Chipata (GPS: CHIPAT) is a tidy, busy town that is more than just a gateway to South Luangwa; it is also a border town just 19km from Malawi. Chipata stands in a valley, surrounded by quite a fertile area of subsistence farms with low bush-covered hills around.
On your right as you arrive by road from Lusaka, just after the welcome arch, there is a useful Total petrol station with an adjoining little supermarket. The police station is about 1.5km after this on your left, after which there is a left turning that leads down to the main township – from which all the local buses depart. The road then bends to the right, and shortly after that the main post office is on your left. Barclays Bank is on your right, before a BP petrol station on the left.
Further east, a large branch of Shoprite is set back from the right side of the road, which is the town's largest and best supermarket. Then, as you leave for Malawi, there's a good private medical centre on your right (just after Shoprite). Chipata is not a large town but, because of its position near Malawi, it is quite a busy one.
Getting there and awayBy air
Chipata has a good all-weather gravel airstrip, and the easiest way to get here is by air; there are periodic flights linking it to Mfuwe and Lusaka. Currently there's a Thursday afternoon flight which arrives from Mfuwe, and leaves for Lusaka at 15.15; and then a Saturday morning flight which arrives from Lusaka and leaves for Mfuwe at 09.30. Note also that during the safaris season (Jun-Oct) it should be a reasonable cost to charter a plane from Mfuwe to Chipata. By bus
There is an RPS luxury coach running between Chipata to Lusaka. (Note that this has nothing to do with Robin Pope Safaris!) It leaves Chipata at 04.30 and 14.15 from opposite the Chipata Farm Shop (turn right after the Caltex Garage).
Where to stay
Most visitors continue to the Mfuwe area, down in the Luangwa Valley, if they can. However, if you arrive late then staying in Chipata is a wise move, and hitch-hikers could easily end up here for a night or two due to lack of lifts. There are several places to lay your head:Chipata Motel Mfuwe Road
Just on the left as you turn off the main Lusaka road on the way to Mfuwe, this is a very basic, run-down motel used mainly by low-budget local business-people. If you are hitchhiking then it is convenient. The bar will sell you fizzy drinks, and you can sleep here if traffic is scarce.Crystal Springs Hotel
Opposite the mosque, this hotel is a cut above the Chipata Motel (above), for a few kwacha more.Fern Guest House
Situated 300m off the road, the Fern Guest House claims that it is 'Always satisfying your greatest needs', which makes you wonder what kind of hospitality it is that they are offering.Mama Rula's
Probably the best place in Chipata, Mama Rula's is about 2km off the main road and well signposted off the road to Luangwa. It's run by Andrea, and 4WD adventurers should note that she has close contacts with the Luangwa Wilderness Lodge. The campsite here covers a large lawn under a canopy of marvellous red mahogany (Khaya nyasica) trees and the odd banana or papaya. The ablutions are clean and well-kept. There are also four simple en-suite guest rooms, all slightly different, and five crew rooms with twin beds and a simple en-suite shower/toilet.Ndanji Lodge
Just outside of town, off to the right just after the main turning to Luangwa, look out for a sign to this basic local resthouse which simply says 'Come stay with us'. Wildlife Conservation Society Campsite
A simple campsite with a bar and ablution blocks.