In the Heart of Hwange at the Somalisa Camp
Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park is the largest park in the country, spread across more than 14,600 square kilometres (5,863 square miles) of land south of the mighty Victoria Falls.
Amid a collection of teak and acacia trees, a sprawling savannah and the park’s roaming giants is the Somalisa Camp: a series of luxury bush tents seated along the edge of an ancient floodplain.
This floodplain gives way to a spattering of watering holes that encircle the camp and lure the area’s wildlife, most notably its large elephant population.
It’s not uncommon you’ll find yourself within mere metres of the elephants who saunter up to the pool of water—found just beyond the lodge’s deck—to quench their thirst.
Surreal encounters like these, matched with elegantly rustic accommodations, give the Somalisa a unique edge over other lodgings in the area.
The Somalisa Camp is about as close as you can get to a true African bush camp experience without having to compromise on modern-day comforts, like flushing toilets and en-suite bathrooms.
The canvas-tented suites and lodge were built using natural wood and finished with copper accents, resulting in an organic infusion of the structure into its natural surroundings.
Inside the communal tent, a motif of traditional African decor sees teak furnishings topped with colourful throw pillows and sofas draped in Kudhinda—a typically Zimbabwean screen-printed style of fabric—huddled around a wood-burning fireplace.
A lack of walls allows the main salon to flow into the outdoor, split-level deck seamlessly. Here, guests can congregate by the pool—looking on as elephants do the same in their nearby drinking basin—or gather around the fire pit.
This open concept also means that game may stroll through camp at any time, adding even more “wild” to the safari experience.
The camp’s presentation of an authentic, untouched version of Africa matches their manifesto to minimize their environmental impact. Their efforts have included the use of recycled materials during their rebuild in 2015, as well as planting an additional twenty trees for each living tree that was used during the reincarnation.
Other eco-friendly touches include gifting each guest with an aluminum water bottle to eliminate the use of plastic.
Hwange National Park offers one of the highest concentrations of animals in Southern Africa; it’s home to no less than 107 mammal species and 450 bird species.
With such a diverse habitat, the variety of wildlife within your range of vision is immense, and the Somalisa Camp places you in the heart of the action.
Rise and shine early for breakfast on the desk, watching the sun rise while the morning mist lifts from the plain. After fuelling up on slow-cooked oatmeal, fresh fruit and made-to-order eggs, it’s time to set out on the first game drive of the day.
Game drives are aboard open 4x4s with the camp’s expert guides and trackers. Elephant, sable antelope, zebra, giraffe, lion, leopard, hyena, wildebeest and the rare and endangered roan antelope are but a few of the creatures you’re likely to encounter.
You could choose to shake up your routine with the Somalisa’s other offerings, such as bird watching (Hwange boasts some of the best birding in these parts of Africa, with opportunities to catch rare creatures like the magnificent Martial eagle) or cultural visits to gain further insight into the local communities.
After your morning exploration, retire to the camp for brunch—a heartier meal consisting of warming dishes in the cooler months and light, fresh fare in the summer.
Afterwards, you can either venture on another afternoon game drive or balance out the adventure with some pool time and an afternoon nap before sundowners on the deck.
As for dinner, a three-course meal consisting of African and international cuisine and paired with South African wine is served outdoors, allowing the game-watching action to continue while you dine.
Seven wood-framed, stretch sail canvas tents are scattered throughout a grove Acacia trees, loosely forming a horseshoe around the communal lodge.
Each suite is finished with hardwood floors and brimming with old-world charms like antique furnishings, Colonial-era artifacts and locally made handicrafts.
Vintage-style bathrooms bask in natural light and feature deep copper tubs, a separate shower area and flushable toilets.
A glass-wood fireplace and the option to roll down the canvas sides keeps the tent cozy and warm during Hwange’s chilly nights.
Wood-framed beds draped in plush bedding neighbour a seating area with a sofa and chairs that are dressed in vibrant Kudhinda textiles.
Large glass walls showcase the cluster of trees and bush outdoors, and slide open to a private deck with an outdoor shower, a hammock and a seating area.
Before and After Your Visit
Before settling in at the Somalisa Camp, why not spend a few nights at the Camp Amalinda, Located in the mysterious Matapo Hills—approximately 400 km ( 250 mi.) southeast of Somalisa—this area is best known for its granite wilderness and native black and white rhinos.
Stay in one of nine hillside retreats carved out of natural stone with thatched roofs and panoramic views.
With the Victoria Falls nearby, it seems only logical to follow up your visit to the Somalisa Camp with a stay at the Victoria Falls River Lodge. Seated along the edge of the Zambezi river, this tented luxury lodge is so close to the grand cascade that it even catches a view its spray off in the distance.
Kick back on your private deck with views over the river, while hippos wallowing in the water keep you entertained.