Nadia’s Magical Safari in Zimbabwe

Nadia’s Magical Safari in Zimbabwe

I recently traveled to Zimbabwe for a 5-day safari and every day was filled with unexpected surprises and adventure. Although privileged enough to see Africa’s most notorious animals and savor African hospitality, I would be inclined to describe my safari in Zimbabwe as an exploration of a country that loves to dance in the rain and create their own sunshine.

If you’re looking for a more wild and remote alternative to the Kruger National Park in Southern Africa, then read on to discover why a safari in Zimbabwe should be added to your list.

 

Day 1: Arriving In Harare

I arrived in the small but well organized Harare Airport with all the basics needed while you wait for your next transfer. A really good coffee shop situated in the international arrivals hall offered me reliable WiFi and a surprisingly scrumptious salad. Most of our clients who visit Zimbabwe go straight on to their safari destination from here but I wanted to experience the buzz Harare has to offer and decided to spend a night in the city.

 

Overnight Stay At The Meikles Hotel

Meikles Hotel is a premiere luxury five-star hotel and a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. There are however a number of great hotels and lodges to choose from, including the beautiful Amanzi Lodge. Check with your safari expert who can recommend accommodation that best suit your likes and needs.

Situated in the heart of the capital city and having undergone a major refurbishment in 2013, the Meikles Hotel boasts lovely, spacious rooms and living spaces. The hotel has an elegant charm and first class guest facilities, including a swimming pool, gym, laundry service, WiFi connection, various dining options, and even high tea in season.

Before retiring for the night, I had a lovely dinner in the formal restaurant which also served excellent South African wines. I was pleasantly surprised at the freshness and flavor of the salad and vegetables.

Foyer at Meikles Hotel - Safari in Zimbabwe
The Meikles Hotel foyer: The Hotel offers 2 restaurants, 3 bars, a gym and a rooftop terrace with a pool

 

Day 2: Heading to Mana Pools National Park

It was an early start to the day, leaving the hotel at 6.20am to make my scheduled flight from Harare to Mana Pools. The Meikles arranged my transfer to the airport as well as a breakfast pack that was filled with some really tasty pastries, cheese, fruit, and cold meats to enjoy during the transfer back to the airport. 

I had my very first game viewing experience on the six seater Cessna aircraft along the Zambezi River. These low-flying aircraft allow one to truly admire the diverse landscape and wildlife of this beautiful landlocked country. I was privileged to see lots of elephants and crocodiles gathered on the banks of the river – a very good start to my safari in Zimbabwe. 

charter flights on a Safari in Zimbabwe
During camp transfers I enjoyed secure and comfortable charter flights on luxury Cessna air crafts offering spectacular birds-eye views.

Arriving at Zambezi Expeditions Camp, Mana Pools

The team at African Bush Camps is in the business of making memories! Arriving at Zambezi Expeditions camp I was welcomed with singing, clapping, smiles and a delicious ice tea. I received a brief orientation of the camp and activities on offer but what really stood out for me was the fact that there is no set itinerary and each day is planned around your interests and what animals have been seen in the area that day.

If you are looking for a safari in Zimbabwe that offers luxury tented accommodation at its best and a range of unique safari activities, then Zambezi Expeditions Camp should be at the top of your list. The activities offered at the camp include game drives, canoeing on the Zambezi River, walking safaris, bird watching, and fishing expeditions.

Located on the banks of the Zambezi river, this semi-permanent tented camp in the Mana Pools National Park usually only operates April through November. The camp itself is small and intimate, allowing you to really immerse with nature and enjoy an exclusive tented safari experience. The tent I stayed in is best described as ‘safari chic’ – colorful prints, vibrant patterns and campaign furniture. The en-suite facilities included a flush toilet and Al-fresco hot bucket shower which was rather enjoyable. Just outside, there is a seating area with superb views across to the mighty Zambezi and its wildlife!

