Nkwali Safari River Camp - Rates from USD 350

Nkwali is located on Robin's private land, overlooking the National Park. The area surrounding Nkwali is superb game viewing country, with a beautiful area of ebony woodland and open grasslands. We have put driving loops in this area and often see as much behind camp as in the park - including leopard, lion and occasionally wild dog.   This area is particularly good for elephants and Thornicroft giraffe (an endemic species) Elephants also regularly cross the Luangwa, seen from the bar, or come to the waterhole near the thatched dining room.

The chalets are large, cool and spacious, with a great view of the river. The front of the room is open during the day and then closed by a grill doors at night.   The ensuite bathroom has double sinks and showers, which are open to the skies during the dry season.  The bar area, right on the edge of the Luangwa banks, is built around a huge ebony tree with fantastic views of the river and across to the park.  The open deck is wonderful for moonlit dinners.  The dining room is a simple thatched structure, by the lagoon but we rarely eat meals there - they are served under the trees by the lagoon or the river, on the deck, or in the bush!

Although the camp is outside the national park we access the park by either by boat (2 minutes) or our nearby pontoon (10 minutes). And of course the main bridge is only 15 minutes away - giving us 3 options for entry.  We therefore easily cover a large game viewing area from Nkwali.   This central area of the park is accessible all year and so the game is very relaxed and used to the vehicles.  This gives great photographic opportunities as the game allows the vehicles to get close.

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Price Range and Payments PRICE RANGE: USD 350 - 550. ( No single supplement )
Children are getting a discounted rate.
10 % Dicount on bookings at Robin Pope´s Camps or Lodge for more than 7 days.

High Season July - October
Mid Season May - June
Low Season November - May

Provisional bookings will be held for 14 days, and then must be confirmed or released.

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


Each Enquiry will be responded to with an offer or a decline message. An offer which has been accepted by the traveler will be printable, together with the payment instruction. Please, make sure a booking confirmation is always received after payments are fully made.
Services Included in the Price RATES INCLUDE
Full board, all gameviewing activities, laundry, bar, transfers to/from Mfuwe Airport, meet & greet at Lusaka Airport & Mfuwe Airport

Visas, airport taxes.
National Park costs ($35 - $45) and Luangwa Conservation & Community Funds ($10) not included to the nightly rate - to be added.
How to get to us. Mfuwe Airport, is the closest airport, with daily scheduled flights from Lusaka International.
On request we can organize your flight bookings and your airport transfer.

Temp range 19-32 C, rainfall 200 mm per month
The rainy season has always been traditionally known as a time to avoid a safari destination. Well they have it wrong. We think this is far from the truth and find the rains bring all sort of treasures that the “peak” and dry season do not have.
Migratory birds breed - A birders paradise.
The valley hosts many migratory birds that come, feed, may change into wonderful colors, breed, and fly away again. The cuckoos arrive and drive us mad with their never ending calling. The bishops turn from LBJ's (little brown jobs) to the most splendid flashes on wings. We are also in a migratory corridor of many birds and see huge columns of European storks, or hundreds of kestrels flying fast down the river.
Huge storms of staggering beauty
We have wide skies without mountains, or of course buildings, to interrupt the vision and if you have not seen a storm passing through with all the drama of the building cloud which is constantly changing color, the lightening which is like experiencing your own high tech light show, the wind blowing the sand up the river, the wall of rain arriving and then water falling like buckets being emptied. Then thirty minutes later you are in sunshine and blue clear skies. It is quite spectacular. Having said that many of the storms come in the evening and we do often have early bed time, where we listen to the storm, safely tucked up.
Game viewing
This is the one that everyone misjudges. The game in the Mfuwe area remains very good. It is not migratory, and much of the game is resident. As the lagoons fill, the animals are mostly found on the high ground which is where the roads were built for obvious reasons. We often have to wait for sleeping lions to wake up and move off the road! It is wonderful to see the game in the vegetation that is so green it looks like it is vibrant with color. And of course around mid February the wild dog packs come out from the hills and we start to have regular sightings through to early to mid April.
The River
As the English discuss the weather, we discuss the level of the river - endlessly. Through the three months of the rains the river rises and falls dramatically. The catchment area is vast and it could be raining hard in the far northern area of Zambia and a couple of days later the river rises considerably although we have had blue skies for a week. And sometimes we have a lot of rain (at night!) and the river hardly shifts.
In March 2006 we had had around 200 mm of rain for 4 nights, the ground was saturated. Then a huge storm arrived – 210 mm. Very dramatic. The next morning the river was rising 100 mm an hour – that is a lot of water. But two days later it had dropped 1.5 meters. All very variable, when it is being extreme.
And this higher river means we can play with the boats. And what a great joy it is to have sundowners on the river with pink and purple light bouncing of the 30,000 ft clouds or to spend a day boating up the river, and even boating into the flooded lagoons where we drive in the dry season. Boating on such a river is a real delight.
The Months and The Moths
Again it is hard to say which month out of the three will have more or less rain and when the river will be at its peak. They are all great months but usually by mid March the rain is starting to ease off. And the moths come out to play. Amazing creatures.


