I was fortunate to spend my time in Zimbabwe at the African Bush Camp properties in Mana Pools and Hwange. The ABC properties know exactly how to offer the best southern African safari experience. Wildlife viewings, whether it’s from your camp, canoe or game drive vehicle, directed by a guide that knows the land like the back of his hand, are always at the centre of your trip. So too is your comfort and, of course, keeping your bellies full with great food. Mana Pools was a definite highlight, however, Hwange was the star of my time in Zimbabwe. You can read my experience on safari here but below I have tried to outline some key highlights of each property.
Kanga Camp – Mana Pools
The welcome by the team at Kanga Camp was quite special. Singing and dancing is de riguer when on safari and each camp greets you like an old friend returning after many a visit. Kanga is no exception. However, it seems the wildlife are also itching to play their part too. Having walked through the main camp area, after wiping your brow with their eucalyptus scented hot towels and sipping from their sweet Paradise coolers you’re ushered to walk out to the decking facing out to a water hole the size of a football pitch. It’s almost as though the wildlife is being cued up by the curious and playful baboons on stage right, because one by one or perhaps even all at once you’ll see the zebra, elephants, impala and hippos come to drink from the waterhole. This is the camp for an arm chair safari experience. You can sit G&Ts all day whilst the wildlife play on in front of you. At night you may be lucky to see leopard or a genet come out join the cast too and listen out for the locally known Zimbabwean battery bird – you’ll know when you hear it.
The showers are just outside your secluded camp and there’s nothing quite as liberating as washing whilst the hippos roll and wallow in the mud and the elephants trumpet and rumble at the waterhole just a few meters away. Be wary of those pesky baboons, I’m sure they were watching me…
If you feel like returning the favour, spend some time in their hide just below the main tent. Being low to ground gives a great perspective of wildlife drinking from the waterhole.
Zambezi Expeditions – Mana Pools
Zambezi Expeditions is a rustic tented camp set on the edge of the river, there’s a bucket shower involved but this is by no means your average bucket. Hippos will be grunting and wheezing across from your camp in the water and you may even be lucky enough to hear wild dogs chase impala in the night, but be warned if they’re successful in their kill, and they usually are, the noises of their prey can be quite terrifying. Did I mention the elephant that wanders through the camp at lunch time?
‘’What happens on the river, stays on the river.’’ Canoeing here on the Lower Zambezi is definitely a must, however only with a guide. I learnt that lesson the hard way and the paddle with croc teeth scrapes is testament to how hard that lesson was. As an afternoon excursion you’ll be witness to an always impressive sunset, border crossings of the elephants and of course the hippos laying wait in the water. Be sure to tap the side of your canoe to let them know you’re in their territory.
Somalisa Expeditions and Acacia – Hwange
Somalisa Expeditions and Somalisa Acacia, it’s more family focused neighbour, are two camps that epitomise the safari experience. Hearty welcomes and great food come as standard but the elephant pool at both camps – well that creates quite possibly one of the most magical experiences I have ever encountered.
Picture the scene. It’s night time and as you start to wind down after an exciting day on game drives – there is always plenty to see in Hwange – the pool comes to life with herds of elephants slurping water and blowing into it. With just the moonlight showing their majestic forms and light bouncing off their tusks, you’ll find yourself frozen and transfixed sat just meters away from them. You can read more about it in this blog here and also the wonderful guiding experience that we had with Calvert.
By day the waterhole at Acacia will be blessed with giraffe, kudu, sable, zebra and buffalo.
Dinner at Somalisa Expeditions was amongst some of the best meals I had whilst on safari and at Acacia, who thought you could make your own pizzas in the bush using the outdoor pizza oven.
Despite being a tented camp on a raised platform, Expeditions is fully equipped with luxuries – the distressed but beautifully ornate doors to your camp, flown in from Zanzibar, give you a taste for the kind of décor inside. Brass fittings are as standard, with separate shower and toilet area to the main room and you also have in room charging facilities.
Heading up the camp is Hope, a lady that despite being a city girl, knows the bush well and the art of telling great stories around the camp fire even better. You’ll want and certainly need for nothing with Hope looking after you.
Acacia is perfect for your family safari. They have two tents units that have connecting walkways between the children and parents rooms so kids can feel a little independent whilst still being within easy reach of mum and dad. All the tents have gauze sliding doors facing out to the waterhole and the Acacia groves so you can quite easily see the animals from the comfort of your own bed, or even bath.