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Book Bus South Luangwa, Zambia

If you enjoy stories about wilderness adventures, why not have an adventure telling stories to school children  in Zambia’s South Luangwa, a wilderness experience like no other.

The Book Bus is a unique mobile literacy service that promotes reading skills and spreads the joy of storybooks.

Each one of our four Book Buses is a mechanical piece of magic beautifully decorated  by Quentin Blake and filled to the brim with books and craft materials. You can join our Book Bus volunteer crew and help children read, write and enjoy the world of books.

Book bus LV welcome

Why is the Book Bus here?

Sout Luangwa is in the east of Zambia about 640 Km from Lusaka, the capital, quite close to the Malawi border. This is a remote place where roads may be washed out in the rainy season and communications can be tricky. This area is best known as a connoisseur’s safari destination but it is of course a residential area too and home for all the rangers, guides and other people who make a safari possible. There’s no doubt that safaris bring employment opportunities to local people, but villages that surround the national park can be overlooked. Which is where the Book Bus can help.

A sound education is vital for the future of the children growing up in this area yet local schools sometimes struggle to achieve the levels of literacy to which they aspire. Their challenges include basic facilities, inadequate resources and teacher:pupil ratios that are significantly higher than they are in the UK. The Book Bus makes a positive contribution to this situation by providing books, classroom resources and reading mentors (You!)  for the 800’ish children in these schools.

Your support as a Book Bus volunteer in the South Luangwa will help us put books into children’s hands AND enable them to ernjoy them: a great way to change a child’s life.


Why the Book Bus needs you.

Learning to read is taken for granted in the UK but in Zambia this is not always the case. The foundation of all education is the ability to read, so we work alongside form teachers to stimulate children’s imaginations and show that reading is one of life’s pleasures, rather than a chore.

You will find a tsunami of enthusiasm greets the Book Bus! We have been working in this area long enough for children to recognise the Book Bus and understand what it’s all about. On your first Monday morning you will be bowled over by the raw enthusiasm of the children to join in and read with you. This is an immensely personal experience and the connections you make with your learners are profound.

We work in government-run schools and “community schools” which are establishments that have been set up by village communities, where there was no school, which are often held beneath trees, in an old container or in the village hall. Resources are often meagre but enthusiasm goes some way to compensate. In each type of school the task is the same, to bring books to life.

Nearly half of Zambia’s population is aged 14 or under and the country is one of the world’s poorest and least developed. Education, and literacy in particular, is one of the best weapons that can help Zambia’s people address their circumstances and combat poverty.


Book bus Luangwa Valley project

The South Luangwa project in action.


What will you be doing?

Volunteers travel on “Matilda” the Book Bus and work with small groups of children. We aim to give them the opportunity to engage with the stories and experience the characters described. We encourage them to associate books with enjoyment and creativity and in doing so hope to sow the seeds of a lifelong love of reading.

Practising Reading

This can be a case of working individually with a child or reading altogether in one small group (4 to 8 children).

Dramatising stories through art and craft

By planning arts and crafts around the storylines and characters the children have the opportunity to be creative and use their imagination.

Organise fun activities around the books

This is a chance for the volunteers to use their imagination and play games and plan fun activities related to the stories.

The Book Bus Legacy

At the end of the season, before the final goodbye, we run “A Book In Every Hand” which is a ceremony where we present each child with a book (often the first they have ever owned) but we ask them to bring it back a week later and exchange it with a friend. This swap is repeated a week later, at which point we reveal the Reading Conrer which is a modest school starter library. The “Book In Every Hand” has introduced the concept of temporary ownership and the Reading Corner provides the wherewithal to continue the practice.

The Book Bus crew

The Book Bus crew consists of the fulltime leader who is employed from the UK, Book Bus driver/mechanic (a local person) and up to 10 volunteers (often multi-national) at any one time. We travel from school to school in our yellow Book Bus T-shirts so that we are instantly recognised.

Volunteers come from all kinds of backgrounds and range in age from 9 years (accompanied by parent/s) to well into retirement. A family is able to give as much, and derive as much, from this project as a single, retired person, or a gap year student or anyone inbetween. The unifying factor is a love of books and wish to give something back.

Book Bus needs people who love to read, possess an enthusiasm to pass on the skill and who enjoy the babble-and-bustle of a lively classroom environment. We also ask for a CRB check.

Do you have a passion for books and a desire to share the magic of stories with children?

If you combine these two traits please consider climbing aboard; your contribution to the Book Bus will help children become readers, boosting their education and their quality of life.

Working conditions.

Life in Zambia can be challenging at times due to the heat and basic accommodation. Crew members should have a reasonable level of health and fitness. Equally important will be your desire to engage with children (previous experience of working with children is welcome by not necessary). It helps if you enjoy art or have a little musical ability, or are prepared to have a go, anything that helps to broaden access to the story. The Book Bus tends to attract volunteers with a positive outlook, who enjoy being part of a team and who share a real desire to make a difference.

