Kafunta Safaris has come along way since the opening of their first lodge in South Luangwa in 1998. Owners Anke and Ron Cowan have seen first hand the progression of the Luangwa Valley and its tourism and this year marks their 20th anniversary. So there’s much to celebrate.
For Ron and Anke it all started in Australia 1988 , when they met whilst Anke was holidaying from her native Germany. They bonded over their passion for travel, eventually leading them both on an adventurous trip to Africa and falling in love with the Luangwa Valley. In the early 1990’s, the changed government offered many investment opportunities in Zambia so they decided to build their own camp - ‘Wildlife Camp’, a self-catering and camping lodge.
By 1996, they’d bought more land and started construction, with the eagerly awaited opening of Kafunta River Lodge on July 3rd 1998. Many people from the local area were hired to work on the build and were eventually re-trained to become staff members - exchanging their construction helmets for chef’s hats and guide’s caps. Some of those first staff are still working amongst the 70 people employed at the lodge today!
Now sole owners, Kafunta River Lodge has been the Cowan family home since 2000 where they have raised and home-schooled their son Luke, for much of his childhood. Whilst now studying in Australia, “the bush” remains Luke’s home.
“ The team is like family to us. We have been together for so long and that is how we’ve achieved such a personal and individual atmosphere. ”
Kafunta River Lodge has since expanded into what it is known today as Kafunta Safaris. Their adventure bush camp, ‘Island Bush Camp’, was introduced in 2001; more suites added to the original Kafunta River Lodge in 2005; and an entire renovation of the main area took place in 2014. Their third property, Three Rivers Camp opened to outstanding reviews in 2017, offering an alternative perspective of the Luangwa, with private star beds uniquely attached to each room.
It’s safe to say that Kafunta has moved from strength to strength which has lead to a continued increase in customer satisfaction over the years. Being situated in South Luangwa for so long, Anke and Ron have watched the landscape change both physically and in terms of tourism.
“We’ve seen the changes in the Luangwa Valley over more than 20 years. The game viewing has increased but so has human settlement in the area. We’ve seen a change in tourism, some camps have gone, others changed ownership and new camps have been built. Few have stayed the same!” says Anke Cowan.