Spend four nights at safari camps in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, where elephants, leopards, and more than 400 species of birds inhabit open grasslands, stands of ebony trees, and the expansive Luangwa River system. Robin Pope Safaris, named after the guide who founded the company in 1986, has developed a strong relationship with the area’s Kunda people. The company has renovated schools in nearby communities, paid teachers’ salaries, and funded a health care clinic. Learn about the locals’ daily life during a visit to the village of Kawaza and, if you wish, dine in the home of a Kunda family. Then fly northeast to Robin Pope’s new Mkulumadzi Lodge in Malawi’s Majete National Park. Surrounded by a 175,000-acre conservation area, eight contemporary chalets front a river filled with hippos. Finish with three nights at the Pumulani resort on the quiet, sandy shores of Lake Malawi.
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Taking a walk on the wild side
The vast South Luangwa valley is where it's at when it comes to walking safaris in Southern Africa. Sanctuary Retreats opened a little solar-powered tented camp last year, called Zebra Plains, somewhere in the heart of this enormous reserve known for its dense hardwood forests and really wild game viewing. We tracked lion on foot, literally leopard crawling through the long grass - hearts pumping out of our chests. Afterwards, tea and homemade lemon pound cake seemed a little too tame a celebration. Each of the four tents has solar powered lights, hot bucket showers, a flush loo and mosquito net-festooned bed (made locally from recycled wood) with beautiful cotton bedlinen. The food, given the rudimentary outdoor kitchen with hole-in-the-ground oven, was sensational. Not to mention the breakfast and teatime treats: good that we could walk off the cinnamon doughnuts, rich chocolate cake, lemon meringue pie and savoury muffins.