Luangwa Safari House

Designed by Neil Rocher, this stunning private house is situated on Robin Pope's Nkwali land, approximately 1 km from camp. Built on the edge of a seasonal lagoon and with a backdrop of the Chindeni Hills, the game, including herds of elephants and journeys of giraffe, use this area to feed and water throughout the day.  During the dryer months you can be lunching on the deck with up to forty elephants around you.

Luangwa Safari House
Luangwa Safari house can accommodate 8 guests at the same time, and a private Chef will set the menu together with the guests. So outwardly the house has a traditional feel. However, venture inside and you find that each room has a totally individual and unique style. The sizeable living room is dominated by large comfy sofas and a huge marble dining table. The room stretches up two storeys, some twelve meters, to the thatched roof with wooden staircases rising out of the floor to take you to the upstairs bedrooms. Much of the fittings are hand made metalwork, designed by Matt Peacock, including a huge thirty lamp metal chandelier. The open front of the room leads out onto a quartz tiled terrace with large plunge pool to one side.

Wooden deck
From this terrace a magnificent risen walkway leads to a wooden deck surrounding a small group of huge ebony trees in the middle of the lagoon.  There is a large leather sofa, and a hanging chair plus dining table and chairs for al fresco meals.  The waterhole only meters from the deck and sitting quietly you will be close to families of elephant that come to bathe.

Bedrooms with King size beds
Each of the four bedrooms ( with en suite bathroom ) has a style of its own. Extra large beds ( 220 cm in length ), both king size or twin fit into each room under one mosquito net. There is a wooden ceiling fan inside each net.  The beds have all been designed differently, from two poster beds to raised futon style.  The materials used in the bedrooms are hand painted and specifically designed, made locally at Tribal Textiles.  Each bathroom has a different theme for the fittings, reflecting the colours of the rooms. From copper for the "Coral room" (including a hand made copper bath) to recycled sandblasted aluminium in the "Blue Agate" bedroom. These fittings have been matched with unusual pieces of Zambian marble hand picked by Jo and Robin.

The upstairs rooms have a suspended wooden balcony, where you can sit out at night with a moonlit view over the bush to the distant hills.  The downstairs bedrooms each have a private tiled verandah with large morris chairs for quiet moments.

The Luangwa Safari House is extraordinary - large and powerful, this castle like house gives you space, luxury with nature on your doorstep. 

Game drives during the day and / or during the night. A combination of the both is recommended. Once you have seen the dozing cats, hippos and impalas during the daylight, the table is turned when the darkness  takes over. It is an amazing experience to listen to what can not bee seen. What you will see in the darkness are all the eyes from the animals which reflects the light from the guides spotlight. And you can hear the chase when it is in full speed with a tragic end for the pray.

Game Drives
The drives include morning, afternoon and night drives. An all day drive, with a picnic lunch, is always available. The vehicles we use are Toyota landcruisers, with two tier seats (we also have three tier seats for groups or families) and we give everyone a "window" seat (ie 2 on a row). There is no top on the vehicle so you have total 360 degree vision. We are very aware that you may spend up to 8 hours a day in the vehicle if an enthusiast and so our vehicles, are of top quality (with 8 out of 18 being less than 18 months old).  They are top of the range and not cheap imitation 4 x 4 vehicles.  We even provide bean bags for your cameras - so you can capture the perfect shot.

Walking Safari
The walks are led by our knowledgeable guides, and escorted by armed National Park scouts. We are very proud of the standard of our guiding. The guides will give you an insight into the bush at a level that will surprise you. What animals passed by during the night, how the termites control the temperature in the huge mounds, where the woodpecker is nesting. And of course they explain the skills of reading the bush and knowing what is happening around you. If you are very keen to walk then we suggest you opt for either a 2-3 day walk or the 5 day Walking Mobile Safaris.

Boating the Luangwa River
During the months of December to April (Emerald Season) the Luangwa River is rising and falling depending on the rainfall. January to March it is flowing bank to bank. At times it is near full and pouring into the adjacent lagoons. Whatever the level, boating on the river during these months is simply magical. We have three specially designed boats that can take groups on wonderful boating days either exploring the lagoons or far up the river. 

Cultural Day at Kawaza Village
A visit to Kawaza Village and the schools is often remembered years later by our guests as the most rewarding part of their visit to Africa. To simply game view and luxuriate in the comfort of the camps is wonderful but visiting the community and interacting with the locals will complete the journey.
You can also pre book an overnight stay at the village.

Visit the local “settlement”
The community around the Mfuwe area is bustling – small “dukas” (shops), the market, bars, and various people offering various skills (tailor, welding etc). It is always interesting to stroll through a community anywhere in the world and this can be easily done from Nkwali.

Chipembele Wildlife Education Centre
The Chipembele Wildlife Education Centre is located on the banks of the Luangwa River approximately 16 km south of Nkwali. It is run under the auspices of a charitable trust for the school children of the Luangwa Valley to teach them about wildlife and conservation. Chipembele was established by Steve and Anna Tolan, who emigrated from England to Zambia in 1998 to fulfil their dream of building and running such a centre. A mornings visit from Nkwali is certainly worthwhile for those staying for a longer period. This is especially true for families.
Visit the website of the Centre.

