Chiawa Safaris is the creation of Grant and Lynsey Cumings who are building on over 30 years of experience and success of their spectacular Chiawa Camp & Old Mondoro in the Lower Zambezi National Park, by bringing their renowned levels of service and attention to detail to the South Luangwa National Park.
You are assured
of the highest standards in all aspects of your safari.
This came to pass following the purchase of Chichele Presidential Lodge & Puku Ridge Camp from Sanctuary Retreats by Chichele Safaris Limited, who have engaged Chiawa Safaris to oversee the rebuild, management and marketing of both camps.
Grant and Lynsey run Chiawa Safaris from their Lusaka HQ, whilst making frequent visits to enjoy the bush and ensure the camps are being run by their incredible team with the perfect blend of individuality, spontaneity and professionalism. With Lynsey’s degree in Hospitality Management and background with Marriott Hotels & British Airways, and with Grant’s business degree and vast experience in guiding, conservation and the safari industry, you are assured of the highest standards in all aspects of your safari.
One of the most striking features of Chiawa Safaris is its rich sense of history thanks to the Cumings Family who are 5th generation Africans and who, when establishing their first version of Chiawa Camp in 1989, pioneered tourism into the Lower Zambezi National Park.
It was James Cumings who, after a long winter of being snowed in and surviving on a frozen bear for sustenance, left the Klondike gold fields and on his way through England married the daughter of the surgeon general of the British Navy before heading for the gold and diamond fields of South Africa in 1898. However, mining was put on hold as he arrived at the outbreak of the Boer War and spent his time fighting for the British – it was during the siege of Kimberley that his son Ernest was born and after which he became a diamond buyer for De Beers. Ernest grew up in South Africa’s mining fields and who went on to become one of South Africa’s authorities on gold mining after exploring much of southern Africa’s interior before signing up to fight for the Allies as a commando in Egypt. He survived the war, perhaps thrived during it, and afterward spent the rest of his days mining his claims in Barberton near the Kruger Park, a town in which he became somewhat of a celebrity and which he was instrumental in putting on the tourist map.
David Cumings living in the bush while prospecting for minerals in central Tanganyika circa 1958
And so it was only natural and somewhat ironic that after Ernest Cumings, who had written whilst exploring for gold on the banks of the Zambezi in about 1925 that “as surely as England grows apples and not for all the tea in China will I ever venture north of Mafeking again”, that his son David (a world-class judoka who was running his own successful transport business in Lusaka after having previously spent his youth mapping out what was then Tanganyika), his wife Jenny, their sons Grant (the consummate outdoorsman with university degree in hand, fresh out of US business school) and Kevin (a professional golfer and who ultimately chose life in the big smoke, who now runs the transport business which he has expanded into document storage and archiving amongst other things) finally settled on the Lower Zambezi to put down their safari roots, a place of refuge and solitude, an untamed place of raw beauty set on the banks of the Zambezi River, where there was no one else. Just them, and the animals.
David Cumings, Chiawa Camp’s visionary, in a baobab tree Lower Zambezi NP c1991
Or so they thought. It soon became apparent that there were others attracted to the wildlife in the bush and fish in the river, guerilla fighters left over from the Zimbabwean liberation war who had since turned their hand to poaching, successfully wiping out one of the bastion populations of the black rhino in the late 1970’s and who were now turning their hand to elephant poaching and commercial bushmeat trade. And so it came to pass, failure is never an option, that their tourism plans were put on hold for a couple of years whilst they joined with the National Parks Service and Police to ensure the Park first became better protected and safe for visitors. It was the second time in the Cumings Family history that plans were put on hold to fight a war for a place under siege.
Ernest Cumings Siege of Kimberley circa 1900
In 1991 Chiawa Camp formally opened its tent flaps to its first paying guests – although the camp was then very basic, think small tents and no ensuite facilities, guests had the privilege of enjoying this wilderness all to themselves and becoming part of history in being the first tourists to explore and enjoy this wilderness. In 1994 the Cumings family co-founded Conservation Lower Zambezi of which Grant became Chairman and subsequently Vice Chairman over an 8-year period, ultimately taking the organization from a small tent under a tree to one of Africa’s leading private conservation charities with a state of the art environmental education center and providing almost $1,000,000/annum in crucial conservation activity.
As a consequence of dogged conservation activity, determined marketing and committed service in their safari camps the Lower Zambezi National Park is flourishing, having become one of Africa’s success stories, drawing a number of new camps and subsequent visitors to the area.
The Cumings Family have now brought their experience and expertise to the South Luangwa National Park and they remain as committed as ever to keeping their renowned camps at the top of their game.
Although their battles are no longer fought slogging it out in the bush with poachers, they remain tireless in ensuring the Authorities have the resources to continue protecting Zambia’s wildlife and wild places, to keep them as they should be, ensuring the tourism industry and Government work closely for the benefit of the resource and the visitor experience. And giving their guests the safari of a lifetime!