It’s Monday and Nsefu memory lane with Jo Pope

I do hope that you are all well and sitting comfortably. Today we are hearing from Jo Pope, the original author of Its Mondays; who has leapt back into the driver’s seat for this week as we celebrate Nsefu Camp in its 20th Season.



















“Ten years after Robin started his guiding career in 1976, he was the manager of Nsefu Camp. It was here he spread his management wings, so that when the opportunity for a solo career presented in 1985, he was ready to take it and start Robin Pope Safaris. Robin’s first camp was Tena Tena, some 12 kms from Nsefu Camp.

Nsefu Camp is the oldest tourism camp in Zambia and certainly one of the oldest in Africa. The first Nsefu Camp, a temporary camp, opened north of the present site by Northern Rhodesia Game Department. The camp was used for department officials when on duty.
Turning the camp into a tourist camp, in 1951, was the initiative of Chief Nsefu and profits from the camp went to the Chief. The department assisted with the development of the scheme giving advice, providing the construction and maintenance of access and game viewing roads, the training of Native Authority Game Guards, camp reservations and with publicity.













The camp changed hands, closed, changed hands again and then, after some years of declining tourist numbers, it closed. This was 1997 and here was a chance for Robin Pope Safaris to buy the lease and bring this historical camp into the RPS fold.

The camp however, had hardly changed over the years. The rondavels, the round huts, were the same small huts that had been built in 1951. Back then there were shared ablutions but at some point, a small bathroom had been squeezed into the already small room. Standards had of course changed, and we needed to modernize as best we could without changing the footprint of the rooms. They were considered part of the safari history and not to be touched!

At the time Bruce Rousseau was our pilot and it turned out that also he had a design qualification. So, after his days flying, he would help us look at our design options. In the end, our only option was to add a bathroom at the back and create big windows. Nsefu would not loose it’s historical buildings but there would space and airiness added to the rooms.














































Running a busy safari company is a full-time occupation but during the year of 1998 we added the task of renovating Nsefu to the management team. For those who spent more time behind a desk at Nkwali’s HQ than they liked, it was wonderful to have to drive up to Nsefu two or three times a week. Work progressed through the dry season and into the rains.

During the rains, Robin and I drove to Johannesburg to buy the interiors and fixtures and fittings. Our concept was “it is in the ‘50s and we are building our first camp. What would it look like?”. So, we found old fashioned brass clunk/click type light switches. We sourced antique style taps, old silver cutlery and serving dishes. We even found a windup gramophone that worked and some 78 rpm records. We had great fun scouring antique shops for these items. I had it in my head that we needed to reflect the colours of the bush – the green sage of the dry lagoons and the silver of the dead mopane and leadwoods on the plain behind camp. We went to dozens of material shops looking for just the right green but failed again and again. It was anxious making and of course I could have dropped the concept and thought of something else, but that did not occur to me. On our way back through Harare, we stopped for some food and whilst I shopped, Robin wandered into a small material shop next door. And there it was – the exact green in old fashioned strips and checks. The bedcovers and curtains were going to be perfect. It’s all in the detail!

Nsefu opened on time but as with any camp opening, only just in time. We were extremely proud of what we had created.

Not sure what the wildlife made of the scratchy Ave Maria recitals we played on our wind up every afternoon, but we loved it.

Today Nsefu continues to thrive. It is 20 years since Robin Pope Safaris reopened the camp and I love to think of all the people from around the world that have since enjoyed the camp and the amazing area. But then I go back further and remember that the first brick was laid nearly 70 years ago. Just how many tourists have visited Nsefu Camp over the years?”













Wow thanks so much Jo! Nsefu certainly has a rich history, one that has touched and impacted many lives. We continue to enjoy the camp and all who come through its doors. On that nostalgic note, I shall bid you all a very fond ‘till next week’ – have a fabulous time with lots of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after each other.







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