Tribal Textiles
Tribal Textiles was founded in 1991 by British Gillie Lightfoot. Inspired by traditional African design and driven by her passion for art, Gillie selected a small team of local artists and translated her dream into a reality. Now a successful business the hand painted cloth is sold all over the world. Visiting the workshop is a treat and can be easily done from Nkwali.
Visit the Tribal Textiles website

The Personal Touch, is run by Natalie, a masseuse from Holland living in the Luangwa, and on request she, or her trained staff, will visit Luangwa Safari House to offer you a range of massages from “hot stone therapy” to “Thai full body massage”. This is wonderful for those who arrive tense and tired from a long journey, a stressful life or just to have a great relaxation.

Luangwa Safari House was, Awarded the title "
The Best Safari House in Africa , 2010 " ( by the Good Safari Guide, UK ).

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About Us

Our History
Robin was born in 1951 and lived with his family in the Copperbelt, Kabwe (Broken Hill) and Lusaka. He spent his youth running around the bush with a pellet gun and a fishing rod. His collection of bird wings and various animals parts along with his efforts to taxidermy birds was packed and unpacked as the family moved around Zambia (Northern Rhodesia). Schooled in Zimbabwe at Falcon, Robin and his brothers traveled across the Victoria Falls railway bridge to Bulawayo. After school Robin studied geography and zoology for a year at the University of Zambia in Lusaka. Due to endless interruptions of studies resulting from the political situation, after a year he moved to the University of Pietermaritzburg for two years. During his holidays in 1973 and -74, Robin worked for the Geological Survey Department in the Zambezi Escarpment and also part time for the Wildlife Conservation International project in the Zambezi Valley. He so enjoyed this work and living in the bush that he did not return to finish his degree. This project had to be terminated due to the Rhodesian war across the border.

Robin applied to join Zambia Safaris in 1974. The largest hunting company in Southern Africa at the time, it also owned Wilderness Trails – a photographic safari company running Chibembe and the Walking Trails Camps. Norman Carr, a shareholder of Zambia Safaris, interviewed Robin for the job of a safari guide. During the interview Norman asked Robin to identify the bird flying outside the window – a yellow billed kite. Robin laughed as he thought is was a joke – such an obvious question. And he failed the interview.

In 1975 Robin applied again and this time was interviewed by a panel of “pipe smoking” hunters. He was accepted. He had to supply his own kit – a landrover, rifle, camp bed along with pots and pans. He bought everything second hand, packed the old landrover and drove up the Great East Road to the Luangwa Valley. The Pope Family had spent a number of school holidays in the Luangwa Valley and Robin knew his way around the bush. He was walked around a lagoon and proclaimed a guide.

Robin developed his bush knowledge and guiding skills. After four years of conducting walking safaris for Chibembe he became the senior guide. In 1979 Robin was invited to join the famous Sand River Safari with Peter Matthiesson, Hugo Van Lawick, Brian Nickolson and Richard Bonham. From the late ‘70s Robin was also an Honorary Ranger with National Parks. This included setting up road blocks around Lusaka in the off season. There was lots of elephant and meat poaching in the Kafue and Lower Zambezi. And during the drier months Robin worked closely with Phil Berry in assisting him with Save the Rhino Trust. There are many interesting stories about chasing poachers and long patrols!

Robin and young scrub hare – 1985
In 1980 Norman Carr sold his shares in Zambia Safaris and left. The old government safari camps were acquired by the newly structured company and Robin was offered the management of Nsefu Camp on a profit sharing basis. The camp was in a state of disrepair and Robin spent most of the season of 1980 renovating – and opened in July 1981.

Robin managed Nsefu Camp for 5 years. It was during this time that his international reputation grew. He had a great team in place and the camp became very busy. In 1982 he opened a fly camp at Tena Tena for 3 day walking safaris . The population of black rhino in the area was high and it was not unusual to see 4 or 5 rhino during a morning walk. The camp was extremely simple – a row of tents, simple drum showers filled by buckets, long drop loos and bread baked in the ground.

Zambia Safaris went bust in at the end of 1984, and Eco Safaris took over. They did not want Tena Tena and so Robin left Nsefu and formed his own safari company - Robin Pope Safaris. He now had Tena Tena, which he upgraded to a 12 bed camp ready for the season of 1986. He was finally on his own. Robin Pope Safaris also took over the lease of the Zambian Resthouse on the Nyika Plateau.

During the year of 1987 Robin won the contract to run the logistical camps for oil prospectors all over the Eastern Province. Jeremy, Robin’s brother, helped run the camps and together they thought they were going to make a fortune. After an extremely busy and difficult year providing accommodation and backup in the most remote places, they invoiced the company. Payment was late in coming and it finally came 2 days after the kwacha revalued from 21 to 7.5 to the dollar. They made a loss and had to claim loss of earnings. So the Pope brothers did not make their fortune after all. This was also the year of the anthrax outbreak in the South Luangwa and many animals died – mostly hippo.

