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ALamby
London, United Kingdom

Such a terrible shame, the rumours are true

2.0 of 5 bubblesReviewed 21 Sept 2014
I cannot emphasise enough how wonderful the actual accommodation and staying here was. The staff were extremely friendly and welcoming, the food was incredible at every meal and the rooms themselves were spectacular - large, spacious, private plunge pool each, wifi, etc.

However, the actual safari itself was a complete shambles. We did only stay here because it was closer to the airport, but were dreading it on arrival because of all the rumours we had heard about it as we travelled around, which all turned out to be true. I understand that it is highly unlikely to be their fault - their unfortunate placing by the main gate means that the park is flooded with self-drives who do not understand basic etiquette at all and there are far too many lodges in such a small area. Consequently, any sighting is surrounded by between 4-8 cars at any one time - and not just exciting sightings - the giraffes, for example, had at least 5 cars every time we saw a group. The night drive was even worse - more headlights than animals.

The guide seemed a little uninspired and unable to tailor his information to his clients. For example, we are very experienced and have been on safari over 15 times, yet he still felt the need to tell us basic information such as "males have antlers, females don't". He was nice enough, but did seem to lack the social skills we've experienced at most other places.

The actual animal sightings, if you can ignore all the cars, are not bad. And again I must emphasise that the actual accommodation is wonderful. However, if you're paying this much to go on safari, there are definitely better places to go. I honestly feel awful for the investors behind this, as if not for the safari it would be perfect, but you do obviously go for the safari... very disappointing.
Date of stay: September 2014
Room Tip: Some of the rooms have their plunge pool's in the shade, which makes them quite cold to swim...
Trip type: Travelled with family
2.0 of 5 bubblesValue
5.0 of 5 bubblesService
5.0 of 5 bubblesSleep Quality
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This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
NormanCarr, Owner at Time + Tide Chinzombo, responded to this review
Responded 29 Sept 2014
Dear AnnabelJanyne,

Thanks for your review and we are so pleased you liked Chinzombo and our fabulous staff. We as Managers/Owners are incredibly proud of the entire team and think the camp itself is very special.

I must apologise on behalf of your guide; guiding is something we pride ourselves on and have won awards for, so when I hear that you felt your guide was less than you expected then that is not acceptable and we will certainly investigate this matter further. As you have said, you're here for safari; we're lucky enough to have great game in the South Luangwa and your guide should enhance that by listening to your requirements. If you're interested in areas with less vehicles, then these can be found without diminishing the game experience
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.
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    Reviewed 20 September 2014

    Let me this time start what would be against staying here......the location is not the best there is. You might have to share the leopard you spot with a lot of cars also coming out ot Luangwa as that is exaclty where you are. On the edge of the park. Having said that, can live get any sweeter? What a super place and a privilige to spend the night! Incredible.......How it looks, how it feels and the deluxe feeling they give you. That is a once in a live experience but be aware that there is a hefty price tag attached to that.......I do think however it is a great place to start you visit to South Luangwa.......They tried something that few people have done before them as there is the AC which is a special system just covering the bedding are, i mean, just to only think of that is special......Well, go and try out for yourself. I think the only complaint possible is that this is too luxurious for camping in Africa.......

    Date of stay: November 2013
    • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
      • Value
      • Location
      • Service
    1  Thank hansNetherlands
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
    Reviewed 5 September 2014

    No doubt about it, Chinzombo is an amazing place. So many wonderful things about it and it's so, so close to 5 stars. I just have to be a little extra critical here given the sheer cost of a stay at this lodge (close to $2k per night in the high season) - and there are a few easy improvements that could be made to get it up to that caliber.

    Highlights:
    1) The view: the view from Chinzombo is spectacular. It's across from a lagoon (you take a pontoon boat to get to/from your safari rides) and on the other side of the lagoon are a ton of animals - we spotted giraffes, baboons, crocodiles, warthogs, hippos, and more just from our deck in the afternoon. Probably one of the best views from a room that I've ever had in my life. rivaled only by a room on the caldera in Santorini.

