Luxury Meets Reality: An insight into the efforts camps go to keep your African dream alive
Sat in front of a campfire clinking your ice-cold G&T, before tucking into a sumptuous 4-course dinner, how often do you consider the work that’s gone into making it all happen? Take Remote Africa’s Chikoko Trails camps, where the nearest road is 10km away. How exactly does the fridge, the sofa, the huge tables and stylish bathroom suites make it into camp each year? They’re manually carried, of course. Head behind the scenes to appreciate just how much camps do to deliver those memorable and often luxurious moments in the bush.
At camps across Zambia, months of preparation and organisation goes into constructing the perfect camp setting for guests. This is an annual operation when Zambia’s emerald season approaches, and most camps are packed away to protect them from severe downpours and restored to their former glory in time for April, when the rains come to a stop. This is not just about a little light dusting and sweeping. This is an operation of note, where everyone from camp manager to camp hand, is tasked with recreating a beautiful camp – almost totally from scratch. Bushcamp Company, a well-established safari operator with a number of bush camps across Zambia had one of their worst experiences a few years ago, where the rain returned just before the safari season was due to begin. A huge storm turned their newly graded roads into quagmires and camp sites into swimming pools. Flat Dogs, a safari camp based in South Luangwa for the past 15 years totally re-thatching the main building this season. Ladies in communities near Chipata, Zambia, will go to the bush, cut and bundle the grass, then bring it to the roadside where it is transported back to camp. A team of 10 locals are hired to break down the big bundles and re bundle into thatching size bundles, which the 12 strong thatching team will then use on the roof. It not only provides a beautiful setting for guests to enjoy meals and drinks whilst watching elephant wander past, but supports many people in the local community too.
As with most bush camps, work begins with the most challenging parts, so to set a strong foundation. Considerable time and effort is put into making roads accessible, cutting overgrown vegetation, and re-building broken bridges. Wilderness Safaris have three camps across Zambia, two of which are in Kafue. Whilst the Kafue makes for an outstanding lodge location due to its beauty and superb wildlife, staff encounter a long trek back to camp base. The first part of their adventure begins with a nine-hour car journey from Lusaka, but it’s when they hit the Kafue that hard work begins! Once it is impossible to find dry roads and drive any further, they board mokoros and wade through the narrow channels in the dark - often laden down with items like fridges! Work will then begin on re-building the camps to their former glory, re-creating the perfect atmosphere for guests, constructing all amenities from the ground up. With each element a real team effort, all in impeccable timing ready for the unsuspecting guests. However last minute it may be, everything comes together, and the season’s first guests are always assured of a warm welcome and a perfectly built and equipped camp, and are often none the wiser to the astonishing work from camp employees and locals. Next time you visit an african bush camp or reminisce about your unforgettable moments on a safari in Zambia, you may think twice, now with a little more appreciation.