Next fall, with departure on Sept 28, 2024, and return on October 14, Bob and I are sponsoring a group trip to Zambia and Malawi. We have 10 friends joining us with room for one other couple, or two singles sharing a room. We love to travel with friends, especially introducing them to parts of the World they have never seen or may be unlikely to venture to on their own. In addition, we are firm believers that a small group of friends is the very best way to travel and to fully enjoy a trip as thrilling and unique as the African journey, which is full of amazing experiences if you have been reading our recent posts.
Zambia is in Southern Africa, bordering Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and Malawi. (oh, and The Congo, Tanzania and Angola as well). This unspoiled landlocked country is home to a staggering 20 national parks and 34 game management areas. Our trip takes us to two: South Luangwa National Park and the Lower Zambezi. These parks rank among the finest game parks in the world and offer unforgettable wilderness experiences that will keep you dreaming of Africa for years to come. I chose to return to Zambia after last visiting in October 2019 because it holds a special place in my heart, not only due to the immense diversity and abundance of wildlife, the luxurious, comfortable lodging at an affordable price, but also the people who run the camps and the guides who are second to none in expertise and passion.
Our trip also extends to neighboring Malawi, also affectionately known as "the warm heart of Africa". This small country, pronounced “Muh-Low-wee” (Second syllable rhymes with cow), is best known for Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa, and comes with remote islands, picturesque shorelines, and stunning sunrises and sunsets. For sure it doesn’t quite fit your vision of Africa, but promises an authentic cultural experience like no other.
In Malawi there are mountainous grasslands, game-rich national parks, and wildlife reserves, but we will spend our time there on Likoma Island on the lake, to relax and rejuvenate after our safari in Zambia. Arguably, Malawi’s greatest asset is her people – always ready for a laugh, a little chat, and an impromptu song and dance. The easy-going and warm nature of Malawians is what makes this country one of the safest and most enjoyable places to travel in Africa.
We arrive in Lusaka and will overnight in a local boutique hotel where locals love to meet up for dinner and drinks, a nice welcome to the country and indeed to Safari Africa. A short, one hour flight will take us to the Lower Zambezi, a vast national park on the Zambezi River that serves as the border to Zimbabwe. The river enables us to have unique safari experiences well beyond the traditional 4x4 game vehicles. We will do some river cruising, canoeing, tiger fishing and enjoy some fabulous sunsets on the water.
Our first safari camp is built on an elevated boardwalk which connects each luxury tented suite to two main areas with their own respective swimming pools. The elevated boardwalk allows for wildlife to roam freely throughout camp while minimizing effects on the ecosystem. It also means guests can walk around safely during the day without an escort. Elephants, buffalo, antelope - and even the occasional lion or leopard - often pass through camp, allowing you to experience wildlife from the comfort of your room. The communal areas evoke a classic African style with a modern touch, providing guests the opportunity to experience Lower Zambezi and its wilderness while relaxing at camp – the armchair safari we mentioned in prior blogs. As the sun sets and nightlife of the bush comes to life, we will sit by the campfire with a sundowner and relive stories of our day and meet fellow visitors. Anabezi camp has a large resident pride of lions as well as a pack of painted dogs that move up and down the length of the park, within Chakwenga, the area the camp is located,
After 4 nights in the Lower Zambezi we will hop a short flight to Mfuwe in South Luangwa National Park and take an hour drive to Lion Camp. This hidden gem is in the northernmost reaches of the park with abundant game viewing and few vehicles. As with most camps in both Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa the camp operates between May and October, offering a perfect balance of luxurious comfort and authentic bush. The rooms are essentially tree houses, spacious thatch roofed villas elevated above the valley floor with a winding walkway between the ten villas, each offering panoramic views of the lagoon from large, private, shaded decks. Lion Camp offers guided walking safaris or game drives – with no more than four guests per activity – lead by well-trained, enthusiastic guides. If you are interested in birds, wildlife or spectacular landscapes, Lion Camp is a photographer’s dream. Bob, an avid wildlife photographer, will be there to share tips on camera settings and shot framing for your ‘wall-worthy’ photos. With the absence of fences, game moves freely through the camp. With a healthy population of lion, leopard, buffalo and giraffe in the immediate area, as well as elephant, hippo, bushbuck, and antelope regularly seen around the lodge, you are guaranteed an amazing safari experience whether in camp or on a game drive.
