Crack! An elephant was breaking trees about 20 metres away from our campsite. The next night it was hippos crunching grass even closer by while hyenas whooped in the distance. That’s how it went at Croc Valley campsite at Mfuwe, just outside Zambia’s premier South Luangwa National Park.
The setting along the Luangwa River was perfect, allowing us to sit looking out onto water birds, hippos and a few crocs lazing in the sun on a dry bank.
Our campsite at Croc Valley consisted of a patch of green grass under a big Natal mahogany tree, a thatched shelter with a wooden picnic table and a plug point. With clean ablutions and a swimming pool nearby, there was nothing else any self-respecting camper could have wanted. If we felt sociable, there was even an open-air bar at the other end of the campsite where we could chill and mix with other travelers from all over the world.
The mahogany trees provided welcome shade in the afternoon heat. We’d been careful not to pitch camp under a sausage tree dripping two-foot long pods that may have been about to drop to ground. We didn’t want one bashing us on the head or making a huge dent in our car. They are useful, though. They provide food in the dry season for hippo, baboons and buck, and they have antiseptic properties and an extract is used for skin cancer. A local guide also hinted delicately that Zambians use it for ‘male potency’ – a kind of bush Viagra.
On our first night a TV set was blaring Mythbusters, which I enjoy at home but seemed so wrong in the middle of natural Africa. Fortunately, there was a power outage and we had 20 minutes of blissful silence and starlight until the staff got the backup generator going.
Have you been to Zambia? And did you fall under its spell too? I’d love to hear about your experiences – good or bad – in the comments below.
1. South Africans don’t need a visa to enter Zambia.
2. Anyone going to Zambia via South Africa needs a yellow fever inoculation.
3. Croc Valley camping costs US$11.20-13.40, depending on whether you travel in green season or peak season (July to October). If self-catering camping isn't your thing, there are also chalets, rooms and bush tents from around $20-$60 per person sharing per night. Meals are also available in the restaurant. [Prices updated in December 2017.]
4. Find out more about Zambia.
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