One of the celebrated luxuries in a ‘Post Covid’ world will be to leave the four walls of your house and get back out to explore more of our incredible world again – Africa and even more specifically Hwange National Park in the remote and enigmatic Zimbabwe, ticks every box of what travellers are already asking for post pandemic.
Wide open spaces, small intimate camps, well-spaced out tents, outdoor dining and in the case of Hwange more elephant than guests in the park! With so few camps in and around Hwange, it is likely guests will not see another vehicle or human other than the warm and hospitable Zimbabwean camp staff, and yet the park is teeming with incredible concentrations and varieties of animal species and one-of-a-kind experiences to enjoy… all at unbelievable value for money.
One of the silver linings of these unprecedented times is that guests are finally asking to ‘slow down’ on their holidays to more fully experience the moment. This is an opportunity for our guests to truly discover Hwange, using a combination of our different camps so that our guests can get to know our land more intimately, in turn fostering a much deeper connection and meaningful experience with us.
Enjoy the virtual safari with us below, one of our favourite combinations of slow-paced travel – 10 nights in 3 very different Imvelo camps in 3 very different parts of Hwange – the largest national park in Zimbabwe boasting over 100 mammal and 400 bird species!
Take time to… smell the elephant!
On arrival in Victoria Falls, hop on a 30-minute charter down to the northern part of Hwange National Park, where your safari greeting is likely to be 50 to 200 elephants in camp drinking from our waterhole at Nehimba Lodge. One can’t ask for a warmer welcome to Africa than seeing these magnificent tuskers in huge numbers and in such close proximity. We recommend at least 3 nights spent in this wild and charming camp where one can enjoy ‘an arm chair safari’ right from your tent deck as they all have perfect waterhole views! This will give time to unwind into the natural rhythm of the bush and to appreciate the incredible landscape here.
Whilst the elephants will always impress, the smaller details can add so much to your African safari experience, so be sure to crouch down, look at the tracks, rub leaves between your fingers to release aromas, and (for the brave) check how warm the elephant dung is to see how recently it was deposited… We recommend every guest on safari should go on at least one walk with their guide because the experience on foot is wholly different and there is no greater way to feel connected to nature.
In Zimbabwe, after a rigorous written and practical examination process, which comes after several years of apprenticeship to a professional, only the more senior guides are licensed to walk in national parks. It’s a wonderful way to be active on safari while allowing your guide to show you his love of his work, the beauty of all things big and small and to give one a glimpse into the infinite interconnectedness of nature. In our opinion, the only thing better on safari than the adventure of walking, is probably sitting and watching.
While at Nehimba, we really recommend you try yoga with us in this beautiful expansive wilderness area. Be surrounded by nothing but natural flora and fauna; the sun rising on another African day; the sounds of the birds as the first rays warm their nests; and the view of elephants splashing around the waterhole. With each inhaled breath filling your lungs with the fresh crisp air and each exhale drawing you toward your true self in the middle of the African bush, there is no better way to start a day in the wilderness. Amy Olivier, manager at Nehimba, is a qualified yoga instructor and is ready to join her guests in a yoga session at any time.
Words cannot adequately describe an African sunset – or sunrise – at its best. Even photographs seem unreal but these are the sights to be savoured especially at the Nehimba Seeps, which is a specially designated conservation area and one of the few year-round, naturally occurring sources of surface water in the massive Hwange National Park. Today large herds of elephant visit the seeps to dig for minerals and water, a fascinating sight; drench your senses here in all the vibrant colours of morning over a steaming cup of coffee, or with a refreshing G&T at the end of another magnificent day in Hwange!
Nehimba is a fully solar camp and with only 9 raised large canvas-under-thatch tents, guests will truly live among the elephant (Hwange has over 45000 of them). Or kick start your safari looking for the rare roan antelope or elusive leopards known to be in this part of the park.
Another one of life’s greatest luxuries is exclusivity and flexibility which guests will have in abundance at Jozibanini after a 30-minute charter to the most remote camp in Southern Africa, deep in the south west of the park.
Truly wild! Private! – Jozibanini Camp takes these overworked words to a whole new level. ‘Luxury?’ No; but certainly ‘the luxury of exclusivity.’ Guests of Jozi have hundreds of square kilometers to themselves. Accommodation is in 5 large simple airy dome tents on raised platforms – there is no main lodge; dining is around the campfire. The tents are en-suite, but in another touch from pioneer times, water is heated over a fire and the bucket showers filled by hand.
