- Megan Gieske
What It's Like Staying at Chikunto Safari Lodge
Updated: Feb 14
Thinking of visiting Chikunto safari lodge?
Here's why you won't want to leave the fabled valley of the leopard.
We spent an incredible three nights at Chikunto Safari Lodge in Zambia. At Chikunto, named after a local chief, five, luxury chalets sit on the Luangwa River in South Luangwa.
At Chikunto, you stay inside the national park, so you are never far from the wild you've longed for. They offer game drives and walks in South Luangwa's famous, untouched wilderness.
At night, we stayed in their sleepout platform, attached by an elevated walkway to one of the chalets. The sun set before us, followed by a sky studded with stars, while we lay awake, listening to the movements of game and the sounds of the bush.
On game drives, we watched buffalos, hippos, elephants, zebras, giraffes, pukus, impalas, and kudus grazing in the dry grass of October's South Luangwa, and hundreds of colorful birds flying against a bright, blue sky.
The wilderness of South Luangwa is a best-kept secret among Africa's safari lovers. It's untouched, exciting, and full of leopards.
If you’re looking for a unique safari experience in southern Africa or if you’ve never been, then you will love staying in South Luangwa with Chikunto Safari Lodge.
This is a wild African experience!
Read on for what it's like to stay in South Luangwa National Park at Chikunto Safari Lodge.
What it's like staying at chikunto
I loved Chikunto so much, I didn't want to leave!
When you close your eyes, the deafening sound of crickets fills the air. Hippos bellow in the distance, and at night, their bellows echo through the camp. The gruff bark of impalas promises leopards.
All around is the warm air that's settled in the valley. As the Luangwa River bends, its sandy banks dotted with crocodiles, it stretches all the way to the Zambezi—that famous river.
This is South Luangwa, the fabled Valley of the Leopard. After two months of traveling through southern Africa without seeing a leopard, we knew we had to come to South Luangwa, and it did not disappoint.
On game drives with Rodgers, our guide at Chikunto, we saw leopard every single day. They hid their mass behind leafy sausage trees, walked stealthily down a dark road, or bolted across the valley on swift, muscular legs.
Along with leopards, we watched carmine bee-eaters flag across the sky, hungry lionesses devour a buffalo, and one of my favorites, a pair of Bateleur Eagles perched in ornamented armor.
On our first morning with Rodgers, exploring the quiet valley by game vehicle, a leopard hung his paws over a day-old impala kill. Three hyenas waited patiently underneath the tree; their rounded ears like radars listened for any movement.
The leopard's tail flickered; his luminous, blue-green eyes scanned the bush.
Sitting with Rodgers in a game vehicle is like sitting around the fire with village elders; he is one of the most knowledgeable guides we have ever met. Not only did we leave with a better understanding of the bush, but of ecology, African politics, and history.
The entire team at Chikunto Safari Lodge is like this—exceptionally good at what they do.
Meals at Chikunto were some of the best meals I've had in my entire life. Imagine fresh salads served with homemade fried fish, Asian dressing, and crisp potato wedges, while you lunch on the deck overlooking the Luangwa River and waterhole.
While we loved every minute of our game drives and meals, our favorite part of Chikunto was staying on the sleepout platform. From two stories up, we watched the sunset over the Luangwa, as pink light seeped into the valley, and listened for the signs of hippos and elephants beneath a moonlit sky.
The best part of the sleep-out platform? It's attached to your chalet, so if you're feeling too close to nature, you can always return to the comfort of your chalet or have a shower.
As you lay down in your chalet, surrounded by tented walls, the curtains blow in the warm breeze. Outside, deeper into the South Luangwa, leopards walk on soft, padded feet. Pukus bed down in the tall grass by the waterhole, and hippos emerge from their river spots. Elephant shrews scurry along the dry ground, and porcupines waddle through the undergrowth.
This is early evening in the bush, the perfect time for a game drive.
Evening game drives are often our favorite, given the opportunity to spot some nocturnal animals we don't get the chance to see during the day. With the help of Rodgers and our fabulous spotter, Cephas, we got to see a boomslang, porcupine, civet (left), genet (right), white-tailed mongoose, and of course, a leopard on her nightly prowl.
This was our first time seeing civet, genet, and porcupine up close.
Prefer relaxing in nature more than the thrill of a nighttime game drive? Imagine having a massage beneath the shade of your open-air chalet, as the wind carries the sweet smell of jasmine and the singsong chatter of birds.
Then finish the day with a boozy sundowner from the sleepout deck.
Whether you're in search of leopards, luxury, or reconnection with the wilderness, you will love staying in South Luangwa National Park with Chikunto Safari Lodge!