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Far from the main tourist routes, in a remote corner of southeastern Zimbabwe, Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge sits surrounded by pristine wilderness. This elegant but simple lodge, with its well-tended gardens, overlooks the wild and rugged terrain of Gonarezhou National Park.
From the viewing deck in the main lodge you can watch the local elephants, hippos and crocodiles in the Save River below. Or set out with Chilo’s professional guides to explore the unspoiled wilds of red sandstone, baobabs, elephants, buffalo and big cats.
The guiding is a highlight at Chilo Gorge. Clive Stockil, the founder, was born and bred in the area and has been guiding since 1973. He is a renowned authority on the wildlife and communities of the lowveld.
A very special option for Chilo Gorge guests is an overnight stay in a remote tented camp, accompanied by a professional guide: an unparalleled encounter with nature.
Chilo Gorge has long been involved with the local Shangaan communities. The CAMPFIRE program, Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources, was started here and has since become an Africa wide program. Visitors to the lodge are given a unique opportunity to spend a day with the people of Mahenye Village, who open their doors and their hearts to visitors.
When not tracking wildlife, exploring the wilderness or discovering new cultures relax in the lodge, which is light, spacious and graceful. The all inclusive luxury rooms feature spacious ensuites, private balconies, and fabulous views. The main lodge features a shaded swimming pool, lounge, bar and dining area.
Chilo Lodge brings the outside in – somehow managing to create a luxurious, comfortable space that celebrates and shows off its wilderness setting.
Photographs compliments of Chilo Gorge
Serian Serengeti South is a seasonal camp that operates only between December and late April. Because the camp is mobile it is more basic than some of the luxurious lodges. But what it lacks in luxury it more than makes up for in atmosphere and adventure. This is a place to feel the true heart of Africa.
The camp is open in the months when this area is inundated with a million or more wildebeest, and at the height of wildebeest calving season. With exclusive use of a 250,000-acre conservation area, guests experience the great migration in an intimate way, far from the hordes of tourists and jeeps.
Alex Walker has been guiding and outfitting safaris for over 30 year. He and his hand picked professional team of guides have created distinctive safaris, focused on walking and exploring.
This is a place to disconnect and be seduced by the rhythms of Africa. The eight tents are stylish, but basic. There is no telephone or Wi-Fi. Instead, guests enjoy exclusive use of a vehicle with a private guide and spotter to explore and the seemingly endless short grass plains and divorce themselves from the everyday world.
The truly adventurous have a unique opportunity to walk with experienced guides and Hadzabe bushmen into the wilderness for two or three days fly camping. This is an unadulterated bush experience, shared with those who know and understand the bush.
Photographs compliments of Alex Walker’s Serian Serengeti South
Amalinda’s nine individually thatched units each have a distinctive look and feel. Showers and toilets are built right into the granite rock face. Shared lounge, dining and library spaces are uniquely designed to capture the feeling of this granite wilderness.
These hills, where the nomads once held sacred ceremonies, are home to a wide array of mammals and birds. The highest concentration of leopard and black eagle in the world is found here, and there is a healthy population of the endangered black and white rhino.
There is plenty to keep you busy in the Matobo Hills: go rhino tracking, visit the tomb of Cecil John Rhodes, explore the granite hills and discover the millennia old rock art of the San Bushmen. But Amalinda is also a special place to relax. Whether you are lazing in the lounge or library, or treating yourself to a massage at the safari spa, you will be touched by the tranquility and spiritual energy of this place.
Photography and video compliments of Amalinda
The Singita Pamushana Lodge is the ecotourism arm of the reserve, and one of the most magical secrets on the African continent.
The setting is magnificent, with the lodge built amongst forests of Mopane and Baobab trees and overlooking the serene lake formed by the Malilangwe dam. There are six luxury suites and one five-bedroom villa, each with a private pool and extraordinary views.
Teeming with birds and wildlife, The Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve holds one of the highest concentrations of black rhino in Africa, fourteen different species of eagle, and endangered species such as the roan and sable antelope.
The magnificence of the landscape and the abundance of wildlife can be appreciated from the comfort of the lodge, or head out on a game drive, safari walk, sundowner cruise or mountain bike ride. Unlike other camps that follow a strict routine, how you plan your day is completely up to you.
