I recently enjoyed a phenomenal holiday in Zambia & Madagascar. You can read my trip reports here
- Review: Kenya Airways B787 Dreamliner Business Class from Amsterdam to Nairobi
- Review: Kenya Airways B737 Business Class from Nairobi to Lusaka
- Review: Time + Tide Chongwe Suites, Lower Zambezi National Park (Zambia)
- Review: Time + Tide Kukuli Bushcamp, South Luangwa National Park (Zambia)
- Review: Time + Tide Chinzombo Lodge, South Luangwa National Park (Zambia)
- Review: Time + Tide Miavana (Madagascar)
- Review: Air France B777 Business Class from Antananarivo to Paris
Today (November 20, 2019): Review of Time + Tide Chongwe Suites (Zambia).
Time + Tide Chongwe is set at the confluence of the Chongwe and Zambezi Rivers against a beautiful mountainous backdrop, offering the best views in the Lower Zambezi. While the camp’s 9 ensuite tents are beautifully appointed, the real draw are the two ultraluxe Suites and Chongwe House. The Albida Suite sleeps four guests in two elegant ensuite bedrooms situated on either side of a private dining and lounge area complete with a plunge pool and fire pit. The Cassia Suite is an ultra-private suite for two consisting of a luxurious bedroom, canopied lounge, and plunge pool. Zambia’s most spectacular private safari home – Chongwe House – sleeps eight guests in four spacious ensuite bedrooms.
Time + Tide Chongwe Suites features in my top 10 list of the best safari lodges & camps in Zambia.
Have you ever stayed at Time + Tide Chongwe? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Surrounded by the wild beauty of the African bush, Time + Tide Chongwe Suites enjoys a fantastic setting, which is regarded as one of the most picturesque camp locations in Southern Africa. The lodge sits on a forested riverbank at the confluence of the mighty Zambezi River and its tributary, the Chongwe River, which forms the western boundary of the Lower Zambezi National Park. The camp looks out over the confluence and the imposing mountains of the escarpment to the north, offering the best views of all lodges in the National Park area. It truly is a natural oasis, with hippos, elephants and birds playing in the water all day and night.
- Getting to the camp by light aircraft is a dramatic and exhilarating adventure. Flights from Zambia’s capital Lusaka (where most travelers will start their journey) to the Royal airstrip (which is a 15 min drive from the lodge) are booked via the lodge. Taking around 30 minutes, the flight goes over the escarpment, offering spectacular views of the National Park, its abundant wildlife and the Zambezi river upon apprach (which feels like a scene from the Hollywood movie ‘Out of Africa’). Alternatively, guest can also fly in from Lusaka or Mfuwe to the Jeki airstrip, from where it is a one hour boat trip and a 20 min road transfer to the camp.
- The lodge’s main area is covered by a large canvas rood suspended from the surrounding winterthorn trees. Beneath is a small library, a picturesque bar (which is a nice spot for a drink and chat before dinner) and a cozy lounge from where to watch the wildlife around (and sometimes in the middle of) camp. In front of the main area is an outdoor dining area and a campfire surrounded by wooden armchairs, overlooking the National Park grounds across the river. A short stroll from the main area is a small but lovely swimming pool, surrounded by sun loungers as well as sturdy wall to keep the elephants out.
- On one side of the main area are ten Mulati tents, which are labeled as ‘Time + Tide Chongwe Camp’. Dotted along the riverbank under a grove of towering winterthorn trees, these tents enjoy unobstructed views of the Chongwe River. The tents are simply furnished with either twin or kingsize beds. The back of each tent features an open-air bathroom, enclosed by a wall, topped by a canvas, and equipped with a sink, shower and a flushing toilet screened off for privacy. Each tent also features a small deck with comfortable lounge chairs from where guests can observe the abundant wildlife visiting the banks to drink and graze on the lush grasses.
- The main area’s other side is home to two lavish suites, which are labeled as ‘Time + Tide Suites’. During my visit, I was upgraded to the Albida Suite, which features two elegant octagonal tented bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms on either side of a private dining and lounge area, complete with a private plunge pool and fire pit which overlook the river. The other suite – called the Cassia Suite – is an ultra-private suite comprising an en-suite bedroom, canopied lounge and dining area, plunge pool, and a fire pit, which is perfect for honeymooners, couples or those seeking an extra dash of luxury. Both suites come with butler service and private dining options.
- Rates at Time + Tide Chongwe include all meals, which are served at the communal dining table in front of the lodge (unless you are booked in one of the suites, since that entitles you to a private dining experience prepared by your own butler). Breakfast is a small self-service buffet, with a variety of cereals, yoghurts, juices and fruit, and complemented by toasts and eggs which are made to order over the campfire. Lunch is also served as a buffet, and includes a selection of salads, fresh bread and a couple of hot dishes. Dinner is a three course affair (guests need to select their choices from a daily changing menu after breakfast).
