As the end of the year approaches, we sit and reflect on how far we have come in such a short space of time. From our first site visit on the 13th October 2018 to now, our first season in the bag – it has and continues to be a monumental and very rewarding journey!
We knew the sites had potential but logistically and operationally came with huge challenges. There was very limited road access, buildings that were in ruins and not many animals in sight.
The decision to take on the sites was in many ways, based on nothing more than gut instinct born of a deep-seated belief in our individual abilities as a family, to effect change and rise to the challenge believing the rewards would far outweigh the effort over time. Simply put, it is a magical place of unimaginable beauty that we needed to share with the world.
We are a family from Zimbabwe and our passion for Africa runs wild within all of us. Zambia has a very special place in our hearts and the South Luangwa represented a true safari experience. With our combined experience in hospitality, events, marketing and conservation we knew that taking on a project like this would be much more rewarding together.
In late 2019 our family endured a shocking tragedy that has in many ways left us more determined once we were able to regain some focus. Our sister and daughter Carly passed away in fatal car crash. As a part of our ongoing philanthropy, we want to bring it to the fore and are collaborating on how best to create a fund in her name. We have established that this will be to benefit young Zambian men and women through tertiary education.
A few months into the build, Paul turns to Michael and says “Michael, I think we have made a mistake coming here where are the animals!” Michael gently replied “Dad, this is the South Luangwa… there are animals here”… the next day the two of them headed out and spotted a large herd of buffalo and elephant right by the lodge. Time and patience have since been the mantra.
Just three years on and we can give guests incredible wildlife sightings in a remote and exclusive setting. Almost daily it continues to get better. The safety that has culminated in the habituation is hugely thanks to our conservation partners and guiding team who have worked with us tirelessly to bring about the success.
The wildlife is at the point we expected it to be in six years, not three.
The first critical task was to set up the solar plant that would ultimately service and run both properties. The moment the team turned on the first electric kettle there was a ‘hooray’ that rippled through the camp! The environment certainly wasn’t easy, and the team faced daily challenges, but things began to come full circle and lots of progress was being made.
Our team ranged from semi-skilled local contractors to unskilled first timers who had never had real employment before. This was a challenge but Paul, Michael and the skilled workers engaged daily to empower and develop the team. It was extremely important to us that we employed local and as a family our ideas remained integral in the design.
We were able to maintain all our staff throughout Covid and many of them are still employed by Sungani today. Load by load our materials started to arrive. Given the fact we had one road in and out meant a lot of what you see has been hand-built from scratch and created onsite.
Everything came from Lusaka on our large truck, offloaded in Mfuwe at our storage container and finally loaded onto our military DAF truck to make the long journey to camp – check it out here.
Our investment goes far beyond the properties themselves and into the wider area. We own and maintain all our own equipment in order to build, create and maintain road networks. Alongside this we also maintain our airstrip.
The lack of access was one of the most challenging aspects that the area presented. This in turn resulted in the wildlife suffering at the hands of poachers. Whilst there are now limited to no instances of poaching in the area that we operate in we still maintain on high alert. Our presence and the fundamental work of our conservation partners namely DNPW, CSL and ZCP means there has been a rapid increase in wildlife. This is well documented on our social media platforms.
As the building continued everything began to take shape. You can see a video of this here.
All of our family has been involved, even our grandad who turned 104 this year. He visited in 2019 whilst we were building. Here is Michael working on this beautiful table to commemorate his 100th birthday. You will see the table perfectly placed on the main deck at Sungani.
The brand is a testament to safaris of old. Personal touches from generations are scattered throughout both properties to give you a sense of ‘our home’.
SIGHTINGS NOVEMBER 2022
Sightings this month have been fantastic! The Sungani Pride remain present in the area and very active with daily sightings. We have seen them hunt, kill and fight over a carcass with crocodiles.
The Three Rivers Pride have also been very active in the Kulandila and Chinengwe area with wonderful sightings of the entire pride.
Some our guests in early November were lucky enough to witness wild dog being collared as part of our ongoing work with ZCP.
In the last few days we have had huge herds of elephant, zebra, roan, leopards with a kill and a couple of giraffe being born to name a few…
Just yesterday we had a leopard roaming through Sungani by tent 4. This is becoming very frequent.
closed now until the start of Green Season which is 25th January 2023.
I hope this story has inspired you to visit and help you understand what your contribution can make possible.