Tusk and Mane – Lower Zambezi National Park
Earlier on this month I was invited to spend 3 nights in the Lower Zambezi National Park with Tusk and Mane at Kutali Camp located on Kulefu Island (both mean faraway place), and at Chula Camp (means frog in Goba – the local language) on the Katengahumba /Discovery Island. Their third camp, Tafara Springs will be located in the Rufunsa Valley at the foot of the escarpment and will hopefully open for the 2020 season.
Owned and operated by Luke Evans & Kyle Branch, both of whom have extensive experience in Zambia and the Lower Zambezi National Park, this operation offers a very personal, back to basics traditional safari experience. Both camps are run as full mobile fly camps with 4 simple tents with en suite open-air bathrooms with flush toilets and hot bucket showers, and a main seating/dining area under canvas. The accommodation tents are a unique design that Luke and Kyle came up with – an oblong tented mosquito net which is very comfortable and airy. The tents at Chula are slightly larger than those at Kutali and have the addition of a tented roof above to ensure cool during summer. Rooms are set up with either one or two single beds, or two single beds converted to a King, bedside table, clothes hanging area and two chairs outside the tent. All lighting in the camps is solar.
Kulefu Island is easily accessed by vehicle over two small bridges over channels. The camp is set on the river in the most stunning Winter thorn Forest and activities are focused on game drives, game drive/walking combos, walking safaris and canoeing. Chula Camp, which is closer to Jeki Airstrip, is accessed via boat and is a wilder and more remote experience than Kutali. The atmosphere and look of the camp and area is very different to Kutali with lots of Natal Mahogany trees and sandy beaches. The game on the island is unbelievable with sightings of leopard, lion, hyena, buffalo herds and lots of elephant to mention a few species. Activities at Chula Camp are focused on walking safaris on the Island, canoeing and boating.
Delicious home style meals are served at both camps – with an early morning breakfast sitting around the camp fire. There is always someone on hand to brew you a fresh pot of delicious filter coffee, or pour you a refreshing G&T or glass of wine.
Guests are hosted in the camps by Luke, Kyle and Sarah (Kyle’s fiancée who is warm, relaxed and ever smiling). Kyle heads up the guiding team and is truly phenomenal. One of the best guides I have ever been with. Patient, knowledgeable, a good sense of humour and an incredible knowledge (or just plain luck!) for knowing which animals will be where and at what time of the day! His patience rewarded with us with some incredible sightings and experiences over the three days – a leopard on a hunt, male lions roaring a few metres from us on our night drive, an early morning hippo fight and three huge herds of buffalo who all came together to form one big herd.
With most of their staff and guides coming from the local community, with very little prior experience in the tourism industry, Kyle and Luke are taking a more organic approach to their staff development. Rather than poaching staff from other camps, they would rather train and develop their own team, to ensure that their very unique offering is followed through on all levels. Two of the guides have been working under Kyle for the past two seasons and a third qualified guide will work closely under Kyle in the coming months to ensure that a very high standard of service and guiding is given to all guests.
For any further information on the Tusk and Mane camps please feel free to contact us.