Life in camp

During the project you will be camping at Croc Valley Camp. The site is just outside the South Luangwa National Park and right on the bank of the Luangwa River – a stunning location.This is a pristine Big Game area and close neighbours include a pod of hippos, frequent visitors are troops of monkeys and baboons, occasionally we see elephants and giraffes and, for the eagle-eyed, leopards have been spotted on the opposite bank of the river.The sounds at night are the sounds of the bush and the star-scape is utterly wonderful (zero light pollution).

The camp is clean and well-equipped with all the essentials for life in the bush including running water, electricity (reasonably reliable!), covered kitchen areas, male and female ablution blocks and the all important barbeque pits. For leisure and downtime there is a swimming pool and riverside bar.


Book bus Lion face masks

Lion face masks



We use large, spacious 4 or 5 man tents for a maximum of 2 volunteers per tent. We have sufficient tents to offer single occupancy most of the time. Each tent has a camp bed or inflatable airbed. The tents are equipped with mosquito screens (so there’s no need to bring a mosi-net, just a sheet and sleepingbag). It is also possible to “up-grade” your tent for a log cabin with ensuite facilities (additional fee paid locally).


We dine communally and pull together to shop from the surrounding village markets, prepare meals and clear away. We can cater for just about any dietary requirement, so long as you let us know in advance. The Book Bus attracts volunteers from many different walks of life and ages so you can be sure that you’ll be part of a diverse and stimulating group.

Typical day

7am: Wake up – breakfast

7:30am: Prep time

8:30am: Hit the road

9am-1:30pm: At school (Four, one-hour sessions)

2pm: Lunch back at camp

Afternoon/evening – free for activities/preparation/relaxation

Placement cost and what’s included

There are three cost elements to joining the Book Bus: the international flight (see below); the project fee and the local payment.

The project fee for an initial two week placement is £749; each additional week is £195. For a full breakdown see “VentureCo’s Relationship with Book Bus”.

The local payment is £120 per week and covers all food, accommodation and subsistence costs. This is paid in cash, locally, directly to the leader.

It is possible to raise funds for your placement and The Book Bus Foundation is listed on and  There is also an on-line fundraising pack, leaflets, money boxes, stickers, posters and T-shirts to support your event or activity.

Not included

Zambian Visa (50$), international flights, optional activities, travel insurance, vaccinations, personal expenditure.

Flights to Zambia range from £750 to over £1,100 depending on season and availability. You also need to get from Lusaka to Mfuwe which is a bush airstrip. VentureCo can arrange all (or only part) of these flights and has access to favourable rates; VentureCo is ATOL bonded. If you would like a quote please send your approximate dates to:-

We will meet you at Mfuwe airport so if we haven’t booked your flight, please make sure we know your schedule. It is increasingly popular to extend your trip to Africa, afterall, the biggest expense is getting there, so it’s a great opportunity to see a bit more of the area. See the “Onward Travel” page for some ideas and suggestions such as travel overland to Cape Town, pop across the border into Malawi or travel to Victoria Falls and visit the Book Bus there to compare the two projects and see the magnificent falls.


You can volunteer for any duration from 2 weeks to 4 months. The Book Bus departs every Monday which means you need to arrive on the preceding Saturday. This allows the leader to conduct a project briefing on the Sunday and for you to meet your fellow volunteers and settle into Zambian life.

This is a popular project and space is limited to 10 persons so we advise that you send in your booking form download here as soon as possible.

Important Information

You will recieve a Field Manual before you travel with everything you need to know, including advice about visas, health, expected weather and what to pack.

VentureCo are well practiced in preparing volunteers for remote destinations; we are here to help, so don’t hesitate to call us about any aspect of your trip, no matter how trivial you might think it.

The history of the Book Bus

Tom Maschler came up with the idea for the Book Bus when on holiday in Zambia in 2007, since then it has expanded to six projects in four countries, across three continents.

Tom Maschler was a publisher for over four decades. While still in his twenties he ran publishers Jonathan Cape, where he published no fewer than thirteen Nobel Prize winners. He nurtured the careers of many of the twentieth century’s most esteemed authors, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian McEwan, Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl and Bruce Chatwin. He also came up with the idea for the Booker Prize; now acknowledged as the most significant fiction prize in the world.

On holiday in Zambia he was shocked at the lack of resources in the schools and came up with the idea of the Book Bus; a mobile library, travelling from school to school promoting literacy.

Read more about the Book Bus Foundation on 

Make the most of your time in Africa

We offer a range of adventure tours, safaris, accommodation and stopover options from tours in Kruger National Park to 35 day overland adventures through East Africa to see the Gorillas in Uganda. To discuss your options just contact us.

Book Now

You can secure your place on board with a deposit of £100.

Download and complete a booking form now and climb aboard for a life-changing experience.

If you have any questions or need further information or would like to speak with a past volunteer then drop us a line.