Camp Hwange

Camp Hwange: Our full report

Rooms
8 canvas-walled chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (94%) From 17 reviews
Children
16 +
Open
All year

Camp Hwange opened in April 2012 and is the latest safari offering from David Carson: a top ZimPro guide with enormous experience in the industry. Comfortable rather than opulent, the camp is set on a rise in a private concession of Hwange National Park, overlooking a waterhole in the Shumba Pans complex which is pumped year round.A member of the Expert Africa team first stayed at the site of Camp Hwange for a couple of nights in December 2011 before it had even been built. The same team member then returned in May 2014 and was not disappointed by what he found in the finished article.

Accommodation at Camp Hwange comes in the form of eight canvas-walled chalets with thatched roofs, all overlooking the waterhole in front of camp. Gauze windows allow a breeze to blow through but keep insects out, while a ceiling fan hangs down over the bed and helps to keep the air circulating in the hotter months. Double or twin beds are curtained by mosquito nets; each has a wooden storage trunk at the foot, and there's an electronic safe for securing valuables too. Solar-powered bedside lights give enough light to read by, while in the evenings a little extra light is provided by a paraffin storm lantern. There is enough light to get dressed by and relax in your room with, but we’d also recommend taking a decent quality head torch too. On the polished concrete floors, rugs and mats add warmth and a little colour to each chalet.

The en-suite bathrooms are simple but provide everything you'll require during your stay, including flush toilets and solar-heated showers, which on our last visit to Camp Hwange provided more than enough hot water for a decent length shower. There’s a washbasin in the corner of the room and some complimentary shower gels, shampoos, insect repellant and lip balm are all provided too.

The tents at Camp Hwange are linked to the main area by sandy paths. This large, open-plan building is set under a thatched roof with supporting timber pillars opening the whole building up to 180° vistas. As well as a large dining table and a side table where food is served, there are a couple of seating areas with very comfortable settees and chairs around a coffee table, and a small but well-stocked bar. It's a great spot to watch animals that come to drink from the waterhole and there’s a spotting scope mounted on a tripod here to lend you a helping hand.

In front of the main area is the firepit, which forms a focal point for pre- and post-dinner discussions of the day's events and sightings, usually with a drink in hand and some tasty canapés from the kitchen being served.

Activities at Camp Hwange focus on walking and 4WD game drives. The beauty of these is their flexibility, something that we’ve always really enjoyed on past visits. There’s a genuine sense of adventure on every drive/walk and this, together with Dave's enthusiasm and knowledge, results in a truly authentic safari experience.

Dave doesn’t guide all of the time however, so on our last visit it was great to have the chance to meet and be guided by Julian Brookstein who’s been managing Camp Hwange with his partner Ashleigh since the camp opened. Julian is a fully qualified Zimpro guide.

We spent a fascinating morning tracking lion with Julian in June 2014, after two large males walked through camp in the dead of night and passed right by our tent. Following the tracks we drove out of camp just after sunrise and headed in a westerly direction. After an hour or so of spotting and following spoor from the vehicle we decided to explore further on foot.

Julian seemed as keen as his guests to find the lion but was also considerate and attentive to their needs during what ended up being a fair stroll. In the process of following the lion we came across a lone bull elephant as well as zebra, and gained a real appreciation for the smaller things one doesn’t see from the vehicle too. Stopping frequently to check the tracks it seemed as though we were really gaining on these two large males. Eventually though, as the day heated up and we walked further away from the vehicle we decided the lion had evaded us and decided to turn back. Despite the disappointment of not finding any lion the whole experience was still a highlight, and illustrative of what guests can expect at Camp Hwange. We’ve never felt like we were driving or walking around aimlessly when guided here, there’s always a purpose to what you’re doing and that purpose adapts if and when needed.

In addition to meeting Julian we also went on an evening game drive with Washington, Camp Hwange’s resident learner guide. Don’t let the ‘learner’ tag fool you though, Zimbabwe’s learner’s are still as good and often better than many other fully qualified guides working elsewhere in Southern and East Africa. They are unable to lead walks but can take game drives and we thoroughly enjoyed ours with Washington, who we first met in 2011. Back then he was working as a chef for Dave on mobile safaris and it was brilliant to find that he was now making his own way on the road to becoming a full ZimPro Guide.