The service was exceptional and the meals were out of this world. A treat for me was the fantastic three-course dinner served under the stars, followed by drinks and hearty conversations next to a roaring campfire.

Overall, Zambezi Expeditions Camp manages to offer a safari experience that evokes a profound sense of immersion in the wild. Nothing quite compares to being surrounded by wilderness and wildlife whilst still having all the comforts we are used to. 

Interior of tent at Zambezi Expeditions - Safari in Zimbabwe
Top: The mess tent is positioned at the center of camp with comfy seating and where we enjoyed our lunch. Bottom left: My tent was lovely, spacious and comfortable with the perfect view of the Zambezi. Bottom right: I found the camp fire area the perfect place to relax with morning coffee or an evening drink sharing safari stories

My Safari Experience In Mana Pools

Extraordinary up-close wildlife encounters were made possible by our incredible guide and tracker. Mana Pool delivers in terms of offering a truly magical safari in Zimbabwe. The game viewing was exceptional and it was clear to me why Mana Pools is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I saw a number of animals on game drives but the highlight was a sighting of a leopard who had come back for his impala kill from the day before.

Mana Pools is also very well-known for a small group of bull elephants who have the unique skill of balancing on their hind legs. Many of them are able to stretch beyond the norm, reaching high into the tree canopy.

Elephants in Mana Pools - Safari in Zimbabwe
Mana is known for their elephants with the ability to stand up onto their back legs. These elephant are truly something else, so unique in their ways of feeding.

Mana is also home to wild dogs or otherwise known as the “painted wolves” but although I didn’t get to see any on my trip here, Mana Pools was the location for filming the BBC Dynasties programme.

Wild dog sighting at Zambezi Expeditions - Safari in Zimbabwe
If you’re a keen photographer with a particular interest in wild dogs, Zambezi Expeditions would be ideal.

During the night, I could hear lions roaring every so often and the sound of the resident hyenas close by. Impala were crunching leaves next to my tent in the early hours of the morning and hippo laughing at their own jokes in the river.

Offering an exceptional walking and canoeing safari in Zimbabwe, Mana Pools is a place that will renew and excite you in so many ways.

Day 3: A peek of Nyamutusi Camp

I managed to visit Nyamutusi Camp whilst still under construction during my stay in Mana Pools and I was absolutely blown away. On the game drive transfer to the camp, I managed to spot zebra, impala, hippo, lion, elephant and some incredible bird life.

The camp itself is made up of two luxury lodges that are built together – Nyamatusi Camp and Nyamatusi Mahogany. The camp nestles on the river so animals tend to come within close range and I suspect they too will wander through the tents.

Facilities at Nyamatusi Camp - Safari in Zimbabwe
A few snaps of my visit to Nyamatusi Camp where I helped to build the new deck – if one plank counts as helping 😉 The rooms are wonderfully luxurious!

On completion, Nyamatusi Camp will have 6 twin-bedded tents with air conditioning, private plunge pools (for ultimate luxury and privacy), and will operate fully on solar power. I always look for a unique feature of a lodge or camp and for me it has to be the en-suite bathrooms. The shower is literally inside a tree and the bath is outside facing the river. There is just simply nothing like it anywhere else in this region. Nyamatusi Mahogany is the ideal option for family safari getaways, boasting two spacious family units. Being the only camp open in December, guests have the privilege of having Mana Pools to themselves!

 

Lunch at Nyamatusi Camp - Safari in Zimbabwe
I often get asked what the food is like on safari. In one word scrumptious! This was our light lunch at Nyamatusi Camp. Simply delicious.

Day 4 – 5 The Final Stop On My Safari in Zimbabwe

Bumi Hills Safari Lodge is where everyone should most definitely end their safari in Zimbabwe. It is a luxurious establishment set in a beautiful location of Lake Kariba and paired perfectly with incredible wildlife sightings and various lodge activities. The facilities at Bumi are exceptional, including a spa, gym, infinity pool, and even a pizza oven.

