Chongwe River Camp
Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
At a Glance
Canoe the Chongwe Channel with your expert guide
Have a private dinner under the shade of towering Winterthorn trees
Take a walk deep into the park to find big game such as elephant and lion
Take a relaxing sunset boat cruise on the mighty Zambezi River
Enjoy sundowners on the river as the setting sun turns the water to molten gold
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
The Lower Zambezi has a moderate to sub-tropical climate with three distinct seasons: from November to March is the Emerald, or the rainy season, April to July is Zambia's winter, when the weather is cool and dry, and August to October is summer, when the weather is hot and dry. In terms of game viewing, the drier months, meaning a higher concentration of game at the permanent water sources, are a superb time to visit. Alternatively come for some superb birdwatching at the end of the rains.
Call us on to start planning your vacation to Chongwe River Camp or take a look at our itineraries to Lower Zambezi
Located close to the pristine sanctuary that is Lower Zambezi National Park, Chongwe River Camp's nine cosy tents offer stunning river views and en-suite outdoor bathrooms on the confluence of the mighty Zambezi and the tranquil Chongwe Channel.
Chongwe River Camp is nestled under a complete canopy of huge winterthorn acacias, in an area where elephants are more numerous than people - there are no fences and the animals have complete right of way! Occupying a unique and unrivalled location the camp is located directly opposite Mana Pools and looks onto the confluence of the Chongwe channel and the Zambezi River, with the mountains of the escarpment to the north. The Chongwe channel is perfect for canoe trips as it is relatively free of hippos and strong currents.
All nine, well appointed Mulati tents are kept cool by their thatched roofs and situated under a canopy of albida thorns, surrounded by lawns with stunning river views. They have recently been upgraded and offer superb accommodation. The open-air en-suite bathrooms mean guests can shower both under the stars and in the early morning sunshine. Game including elephant, lion, hippo and buffalo – amongst many others – can sometimes all be viewed from your tent!
Chongwe also has the larger Albida suite - designed by the same architect who designed the Chongwe River House. This superb suite has two bedrooms and is perfect for families or two couples traveling together. It is situated in a perfect position away from the main camp and with beautiful river views, while remaining secluded and private. Each of the tented rooms has a separate en-suite bathroom with his and hers vanities, twin showers and a claw-foot bath.
The rooms share a very comfortable and stylish lounge complete with a dining area (although you can take your meals either at camp or in the suite), a bar, your own camp fire and a refreshing plunge pool. The design is eclectic - much in the same style as Chongwe River House, the walls are organic and flowing without a single straight line in sight. The overall effect is one of stylish relaxation.
Finally, there is the supremely luxurious Cassia suite, designed along the same lines as the Albida, with a private living area and plunge pool. The Cassia has been specifically designed for honeymoon couples, a perfect private and intimate hideaway.
Activities offered at Chongwe are varied, from day and night 4WD game drives in open vehicles, walking safaris with your guide and an armed parks scout, to river activities including canoeing and gentler trips in the larger motor boats. You could also choose to take a full day drive into the park if you wish - Chongwe is situated just outside the park boundary in the Game Management area but still in a very game rich area. Or you can try your hand at fishing, on a 'catch and release' basis - tiger fish are a specialty and the guides at Chongwe are all expert fishermen.
There are nine tents, with either a king sized or two single beds with cotton linens, local textiles and hand-crafted furniture blending seamlessly with organic fittings and fixtures, all designed to make the most of what Mother Nature has provided, including the incredible views. All of the tents are under thatch, ensuring maximum coolness in the heat of the day. Each has a large outdoor bathroom with hot and cold running water, shower, toilet, vanity unit and dressing area with a wardrobe and full-length mirror. The tents also have their own private verandas overlooking the river, making them an ideal place for relaxing between safaris.
In addition, the camp also has two-tented suites which are luxuriously self-contained; one which sleeps two and the other which sleeps four guests in two spacious, octagonal bedrooms set on either side of a private dining room and lounge area with its own bar fridge, plunge pool and fire pit. It is ideal for families or friends traveling together.
There are no specific child care facilities but children over 8 years are welcome. Food and meal times can be adjusted to suit younger guests and babysitting may be provided on request. Parents should be aware that this is the bush, the camp is on the edge of the Lower Zambezi National Park, and is not fenced in, so animals do roam freely past. Children must be 12 years or older to participate in walking or canoe safaris.
The camp has vehicles and canoes for tailor made safaris, as well as a larger boat for cruises up and down the river and the Chongwe Channel. The food is excellent, created freshly on site, and all dietary requirements can be catered for. Often the table will be set out so guests can enjoy dinner under the stars.
The Albida and Cassia Suites each have their own butler, and meals can be taken either in private in the suite’s dining area or at the main camp.