Thanks to strict guiding exams, well trained guides, great wildlife and high-quality camps, Zambia is regarded as one of the best walking safari destinations in Africa. South Luangwa National Park is said to be the birthplace of the walking safari, so where better to embark on this remarkable "back to nature" voyage? While animals will generally ignore you in a vehicle, when you’re on foot, they recognize you as another type of animal. Watching them from a safe distance, with no metal between you and the anima,l is a primal experience and your own instincts and excitement will kick in, heightening the experience. Not only will you spot animals from an alternative viewpoint, you will discover the smaller critters that call the bush home and learn about different animal prints which have been left in the mud or sand.
At both camps we will have the opportunity for night game drives. This is the time when cats head out to hunt, hyenas emerge with empty stomachs, civets and genets scurry about, and bush babies leap around in trees. This is what makes night drives so special: the chance to see what happens after dark in true wilderness. These drives are kept short - night is also a time to allow nature to take its course unbothered, but you will have the opportunity to see some exceptional moments under the stars on your way back to camp. After another 4 exceptional days in the bush we will head to Mfuwe airport, to Lilongwe, Malawi and then head to the Likoma island airstrip.
On the dramatic shoreline of Likoma Island, in the middle of the great Lake Malawi, lies a beach paradise like no other. We call it Kaya Mawa, meaning ‘maybe tomorrow’, which is what guests often say when it’s time to leave. Here in the Warm Heart of Africa, beach holidays meet African hospitality and ultimate indulgence. The Wall Street Journal once described Kaya Mawa as ‘the most relaxing beach holiday in the least likely destination.’
Kaya Mawa first opened her doors in 2004 and has done nothing but dazzle guests since: From being listed as one of the ‘Most Romantic Places in the World’ by Conde Nast to hand-written letters from happy children before they leave, to being named the Leading Hotel in Malawi 2020 by the World Travel Awards, to the guests who return time and time again. While each of the 11 villas have distinctive flair, all are designed to fit naturally into the bay’s rocks and sand. The white-washed or exposed stone interiors open out to lake and beach views, with some suites enjoying a private deck and plunge pool or even terrace, courtyard and dining areas.
At the beating heart of this barefoot luxury lodge lies the local people and culture. From laying bricks and mortar to build all the rooms entirely by local hands to creating chic interior fixtures and fittings through the Katundu Workshop, local people have steered the way and made Kaya Mawa what it is today.
Kaya blends into its natural surroundings and draws on Likoma's vibrant culture. The aquamarine, beachy colors drift their way from Lake Malawi and into rooms that are stylishly designed with upcycled interiors. Glass beads, chandeliers, photo frames and fabrics are all handmade from sustainable and recyclable materials mostly from around the lodge and the lake itself. Most of this work is thanks to the creative artists at Katundu, a cooperative that is found directly behind Ndomo Private House, the exclusive use house available for groups. Katundu was founded in 2006 around a passion for designing and creating luxury items in an ethical environment, empowering women, and through them, the local community. These jobs provide a sustainable income and instill pride, dignity and purpose, giving people the skills and knowledge to improve their circumstances. Kaya Mawa is firmly grounded in sustainability, community empowerment and ethical trade.
The activities in Malawi will revolve around lake and community activities- snorkeling, sailing, SUP, canoeing, relaxing by the beach or pool, time at the spa, enjoying local food and meeting the locals. With 4 nights in Malawi we will return to Johannesburg for our flights home, or for some more exploration in Africa, perhaps another safari in Sabi Sands or a visit to Cape Town and the winelands.
Please contact us for more details if this sounds like a perfect way to experience off the beaten track Africa. Or, call/email us to discuss your own custom trip with friends, family or solo.
Latitude Expeditions +1-760-550-1214, Linda@Latitudexp.com, Bob@Latitudexp.com