STORY : THE CALL OF THE WILD
Building a dream in the wilds of the Central Kafue, Zambia
A trip to Zambia in 2005 sparked a wild idea in the minds of Andy and Libby Wilson: To create a bush camp in the remote central area of the Kafue National Park.
The couple from Sussex, England, were more used to the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park, where Andy worked erecting stock fencing. Both had a love for Africa; Andy was raised in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), within a family who were passionate about conservation. Libby grew up listening to her father’s tales from his time in both South Africa and Rhodesia. It was almost inevitable that one day they would be drawn back. Here Libby picks up the story…
The Kafue is Zambia’s oldest and largest National Park, covering nearly 22,500 square kms. It’s still relatively under-utilised with space and potential for more controlled development.
It was during a trip to the Lower Zambezi in 2005 that the seed for a move to Zambia was first planted. The idea started to grow and become a potential reality. Andy spent lots of time on Google Earth searching for a potential site until eventually, he found the spot! Following the course of the Kafue River, he could see islands and rocks that were intriguing and interesting. The spot was located in the central section of the Kafue National Park, which had been untravelled for many years, meaning it was over-poached too. The Spinal Road that connected the north and south of the park had long since degraded, but it was key to our plans. Our key objective was to re-open and therefore protect this part of the park with our presence and rejuvenate tourism in the area.
As luck would have it the Spinal Road was re-graded in 2012, making it driveable in both wet and dry seasons, so by the time we arrived in Zambia we had access to our proposed site. We spent 6 months in 2013 running around in circles in Lusaka, trying to get all the relevant paperwork, licences and permissions sorted. Finally, after jumping through lots of hoops, in early 2014 we made our move to the bush. We started living in a tent and began planning where our campsite and lodge would one day be by getting to know the area and various aspects at different times of the day and season.
Our grand opening happened over the Easter weekend in 2014; it was full with campers keen to visit the central Kafue after so many years. It was a positive start and we’ve not looked back since, enjoying the company of visitors from Zambia, all over Africa, and around the world. We had done what we’d set out to do, and put the central Kafue back on the tourism map!
Work on our small lodge commenced in 2015 and we officially opened to our first guests in 2017. The two tented chalets were built right on the river, with incredible views and opportunities to spot wildlife. We wanted the camp to be homely, yet exclusive. The Round House is our centrepiece – a living space for eating, relaxing and reliving the wonders seen during the day. It is a labour of love, a work of art and design that captures the imagination of all our guests. Andy’s expertise was invaluable, and together we learned so many new skills along the way. As time passed, our home in the bush has gained a great reputation for quality and attention to detail.
It has been a long and hard road getting to where we are today and the journey is still often fraught with problems. But we are protecting this beautiful part of Africa, of the Kafue, so it’s more than worthwhile to us. The thing that has kept the dream growing is the people who visit and support us, and fall in love with this beautiful wilderness. Their appreciation of what we’ve created is our greatest reward.
We hope our story inspires you; we both say if you have a dream – go for it! And if you are thinking of taking on a project here in Zambia then please get in touch. Our words of caution, or maybe advice from a good friend: “If your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough”.
It’s been long, hard road to get to where we are today, and the journey is still fraught with problems, but we are protecting a beautiful part of Africa
Andy and Libby Wilson
Andy was born and bred in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Having grown up within a family of passionate conservationists and bush-lovers he dreamt of the day he could live and work in a true wilderness environment. Lib grew up in the UK but with her Dad’s passion for Africa and his tales from living in South Africa and Rhodesia and she also felt her destiny was to live in Africa one day.
Over ten years ago they decided that the time was right to embark on a life-changing adventure – to build and operate a safari bush-camp in an area that they truly believe is one of Africa’s best-kept secrets.