If you tire of the views and the wildlife then play tennis on one of the lodge’s two tennis courts, set out on a fishing trip, head to the gym, relax in the spa, visit the 2 millenia old San rock paintings, or experience some local Shangaan culture.
But leave time to enjoy the exquisite food and wines. Pamushana Lodge is one of the continent’s most influential collectors of wines, with a cellar stocked with some of Africa’s most sought after reserves.
Everything is impeccable at Pamushana, but it is possibly its passion and its people that set this lodge above others of its kind. The level of service is exceptional. Your every whim is met, often before you’ve even had a chance to articulate it. And the passion for conserving this special place and developing the local villages gives this magical spot a special heart.
Photography and video compliments of Singita
Six elegantly furnished canvas tents sit along the edge of an ancient seasonal flood plain. Each is decorated in a bygone, colonial style with ensuite flush toilets and alfresco bush showers.
The dining and lounge areas are nestled under a soaring canopy of acacia trees and offer breathtaking views of the savannah plains and the famous Kennedy Vlei line.
After the first summer rains in November/December the plains are ablaze with seasonal wildflowers, making this the most beautiful spot in the park. The dry season between May and October offers some of the best elephant viewing in Africa, with elephants seen right in the camp.
The passionate and knowledgeable guides offer game drives, guided walks, bird watching and evening night drives. Expect to see elephant, kudu, sable, the rare and endangered roan antelope, buffalo, white rhino, lion, leopard, and hyena amongst other wildlife species.
Somalisa lets you explore Africa the way you have imagined: up close to nature with the romance of a true safari bush camp.
Little Makalolo is one of only a few private camps in Hwange, and guests enjoys exclusive use of an enormous concession area right in the heart of Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve.
The camp itself is intimate, with a sense of remoteness. There are six traditional canvas tents, each with an ensuite and indoor and outdoor showers. The shared dining area, living area and plunge pool all overlook the watering hole at the front of the camp, which is a magnet for wildlife.
This area of the park has impressive herds of buffalo and elephant and a high concentration of the rare and beautiful sable and roan antelope. It is also one of the best places to view the predators with lions, leopards, cheetah and wild dog on the prowl.
The excellent guides offer game drives in 4 x 4 vehicles and guided safari walks. Or you can get up close and personal from behind the log pile hide overlooking the watering hole.
Little Makalolo is environmentally and socially responsible. Funds from tourism flow directly to the local communities closest to the park through dividends and salaries. And a portion of each guests fare is allocated to Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust which allocates funds to approved conservation projects.
Photos compliments of Wilderness Safaris
NOTE: This safari idea only works between December and March.
The Serengeti is synonymous with the wildebeest migration. Most travellers try to be in the right part of the massive Serengeti plains at the right time of year to catch the migration. Which usually means that people tick the Serengeti off their list having seen only one end of these mighty plains.
We’ve got a better idea.
In the months between December and March the wildebeest have amassed on the vast, seemingly endless grasslands of the southern plains. The trick is to witness the grandeur of the migration without also having to witness the massive influx of tourists. For this we recommend Alex Walkers Serian Serengeti South Camp.
Alex Walker is an exceptional guide who not only knows how to track wildlife, but also knows plenty of secret corners of the Serengeti. The camp is positioned away from the main cluster so you are afforded an opportunity to see one of nature’s great wonders the way it was designed to be seen – one your own.
This is a semi-mobile, tented camp that stays up only while the wildebeest are running, so it’s more rustic than some luxury lodges but it’s still very comfortable.
Then Head North
The northern end of the Serengeti is completely different to the southern plains. Lush, rolling grasslands collide with tree lined watercourses and rocky outcrops, known as kopje. The feeling is wilder, more dramatic.
And here’s our secret. The wildebeest may have migrated south, but the zebras, gazelles, buffalo, giraffe, elephants, lions and leopards are still here, along with a very few privileged people who are in the know.
We recommend Lamai Serengeti, an up-market permanent lodge tucked amongst the rocks of Kogakuria Kopje with panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. Explore the intricacies of the area with game drives or take a walking safari.
Zimbabwe is becoming a hot safari destination again. Its praise is deserved because “Zim” is home to some of Africa’s best guides, most amazing landscapes and some surprising history. This rough planning guide explores the breadth of Zimbabwe’s historical and native wonders.
Start your trip at Victoria Falls: the Smoke that Thunders.