The year 1988 was significant in Robin’s life. Jo Holmes arrived from the UK to cater at Tena Tena for the season. Jo has the tendency to organise things and soon she was running the bookings, accounts, systems as well as the kitchen. She upgraded the accounting system from the well known "in and out" shoebox system to accounting books! On arrival in Lusaka, Robin took her to a supermarket for last minute supplies before driving to the camp. The few tins of baked beans and tomato on the shelves did not inspire confidence in the supplies. Those were the days of socialist government and luxury items were not allowed into the country. It was hard to provide food of international standard but somehow it worked.

Jo and Robin - 1990
Jo and Robin were soon hatching exciting new plans. The land for Nkwali was applied for in 1988 with the aim of setting up a permanent camp and base. They also wanted to start new safaris. After the season of 1989 they drove to the Western Province and the Liuwa Plains to recce the area for future safaris. The Walking Mobile Safaris started in 1990 and are still running today with great success. This was a new concept in walking safaris and has worked extremely well. The Mupamadzi River in the north of the South Luangwa National Park was the area applied for and permission was given. However, after a week of trying to construct the road by hand (nearly 90 km) time ran out and the first mobiles operated on the Luwi River. The same happened in 1991 and the Luamfwa Area in the south was used. It was not until the National Parks agreed to hire their grader to put in the road in1992 that the mobile operation finally managed to get to the Mupamadzi River.

At the end of the 1990 season they also ran the first up market safari into the Liuwa Plains. Organising these safaris was a big task. The distance from base (South Luangwa) is over 1500 km and the full mobile camp was sent by truck. Along with 2 landcruisers for the guests and backup the sight of the safari moving camp through the remote area must have been a surprise to the locals who usually only see missionaries from year to year. Robin and Jo ran these safaris for 4 years during the months of November and December but then other operators started to use the area and the thrill of being the only ones there was gone.

Nkwali Camp was opened in 1991. Starting with very little the camp has slowly been built up over the years and is now the base camp and headquarters for the company. The workshops, head office, storerooms and vegetable garden in the background supply all the RPS operations. This was also the year that Robin and Jo were married, under a huge fig tree near Tena Tena. A wonderful bush wedding with family and friends from both overseas and Zambia. There were 120 for dinner at Tena Tena that night. Quite a feat!

From 1992 to 1998 Robin and Jo developed Tena Tena, Nkwali, and the Walking Mobile Safaris to a very high standard. They also took guests to the Nyika Plateau, Bangweulu Swamps, Kasanka National Park as well as the Liuwa Plains  under the name of Robin Pope Expeditions.

Nsefu Camp meanwhile had gradually declined and finally closed in 1997. The opportunity to take over the lease presented itself and Robin and Jo jumped at the chance. The renovations took nearly a year as the camp was in a dilapidated state and had to be brought up to the standard of the day. The camp was reopened in 1999 and very quickly reached the high levels of occupancy that RPS expect.

The next new product was in 2004 when the Nsefu “fly camping” unit was set up – now rebranded as Luangwa Bush Camping. This is literally camping in the bush, albeit in comfort, but with a great feel of being very “out there”.

In 2005 Jo decided to launch the idea of Safari Houses in Zambia.  There was the opportunity to build one on the Nkwali land and to join forces with other partners and build one in the Lower Zambezi.  These houses were to push the boundaries and concepts in the safari industry and indeed they do. Both are epic in proportion, unusual in design and giving the feeling of staying in utter luxury and fantasy. The Luangwa Safari House is owned by RPS and built on the Nkwali land, and the sister house, on the banks of the exquisite Chongwe River, Lower Zambezi, is owned by Jo and some partners. These houses have caused quite a stir in the safari world!

In 2006 Robin and Jo realised that it was time to share the load and sold shares to Molecaten Zambia. This is the Zambian arm of The Molecaten Group based in Holland who had already started developing in Malawi (Pumulani on Lake Malawi).  They welcome having partners to work with, throw ideas around with and feel that the new team will ensure that RPS will continue to be the top safari company in Zambia.

Robin and Jo live in Lusaka but remain on the board and have their old much visited home at Nkwali.  Robin continues to lead safaris in the outreaches of the country and they both love to visit the camps at every chance.

January 2010

Terms & Conditions

Between Luangwa Safari House ( Robin Pope Safaris ) and the booking Client.

Will be held for 14 days, and then must be confirmed or released.

25% of invoice value is required as a deposit to confirm a booking.
Full payment is due 30 days prior to arrival.

Cancellation Fee
- 91 days 20% of accommodation only is due, then of full invoice 90-61 days 25%, 60-31 days 50%, 30- 0 days 100%.
Cancellation fees will be applied and so we ask that you ensure full "Trip Cancellation Insurance" is bought at time of confirmation

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