Rain in #Africa – both a blessing and a curse

The Impact of Rain on the Zambian Tourism Industry and in particular the camps of #KafuntaSafaris

By Travel Africa Magazine

(Posted 03rd February 2022)

Right now, the Luangwa River is in full flood, making large parts of the Luangwa Valley in Zambia inaccessible to tourists. This occurs in many parts of Africa, with wildlife lovers unable to visit some areas for several months. But what happens to the many safari camps that may be flooded or drenched during the rains, yet emerge pristine to welcome us when the new safari season returns? We have always appreciated the challenges of running a slick hospitality operation in the middle of the bush, but can you imagine what’s involved in shutting a business down and re-assembling it each year?
Behind the scenes
Build. Enjoy. Dismantle. Repeat.
Many camps in remote areas of some parks are not accessible during the rains, meaning they can’t operate year-round. So what happens to them during the off-season?

Once the rains have receded, seasonal camps spring up, welcoming guests for six-to nine months before being carefully packed away again when the storms return. There are many such facilities in Zambia, including Three Rivers (pictured above) and Island Bush Camp (pictured below) in South Luangwa National Park, run by Kafunta Safaris. Both are open only between 25 May and 1 November each year.

A seasonal camp does not necessarily mean everything has to be completely taken down when it closes, though. At Three Rivers the main structure and tents remain in place, while Island Bush Camp (which is made of a lighter structure of wood) is razed to the ground each year (except for a few main poles, which are the backbone of the camp, pictured below)

At season’s end, the furniture and dismantled structures are stored in a huge container at Three Rivers, while the soft furnishings, kitchen, bar and restaurant supplies and equipment are loaded onto trucks and transported to storage facilities at Kafunta River Lodge, which lies outside the park and is open between 1 April and 5 January each year (the main deck is pictured below and is a very tranquil setting).

During close season, a team of watchmen remain to safeguard the site, while the staff go on leave or work at River Lodge. Monthly trips are made out to the camps, which can be a bit of an adventure — the waterlogged roads nigh on impassable at times — to check on the state of the area and to take supplies for the guards.
During the wet season, naturally, anything that remains in situ is open to the elements. So, the reconstruction period involves cleaning, repainting and repairs. At Island Bush Camp, the rebuild is more time-consuming — a gang of 35 people is required (compared to the 10 at Three Rivers) to erect the camp from scratch.

Before any camp renovation can take place, however, the roads need to be drivable. To complete this monstrous task, Kafunta has its own grader. A team of two set out as early as possible in April to begin grading the 100km of access roads and game drive loops. The undergrowth that has enveloped the tracks also needs cutting back.
Camp building begins in mid-April and takes around a month (Francis and Nashon are pictured below, working on a roof). While the teams are on site, the operations manager organises the equipment that needs to be returned to camp. The staff gather about a week before opening to start setting everything up, ready for the first guests of the new season.

So, next time you settle yourself around the campfire in a far-flung corner of Africa, raise a glass to the team that keep the cycle of camp life turning each season – what an amazing effort!

By Phil Clisby

To learn more about Kafunta River Lodge, Island Bush Camp and Three Rivers Camp, visit Kafunta Safaris
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