Kanga Bush Camp sits beside Kanga Pan in a remote region of Mana Pools National Park
Kanga Bush Camp: Our full report
Located in one of the most remote parts of Mana Pools National Park, Kanga Bush Camp (often called ‘Kanga Camp’) lies on the isolated Kanga Pan, which is near the Ruckomechi River, and away from the Zambezi. It is the newest camp in the area having opened in 2010. A member of the Expert Africa Team paid a first visit to Kanga in May 2010, and we returned in June 2011; read on to see what we thought of it.
As the only source of surface water for a fair distance in every direction, Kanga Pan is a magnet for game, especially in the dry season around September and October when surface water is scarce – and Kanga Bushcamp a great place to view it. An added bonus is the diverse range of habitat in this area, from mopane woodland and riverine forests to open vleis and the famous pools themselves, which support a vast array of different species.
Accommodation at Kanga Bush Camp consists of six Meru-style tents raised up on wooden platforms. Far from the traditional image of a ‘tent’, these are solidly built structures, with substantial log pillars and a metal framework for canvas walls and roofs, ensuring that occupants stay safe and sound through even the most inclement weather. The tents are lit by solar lights, but gas lanterns still provide a small proportion of the lighting at Kanga.
Large double or twin beds are found in each bedroom, which is separated by a canvas partition from a small changing area with wooden shelves and a hanging rail for clothes. The spacious en-suite bathroom is accessed via a flap in the back of the tent. Here, there is a flush toilet separated from the rest of the outdoor bathroom, which has a shower and washbasin. This section has canvas walls around three sides, while a fourth is open, with views down towards the pan. The honeymoon suite at Kanga has the bonus of its own large free-standing bath in a private annexe.
In mid-2011 Kanga Camp’s tents were replaced with much bigger ones, to provide more space and comfort. The ‘old’ tents from Kanga are now being used for the Zambezi Lifestyles mobile camp.
Kanga’s main communal area is elevated on a series of stylish wooden platforms, a few meters above the ground, and under a large stretched-canvas roof. These overlook the pan, and include a small bookshelf with a good selection of books; there are some comfy, quiet hideaway corners here in which to while away the afternoon. This is where the bar and lounge area is found, too, and where meals are taken around a long, communal dining table.
At the front, jutting out over the water’s edge, a lower-level extension with some really comfortable chairs and sofas provides a great place to unwind and do a spot of birdwatching and game viewing. On our most recent visit to Kanga we saw elephant, a bushbuck, a small herd of kudu and impala come to the pan during the day, plus a large troop of baboons. Steps lead down to another deck where there is another dining table and a firepit surrounded by camp chairs: a great area to discuss the days’ events both pre- and post-dinner. A recent addition to Kanga is a small plunge pool with a couple of sunloungers and umbrellas; a good spot to cool off after a hot dusty game activity.
When it comes to activities, Kanga specialises in walking and tracking wildlife with top-quality professional guides. Game drives in open 4WD vehicles both in the early morning and in the evening are also available – as well as all-day drives for game-viewing in the area beside the Zambezi. As an added bonus, Kanga has recently been granted permission to do night drives on their concession, which is not possible at any other camp located within Mana Pools National Park.
Our own experience over the last few years, as well as comments from our travellers, has helped us to understand how to get the most out of Kanga’s game-viewing. We know that the game which comes to visit the waterhole during the late dry season can be great – so this is genuinely a good camp to sit and chill on the deck for a day. Equally, the whole-day drives up to the Zambezi riverfront area can be excellent. However, we’ve found the shorter 2-3-hour drives, in the thick bush in the vicinity of camp, much less productive; these can be disappointing. Thus we advise our travellers to chat with the manager on arrival, and plan the activities for their stay carefully – to get the most out of what’s on offer.
A new addition to Kanga is the adventurous option to do sleep outs. Approximately one kilometre from camp, four sleeping platforms have been erected high up on wooden stilts under large wild fig trees. These consist simply of a mattress, with pillows and duvets, laid on a wooden platform, and completely covered by a mosquito net. Down below, two platforms each share a flush toilet and a bucket shower. A late afternoon walk from Kanga, with your pro-guide, will bring you to ‘Kanga under the Stars’, where staff will be waiting for you with ice-cold drinks around a campfire. Later there is a three-course dinner. After a night under the stars, breakfast is served before walking back to Kanga.
Another new venture offered at Kanga is a mobile tented camp. Based in national parks’ campsites on the banks of the Zambezi River, this will be for a minimum of three nights and can be booked on its own or along with a few nights at Kanga itself. Activities here will concentrate on canoeing, walking and driving, all with a professional guide. This operates under the name of Zambezi Lifestlyes.
Our viewKanga Bush Camp combines great seclusion with luxury, and a hint of the raw experience of camping under canvas in the heart of a wilderness area. Although relatively new by Mana’s standards, it does offer a very different location and experience from most of the riverside camps – and is a welcome alternative.
We find that it works well for an extended stay, of five or six nights, for travellers who are happy to take a few full-day drives and to spend some relaxing at camp. It also works for about three nights, when combined with similar time staying at one of the camps near the Zambezi.
Ideal length of stay: We'd recommend Kanga Bush Camp for a 2-3 night stay.
Directions: Kanga Bush Camp can be reached by light aircraft from Harare or Victoria Falls, or by road transfer from Lusaka. The nearest airstrip is Dandawa, which is about 20 minutes’ drive from the camp.
Owner: African Bush Camps
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: During a recent visit by a member of the Expert Africa team we found the food at Kanga to be of a high standard.
A light continental breakfast is offered around the campfire before the first activity of the day. This usually consists of porridge (kept warm over the fire), cereal, toast, coffee or tea.
Brunch, is served on returning from the morning activity. We had a quiche with macaroni cheese and a selection of salads, followed by fresh fruit salad.
Before the evening game drive, there is a substantial high tea. When we visited it consisted of an onion, tomato and spinach tart with muffins or homemade cake.
On returning from the game drive, drinks around the fire are followed by a three-course dinner. On our recent visit we had a starter of deep-fried kapenta (a small fish from Lake Kariba), followed by lamb chops with couscous, carrots and beans. On cold winter evenings dessert is generally served around the fire and there is also the option of cheese and biscuits.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Yes, drinks are usually included at Kanga but overseas imports and fine wines and spirits are charged extra.
Attitude towards children: Kanga is quite flexible when it comes to accommodating children and can review each situation on a case-by-case basis.
Property’s age restrictions: Generally no under 10's.
Special activities & services: None
Generally recommended for children: Although Kanga Bush Camp will accept older children aged from 6 to 16, Expert Africa doesn't recommend it for children under about 16.
Notes: This is a very open safari camp, with big game passing through regularly. All children must be supervised by their parents at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is a radio link to other lodges, and email and Skype may be used in an emergency.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Kariba, a few hours’ drive away. In case of an emergency, the nearest airstrip is 20 minutes from Kanga, which makes an emergency evacuation much quicker.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is a safe at reception. Guests are accompanied to and from their rooms after dark.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are dotted around camp.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: It is possible to have all laundry done at the camp and this is included in the rate.
Money: There are no exchange facilities available. US Dollars, Rand and Sterling are all accepted.
Accepted payment on location: No credit cards are accepted at Kanga. Cash is accepted in US dollars, GB pounds, South African rands or euros.