Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge & Save River.
Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge: Our full report
A member of the Expert Africa team first visited Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge back in the late 1990’s. Since then the lodge’s fortunes have followed a similarly rocky path to that of Zimbabwe over the last decade. For much of the last ten-years Chilo Gorge stood vacant, moth balled while its owners waited for the economic situation in the country to improve.
We were delighted then, when at the end of 2012 a team of enthusiastic local Zimbabwean and ex-pat investors approached us informing us that the refurbished Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge was now open and back in business. We were even more encouraged to hear that a key figure in this team is Clive Stockil, a man instrumental in the foundation of the original Chilo Gorge Lodge and a pioneer of Zimbabwean conservation.
No one from Expert Africa has been to see the new Chilo Gorge yet but we’re cautiously optimistic that all of the components necessary for a great lodge are in place and this will be a fantastic base from which to explore the vast and still relatively unknown Gonarezhou National Park in years to come. One of the team will be heading out to see the lodge first-hand very soon, but until then we’ve compiled the following write-up from information from the lodge itself.
Chilo Gorge’s main area is elevated atop a cliff, with fantastic views over the Save River and into Gonarezhou National Park as it stretches towards the Zimbabwe–Mozambique border with South Africa. Large and open and constructed from stone, timber and thatch, this main area is where the bar, a small library and the restaurant are all located.
There is also a large infinity pool that takes advantage of the views; the lodge will gladly provide dinner on the patio by the pool for guests who want to eat out under the stars. Game viewing from the lodge itself is said to be very good with a large number of hippo and crocodile calling the Save River home and elephants and buffalo coming down to drink regularly.
Accommodation at Chilo Gorge comes in the form of three different options. At the main camp these include:
- Ten Luxury King or Twin Chalets
All of these chalets are comfortably furnished and decorated in the style of the Shangaan people, who live in the local village. The rooms all have en-suite bathrooms with showers, and are all equipped with mosquito nets and tea and coffee making facilities as well as a mini-bar. Each lodge overlooks the spectacular river gorge and has its own private balcony with glass doors, so that you can look out over the river.
Then, set a little way away from the main camp is Nhambo Camp consisting of four self-catering en-suite double chalets and one family chalet (sleeping 6). This smaller enclave of Chilo Gorge offers a great option for a family or group of friends looking for a more self-contained place to spend their time at the lodge. Features of Nhambo include its own plunge pool, barbeque area and kitchen.
Activities offered by Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge include morning and afternoon game drives and nature walks in the north of Gonarezhou National Park, all accompanied by a fully trained and armed professional guide. It’s also possible to walk to the Chivilila Falls, which are about 2km away from camp. Game cruises on the Save River are also available (water levels permitting). The lodge offers visits to the nearby Chilojo Cliffs and to the local Shangaan village too. Canoeing on the Save River is offered during the rainy season.
Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge has recently been given a new lease on life and although no one from Expert Africa has visited the lodge in its latest iteration we will be doing so in 2013. Until then we’ll reserve absolute judgment but we are cautiously optimistic that, with the team in place and from the reports we’ve received from our associates on the ground in Zimbabwe, this is going to be a great place from which to visit the vast and still relatively unknown Gonarezhou National Park.
The lodge itself benefits from an elevated, picturesque location with fantastic views from the chalets and main area. All of the various activities offered by Chilo Gorge are led by top guides and the fundamentals of a great lodge are all their.
We’ll be sure to update this review as soon as we have a more first-hand account of Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge but until that time please do not hesitate to give us a ring should you want an update, or to ask any more specific questions on this great new offering in Zimbabwe’s deep south-east corner.
Ideal length of stay: We’d recommend a stay of about three nights at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge.
Directions: Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge is a 6-hour drive from Harare. Travellers are transferred between Harare and the lodge via a six-seater minibus – it’s worth bearing in mind that the price of the transfer is for the vehicle and therefore the more people travelling the less expensive the transfer becomes (per person). Chilo Gorge can arrange for transfers from anywhere in Zimbabwe. It is possible to charter a plane to fly into their private Mahenye Airstrip. FedAir also runs scheduled flights from Johannesburg to Buffalo Range (60kms from Chilo Gorge) on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Staff: Shirley Wilson – Harare based marketing manager Michelle Hein – Harare based office manager John Laing – Operations manager at the lodge Nadine du Plessis – Lodge manager Thomas Mutombeni – Head Guide Clive Stockil – Director
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: N/A
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra and may need to be requested in advance.
Attitude towards children: All age groups are catered for.
Equipment: Children’s beds and cots are available. Highchairs are available. We have a selection of children’s toys.
Generally recommended for children: We wouldn't recommend safaris in Gonarezhou National Park for children as it's a very wild park, and the elephants here are known for their jumpy, and sometimes aggressive, behaviour. Chilo Gorge requires children to be supervised at all times; whether it is a visit from our wildlife, large open swimming pools or the plunging cliffs, there are plenty of potential dangers around.
Notes: Gonarezhou National Park is a very wild park and the elephants here are known for their jumpy, and sometimes aggressive, behaviour. So, parents must be vigilant at all times. That said the camp does offer a family chalet and the staff are dedicated to providing a wildlife experience for the entire family. Indeed, Nadine and John (the current lodge managers at the time of writing in March 2013) have a four-year-old daughter and therefore have first-hand experience of what works for small children in a bush environment.
Communications: The lodge has WI-FI, a land line telephone, e-mail and Skype connectivity. There is mobile reception with the local provider.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The lodge has first aiders on site and a doctor available in nearby Chiredzi. In the event of an emergency we have a casualty evacuation plan from our private airstrip with Medical Air Rescue Services (MARS).
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: 24 hour security patrols the property
Fire safety: The lodge has fire extinguishers throughout and lightening conductors.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included in the all-inclusive package. Turnaround times are normally 24 hours.
Money: All rooms have safes and there is a safe at the lodge. The Lodge accepts US$.