At Chongwe River Camp, activities are tailored to make the most of this incredibly diverse wilderness. Game viewing can be done from a vehicle in either the Lower Zambezi National Park or the Chiawa Partnership Park or, if you prefer, from a boat on the Zambezi. Canoeing, walking and, of course, fishing, are also offered. For those interested in the rich cultural heritage of the area, community visits can be arranged.
Meg Shepro (Staff)
I had a splendid stay at Chongwe where the managers and staff welcome you in as their own and foster an environment ideal for sharing stories around the fire. The area surrounding camp has excellent game viewing and one morning we saw a lioness with her four subadult male cubs to round off a gorgeous game drive. This camp is ideal for an immersive bush experience on the edge of the Zambezi.
Louisa Verney (Staff)
Chongwe is a fabulous camp on the confluence of the Zambezi and Chongwe River. I was lucky enough to be staying in the Cassia Suite so I fell asleep to the sound of the hippos honking in the river right out side my tent and then woke up to the sun rising at the foot of my bed across the river surrounded by billowing white curtains. I loved the style of the camp with the big canvas sail roofs of the main area with a hint of Fred Flintstone chic.
Anna Devereux Baker (Staff)
Lovely camp, probably in one of the best spots in Lower Zambezi! It's not inside the park, being just outside in the buffer zone (known as the game management area) which extends a further c50 miles along the river. Still excellent for game though. The camp is on the confluence of the Chongwe Channel and the main Zambezi river, in a grove of Winterthorn trees (Lower Zambezi's signature tree) which give lots of shade. The rooms are lovely, up on concrete decks and all with a view. They also have two suites, designed by Neil Rocher (who designed Shompole and Chongwe River House) and they're gorgeous - the Albida suite has two en-suite tented bedrooms and a central lounge area with a plunge pool so great for two couples traveling together or a family - and the Cassia suite is a honeymoon hideaway - one en-suite tented bedroom and a main lounge area, again with a plunge pool. Really spectacular and quite different from the main camp. Canoeing, walking safaris, boat trips and day and night game drives all on offer. Check out the bathrooms...they're quite wacky and more often than not you'll find yourself tugging on an impala horn in order to turn the hot tap on...
Chongwe has long been a favorite of Zambiaphiles, situated on one of the most beautiful sites in Africa: on the calm, hippo-filled Chongwe River, at the confluence of the Zambezi, adjoining the Lower Zambezi National Park. Last summer the main camp had just six spacious tents, alongside the Gaudi-esque Chongwe House (for private safaris). In August it added the Cassia and two-bedroomed Albida suites, giving it a slicker, more romantic feel.
The suites are both private, backed by curving mud walls, and set on the open banks of the river (from my bed I could see the sun rise each morning, a great ball of fire soaring above grunting hippos, and then in the afternoon watch elephants swimming across the river from the coolness of my private plunge pool). Each suite is made up of a number of large circular tented roofs covering raised polished floor areas: one is an open-plan living area with sofas, kitchenette and dining table; another is a four-poster bedroom; and the third is a generous bathroom, with outdoor shower and big claw bath set under the stars. Drinks and food (Italian cuisine which I found too heavy for hot bush days) can be taken here in privacy, or communally in the main camp with other guests.
Activities: The Lower Zambezi is my favorite safari destination, not just because of its beauty, in a valley at the foothills of steep, purplish escarpment, but because you get close to animals on both water and land. One day, just after dawn, I walked in the shade of thorny albida and Natal mahogany forests with an armed ranger and guide, learning about fauna and flora close-up, and uncovered a crocodile nest and eggs in the cold sand. In the evenings, I joined other guests on game drives, one night following three male lions who had swum across from Zimbabwe, another night watching nocturnal civet and genet in the beam of a spotlight. After brunch, I hunkered down on the steps of my plunge pool and read, went fishing for the famous, sharp-toothed tigerfish and canoed with the fantastically knowledgeable and entertaining Zimbabwean guide Rob Fynn, past monster crocodiles and two hippos nicknamed Mugabe and Mbeki (when disturbed, one refuses to move and the other moves sideways). Even in bed I heard lions roaring, elephants walking through the camp and hyaenas howling.
Canoeing on the Zambezi River
The Zambezi is renowned for truly spectacular canoeing as it provides you with the chance to see game from a wholly different perspective...looking up at it instead of down!
Fishing on the Zambezi River
The Zambezi River is host to some of the most incredible fresh water sport fishing in the world with both spinning and fly fishing, on a strictly catch and release policy according to the park rules. The most popular quarry is the infamous Tigerfish.
Game Viewing in the Lower Zambezi
Game viewing in the Lower Zambezi National Park, with varying options such as game drives, boat and canoe safaris, or bush walks, is the highlight of any safari trip to Zambia.
Location & directions
Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
Chongwe River Camp is located at the confluence of the Zambezi River and its tributary, the Chongwe River, which forms the western boundary of the Lower Zambezi National Park.
How to get there
From the UK, a 10-hour international flight to Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, Lusaka, followed by a one hour flight by light aircraft and then 20-minutes by road to camp.