I recently traveled to 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 Kakuli Bushcamp, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia (today)
- 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 26, 2019): Review of Time + Tide Kakuli, South Luangwa National Park (Zambia).
The famous Norman Carr pioneered walking safaris in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park and his legacy lives on at Time + Tide Kakuli bush camp, and its three Time + Tide sister lodges Luwi, Nsolo and Mchenja. Perched high above the Luangwa River, Time + Tide Kakuli offers impressive vistas of the river’s many visitors below. Designed to celebrate the panoramic setting, the suites have a long, low profile and a bright, airy feel. Kakuli can be used as one ‘stop’ on a longer camp-to-camp walking safari. All walking safaris at the bushcamp are conducted with an armed game scout leading the way, followed by a professional safari guide.
Time + Tide Kakuli features in my top 10 list of the best safari lodges & camps in Zambia.
Have you ever stayed at Time + Tide Kakuli? 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
- Time + Tide Kakuli enjoys a remote setting deep inside Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, one of the world’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries. Founded as the Luangwa Game Park in 1904, South Luangwa was converted to one of three game reserves in 1938. With its western and northwestern edge bounded by the Muchinga Escarpment, and the southern border lined by the meandering Luangwa River, there’s no shortage of dramatic topography in this stunning park. Concentrations of game along the river and on the wide-open plains are amongst the most intense in Africa. The park is especially known for its sightings of packs of wild dogs.
- Kakuli boasts a wonderful location on a forested bank of the Luangwa River, overlooking a wide floodplain that follows the river until it meets its confluence with the Luwi River. Due to its elevated setting, the lodge enjoys some of the most spectacular views of all of camps in South Luangwa. Besides for its panoramic views, the area which Kakuli calls its home is also renowned for some of the best game viewing opportunities in South Luangwa National Park, with abundant leopards, a resident lion pride and a seasonal colony of the immensely beautiful carmine bee-eaters to be found in the lodge’s immediate vicinity.
- The lodge’s main area comprises an elevated main chitenge and deck, which overlook the river and a permanent waterhole. The open-sided pavilion features a classic safari-style decor and houses a small bar, a lounge with several comfortable sofas and directors’ chairs, and a dining room with communal table. The wooden deck has a firepit at its center, which is a great spot for breakfast on a cool morning or a drink before dinner. Beneath the lounge is a wildlife hide that offers close-up views of the wildlife stopping by for a drink. Don’t be surprised if brunch is interrupted by a herd of elephants feeding on the nearby trees!
- The lodge features five tented suites (including one family suite). Designed to celebrate the panoramic setting, the suites have a bright, airy feel and are decorated in neutral safari tones. Freshly redesigned in 2018, they offer comfort in all seasons by incorporating features such as a covered open-air lounge and indoor and outdoor showers. With thatched walls and proper doors, the suites feel very solid and sturdy, yet the front can be completely opened up to offer lovely views of the river from the comfort of your bed, so you can listen to the bellowing hippos, see bee-eaters perform their aerial acrobatics ,and watch giraffes wandering down to the river.
- Despite its remote location in the African wilderness, the lodge serves delicious food. Breakfast is served around the campfire on the deck before heading off on the early morning activity (with freshly cooked toast on the fire). Lunch is served buffet style, with a selection of salads, some hot dishes, and home-made bread. Dinner is a three course meal with a daily changing menu (the kitchen is able to cater to a range of dietary requirements on request). Lunch and dinner are served at the communal dining table in the main chitenge, which is a perfect spot to share safari stories with fellow travelers.
- Time + Tide Kakuli offers a wide range of safari activities in the dry season (May to October). The day and night game drives concentrate on the loop roads by the river around the lodge, although they sometimes go as far south as the main Mfuwe area and as far north as far as Lion Plain. These are game-rich areas, where you can expect regular lion and leopard sightings, amongst other game. Guided walking safaris in the area are a highlight of any safari at Kakuli. More active visitors may consider combining Kakuli with a stay at one of Time+ Tide’s other three bushcamps in South Luangwa (Luwi, Nsolo, and Mchenja), and walk the distance between them.
- Time + Tide Kakuli is one of the very few bush camps open during Zambia’s rainy season (mid January to early April). Against a verdant backdrop and dramatic skies, boating and walking safaris are offered from the lodge. Animal viewing is still good at this time of year but the real draw is the lack of tourists and the numerous birds, many in full breeding plumage (over 700 species have been recorded here during the rainy season). During the rainy season, most guests combine a stay at Kakuli with a couple of nights at its ultra-luxurious sister camp, Time + Tide Chinzombo, which offers game drives all year round.
- 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, nestled on a dry river bank flanked by grassy banks on either side. 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 Kakuli is a wonderful, intimate bushcamp tucked away deep into the wilderness of South Luangwa National Park. Before you consider a stay here, you need to know the following:
- The suites are open during the day, but closed at night. Some smaller creatures may be able to sneak inside (which is the case at almost all bushcamps). I had a few resident little frogs inside my room, that were harmless though and easy to direct outside.
- The suites don’t feature airconditioning. During the hotter times of the year (e.g. September & October), the suites’ open aspect provides few escapes from the heat during the day (a fan is provided though). The tents are still cooled at night by a refreshing breeze (even in summer), which makes sleeping very comfortable.
- There’s no WiFi at Time + Tide Kakuli, so you will be cut off from the internet for the duration of your stay (which might be a good thing, depending on your lifestyle).
- There’s no fence between Kakuli and the surrounding bush, so wildlife freely moves around the lodge. For example, during my stay, a pride of lions passed through camp one night, waking up everyone with their roars. Although some may feel a little uncomfortable with all the wildlife around them, most wildlife enthusiasts would be thrilled by such a special sighting (this is a safari camp after all). Safety is a priority though and the experienced staff is always there to escort you to/from your room at night.
- All meals are served at a communal dining table inside the main pavilion. This setting offers a chance to socialize with other guests and share incredible safari stories, but this may not be to the liking of those who don’t feel like interacting with other travelers. In all honesty, while I am not the most extrovert person, I did enjoy it a lot to meet other guests over dinner at night (so I guess you will as well).
- Time + Tide Kakuli is a comfortable, ‘no frills’ bushcamp that wants to create a real bush experience. As such, it doesn’t offer a lot of facilities, and doesn’t have a pool, spa or gym. If you want to be pampered in luxury inside South Luangwa National Park, you should stay at Kakuli’ sister property, Time + Tide Chinzombo. While some guests choose to stay in just one camp and base their explorations from there, I highly recommend to hop around for a few days from bushcamp to bushcamp, before moving to Chinzombo to end your safari in style.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: not available
- Suites: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: not available
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good 8,8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a hotel like Time + Tide Kakuli (and/or receive many free perks).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
South Luangwa 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
Mfuwe is the main getaway to South Luangwa. Mfuwe Airport is reached by a 60-minute flight with Proflight from Lusaka, and flights can be directly booked on the Proflight website (or via Time + Tide). From here a road transfer/game drive lasting approximately two hours takes visitors to Kakuli.