Ruckomechi Camp

Ruckomechi Camp: Our full report

Rooms
10 tented chalets
Traveller's rating
Good (86%) From 7 reviews
Children
No under 16
Open
May to Mid-November

The smart Ruckomechi Camp spans nearly a kilometre of riverfront in a private concession just beside the northwest corner of Mana Pools National Park, where the vast Zambezi River flows against a backdrop of the Zambezi escarpment. This scenic location, coupled with a high concentration of large game such as elephant and buffalo, has made Ruckomechi a very classic name in safaris for many years.

Ruckomechi Camp’s ten large tented chalets are all situated on the riverfront, each with a wooden veranda where you’ll find a couple of comfortable fold-up chairs. One long side of each chalet has views of the surrounding bush and river, and to the side is the chalet’s own solar-power unit, which provides electricity and heats the water. Each chalet has a canvas ceiling and walls, and insect-mesh windows which allow a breeze through. Outer canvas flaps can be rolled down to keep heat in and rain out. Two of the chalets are honeymoon suites while another forms a family chalet – which has an extra bedroom and toilet.

Large french doors from the veranda lead into the chalets, whose walls and tables are tastefully decorated with local art and decorative features. The beds are covered in crisp white linen and are dominated by rustic, locally made wooden-pole headboards, reflecting the camp’s use of local materials. Each chalet also has a writing table, a very comfortable leather chair, a free-standing fan, and bedside lamps using low-energy LED light bulbs.

Between the bedroom and the bathroom is a large dividing wall constructed from steel-mesh cages filled with river-pebbles and rocks. Set into this is storage space for luggage, a small wardrobe and some shelves. In keeping with this stone and rock theme, each chalet has smooth concrete floors inlaid with decorative river-pebbles.

Ruckomechi’s large, open-plan en-suite bathrooms have ‘wet-room’ style walk-in showers and copper washbasins in the shape of a mokoro (a local canoe). Two sides of each bathroom have big mesh windows, with views of the wide Zambezi River to the front. There’s an outdoor shower (hot and cold), too, while the honeymoon suites also have outside baths.

Low wooden walkways connect the chalets at Ruckomechi to the very airy and open main area which, through the use of local materials, really blends in well with its surroundings. Here guests will find a dining room where evening meals are often taken around the large dining table. There is also a bar, a library and a relaxed lounge, from where the view of the Zambezi escarpment can really be appreciated.

A focal point of this main area is a wooden platform, which juts out over the river from the deck in front of camp – reminiscent of a tiny pier. This has a circle of comfortable chairs, and is a great place to watch the sun set, or indulge in after-dinner star-gazing. There’s also an infinity pool, surrounded by sunloungers and a couple of hammocks.

Ruckomechi Camp stands in its own private concession which extends for some 5km from the location of the ‘Old Ruckomechi Camp’ – which was the confluence of the (often dry) Ruckomechi River with the great Zambezi. This covers a little under 40km² and is bisected by the Ruckomechi River, with the eastern half within Mana Pools National Park, and the western side in Hurungwe Safari Area.

Safari activities at Ruckomechi include boating, walking and driving, and the walks and drives are normally conducted within the concession. In practice, 4WD game drives are offered in the morning and afternoon, and afford plenty to explore in a few days’ drives. However, it is important to note that the normal game drives do not go into the main, central area of the national park, which is famous for its long pools, forests and high densities of game.

Guests can, in theory, request to explore beyond Ruckomechi’s concession by arranging to hire a private vehicle from the camp (at a cost of around U$400, plus park fees), but we recommend that this is arranged with us in advance if it’s required; previous travellers have found it impossible to organise at the time on the ground.

Motorboats are not allowed on the river inside the national park. Thus because Ruckomechi is outside the park, and to the east, it is the only Zimbabwean camp along this stretch of the Zambezi offering boat trips in motorised pontoons and motorboats. These craft are used for river-based game viewing, sundowner cruises and catch-and-release fishing trips (for which guests will need to supply their own equipment).

Half-day canoeing trips are possible fro the camp in Canadian-style canoes. Walking safaris and short nature walks are also options, all led by highly qualified walking guides holding ‘Zim Pro’ licences.

Our view

Ruckomechi Camp is a luxurious camp with a fantastic location on the banks of the Zambezi River. It takes full advantage of this by offering a varied array of water activities, as well as walking safaris and 4WD drives. All of these are excellent – led by highly qualified guides. Ruckomechi’s only real negative is that game drives are restricted to the camp’s private concession, which precludes guests from exploring the majority of the national park’s riverine areas – and hence some of the most interesting parts of this World Heritage Site.

Geographics

Location: Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Ideal length of stay: 2–4 nights would be ideal at Ruckomechi; there’s a lot to see. It combines well with canoe safari along the Zambezi and could also be combined with one of the camps further east, which will operate their activities inside the national park.

Directions: Ruckomechi can be reached by light aircraft from Harare – or by road/boat transfer from Lusaka or Victoria Falls. The nearest airstrip is Mana West which is 20 minutes’ drive from Ruckomechi.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Wilderness Safaris

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On our last visit to Ruckomechi, in April 2013. the food was really good. A typical day’s dining was as follows:

A light breakfast of cereals and fruit is served prior to the morning game drive, with guests returning for a full brunch in the late morning. Our brunch was a buffet of barbecued chicken with an orange and nut salad and rice, and fresh bread – which is on hand at all meals. There was also a cooked breakfast option. A fruit platter was provided for dessert.

Tea in the late afternoon consisted of chocolate cake and savoury onion tartlets, with tea, iced tea and coffee to drink.

Normally, the three-course dinner would begin with perhaps a butternut soup followed by roast fillet of beef with a green bean salad, and a baked peach cheesecake for dessert. However, when we visited Ruckomechi we arrived in the wilderness after our evening game drive to find a braai (BBQ) set up under the stars. A selection of steak, boerewors (sausage) and chicken, accompanied by a selection of salads and baked potatoes, was followed by a crème brûlée, and finished off with coffee and aperitifs next to the fire.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Drinks are usually included at Ruckomechi with the exception of fine wines and premium-brand spirits.

Further dining info: No

Special interests

Photography holidays: Alongside Mana Pools National Park, Ruckomechi Camp has some excellent game and a particularly scenic backdrop. The park’s elephants are generally very relaxed, and are often seen in the camp itself; whilst generally stable boat trips give good opportunities for photographing water birds, river life and close-ups of big game on the islands.

See more ideas for Photography holidays in Zimbabwe

Children

Attitude towards children: Ruckomechi doesn’t accept children under 6 years old, unless the entire camp is booked exclusively.

Property’s age restrictions: No children under the age of 6 years

Special activities & services: None

Equipment: None

Notes: This is a very open safari camp and dangerous game is likely to pass through. Children must be under a parent’s supervision at all times.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Communications: There are no reliable means of communication for guests at Ruckomechi, although the lodge does have a satellite phone and email for use in an emergency. (That said, one or two parts of the camp – notably near chalet no 1 – can often get a cellphone signal from a transmitter in Zambia.)

TV & radio: None

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: On our last visit to Ruckomechi the camp had an on-site nurse and all senior staff were trained in first-aid.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Guides will escort guests to and from their chalets at night.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers beside every outside shower.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Laundry at Ruckomechi is complimentary and done daily.

Money: There are no safes in the rooms at Ruckomechi but there is a safe in the main office.

Accepted payment on location: Ruckomechi accepts payments only in cash. There are no facilities to accommodate payment by card.