- Time + Tide Chongwe offers an impressive variety of safari activities. By land, guests can enjoy game drives and walking safaris in the Lower Zambezi National Park (more on that below) and the game management area. The camp is mainly known for its water adventures, with the possibility of boat cruises, canoeing safaris and fishing. The latter is only possible on a strictly ‘catch and release’ basis. The local specialty is the tigerfish, named for its striped body and razor-sharp teeth, but sizable catfish and bream are also caught. Back in camp, the lodge’s wildlife hide is great for photography, especially rare nocturnal creatures.
- The lodge gives easy access to the Lower Zambezi National Park. The park lies opposite the Mana Pools Reserve in Zimbabwe, so the whole area on both sides of the Zambezi is a massive wildlife sanctuary. The park’s inland floodplains are fringed with mopane forest, winterthorn trees, and huge acacias. Wildlife is abundant and although the diversity of animals is not as wide as in other parks, the opportunities to get close to game wandering in and out of the Zambezi channels are spectacular. Enormous herds of elephant, some up to 100 strong, are often seen at the river’s edge. The park is also home to a a healthy population of leopards.
- You don’t have to leave Time + Tide Chongwe to observe Africa’s large creatures as there is plentiful wildlife around the camp itself. Elephants frequently wander through camp (almost on a daily basis) to feed on the many seed pods dropped from the tall winterthorn trees above. During my visit, an elephant even wandered inside my suite, which was one of my most thrilling animal encounters ever (you can watch the footage of that encounter here). Hipos, crocs, warthogs, impalas and baboons can be observed almost all the time on the riverbanks in the lodge’s vicinity.
- For the ultimate safari experience, you can book the camp’s signature ‘sleepout under the stars‘ experience. This extraordinary experience is an adventurous addition to any safari, allowing you to reconnect with nature and each other in a simple, meaningful way. Just like the early explorers, you fall asleep under a canopy of a million twinkling stars, listening to the sounds of the nighttime bush, perched high in the escarpment overlooking the valley and rivers below. A cosy bedroll, bush loo, and culinary team ensure that this experience is as comfortable as it is memorable.
- The camp is operated by Time + Tide, one of Africa’s premium safari companies. The Time + Tide story started 70 years ago, when the legendary Norman Carr pioneered a community-based safari experience in Zambia. Father of the walking safari, he paved the way for modern conservation tourism, working hand-in-hand with locals to ensure they would benefit from the protection of their local wilderness and wildlife. Over the years, the company evolved, and today, it manages a portfolio of luxurious properties that stretches across the land and sea, in Zambia and Madagascar, welcoming those who believe the road less traveled has more to offer.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Time + Tide Chongwe Suites is a great lodge, offering superb safari activities and a stunning location at the confluence of the Zambezi River and its tributary, the Chongwe River, which forms the western boundary of the Lower Zambezi National Park. That said, you need to know the following when considering a stay here:
- Time + Tide Chongwe lies in a game management area that stretches for 80 km (50 mi) along the Zambezi River. It is just outside the (unfenced) National Park boundary, but it is still in a very productive wildlife area.
- The lodge is not fenced so wildlife freely moves around the lodge. Elephants are regularly seen in camp, and predators such as leopards and lions have been occasionally spotted in and around the lodge. Although most wildlife enthusiasts would be thrilled by such a special sighting, some may feel a little uncomfortable with all the wildlife around them, especially when walking between the main lodge and tents. However, it should not be too much of an issue since the staff is aways there to escort you.
- As mentioned above, Chongwe is a collection of 3 hotels within one site: the Camp, the Suites, and the Villa. While the tents at the Camp are still a great choice for a safari holiday, they are not very luxurious compared to the Suites and Villa (the latter also cost much more).
- While guests of the Suites and Villa are entitled to meals served within the privacy of their accommodations, guests of the Camp are seated at a communal dining table for lunch, breakfast and dinner. This setting offers a chance to socialize with other guests, but this may not be to the liking of those who don’t feel like interacting with other travelers.
- Although still great, food was a little underwhelming and not as refined as compared to the superb food offered at the Time+ Tide’s other lodges in Zambia and Madagascar.
- Time + Tide Chongwe does not have an onsite spa nor a gym.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Suites: 10/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: not available
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good 8,6/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Time + Tide Chongwe (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: for more luxury, book one of the two Suites or the giant Villa instead of a tent.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST 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
- 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 the best time to visit. Alternatively come for some superb birdwatching at the end of the rains.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Zambia’s capital Lusaka, it’s a one hour flight by light aircraft to the Royal Airstrip and then 20-minutes by road to camp. Transfers are arranged via the lodge. Alternatively, you can also fly in from Lusaka or Mfuwe to the Jeki airstrip, from where it is a one hour boat trip and a 20 min road transfer to the camp.