Temp range 18-32 C, rainfall 80 mm April, 0 mm May
By early April the rains have abated and we have only the occasional storm if any. The grass is now long and is starting to color from green to brown. These are glorious days of clear blue skies, and great temperatures.
The river is can be high enough for boating trips in April but it is slowly drops now for the rest of the year. The sandbanks start to emerge from river and are gathering points for the waders. But the lagoons are full and are a huge attraction for birds and animals. The roads that were impassable during the wetter months are now starting to dry up and the game viewing area starts to open up more.
Towards the end of May the migrants are flying out, the last bright feather has fallen from the bishops and the young water fowl are getting ready to fly out as well.


Temp range 11-30 C, rainfall 0 mm per month
June is the known as the start of the dry season. It is traditionally when the camps in the remoter areas of the park open (although we have managed to bring this forward to around 20 May at Tena Tena and Nsefu). The smaller lagoons are starting to drop and dry.
In the Nsefu Sector – where Tena Tena and Nsefu Camp are the only camps, there is the spectacular yellowed billed breeding colony. It is thought to be the largest in Southern Africa. At this stage the youngsters are still fluffy but huge and very hungry. The parents feed of the trapped fish in the drying lagoons and return to feed their young one. A great sight. In June the smaller lagoons may even dry up and this attracts large numbers of birds – known as a fishing party. Pelicans fly into the Valley during these months to join the resident storks and herons and these fishing parties move from lagoon to lagoon.
And this is our winter. The nights will get cold and a fleece is needed for the night drives (and early mornings!).


Temp range 12-35 C, rainfall 0 mm per month
By mid August the temperatures have started to rise and by the end of August we have usually packed our fleeces away till next June. The bush fires starts slowly in July. And they will now be more prevalent, and the air becomes hazy. As the water away from the river continues to dry so the game moves towards the remaining water. The herds of buffalo increase from around 300 to up to 1000 strong.
It is also the time when the trees flower and many will loose their leaves. The sausage tree loose everything, leaves and flowers. It only takes a couple of weeks for the leaves to return. Many antelope are seen gathered under the trees feeding on the delicious flowers.
The carmine beaters arrives, gathers and choose their spots, and begins the building of the nests (deep horizontal holes in the banks of the Luangwa). These colonies are an amazing sight and become of the “specials” of these months.


Temp range 20-40 C, rainfall 50 mm
By now the heat has increased and we are starting our summer. The game has increased and is concentrated around in the riverine area. Bets are placed on when the first storm will arrive. It is usually in the first week and this hopefully clears the air of haze and cools things down.
During the month there are lots of firsts – the first storm, the first baby warthogs seen, the first baby impala spotted. We are heading toward the period of birth.
The river is now crossable by vehicle – hard to imagine the bank to bank fast flowing water of February.


Temp range 20-35 C, rainfall 110 mm per month
The start of the rains – usually in sporadic storms and these are the months of rebirth. Many animals give birth and the Valley becomes a nursery! After the first big storm there is a flush of emerald green grass and the leaves on the mopane trees burst forth. The flowers start to push through the ground and as the storms increase in number so does the growth.
By December we have a valley vibrant with growth. Christmas therefore is a wonderful time – with fantastic storms, lots of youngsters about and the ground with flowers and green grass.
Facilities Available Airport Shuttle Service on request. Bar Service is available. Day Cruise can be booked. Families are welcome. Game Drive can be booked. Hiking Tours can be booked. Infants Restrictions. Laundry Service is available on request. Mosquito Net is available. Small Aircrafts can be booked. Swimming pool is available. VISA Card is acceptable.
Public Services Nearby Dentist for emergency treatment is available. Hospital or Clinic is available. Pharmacy is available. Post Office service is available.
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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

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

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

Cancellation fees will be applied and so we highly recommend that you ensure full "Trip Cancellation Insurance" is bought at time of confirmation

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