    2) Main areas: The main areas are very upscale. It might even feel a bit flashy if you're coming from the bushcamps, but it's very pleasant. Lots of areas to relax and enjoy the breezes. Decor is more modern than other safari camps I've been to - more clean lines and light colors. There's a nice fire pit surrounded by plush seating. Great spot for pre-dinner drinks. Nice bar area as well. The good thing is that with only 6 villas, it never gets crowded and is always comfortable.

    2) Rooms and deck: The rooms are huge and quite lux. Large comfortable bed, desk and chair, huge separate bathroom area including a standalone bathtub. There's even a version of air-conditioning - just over the bed, but it cools it off enough to be comfortable. Nice shower with good toiletries, including conditioner. Plenty of hot water. The deck was amazing - not only for it's view but for it's variety of options. There are a few chaise lounges, a large sunken couch, a separate chair - and of course there's the plunge pool. This makes for an amazing afternoon. I recommend skipping the siesta and taking full advantage of being out on this wonderful deck and watching the wildlife.

    3) Wifi in the main areas - it was nice to be completely without wifi in the bushcamp. However, it was equally nice to be able to get connected here. The connection can be slow or non-existent at times, but it was nice to be able to check in. As a side note, there are lots of plugs in the room to recharge all of your devices.

    4) Staff: Everyone was very friendly - especially Katie, the manager. It's a young team and everyone is very enthusiastic. Our guide Brian was also great, not to mention funny.

    5) Food: The food is excellent. And there is lots of it! Breakfast, tea and cookie stop on the morning drive, lunch, afternoon tea, sundowners and snacks stop on the afternoon drive, and of course dinner. Breakfast is the typical toast, eggs, bacon, etc. Lunch is a buffet with mainly vegetarian items and one or two meat options. Dinner is 3-courses. You choose your dinner items (appetizer, entree and dessert) when you go for afternoon tea. Options were always one meat and one veggie for the appetizer and entree and either a traditional dessert or a cheese plate for dessert. Wines are good and champagne is included (rare for a safari lodge).

    6) Game drives: We only had one other couple join us for each game drive. I believe the maximum per drive is 6 persons, so everyone gets a "window" seat (though the vehicles are open-air). This small group idea makes a world of difference. I have been to a lodge where every single seat is full, even the middle seat and it definitely makes for a lesser experience. Finally, night drives are permitted in South Luangwa. This is key (many other parks in Africa do not allow this and is gives you a better opportunity to see animals hunting).

    However, there are a small things that, if improved upon, could make a huge difference:

    1) Bugs in the room: I have a horrible phobia of moths. Odd, I know. But I emailed the lodge prior to our stay and asked them to do everything they could to make sure there were none in the room. To my horror, there were actually two in the room when we first got there. To their credit, the staff removed them promptly and we never had an issue again (though we did keep the lights off at night). But had someone checked before our arrival, it could have gone a long way towards ensuring comfort. Yes, this is Africa and the point is to be amongst nature. However, I also need to mention that this is the only place on the three safaris I've been on that this has been an issue. Why? Because the rooms aren't completely sealed. The tent flaps don't zipper completely to the ground, there's a large gap in the door when you close it, and their are gaps in the floorboards as well (letting in spiders and other creepy-crawlies). All of these could easily be fixed, even the floorboards could be sealed with some putty. At $2k per night, I highly doubt I'm the only guest that doesn't like bugs in the room.

    2) Wifi in room: It's actually advertised on the Norman Carr site that there is wifi in the villas. There is not. Only in the main areas. I wasn't craving being connected that much but again, another simple fix that at this price point should be available.

    3) Little things: It would have been nice to have some blankets in the vehicles. This is something we've had at every other camp. It doesn't get freezing here, especially not in late August, but it does cool off a little bit and it would have been a nice touch.

