What is the difference between a safari lodge and a bush camp?
With so many options for accommodation in South Luangwa National Park, it can be difficult to decide which fits the bill for your safari.
It can be harder still if you’re not really sure of the difference between a safari lodge and a bush camp.
Here we explain the differences between South Luangwa’s lodges and bush camps, to help you decide which is best for you.
For us, the absolute best way to experience the South Luangwa is to combine a safari lodge and a bush camp so you get the best of both worlds.
Safari lodge vs bush camp: size matters
A Zambian bush camp can sleep a maximum of eight guests, as stipulated by the Zambian National Parks Authority.
A safari lodge is much larger, with anything up to 50 guests able to stay at any one time.
Location, location, location
Safari lodges are often located in areas with good year-round access; in the South Luangwa this means around the main park entrance gate.
A number of lodges have river-front locations that allow for wonderful game viewing from the camps themselves.
Bush camps tend to be in more remote areas, away from the high-use game viewing zones. Bush camps often focus on walking safaris, so need to be set apart from game viewing traffic.
Different accommodation types
At safari lodges, you may find a variety of accommodation options.
Some South Luangwa lodges offer designated campsites, where you can stay in your own tent. You may also find chalets, dorm rooms, permanent pitched tents, and large family suites.
Most lodges will also offer a range of catering options. At the most basic is a room-only option; here you pay separately to eat at the lodge restaurant or self-cater. Other options include half-board, full-board, and fully inclusive.
If you choose a full-board or fully-inclusive rate, this will generally include all your safari activities too. Or you can often choose a less expensive rate and pay for activities separately.
Almost all bush camps in the South Luangwa National Park will only offer one accommodation type. In addition, there is generally only a fully-inclusive option.
This is because the high cost of operating a bush camp means it’s only really viable for safari companies to accept guests on a fully-inclusive basis.
South Luangwa’s bush camps tend to be pretty simple in terms of amenities; they are often off-grid, usually without wifi and it’s very unusual to find a swimming pool. The occasional cold-water plunge pool is about the closest you’ll get.
Bush camps generally focus on the extreme natural beauty of the bush surrounding them, and a real back-to-nature experience. They are also seasonal camps, so there isn’t often extensive built infrastructure.
South Luangwa lodges on the other hand, have much more in the way of traditional amenities.
Every lodge has a swimming pool, and most have an a la carte restaurant and a bar. Some have spas, hot tubs, libraries, shops, internet cafes, pool tables, TVs and gyms; essentially most things you would expect from a mid-sized hotel anywhere in the world.
Occasionally you will find air conditioned rooms, and all lodge accommodation in the South Luangwa will have a fan at the very least.
All lodges are connected to mains electricity, and have large back-up generators for power cuts.
South Luangwa lodges and bush camps differ notably in the types of activities on offer.
Bush camps focus on wildlife activities. So walking safaris are usually their speciality, with game drives also on offer.
Other activities may include bush breakfasts, special sundowners, bush dinners, sleep-outs and walking/driving combos.
As safari lodges are located much closer to the local villages, you will also be able to do cultural activities during your stay. So village and school tours, local market tours, and souvenir shopping may all be possible.
So it’s clear that there are some pretty big differences between the South Luangwa’s lodging options.
In our opinion, the best way to experience the South Luangwa National Park is to combine a stay at a lodge, and several nights at a remote bush camp.
That way you get all the creature comforts of a safari lodge, as well as the ultimate wilderness experience of a bush camp.
If this idea interests you, why not consider our fantastic Best of Both Worlds Safari Package in combination with Flatdogs Camp?