Choma is another small, friendly town, about 285km from Lusaka and 188km from Livingstone. The main road between the two, here called Livingstone Road, runs through the centre of the town, and on (or just off) it you'll find all the facilities of small-town life: shops, market, cafés, central post office, a couple of petrol stations, and branches of two of the major banks. Perhaps more surprisingly, there's a super little museum (open daily 09.00–17.00), and next to Barclays Bank is an internet café.
Choma's largest supermarket is aptly called Superstore and has a good variety of fresh and frozen food. The in-store bakery/confectionery counter is quite an attraction – the ginger cake and freshly baked bread come highly recommended – and you'll also find chips, pies and roasted chicken pieces for take-away snacks.
North of the town, the occasional craft stall has been set up at the side of the road by the charcoal sellers, and you'll also see local fishermen touting their catch by waving it aggressively in the face of passing cars.
Where to stay
There are half a dozen very ordinary hotels and so-called lodges on the main road in and near the town, a guesthouse in the suburbs and a couple of excellent spots on farms just outside of town. These include:New Kalundu Motel
(40 rooms) Livingstone Rd; tel: 032 20028 or 20655
On the southwest side of town, behind whitewashed walls, lies the New Kalundu (unsurprisingly, it used to be the Kalundu Motel). It's a typical small-town motel with space for cars beside the rooms. Kozo Lodge
(rondavels and camping) Tel: 032 20347, cell: 097 755414/759296
About 5km south of Choma, Kozo Lodge is signposted to the east of the road, across the railway. Simple rondavels sit on a spacious, well-maintained site, where it's also possible to camp.Riverside Lodge
PO Box 630720, Choma; tel: 032 20131, cell: 097 747807
Situated 2km to the west of the town, this lodge was opened in 2002. Nkanga River Conservation Area
(lodge and camping) PO Box 630025, Choma; tel/fax: 032 20592; email: email@example.com
About 5km before Choma, as you approach from Lusaka, there's a signpost on the road to Nkanga, 20km away. There you'll find a conservation area that's been set up covering a number of local farms. It now protects antelope including sable, eland, puku, hartebeest, wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck (both the normal and Defassa sub-species), tsessebe and many other species.
Within the area are two cotages with en-suite facilities. Game drives are available (maximum 8 people – US$48 per vehicle), as are guided bush walks for game and birdwatching (US$5 per person). It's a notably good area for Zambia's only true endemic species, Chaplin's barbet, which is perhaps most easily seen in the fig trees around Muckleneuk House. There's also a basic campsite on the riverbank, with cooking facilities provided. This has cold showers, toilet and electric lights, as well as firewood and the facility for barbecues. Note that it can become cold here down by the river, and do bring your own mosquito protection if you're staying here.
Other activities available include fishing for bream and barbel (US$12 per group), for which basic equipment is provided, and riding (experienced riders only) for US$12 per person per hour.
One of the main focuses for the area is valuable education work, as Nkanga runs bush-camps for groups of 8–24 children aged 5 to 18 years old. These run from April to October and include bush knowledge, skills and outdoor activities.
As it's a conservation area that sustainably manages its populations of native game, some trophy hunting is also conducted, though this never interferes with the photographic visitors.Masuku Lodge
(6 rondavels) PO Box 630025, Choma; tel: 032 20225; email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com; www.masukulodgezambia.com
Located on a farm in the Nkanga River Conservation Area, about 25km from Choma, this recently opened lodge is owned by ex-diplomat Bill Somerset and his wife, and comes well recommended. Guests stay in twin-bedded, thatched rondavels, and the lodge overlooks a vlei which has been dammed to provide a lake.
Much of the farm's game, including sable and zebra, can be spotted in the immediate vicinity, where there are some good walks; game drives can also be arranged. The area is also one of Zambia's important bird areas (IBA), with a total of 439 species noted here, including Zambia's only endemic, Chaplin's barbet.Gwembe Safari Lodge
(4 chalets) PO Box 630162, Choma; tel: +260 32 20169/20021/20119; fax: +260 32 20054/20570; cell: 97 803292/777719; email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; www. gwembesafaris.com
About 3km southwest of Choma a sign points to Gwembe Safaris, which is 1.5km off the road on the west side. This is a working crocodile farm (transgressors beware) run by the Brooks family. Its brick chalets with thatched roofs are built around a quadrangle in landscaped gardens. Two of these sleep four people, and have ceiling fans, en-suite showers and toilets; the others have twin beds and share communal showers and toilets. All have solid wooden beds, built on the farm, also cane chairs, curtains and reed mats on the floor. Each of the rooms has a fridge, and is decorated with local art and baskets made by the Tonga people. If you prefer to be outside, then there's also a campsite under lovely shady trees adjacent to the chalets.
There's an open-sided dining room, with reed mats that roll down to keep in some of the heat when it's cold. Sometimes the staff will put burning braziers inside to keep everyone warm or light them on the patio outside, which makes a good place to relax after dinner.
Activities include riding, ox-cart rides, walking and birdwatching on the 100-acre farm. Floodlit tennis courts, volleyball and swimming are also possible for the more energetic. Breakfast is supplied, but dinner is by prior arrangement (drinks available with dinner) and a laundry service is available.