    4) Towels: The towels weren't always replaced even when placed on the floor. It's not something that really bothers me as there were plenty of towels, but again, just a small detail that should be polished up.

    As for the game viewing, which is, of course, key to any safari - the area is probably not the best for viewing. Though we did see wild dogs (apparently really rare), a pride of lions from afar, some sleeping lions, a few leopards and of course many elephant and hippo (which are so common in South Luangwa) - the set-up in this area makes it a bit difficult. Per park guidelines, vehicles aren't allowed to go off-road. Not only that, but it's a relatively busy area of the park and another guideline states that only 3 vehicles should be at a sighting. There's a balance here...of course, you don't want it to be crowded but then again, you may miss seeing things if there are already too many vehicles there. Generally I found that the game viewing was better at the bushcamp we visited in South Luangwa South. But variety is always good, so I'd recommend a mix of both areas (or more if you have time).

    It's a truly wonderful place and I'd stay here again, but would hope they can make these little updates in order to make it truly world class.

    Room tip: Ask for a room with a deck that gets sun in the afternoon - seems that some are shaded by trees and it's nice to have the sun hit the plunge pool.
    Date of stay: August 2014
    • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
      • Sleep Quality
    4  Thank Sunny77777
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
    Reviewed 3 September 2014

    Chinzombo was the last camp we visited after almost a month of travelling in Botswana and Zambia for our honeymoon. We picked Chinzombo as our last camp on purpose, this camp being brand new and luxurious, perfect to relax and enjoy your own swimming pool before going back home and after a month of wild adventure. This was also the 4th Norman Carr camp we stayed at, 5th if you consider the “Return to wild” experience as a “camp” in itself. We were very much looking forward to it.

    Katie, the young co-manager, warmly welcomed us on arrival and showed us around. The camp is of course beautiful and whether you like the style or not, it’s exactly like on the photos. We loved it and also loved our huge and modern villa with our private swimming pool. We had lunch shortly after arriving, and again were very satisfied with the food.

    The wildlife around is great, and you can see huge crocs basking from your terrace, hippos fighting by day in the river and grazing by night all around camp. Our guide, who picked us up in the morning at Luwi Camp was very nice and knowledgeable, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from a Norman Carr’s guide, would you? The only thing you need to know is that this part of the South Luangwa is not as remote as where the bush camps are set. Here, in the Mfuwe area, the wildlife is great, really, but there are numerous lodges and roads in this part of the park, therefore you WILL see many other cars, sometimes gathering in number around a leopard or a pride of lions. As it happened to us when we stayed at Kapani, you might get stuck with more than 10 other vehicles because there is one of the big 5 around. It is up to your guide not to accept to be part of that. We did not experience it with our guide from Chinzombo who was a respectful and very experienced guide. But if you are looking for a very remote place, and if you want to avoid other tourists as far as possible, you should consider going to the northern part of the park, where the small and intimate bush camps are set.

    Anyways, you think Chinzombo will have everything for you to experience the very best of Africa, and to match your expectations. Wrong: it lacks charisma, and more importantly, it lacks service. When you compete with other camps in Zambia but also in Southern Africa like Chiawa, Sindabezi Island, Mombo, Duba Plains or others, you can not afford to be so wrong. It is nice to hear Chinzombo’s male manager telling you over and over that “everything is possible”, you just wish he would do it. A few examples:
    - It was our honeymoon and our fourth camp with Norman Carr Safaris? We didn’t receive any personalized note when we entered the room, nor special treatment or attention in 2 days
    - I asked if they could lend me a tripod for my camera because I had forgotten mine? I am still waiting for the answer although the manager promised me to look into it
    - We used our towels around our private pool? They weren’t replaced nor folded when we got back from our safari, not once in two days
    - My wife asked the manager to take her breakfast in the villa the following morning? They were more than 30 minute late, the scrambled eggs were cold, and there was neither salt nor pepper...
    - We asked the manager to prepare us a bath for when we got back from safari in the evening? First he makes us wait more than 1 hour (!) at the bar when returning to camp, pretending there is a problem with the water in our bathroom. Fine. Then, when we’re finally walked to our villa, we find a half-empty bathtub with boiling water, so hot it’s impossible to get in, and no bubble, no candle, no bottle… how romantic!
    - We were promised (without asking for it) a special dinner for our last evening? Again, we are still waiting for a special something
    - We asked for a late breakfast on our last morning? There was simply no buffet anymore at 8 a.m., the time we had agreed upon with the manager the night before… and since everything was gone, we had to ask the staff to get some food and drinks, food which consisted of the following: butter and jam with some bread which had been toasted 2 hours earlier for the other guests, and no fruit juice at all because “they ran out of it”… oh but yes, we managed to get coffee…

