Inside National Park
The effortless and grounded luxury that Chiawa Safaris is known for, is right here at Old Mondoro. An intimate camp of only 5 chalets, the concept of this camp is simple – to provide guests with an authentic and unedited Zambian safari, providing a “back to the bush” atmosphere that centralizes on the wildlife and wilderness experience.
A destination in itself, Old Mondoro is owned and operated by the Cumings family of the pioneer Chiawa Camp, which boasts enhanced luxuries and bush-sophistication, making a combination safari of these two camps a most rewarding visit to the Lower Zambezi.
Incredible wildlife encounters at this quintessential safari camp are those only found in your wildest dreams. Under the canopy of winterthorn trees and bordering the mighty Zambezi river, wild animals are part of the camp, sharing in your daily routine. Big cat sightings (some of the most prolific leopard sightings to be had in Africa) with the magic of the water providing island-hopping buffalo and elephant, as well as an extreme concentration of hippo.
“Mondoro” in Goba language means Lion. The camp name honours a mythical white lion that used to prowl nearby – although “Old Mondoro” is long gone, his descendants still roam the wilderness of the Lower Zambezi, wild and free.
With no fences anywhere in camp, Old Mondoro is a mutual study in honouring boundaries. The wild animals that live here – waterbuck, baboons, buffalo, elephant, being the most common – occupy the space just as much as the camp and guests do.
Only 5 chalets occupy the camp, providing a remote and private atmosphere for each guest. Each chalet holds a romantically-netted king bed (or two large twins) with a view through the wide reed windows either directly onto the Zambezi or the hyacinth-filled channel weaving through camp. An outdoor bath doubles as a plunge-pool (and occasional drinking hole) and an open-air shower allows one to revel under the stars each night. A private deck provides additional seating for afternoon naps, getting lost in a book or just observing the movie-worthy backdrop of the mighty Zambezi or winterthorn trees across the channel, where an endless variety of wildlife can be seen weaving throughout the shade and cooling off in the water.
An open-sided sitenje (dining area) looks out across the full-bodied grey river – over snorting, sun-baking hippos, and elephant crossing between river islands – towards the far bank. There, you’ll find Zimbabwe.
The Lower Zambezi National Park, by virtue of the Zambezi River and its parallel escarpment, is one of Africa’s most scenic wildernesses, home to an impressive quantity and variety of wildlife that can be viewed not only on the more usual land-based Lower Zambezi activities, but also on a variety of water-based activities, and in the camps themselves.
In comparison to typical African safaris, the Lower Zambezi safari experience is unique: more remote, more exclusive, and experiential in nature. While both guests and guides require more patience with regards to game viewing, the results are often outstanding.
Chiawa Camp and Old Mondoro are located in the middle of prime wildlife and habitat zones of the Lower Zambezi National Park, so we usually do not have to travel far to see wildlife. What’s more, often wildlife make their way into camp to visit us, providing out-of-this-world game sightings. Wildlife to be spotted includes elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, waterbuck, hippos and crocodiles.
Day Time Game Drives
A game drive tends to be the most popular Zambia safari activity and is conducted in an open 4×4 safari vehicle. This is the most effective way to see Zambian wildlife, as these cover much ground and can get close sightings without placing our guests in harms way or disturbing the wildlife. Although vehicles with canopies are available upon request we eschew canopies as these interfere with the views of the trees and birds during the day, and at night the stars. Aside from leopards feeding in the trees.
Each vehicle has 3 bench seats with a back rest and a foot rest for each, so up to 6 guests can each travel comfortably with a ‘window seat’ however we typically restrict each game drive to 4 guests maximum. These leave camp in the morning and return before brunch, halting for a mid-morning coffee stop. Cooler boxes and a First aid kit are carried on each vehicle, which is also equipped with a VHF radio for safety and for our guides to share news of interesting sightings so that the likelihood of any of our guests missing out on a great sighting is minimized.
Your Zambian safari guide is an expert in the bush and will point out interesting subjects as if by magic: a flick of a tail here, a curve of an ear there, a movement wherever.
Bush walks are an interesting way to get a back stage pass look at the Zambian wildlife, and how the ecology of the Lower Zambezi works. Our guides are trained naturalists who can not only identify spoor, birds, plants and insects but also explain in interesting detail how these all interact with each other, how each relies on each other in this, the great circle of life. Taking advantage of the cooler weather, bush walks usually take place in the early morning and are led by one of our pro guides and a Department of National Parks & Wildlife armed “escort scout”. Sometimes walks happen right out of camp but usually we drive a short distance into more open country.
Guests are given a thorough safety briefing and orientation, and although the pace is much like a stroll in the park (no pun intended) and are by no means exerting, in the interests of safety, mediocre fitness and mobility is required in order to participate. Your professional guide will be carrying additional water, a first aid kit, radio, pencil flare and a “bear banger” to warn off any aggressive animal. After the walk, which will last between 1-3 hours, a short (or long if you prefer) game drive will take you back to camp. It is important to note that although both our camps have sufficient pro guides licensed to walk, each camp is only provided with one ZAWA escort scout and as we are able to only take 6 guests on a walk at any one time, occasionally guests may not get to walk on a day or time of their choosing – circumstances which are unusual and beyond our control.
Our Lower Zambezi River Canoe trips always head downstream, eastwards, as the current of the Zambezi is deceptively powerful. The canoes take either 2 or 3 people. All trips are led by at least one pro guide with current experience of that stretch of the river, and all canoes are paddled by one experienced “back paddler”, usually a trainee guide or other member of staff who has grown up and spent his young life paddling on the Zambezi. All canoe trips carry a dry bag, cool box, first aid kit and at least one VHF radio – guests are required to wear the floatation vests provided throughout the trip.
The best canoeing experience is to be had in the channels above camp, the Inkalange Channel above Chiawa and the Discovery Channel above Old Mondoro offer world class canoeing. Otherwise canoeing amongst the islands down the main river close to shore makes for an equally memorable experience. Drifting in near silence past birds, crocs and a variety of mammals makes for an amazing experience of a lifetime however this is the Zambezi River at its most natural and unfortunately, also at its most dangerous. Our camps have a perfect safety record, follow best practice, and take steps to mitigate the risks, we cannot eliminate the risks, and it is important that all guests who participate in canoeing and indeed any activity at our camps, understand and accept these risks and the associated liability with them.
Canoe trips usually leave camp at about 14:30, by boat towing the canoes in tandem behind after which you are dropped off at the channel entrance around 15:15 followed by a safety briefing and orientation. These float back into camp just before sunset and sundowners after which guests have the choice to relax before dinner by the camp fire and enjoy perhaps another cocktail or two, or join a night drive.
Semi-Permanent Tented Camp
Max. clients in vehicle
Day + night game drives, Walking safaris, Boating safaris