Situated on the outskirts of Lusaka, Pioneer Camp offers a restful stop over before, after or during your Zambian safari. It offers a range of chalets and a campsite, allowing you to experience nature without being too far from the city.
If you’ve been working from home, cooped up in your home with someone who has, or you’d just like to get away for a few days but can’t afford a full on vacation just yet; you might want to visit Pioneer Camp. About an hour to an hour and a half’s drive from anywhere within the capital city, the lodge and camp teeters on the fringes of Lusaka and Chongwe and is just far enough from the smog and chatter of the metropolis for a staycation.
Established about twenty years ago, one of Pioneer Camp’s main attractions is its quietude. Sitting on a wicker chair outside your chalet, you can savour the stillness of the place. Listening to the wind getting the leaves giddy, punctuated by an assortment of birdcalls and songs might just be the relaxing activity you need. Little critters like squirrels and mongoose can also be seen leaping from branches of miombo, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a silhouette of a hopping rabbit in the evening or wee hours of the morning. Guided bird walks and nature walks in the vicinity of Pioneer Camp can be arranged.
The lodge has about fourteen chalets including a self-catering family house, two tents and a campsite. And if you’re looking to wet your whistle, the bar area and restaurant are open air but are sheltered by ample thatching. It is another great place to relax and flip through some travel magazines or even purchase some curios. Though most sports will only be shown later in the year, any member of your party that has to be weaned off televised games to come along for the ride will be happy to know that the pool area has a TV where they can catch some of the action.
Pioneer runs alongside its sister company Wild Dogs Safari Lodge, and both outfits fall under the umbrella of Wigwam Private Safaris, a tour company based in Germany. They attract a multi-cultural mix of travelers, with clientele from Europe, Asia and South America. People can experience the beautiful landscapes and wonderful wildlife across Zambia, return to the camp and perhaps share some of their adventure stories with other wanderers before heading off to another charming corner of the country. However, with the pandemic’s current chokehold on tourism, Pioneer and its partner are ramping up efforts to charm the local market.
“We’ve come up with packages for residents,” says Patrick Chikwanda, General Manager of Pioneer Camp. “We’d like to show them more of what is available in our own country”. The goal now more deliberately encompasses showing locals who may have not seen their own backyard the beauty and diversity of Zambia.
The camp also recently rolled out day trips to Lusaka National Park as well as Siavonga for those needing an escape that’s not too far from the capital. “We pick you up from home in our safari vehicles,” says Sofia Mwale of Wild Dogs. She says what Pioneer and its sister company are aiming to do is to give people an experience that they may not be used to. Whether that means just a day trip, an overnight stay or an entire weekend, Sofia’s hope is that people want a change from their visits to the malls or nights on the town. “We’re also trying to partner with the government to make local tourism more affordable and accessible,” she adds.
Pioneer also encourages families to come out for a weekend of stargazing at their campsite. Outdoor barbeque pits are scattered around the grounds and can also make great picnic spots. Arrangements can also be made for small gatherings and mobile braai stands can even be set up by the poolside should visitors prefer to hang out there, or almost anywhere else on the property.
Travel might not be the same for a while to come, but quick escapes are still essential. You could round up a small band of friends or family and take a drive to the outskirts of the city. Pioneer Camp has the right amount of serenity and woodland to make you feel like you’re not in Lusaka.