The rooms at Bumi Hills are opulent, spacious, and have everything one could need – from bathtubs and showers to mini bars and balconies. There was nothing not to like about Bumi Hills.

 

Interior of room at Bumi Hills - Safari in Zimbabwe
My room at Bumi Hills was stylish featuring a lovely balcony with uninterrupted views over Lake Kariba. The perfect retreat and I would imagine ideal for a honeymoon couple.

The dining experience as a whole at Bumi Hills was incredible. During dinner, I had a choice of three mains and two desserts – the chef would come present the menu along with the sommelier who would offer wine pairing suggestions. They fired up the pizza oven for lunch one afternoon and we all got to make our own pizza while the monkeys tried to steal the toppings – they were hilarious!

Although the lodge welcomes families with children, being a mom of two little ones, I would recommend it for children older than 7 years. The amount of stairs and huge uncovered swimming pool would be too much of a concern for me.

Safari in Zimbabwe - pool at Bumi Hills
The iconic infinity pool provides views overlooking the lake and the game rich shoreline where I enjoyed a daily dip after game drives.

My Safari Experience at Bumi Hills

I was lucky enough to experience a couple of game drives (mornings and evenings) and a river cruise during my stay. Located in a remote private reserve, crowds are nonexistent at Bumi Hills, making it one of my top choices for a truly intimate safari in Zimbabwe. I arrived in baby season and was blessed to see lots of little hippo, impala and elephant out and about.We even saw warthog piglets running about while staying close to mom – too cute!

Safari in Zimbabwe - Elephant at Lake Kariba
The sunset boat cruise on Lake Kariba on my last night was an absolute highlight and offered superb photographic opportunities.

My ranger was a local from a nearby village and had me laughing throughout my stay. His knowledge of the bush and wildlife was breathtaking. We managed to spot lion, elephant, hippo, impala, hares, warthog, and a number of bird species; including the broad billed roller, woodland kingfisher, and a ground hornbill with a baby.

Safari in Zimbabwe - lions in Lake Kariba
Some snaps of Kariba and the game vehicles used for drives

 

I learnt that ground hornbills only have one chick at a time and look after it for 7 years before having another. That was really something unique that I learnt from my ranger! 

I was also privileged to visit the local Mola village which turned out to be an experience I will never forget. Meeting locals allows you to better understand the country you are visiting.

Safari in Zimbabwe - Tonga Village
This is Tanaka, she is a local at Mola – a historically disadvantaged Tonga village. You can arrange a day trip to visit the village from Bumi Hills who is very involved in community upliftment projects.

 

Safari in Zimbabwe - Bumi Hills
Top: These warthog piglets were super cute. Female warthogs have up to eight young at a time! Bottom left: Our group about to set off on our afternoon game drive. Bottom right: The team at Bumi Hills pride themselves on exceptional standards in guiding and hosting – they get full marks on both from me.

 

My Overall Impression Of Zimbabwe  

Zimbabwe in general really amazed me with the people, lush landscape and superb game viewing leaving a lasting impression. It is so much more than just a visit to the iconic Victoria Falls. Its an authentic, rugged destination that can offer a mixed safari experience: A classic tented camp in Mana Pools followed by a luxury lodge experience on Lake Kariba. It is a destination filled with fresh, wholesome cuisine, warm welcomes, and everything in between.

During all my years visiting Southern Africa, I’ve learned Zimbabwe is a sure bet for viewing prolific wildlife. But when you safari with Safari.com, you can count on more than just superlative big game viewing. I also want to thank the team at African Bush Camps for their hospitality and providing lodges and experiences that our clients will never forget.

Written by Nadia Coombe – CMO at Safari.com

 

Looking to plan your own magical safari in Zimbabwe? Our team of Zimbabwe Safari Experts can help you match the right destination to the right experience.

For the perfect start or end to your safari in Zimbabwe, be sure to look at our collection of Top Lodges along the Zambezi River.