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The Journey to Chikunto Safari Lodge

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Chikunto Safari Lodge | Where We Came From and How We Got Here

A Love Story that Led to South Luangwa National Park

In 2004 Jens Kant and Regula Burkhalter happened upon each other in Cape Town. We will never know if it was the enchantment of South Africa’s “Mother City” or fate, but whatever the magic, it eventually led to the birth of Chikunto Safari Lodge.

Jens and Regula undertook intrepid trips throughout Africa after their first meeting in the Cape. They explored South Africa and journeyed into Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Zambia. Avid travellers, no other global destination called to them as Africa did, and their love for the fauna, flora and people of Southern Africa deepened.

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After each trip, they considered the possibility of running a business in Africa. When they married in 2013, there was no debate about their honeymoon destination. The couple spent three months making their way from Namibia to Tanzania, and in Zambia, another pre-destined meeting was in store. They became acquainted with Josephat Musoni, a larger-than-life character from Mfuwe. Josephat’s immense knowledge of South Luangwa National Park and the wildlife it houses astounded Jens and Regula.

After extensive discussions, the trio knew they shared a vision, and their dream began to take shape.

The Birth of Chikunto Safari Lodge

Together, Jens, Regula, and Josephat started searching for the ideal area for their getaway. The location needed to encapsulate everything they loved about Africa, the remoteness, the community, and the untouched bush.

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They proposed several sites to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), but none came to fruition. This hiccup did not deter the trio. By another lucky happenstance, DNPW proposed a site to them that previously was not available for concession. The Big Bend site where Chikunto Safari Lodge now sits is a space unlike any other in the Park. Jens and Regula could not have picked a better place to erect their African home.

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Experience South Luangwa National Park with Us

The landscape surrounding Chikunto Safari Lodge is unique to the South Luangwa Valley. An almost ever-green riverine forest surrounds our camp and presents unbelievable wildlife viewing opportunities.

South Luangwa National Park is one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. One of its most distinctive residents is the Thorneycroft’s Giraffe, a species characterised by its unique markings. To take advantage of this phenomenal terrain, Chikunto offers complimentary walking safaris so that you can experience the environment up close on foot.

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Construction Along the Luangwa River | Easier Said Than Done

They had formed the vision, the stage was set, and now they needed the tools to make it happen. The remoteness of Chikunto’s planned site was part of its charm. However, it was also a massive obstacle in its construction.

Do you know that feeling you get when waiting for something you’ve ordered online to arrive? That almost uncomfortable anticipation over the three or four days you spend expecting something you really want to be delivered? Well, Jens, Regula, and Josephat had to wait three months for their containers of construction material to arrive from Europe.

The trucks’ eagerly awaited arrival was a celebrated event in the South Luangwa Valley.

Travel back in time with us and experience the excitement of our containers' reaching their final destination.

Our Mfuwe Family Quickly Got to Work

Being a well-respected member of the Mfuwe community, Josephat was passionate about involving the local people in Chikunto Safari Lodge’s visualisation. Instead of outsourcing a construction team, Jens, Regula, and Josephat elected to recruit and up-skill Mfuwe villagers to assist in the lodge’s development.

Chikunto is a family, and many of the staff that started with us in the construction stages still work at the lodge.

Much hard work went into forming Chikunto Safari Lodge, imparting a palpable sense of community spirit into the space.

Honouring Regula’s Memory

Tragedy came to Chikunto in early 2018 when a sudden illness struck Regula. She, unfortunately, passed away just weeks after the camp’s opening. Regula was a huge inspiration in the formation of the lodge, and the Chikunto team forges ahead with her in mind, ensuring her legacy lives on.

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A Creature Called COVID

Even the remoteness of South Luangwa was not immune to the grip of COVID-19. Travel restrictions resulted in an almost complete drop off of international visitors for 18 months. In the true spirit of Chikunto Safari Lodge, our staff took voluntary hour restrictions and implemented a new shift pattern. This teamwork and consideration allowed salary payments to continue throughout this challenging period.

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Everyone kept themselves occupied as best they could. During this time, the team dedicated themselves to improving Chikunto. They undertook maintenance and new building endeavours, such as our wooden walkways that lead from the main lodge to the individual suites.

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A Luxury Safari Like No Other

A stay at Chikunto Safari Lodge is the experience of a lifetime. Indulge in the intoxicating charm of Zambia along the Luangwa river. Our new star gazing and sleep-out platform will have you spellbound with the area’s beauty. Wake up to the sun with a new appreciation for the enchantment of Africa.

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Image Credits: Chikunto Safari Lodge

Stories From Gareth Jones