVES
One of my favorite parts about staying at Chiawa camp was the chance to see animals and the river in new ways. Each day, you can choose whether to go on a traditional safari game drive, view hippos, elephants, and so much more from a boat, or even get closer by paddling a canoe along the local tributaries. Our afternoon canoe trip was one of the highlights of our time in Africa. Knowing a hippo could appear at any moment right beside your canoe (hopefully not underneath it!) added the perfect element of suspense.
The game drives at Chiawa were also incredible. On our last day in Zambia we came across adorable lion cubs napping atop a termite mound. I can’t imagine a better way to finish off our safari.
A CALL TO ACTION
“Chiawa” is Soli language, meaning “for the one who shares.” In this family owned and operated camp you can’t help but feel the spirit of sharing. Their dedication to honoring the local people and traditions of Zambia, while also maintaining an air of luxury, is the thing that impressed me the most. It made me think about ways in which I can be of greater service to my home and community through my day to day existence.
Chiawa camp is dedicated to conservation and to sharing their world with guests so that they’ll gain a greater appreciation for nature and wildlife.
Chiawa not only shows visitors the unique beauty of Zambia, but they give back to the community and the environment.