Closer to home, there’s a wood pile hide in front of camp which is a great place to spend a couple of hours in the early morning or late afternoon. A degree of patience is often required as one waits to see what comes down to drink from the waterhole, but it’s frequently rewarded by great close-up sightings. The area around camp is particularly good for elephant in the dry season so make sure you have your camera ready as they come down to quench their thirst in the late afternoon.

In recent years relatively few self-drive travellers have visited Hwange National Park. Thanks to this, and to Camp Hwange's location in a private concession, much further west than most other lodges in the park, the camp's activities seldom see any other vehicles. As Zimbabwe starts to show tentative signs of economic recovery we have our doubts that this level of exclusivity will last, but for now Camp Hwange offers an exceptionally private game experience in one of Africa's most diverse national parks.

Our view

We've been sending our travellers on mobile safari with David Carson for a number of years now and are very impressed by his latest project. Camp Hwange is all about experiencing the wilderness first-hand. If you're looking for five-star luxury then this is not the place for you. If, however, your emphasis is on flexible, knowledgeable and charismatic guiding in comfortable surroundings, then give us a call to discuss Camp Hwange in more detail.

Geographics

Location: Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Ideal length of stay: At least three nights here is recommended; four would probably be optimum.

Directions: Camp Hwange is a three-hour drive from Victoria Falls or about 90 minutes from Hwange Main Camp.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Independent/Owner run

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: We visited Camp Hwange while it was still under construction and before there was a fully functioning kitchen. Despite this the food, all cooked over an open fire by the camp’s chef, Washington, was outstanding.

One evening we started dinner around the campfire with chicken wings in a piri-piri sauce. We then had minted lamb chops with couscous and salad, all freshly prepared. Dessert was a fruit salad. The chef clearly benefits from his experience working on mobile safaris and we have no doubt that he’ll excel working in a static kitchen at Camp Hwange.

Meals during the day were no less tasty and filling.

Breakfast is an early affair, usually taken on the game drive in order to get out before first light. We were offered cereal and toast with a selection of sweet and savoury spreads, but guests can now expect something much more substantial.

Lunch is also usually taken out on the day’s activity. We enjoyed a selection of cold meats and cheeses with freshly made bread and one day, a three-bean salad with a dressing that was probably the best we’ve ever had.

In addition, coffee or sundowners and snacks are always on hand during the morning and afternoon activities.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Soft drinks and wines, spirits and beers are included in the price. High-end liqueurs, champagne, imported wines (except most South African wines) and spirits are not.

Special interests

Walking: Dave is an excellent walking guide. We thought he had an exciting mix of adventurous spirit and respect for the animals and the bush. Activities are flexible here, so they can offer some more general walking in Zimbabwe.

See more ideas for Walking in Zimbabwe

Children

Attitude towards children: Flexible

Property’s age restrictions: Camp Hwange has an official age limit of eight years old but is always willing to consider younger travellers on a case-by-case basis.

Special activities & services: None

Equipment: None

Notes: Camp Hwange is an open safari camp and big game is likely to pass through; children must be supervised by a parent at all times.

Infrastructure

Communications: There is no cellphone reception and no internet. Guests at Camp Hwange should consider themselves completely out of contact with the outside world (although there is a satellite phone in case of emergency).

TV & radio: None

Water supply: Borehole

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There is a first-aid kit on site and the guides are trained in first aid. The camp has access to Medical Air Rescue Service (MARS) for very serious incidents.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: All guests are accompanied to and from their rooms at night by an armed guide.

Fire safety: There are fire Extinguishers in all of the rooms at Camp Hwange.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Included, but for cultural reason no smalls will be washed.

Money: There is a safe in each of the rooms.

Accepted payment on location: Any additional payments must be made in US dollars cash; credit cards are not accepted.