South Luangwa National Park was my first safari I’ve ever been on. We got a Peace Corps discount and stayed at Croc Valley in the dorms. It was a real nice place. The rooves were thatched, and it had a cool insaka (thatched shelter) you can hang out in. The lodge was right on the river, and you can hear the hippos at night. We got in late but the place had food ready for us in anticipation of our arrival. The food was so good! Three courses! Definitely more than we were picturing. The next morning we woke early and did a morning game drive. We saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, hyenas, and hippos. In our evening game drive we saw the same, and even spotted a leopard! It got so close to our car. I felt a little uncomfortable though because there were about 5 cars following the leopard around with high beams on all trying to get a look. The leopard seemed a little scared. All in all though I recommend Croc Valley. South Luangwa is a beautiful park FILLED with animals.
If you’re in Kasama I would definitely try to reserve a day for a day trip, or even a camping overnight trip to Chishimba falls. It’s not too expensive to get in, maybe $10 for non residents, I’m not quite positive as I got in for 8kwa on a work permit. There’s three falls. When you first enter is the smallest fall, there is a picnic area, a swimming area, people selling curios, and a place to order food and beers. You can also bring food and charcoal and use the grills. Then there’s a short hike to the upper falls and a little longer hike to the main lower falls. The lower falls are a beautiful site no matter the time of year. During dry season you can swim at the top of the falls (at your own risk) but I wouldn’t recommend swimming there during rain season, you’ll get swept off the edge and there’s no coming back. The falls are tall and you can stand at the edge and see for miles into the valley. If you’re interested in camping I don’t think its more than $20 for non residents. Bring your own tents and sleeping bags. There is an insaka/shelteroverlooking the lower falls on the edge of the cliff, try to snag that spot if you can. Its unbelievable falling asleep under the galaxies and hearing the roar of the fall all night. The only thing is the bathroom is back at the entrance near the bar so try to go before it gets dark, and hold it til light in the morning. It’s safe, but not fun to hike all the way back in the dark, and its not nice to go number 2 in a public space. Really the only way to get to the falls is with a taxi which is a bummer. So if you can try to find other people to share it with. I guess you can try hitching, you’ll be able to find a ride out of town easy enough, but finding someone going from the turn off to the falls might take a while, and it would be a long walk.
I absolutely loved this place. It’s a little haven away from reality. The prices were great. Accomodations range from camping, to dorms, to private chalets. I stayed in a chalet for most of the trip, and then switched to the dorms for the last few days. The chalets are clean, with mosquito nets and fans. Our chalet had a beautiful wrap around porch, outdoor shower, and a nice indoor one too. The dorms are clean as well, and I felt safe keeping my belongings on my bed. There is a nice outdoor shared shower and a compost toilet for those of you that are eco friendly. Everywhere you go on this compound overlooks the bright blue lake. It is on the edge of a cliff, there are a lot of stairs so this place definitely isn’t wheelchair friendly, or “I have bad knees” friendly. It’s a good workout though. They have different dinners scheduled every night for decent prices. There were other travelers coming in and out all week, so it was a great place to meet people. The owner was very friendly and helpful, I suggest getting to know him and his family, they have a ton of interesting stories and advice. As far as the lake, Mayoka has kayaks for guests to use, a raft out on the lake, and they occasionally do boat trips out to a cliff that, if you’re brave enough, you can jump off of into the lake. Occasionally you’ll see a monitor lizard, they live among the rocks, but they try to stay out of your way. Everything you buy here is put on a tab. You can pay off your tab in Malawian Kwacha or USD whenever you’d like. Butterfly Space is a lodge right next door and they sometimes have small concerts and art activities going on that you can join in on. I’d recommend going to visit it at least. Mayoka is about a 15 minute walk to town with gorgeous views of the lake the whole way, it also passes through a pretty decent art market. The men will be pushy with getting you to buy their things, but don’t forget to bargain for prices!