Time is not important at Jozi. Take a mountain bike ride along an elephant trail; or take a walk with your guide showing you the ancient skill of tracking as practised by the San bushmen. The hours will fly by in the ‘Look-up’ sunken hide right at camp and in the dry season you will lose count of the parade of elephants coming to drink. At night, Jozi provides full sit-down meals outdoors and the ambience is unbeatable. It’s just one more way we love to offer guests the opportunity to really connect with nature on safari and provides the perfect backdrop for some unforgettable memories over nightcaps and stargazing around the fire. The Hwange night skies are the perfect place to look up into the Milky Way, relax and enjoy the surrounding mystical beauty. After dinner, your starbed will be rolled out onto the deck, where you will fall asleep under a canopy of millions of stars…
Jozi is completely off the grid – by disconnecting and taking a “digital detox” you can reconnect in far more meaningful ways with the people closest to you, and with nature… Feel the heartbeat of the African bush and enjoy slowing down for a few days while you catch your breath and immerse yourself in beauty and wonder. We highly recommend 4 nights in splendid isolation here!
Then it’s time for a full day safari through this exceptional park to experience the changing topography and spend time at all the waterholes en-route to the luxurious Camelthorn Lodge. Here spend your final 3 nights in the privacy of a safari villa with your own plunge pool high among the canopy of trees. Our small well appointed lodge, only has 8 secluded villas and is built on community land in one of the last remaining protected forest areas in the south east of the park. On the full day safari up to Camelthorn, you will enjoy another of our unique activities; the ‘pump run.’ South Hwange has no natural surface water sources and so the operators in Hwange pump water for the abundant wildlife. Imvelo look after 19 pumps (which caters for over 25% of Hwange’s wildlife). Part of Imvelo’s extensive conservation work now involves hybridizing these borehole pumps and guests will get to visit a few of these innovations as well as have the opportunity for first hand involvement in this important piece of conservation work, where we drop off rations, diesel and do maintenance on these pumps on our drive through the park to Camelthorn. This is often one of the most rewarding days on safari for our guests and a fun and educational day listening to the many stories of the history of the park told by our knowledgeable guides.
Do everything and nothing!
There’s a wonderful array of ‘experiential activities that move at a slower pace’ on offer in this game rich part of Hwange. Guests here will enjoy thrilling game drives and bush walks on the scenic and famed Ngamo Plains. In the dry season elephants numbering in the hundreds congregate at water points, and watching their interplay and social activity is always a safari highlight. This is made even more magical if one is lucky enough to experience close-up moments, observing them in their own familiar surroundings. Often, Hwange’s elephants will allow the close presence of vehicles, and in the safe hands of an experienced guide, this is something you will never forget. Allow your guide to switch off the engine, and quietly observe for some time. Watching these magnificent animals in close proximity will make for some of the most memorable, adrenaline-filled moments on safari!
Imvelo’s ethos is to enrich the lives of those who live around us as well as our guests. We have a strong link with communities around the lodge and some unique and authentic experiences come with a visit to our neighbours.
Our spa treatments fall in line with our proud tradition of empowering the community through providing jobs in tourism as our beauty therapists have been hand-picked from the surrounding community area. Our therapists were trained locally to provide treatments in the most spectacular destination settings! We encourage you to enjoy one of these treatments during your stay with us, as you will not only experience some true pampering in the African bush, but you will also be further giving back to our local community.
Guests at Camelthorn often give feedback that their most memorable moments were not from the wildlife experience, but the visit to villages in the Ngamo area. Interaction with the locals in a completely unrehearsed and authentic situation can be, for some, a life-changing few hours. The communities living on the border of Hwange National Park are on the cutting edge of the conflict between conservation and community in the 21st Century. But it is the smiling faces, laughter, and hospitality which will live forever in visitor memories. During school term, one of our favourite activities is to get up early and meet children walking to school, and then watching an open air assembly all done following Covid safety protocols and physical distance being observed at all times.
The ‘Cobras’ Community Wildlife Protection Unit, initiated in 2018, is a key part of Imvelo’s community and conservation efforts. The earliest Cobra unit, based at Makona in Hwange National Park, is a team of four rangers who partner with National Parks scouts to patrol the southern end of the Park. The second Cobras unit is based at Ngamo, made up of 19 recruits ranging in age from 19 to 41, and – breaking new ground in Hwange area – all deliberately recruited from nearby villages.
