When Chiawa Camp opens for the 2023 season on 1st May, it will debut a brand new ‘Star Bed’ tower and Star Drift experience that combines a romantic and wild dinner adrift the Zambezi, and an open-to-the-skies sleep out experience.
Located just downstream of the main camp, the tower is perfectly positioned on the banks of the Zambezi River, overlooking “Scout’s Hollow”, an inlet where all types of wildlife drink day and night. Guests will begin their evening aboard a near silent, custom built, stable pontoon boat, where a private dinner created by the imaginative camp chefs will be served to a soundtrack of the bush. On arrival at the tower, guests will find a bottle of champagne on ice and a freshly drawn bath.
Sitting at 4 metres high, the ‘Star Bed’ tower’s design is inspired by nature with an earthy palette and local-made soft furnishings. It features a beautiful four poster Queen size bed with mosquito net, and a bathroom with rolltop bathtub, wash basin and flushing toilet. As dusk sets, the tower is lit by candlelight and next to each side of the bed is a red-filtered flashlight to view any nocturnal creatures (and a 2-way radio for just in case). The tower’s ground floor is a superbly set up photographic hide, designed to give guests fabulous daytime photo opportunities in comfort.
Chiawa Camp, owned and operated by the Cumings family, is a multi-award-winning camp that was the first to open on the banks of the Zambezi River in the Lower Zambezi National Park in 1989. It offers guests considered luxury, the highest level of guiding, and a diverse range of activities; game drives to heart-stopping game walks as well as canoeing, boating and angling.
The camp’s eight tents and one safari suite, which all have spectacular views over the Zambezi River and its vast array of resident wildlife, have a completely refreshed look completed while the camp was closed in 2022 and have been upgraded in size (now 100m2), layout and decor. With a focus on being sensitive to the location, both in terms of look and materials, the safari tents offer the perfect blend of aesthetic, comfort, and function.
The canvas tents, which were sewn on site by experienced local tailors, have a large bedroom with super-king-sized bed, a lounge area with space for a third bed or bunk bed, an indoor/outdoor bathroom, and a huge sliding door opening onto a private terrace with their most unique feature – Chiawa Camp’s very own “bench wallow”. In cool weather this acts as a sunken lounge area and in hot weather, a plunge pool on demand that fills in just a couple of minutes. Aside from being a favourite place for guests, sustainably it makes sense. Traditional plunge pools require constant power and filtration over an eight-month safari season, while local weather means it’s usually only warm enough to use the pool for eight weeks during that season.
Across the tents and suite, and throughout the camp, the design is inspired by the bush, with earthy, neutral tones, tastefully curated collectibles, and photography that tells the story of the camp, its people, and the wildlife. Furniture is made by local craftspeople, bed throws are woven by a local women’s group, and statement lighting is designed by Lynsey Cumings and created locally.
Dining at Chiawa Camp is often alfresco. The cuisine is Afro/Euro fusion and served either at the camp or sometimes in the bush but always prepared with the freshest of ingredients and with the utmost care. Menus and recipes have been developed and enhanced over time with a view to balance health, variety and some holiday indulgence.
In the Soli language, Chiawa means ‘The one who shares’ – an appropriate name for such a camp that honours its location, the environment and the people that live there. In 2015 Chiawa Camp and its sister camp, Old Mondoro, became the world’s first certified Carbon Neutral safari camps, through its support to Biocarbon Partners’ Redd+ project which protects more than 1 million hectares of Zambian forests including along the boundary of the Lower Zambezi National Park. This certification paved the way for the Lower Zambezi National Park to become the world’s first certified Carbon Neutral National Park. This summer the camp will transition to completely solar powered, to bring its environmental impact down even further.
Chiawa Camp’s main priority is to protect the biodiversity of the Lower Zambezi by providing a safe refuge sustained by responsible safari operations. This goal has to a great extent been achieved by the charity Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) in which Chiawa’s owners are active executive & board members. They annually commit 100’s of man-hours of their personal time and as well as a large portion of the camp’s revenue in supporting the conservation activities of CLZ.
Chiawa Safaris also owns and operates Old Mondoro, another exquisite camp on the Zambezi River, and has a partnership with Chichele Safaris, which sees the Cumings family operate Puku Ridge, a unique tented camp located deep inside Zambia’s incredible South Luangwa National Park. Combining these sister properties allows guests to create a well-rounded trip to Zambia, taking in the country’s different geographies and wildlife. Attractive itineraries combining Chiawa Camp and/or Old Mondoro with Puku Ridge offer some of the best value for safari experience in Zambia if location, guiding, personalised service and wildlife feature high in priorities.
Chiawa Safaris is run by Grant and Lynsey Cumings. Grant, who was born and raised in Zambia, was taken into the bush at an early age by his father, himself an explorer/guide/judoka, who helped develop his appreciation for wilderness, adventure and conservation. Grant remembers being charged, as a child, by a black rhino in the South Luangwa with the pioneer of walking safaris Norman Carr. He also remembers walking through the bush at night during a rainstorm, after getting irretrievably stuck in the mud in a Land Rover, along the Kafue River with renowned guide Cecil Evans whilst being taught the value of insects to the planet. These lessons and experiences had a lasting impression on him so that, after successfully completing a business degree in the USA, he returned to Zambia to not only help run the family transport company but also to establish a safari business.
Rather than following others into the Luangwa and Kafue, the family – following its pioneering roots – instead opted for the Lower Zambezi, knowing that although this was the longer and more difficult venture, the natural beauty of the Lower Zambezi was unique and would ultimately provide a quality and attractive safari tourism experience. And so in 1989 Chiawa Camp opened its tent flaps to its first guests. Based on the Cumings’ recognised expertise in this field, Chichele Safaris, invited Grant to collaborate with them in rehabilitating and running Puku Ridge to the standards Chiawa Safaris has become world-renowned.
The Star Drift experience includes:
- A 4 course dinner served whilst driftingon the Zambezi River
- A night in the star bed tower where a bath will have been drawn and crisp bubbly on ice awaits before our guests can driftoff to sleep
- After a night under the stars, coffee/tea and continental breakfast will be delivered at a wake-up time of your choosing.
The Star Drift experience, with or without the floating dinner, is available at a surcharge of $400 per couple or single per night and should be reserved well in advance.
From $1,205 (£998) per person per night (Shoulder season – May 01 – June 30 & October 16 – November 14) and from $1,635 (£1,354) per person per night (Peak Season July 01 – October 15)
Including transfers between Jeki Airstrip and the camp, accommodation, all meals, beverages, daily laundry, professionally guided game viewing drives [day and night], bush walks (where guests are flexible with times and are willing to share with others), boat trips, angling and canoe trips (no under 12 years).
Rates do not include a non-commissionable $120 Tourism Levy/DNPW Fees/ Conservation & Carbon collection per person per night.
For more information and to book, visit www.chiawa.com