You will marvel at the immensity of the Falls themselves: from the ground, the air or the mighty Zambezi River.
This is also the playground of Zimbabwe. Thrill seekers will love the bungee jumping, hydro-speeding and a host of other adventures. How long you stay will depend entirely on the length of your bucket list.
Hwange National Park
The largest game park in Zimbabwe, Hwange stretches south of Victoria Falls to Bulawayo and west to the Kalahari Desert. It is home to a stunning array of wildlife and famous for its massive herds of buffalo and elephant.
We suggest you try out a couple of the intimate tented camps scattered through the park.
Somalisa and Little Makalolo are both exclusive tented camps, situated in the middle eastern section of the park. Somalisa offers breathtaking views of savannah grasslands, while Little Makalolo overlooks a vibrant waterhole. Both offer guided walks, game drives and birdwatching.
Camp Hwange is further west set on a rise in a private concession, overlooking the Shumba Pans.
Matobo National Park
The oldest national park in Zimbabwe, Matobo is as much about history as it is about wildlife.
Discover a rich heritage of ancient rock paintings amongst the granite kopjes of this ancient landscape. Created over 2,000 years ago by the San (bushmen) there are beautiful friezes of giraffes, elephants and kudus.
These hills were also the scene of the famous indaba between white settlers and Ndebele leaders in 1896.
We recommend either Big Cave Camp or Camp Amalinda which both offer comfortable accommodation and sweeping views of the Matopos Hills.
Prepare to be surprised! Great Zimbabwe is a ruined, walled city in the southeastern hills of Zimbabwe. Once the royal palace for the Zimbabwean monarch, much of the grandeur of the place remains despite the crumbling walls.
While visiting Great Zimbabwe you can stay at Norma Jeans Lakeview Resort, quaint B&B style accommodation that makes a homey change from safari camps..
If you’re up for a little more wildlife than consider heading to Gonarezhou National Park on the Mozambique border. Stay at the luxurious Chilo Gorge, with its spectacular views and first class guiding, or Singita Pamushana.
This is just a rough guide. Let us create a personalized itinerary that is perfect just for you.
Singita has created a wholly new type of luxurious, high-end African experience, offering what I consider to be “six star” lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
On a recent trip to South Africa I visited three Singita lodges: Ebony in the Sabi Sands area, Lebombo and Sweni in Kruger National Park. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before!
- Each lodge is different, but all are discerningly designed and decorated to blend seamlessly into their environment and provide genuine comfort. This is as close to a six star hotel as you will ever get in the African bush.
- With a light touch, the staff caters for your every whim from the moment you arrive. It’s almost as though you get what you want before you realise you want it.
- Unlike most safari lodges, there is no regimentation or routine: you set your own agenda. Get up when you want. Dine when and where you want. Set your own times and methods of exploration.
- A foodie’s heaven, each lodge offers fine dining and excellent wines. All wines are African (except for the French Champagne). A highlight of my stay at Ebony Lodge was a surprise 5-course wine & food matching dinner set up on the airstrip. The glow of bonfires and lanterns was the only light to compete with the wonder of the African sky. The food was mind-blowing.
- The guides are exceptional. And if you are visiting more than one of their South African lodges you can choose to retain one guide for your entire stay.
- I was surprised to discover incredible on-site markets, ensuring that even shopaholics are catered for at Singita. You can buy the luxurious linens, shampoos and other items found in your suite and spend hours browsing through an incredible gallery of African art and craft.
- As a lover of Africa, I was particularly pleased to discover that Singita is deeply involved in wildlife conservation and community development projects. In Sabi Sand, Singita supports a pre-school development program. At Kruger National Park they offer the Singita School of Cooking. In Zimbabwe, where the need is greater, Singita are currently helping to feed 19,000 children affected by drought.
I highly recommend Singita lodges to all of our clients who seek true luxury. If you look for the finest quality and most personal care then please talk to me about including Singita in your itinerary.
Is Africa the right place for a family holiday? Listening to the adventures of Michele, David, Emma (11) and Coco (10), you’d have to say the answer is yes. The Toronto-based family recently returned from a two-week African journey. Michele called me almost as soon as they arrived home, filled with excitement and stories. She agreed to share some of the family’s tales and a few of their over 2,000 photos – so sit back and picture your family on safari on earth’s wildest continent! Continue reading …