    Well, it is this almost constant inattention to us and to details which really disappointed us. Not the setting of the camp, not the guiding which was great, but the serious lack of service (once in camp) that you expect at this level of price and reputation, especially when you compare it to other lodges in Africa or anywhere around the world. This lack of attention and warmth, especially from the manager (I stress it) didn’t make us feel very good after a while, like we weren’t at the right place, like we didn’t matter (maybe because we were a lot younger than the other usual guests and not taken seriously..?). So instead of feeling a great atmosphere, we felt like the camp was an empty shell, beautiful but without soul.

    Last but not least, I honestly told the manager how we felt about our stay and let him know our disappointment before leaving, hoping it would be useful in the future. As an answer we got a “sorry but we’re only opened for 1 year”… What kind of answer is that? Again, at this level of reputation, when you gather among your best guides and staff, when you pretend to be the flagship of such a respected and famous safari company, and when you charge your guests a minimum of 750$ a night per person, it is inacceptable to hear that. Either was the manager simply laughing at us, or was he incompetent. In any case, it is inacceptable. We sincerely hope that Chinzombo will not only take advantage from Norman Carr Safari’s reputation, but that they eventually will live up to their guests’ expectations, like their other camps Nsolo and Luwi for instance.

    To finish on a positive note though, we want to thank our two “masseuses” who offered us an incredible massage in our villa, and who were very attentive and smiling. What a change…

    Date of stay: June 2014
    • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
      • Location
      • Cleanliness
      • Service
    5  Thank BertrandMaire84
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
    NormanCarr, Director of Sales at Time + Tide Chinzombo, responded to this reviewResponded 7 September 2014

    Thank you for taking the time to write your review and for putting a lot of thought into it. Firstly let me say we take these comments very seriously and are extremely sorry you had this experience. I know you mentioned some of these to Tom/Katie when you were in camp and they apologised personally already and have made sure that the immediate things you mentioned were improved upon as quickly as possible. We pride ourselves on giving a fabulous personal service, so again I'm sorry you felt that didn't happen when you were in camp as every guest is important to us. We’re glad that you enjoyed the other Norman Carr camps and Chinzombo Spa, and again, thank you for your feedback and we will certainly endeavour to ensure this doesn't happen again.

    Report response as inappropriate
    This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
    Reviewed 2 September 2014

    Our stay at Chinzombo was in its opening season. Most new operations have teething problems and Chinzombo was no exception. The problems we encountered were probably exacerbated by the fact that the on site husband and wife management team had no previous experience in the nuances of running a safari camp. Though seasoned in small hotels in Europe, the dynamic Scottish team, were, in my opinion, handed a job that even a seasoned manager would find challenging. .

    The camp itself was gorgeous, the most elegant of the many camps we visited during our Zambia journey. Situated on the river, designed by an Italian architect, constructed out of gorgeous materials, this property is unique in the South Luangwa area.and is by far the most elegant camp in the area. If you like your safari with the luxury of the South African camps this is the place for you. It even offered a version of air conditioning which was much appreciated on the very hot nights. During our stay, the camp attracted a very interesting and eclectic group of sophisticated travelers which made for interesting conversations. This is contrast to other camps we visited which favored British families.

