South Luangwa National Park, 1970s
When Norman Carr established Chibembe in the mid-1970’s he selected the location carefully. The confluence of the Chibembe and Luangwa Rivers on the eastern boundary of the South Luangwa National Park is both spectacular and practical. Arguably the best walking safari area in the area, Chibembe has easy access to largely unused areas of the South Luangwa National Park. Whilst much has changed in Zambian tourism in the last 40 years, Chibembe’s location remains unrivalled.
The internationally acclaimed Norman Carr pioneered walking trails at Chibembe and in the South Luangwa National park and more recently, under the management of Wilderness Trails, Chibembe became the hub for the running a number of walking trail camps in the park opposite as well as Nsefu Camp and Big Lagoon.
A number of world renowned Safari operators have spent time living and working at Chibembe including Phil Berry, Robin Pope, Vic Ghurs and John Coppinger. To date, it is commonly spoken of as being the best walking safari area in Zambia.
Chibembe was first operated as a hunting camp as far back as the early 1950s before the South Luangwa National Park was gazetted a protected wildlife reserve in 1972. On his retirement from the Zambia National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1974, Norman Carr set up a small ‘walking trails ‘bush’ camp’ on Chibembe Island to try out his ‘new’ safari concept where guests shot wildlife with their cameras, rather than rifles.
‘Photo tourism’ proved popular and Carr obtained a lease for his tourism company, Wilderness Trails Limited, to build Chibembe Lodge. Establishing a string of walking trails ‘bush’ camps in the South Luangwa National Park, along the Luangwa and Mupamadzi Rivers, Chibembe Lodge became very popular helping to promote Norman’s vision of photo tourism. Aimed at the family market, Chibembe was hugely popular with all who visited and experienced the magical ‘Chibembe walking area’ in the north-east corner of the South Luangwa National Park.
With the construction of an all-weather airport at Mfuwe, Carr moved his safari operations to Kapani and Chibembe ceased operating in 2002. Revived in 2018 Chibembe underwent major refurbishment and track maintenance opening the first bush camp in September 2019.