The Ngamo Cobra’s mission is to protect the wildlife in the communal lands outside the Park on its southern border, including managing human/wildlife conflict, using non-lethal methods. Their activities include daily patrols to prevent and deter poaching, carrying out borehole repairs, maintaining firebreaks and – a key role; going into the communities to promote conservation among their neighbours the villagers. If the Cobras are in base, guests can experience whatever their activity is for that day, learning about wildlife protection going hand-in-hand with community development in the biggest people/wildlife contact zone of the whole KAZA TransFrontier Conservation Area.
Horse riding in a wilderness area is special. You are able to go where there are no roads – and meander through interesting forests where even 4×4 off-roading cannot take you. Horse riding offers the experience of being close to and in touch with nature, with the added advantage of being able to cover far more distance than by walking. One of our guests’ favourite trails for a morning ride from Camelthorn will take the guests to the local village and – during school term – to the school, amidst the cheers and giggles of the children. Horse riding is an add on activity – please enquire with our reservations team if this will be available during your stay with us.
We love to get guests out of vehicles and experiencing the bush from a different perspective. Change the pace of your safari by spending a few hours in the cool comfort of another one of Imvelo’s ‘Look up’ hides. Fitted with seats and an ensuite lavatory, our Look-ups are completely safe and yet allow you to get within metres of the big game. You are so close that you can feel the spray when elephants flick water over their bodies; you can smell the fresh, raw scents of the animals as if you were in their midst. Photographers will literally have a field day with the ground-level perspective from their lenses; the worn toenails and wise eyes of elephants are irresistible subjects to capture on camera. Sitting quietly and watching the interactions of the animals arriving for a drink of water is infinitely rewarding. Sometimes, incredible things happen; inquisitive young lions have been within touching distance as they investigated the new scents of the people in the hide. But of course, you have got to be inside, waiting patiently, to experience one of those magical moments in Africa.
Saving the best for last..
The eastern boundary of Hwange National Park is marked by an historic railway line – part of Cecil Rhodes’ dream of an empire stretching ‘from Cape to Cairo’ with the railway line as its backbone. Leaving Camelthorn heading back up to Victoria Falls, one of the most special adventures of the whole trip is our one-of-a-kind ‘Elephant Express rail car’. This is a unique and fun way to travel, a refreshing and welcome break from road travel, with game viewing on the way. Our railcar is spacious with large aisles, cold drinks and a meal is served on board and there is always a knowledgeable guide on the lookout for wildlife sightings along the way. An exhilarating last experience before hopping into your closed air con vehicle for the last part of the journey. Ending off with a few nights in the iconic Victoria Falls town at your lodge of choice, would be an amazing finisher to a safari of a lifetime. The Elephant Express can also be enjoyed from Dete to Camelthorn or Bomani and is an afternoon run, which is an exceptional way to start off a safari experience if this itinerary was done in reverse, or for the very many different itinerary combinations available using our Hwange camps.
This truly is a must to include when coming to our Hwange camps in the South East – it is always a highlight of every guest and there is excellent opportunities for some amazing sightings as the railway line is often used as a vantage point for predators and the heat from the railway line also draws in the wildlife! A typical roadblock would be the picture below, but this is certainly a well loved reason to stop and pour another G&T and cheers to this unique setting and the spectacular wildlife, ending off your safari with us in one of the greatest national parks in Africa.
This trip can be booked in 2021 high season (May – November 2021) from as little as USD$5985 per person sharing (excluding National Park fees estimated at $200 per person). Terms and conditions apply
There are many variations available from all road transfers to including a night fly camping! Getting the most out of your safari is often a question of achieving a balance between as many awesome experiences as possible, and also taking time out to pause and relax far from the stresses and worries of everyday life… There is so much wildlife variety to experience on a safari in Hwange and that is why we always say a few days is never enough to really get under the skin of this diverse and beautiful national park. Plan to stay a little while longer, breathe deeply and let the spirit of the African bush inspire and revive you.
Thank you to Brendon Judge, James Taylor and Hauke Dressler for the incredible photography taken in Hwange National Park.
Categorised in: Conservation
Posted by Pat Dewil