(6 chalets) PO Box 98645, Sloan Park 2152, South Africa; tel: +27 11 465 6430; fax: +27 11 465 8882; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.chongwe-river.com
Set right on the Chongwe River that marks the boundary between the GMA and the national park, at its confluence with the Zambezi, Chongwe has an enviable location, with a far greater concentration of game here than further west, but without the high charges levied by the park's authorities. As we turned up in early June, news came in over the radio of a sighting of a pack of wild dogs, and owner Chris Liebenberg whisked us off in the lodge's six-seater vehicle to watch from a low escarpment as 13 of these endangered animals lazed in the heat of the day.
Most visitors arrive by private plane at Royal airstrip, or by boat, but if you're driving yourself, keep left at the forked entrance to the national park, then follow the signs along a sandy track.
Originally a campsite, the lodge now has six Meru-style tented chalets widely spread out along the river, each with twin pine beds, small shaded porch and an open-air bathroom – although there are tarpaulin covers for the wet season! And to cool off, there's a river-water plunge pool.
Central to the site is a bar and sandy terrace, backed by a lounge cum library, in the shade of an old winterthorn, Faidherbia albida, its pods beloved of the local elephant population. In fact, the whole place feels very much part of the bush, with elephants regularly crossing the river to the front, a tame impala, Silky, who roams freely through the large camp, and good birding, explained in part by the proximity of the Lower Zambezi Escarpment. The atmosphere is informal and friendly, with knowledgeable and informative staff and good guiding, and the lodge is also popular with fishing groups.
In addition to half- and full-day walking and canoeing, overnight trips which include camping in the mountains or on one of the islands can be organised with a month's notice. There's an interesting day trip to the Chongwe River Falls, about two hours' walk north of the camp.