    The food service was okay, nothing special but one does not go on safari for the food. However, we were frequently hungry because the portions were so small. The management was very eager to please and worked very hard at trying to make everyone's stay as enjoyable as possible. This is quite a task when you are in your twenties and are dealing with a very upscale type of guest.

    Our dissatisfaction resulted from a lack of experience which was not the fault of the managers but the fault of those who hired them, very quickly and very serendipiiously from what we understand. The managers did not understand the essence of safari and I thnk sometimes taken advantage of by some of the sophisticated guests.. An experienced manager would be tuned into the individual game drives and would pair people up for the drives and pretty much keep them together for the duration of their stays, unless of course there were personality differences. This allows continuity of the ranger and gives him better control of the vehicle and the sightings. Also, the guests are all on the same page in terms of what game was seen on previous drives.

    Much to our disappointment, we were there for four days and had four different drivers and four different sets of truck partners. There was no obvious reason for this. What that meant is that each day that we went out, we had to hear the same explanations about the various animals over and over again. Since the explanation was given by four different drivers, the "facts" were different on occasion but the guest questions were the same. The search for animals became redundant and the entire experience became quite boring. Chinzombo's viewing range required a boat trip to the main part of the park;s entrance, which was mobbed by trucks from other game lodges. This meant that five trucks could pull up to a leopard sighting which was hundreds of meters away and no one could see anything. Also, there are no lions in this part of the park which again was disappointing.

    Finally, some of the drivers were grumpy, and at least one was very unhappy because he apparently had been demoted from a desk job which he liked to a field position driving the truck. These attitudes permeated the game drive.

    The bottom line was that there was zero management of the trucks. It almost seemed that the more experienced guests hijacked the game drives since a couple of them were given private trucks with the same guide at no additional cost (yes, I asked) while the rest of the guests were shuffled around in the remaining vehicles. It was a bit strange.

    Date of stay: October 2013
    • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
      • Location
      • Sleep Quality
      • Service
    3  Thank Boudecca
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
    Reviewed 29 August 2014

    We just returned from a Zambia only safari trip and Chinzombo was our first camp. We spent three days and nights here and thoroughly enjoyed the camp. The accommodations were incredible and the access to wifi a plus. The tents were extremely spacious and tasteful, the shower worked marvelously and the outdoor seating area in front by the river was a great place to hang out during the day and evening. The atmosphere here was perfect for us and the staff was fantastic. Katie the camp manager was delightful. She made every guest feel important and welcome and was enjoyable to talk with. The food here was among the best on our trip. Consistently good food throughout our stay and the included South African wine selections were very high quality. I think we drank all the Cabernet in the camp. We were also given the option each night of dining privately or with a group, which we appreciated.

    The guides here were very good and we saw a lot of game that is not present in other parts of Zambia. The elephant population here is strong and we saw several leopard, a pride of lion and were close to several giraffe, including nursing young. Two of three days had good game viewing but one day was pretty sparse. I would definitely recommend three days or more here. You will probably wish you had stayed longer. Also we were told that game viewing generally improves later in the summer as the game congregates to the river, so later in August May be ideal. We had several encounters with elephant, baboon and vervet monkey in the camp. There is only one pride of lion in this part of the park so we were lucky to see them up close near the river.

    I would highly recommend this camp and among our family of five it was the favorite of our trip. Chinzombo sets a high bar for the competition and is a fantastic value compared to high end camps in Botswana and South Africa. We were very impressed with Zambia overall, the camps, staff, quality of game viewing is among the best in Africa. This was our second trip to Africa after staying at several camps in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana and I can't speak highly enough of our experience here and value compared to other camps.

    Room tip: The family suite was great. This and the nearby tent our group of five shared together are alone on this side of the camp are very private when booked together.
    Date of stay: July 2014
    • Trip type: Travelled with family
      • Value
      • Cleanliness
      • Service
    Thank HoustonTellmemore
    This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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