If you want back-to-basics safari accommodation, run by its passionate owners, you will love Chula Island. Wild, raw, authentic… Chula Island Camp is a remote and adventurous fly-camping option in the Lower Zambezi National Park. It’s sister camp to Kutali Camp, hence their clear similarity in style, and both are owned and operated by Tusk & Mane African Safaris and now part of Classic Zambia. The camp is open from mid-May to November.
ACCESS & LOCATION:
The camp is accessed via 30 minutes’ road transfer (wildlife dependent) from Jeki airstrip, followed by a 10 minutes’ boat ride. It’s situated on Discovery Island, an island in the Zambezi River that has no vehicle access, in the heart of the Lower Zambezi N.P. The site includes natal mahogany trees and it overlooks a beautiful lagoon! This is one of the most sought-after and dramatic locations in Africa.
ACCOMMODATION & FACILITIES AT CHULA ISLAND CAMP:
This is an authentic property that pushes the boundaries of safari camp design. There’s a maximum of four guest tents, each offering 5 by 4 metres’ floor space and sufficient height for you to stand. Every tent has drop-down sides too. These can be raised during daylight hours to usher in fresh breezes, and lowered for cold nights and a little privacy. Made of netting, the tent walls are one of the most appealing aspects of the camp, as they provide a 270-degrees view of the African bush at all times of day and night. Black-out curtains are available, if need be. Tent contents include twin beds (these can be joined to make a double), reading lights, a couple of comfy camp chairs, two folding shelf systems – it really is simple and all you need. The washing facilities are just to the side of your tent, and they comprise flush toilet, washbasin with mirror over, and classic bucket shower! Hot water for your shower is supplied on request. Soap, shampoo, conditioner are also provided.
The communal spaces at Chula Island Camp consist of a simple lounge and dining area, within a single open-sided mess tent. Its furnishings include camp chairs and a table where everyone eats together, tucking in to tasty and hearty food. There’s also a well-stocked bar. Breakfast is done al fresco, around a warming campfire, while lunches and dinners are served around the communal dining table! This is the perfect place to gather together and share your safari stories. There’s a mobile library too, with books about the flora and fauna of the Lower Zambezi N.P.
ACTIVITIES AT CHULA ISLAND CAMP:
Chula and Kutali Camp are run by the owners, safari guide Kyle Branch and partner Luke Evans, who have a wealth of experience between them. Kyle and Luke take a traditional approach to safari, and one that is becoming increasingly hard to find – they specialise in safaris that are all about the wilderness, with a focus on walking and boating. Most guests will combine both fly-camps within an itinerary of at least four nights (two nights in each camp).
The camp offers all the activities for which the Lower Zambezi is famous. This results in a huge range of things to do to keep guests happy for longer stays than the average safari camp, and there’s a focus on excellent guiding. The safari experience here is very flexible, but in broad terms here’s a list of the activities on offer:
Walking safaris- This activity is available during early mornings and early afternoons. The guides are happy to tailor the pace of walks and to fit in a break whenever required. Please note that a good level of fitness is recommended, for safety reasons. Guests are also accompanied by an armed park ranger. Walks are fantastic for taking a really close look at the wildlife, with opportunities to observe even the smallest insects and plants!
Canoeing safaris- Kyle leads this pastime, together with a paddling team. You can choose to explore any of the three channels that link with the spectacular river, as well as the Zambezi itself. Watch out for crocs, hippos, ample birdlife, and various wildlife on the banks, having a long cool drink.
Boating- Head out during late afternoon, and you’ll enjoy sundowners as the sun sets over the river – bliss!
Fishing- From May to November, keen fisherfolk can set off on the camp’s pontoon boat or aliboat for some catch-and-release fun. All equipment you’ll need is provided, such as rods, reeds, tackles, and lures.
Family activities*- There’s a minimum age requirement of 14 years for walking and canoeing safaris. For families with children under 14, the camp can be taken exclusively so that the activity programme can be adapted. At camp, youngsters can get stuck into arts-and-crafts, bug hunts, and making bows-and-arrows.
Expertly guided game drives- Vehicle safaris aren’t the norm from this island camp, which has more of a focus on walking and the water-based activities. But if you really want to go on a drive and if they can accommodate it, Luke and Kyle will boat you to the mainland. Among the wildlife highlights in the Lower Zambezi National Park are an impressive four of the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo!
*This property is unfenced and located in a wildlife area, so large and potentially dangerous animals do pass through. If you opt to stay here, always be alert when walking around the camp and request for a member of staff to escort you if you have any concerns. Any guest is escorted after dark as a matter of course.