Ruckomechi Camp is situated along a long stretch of pristine Zambezi riverfront.
Ruckomechi Camp: Our full report
Ruckomechi Camp (sometimes seen spelled ‘Rukomechi’, or even ‘Ruckomenchi’) spans nearly a kilometre of the riverfront in a private concession just beside the north-west corner of Mana Pools National Park. The scenery surrounding the camp is remarkable: the vast Zambezi River, on its way towards the Cahora Bassa Dam, flows in front of a backdrop of the mountains of the Zambezi Escarpment, which rise up in neighbouring Zambia. This scenic location coupled with a high concentration of large game such as elephant and buffalo makes Ruckomechi a very classic safari destination.
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 and a good-sized table. 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.
Central to each chalet at Ruckomechi is a large dividing wall between the bedroom and the bathroom, 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.
All of the chalets at Ruckomechi Camp have large, open-plan en-suite bathrooms with ‘wet-room’ style walk-in showers and copper washbasins in the shape of a mokoro (a local canoe). Two sides of each bathroom has 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.
Wooden walkways (low-level: inches above the ground) 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 with a large dining table where evening meals are often taken. There is also a bar, a library and a relaxed lounge, from where the view of the Zambian escarpment can really be appreciated.
A focal point of the camp’s main area is a wooden platform which juts out into 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 indulging in after-dinner star-gazing. There’s also an infinity pool, surrounded by sunloungers and a couple of hammocks, although following very heavy rains, this was out of action during our last visit to Ruckomechi (the pump supplying the pool was submerged beneath the Zambezi!).
Safari activities at Ruckomechi include boating, walking and driving. The camp is located within its own private concession which extends for a radius of 5km from the confluence of the (often dry) Rukomechi River with the great Zambezi; it covers a little under 40km² of land. This is bisected by the Rukomechi River, with the eastern half of this concession within Mana Pools National Park, and the western side in Hurungwe Safari Area.
Because motor boats are not allowed inside the national park, this means that Ruckomechi is the only camp along this stretch of Zimbabwe’s sie 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) upriver.
In addition, half-day canoeing trips are possible in Canadian-style canoes, or you can do a three-night canoe trail from Ruckomechi. These trips depart on a Monday and Thursday and stop at various campsites within the Mana Pools National Park. This makes a lovely combination with Ruckomechi at the beginning and the end of the canoe trail.
Walking safaris and short nature walks are also available here, all led by highly qualified walking guides holding ‘Zim Pro’ licences.
4WD game drives are offered in the morning and afternoon – all on the camp’s private concession, which affords plenty to explore in a few days’ drives. However, note that the normal game drives do not go far east, into the main area of the national park, which is famous for its long pools, forests and high densities of game. Guests can, in theory, explore beyond the camp’s own private concession by arranging to hire a private vehicle from the camp (at a cost of around U$400, plus U$20 per person park fees). However, we recommend that this is arranged with us in advance, if it’s required, as previous travellers have found this impossible to arrange on the ground.
Ruckomechi Camp is a very 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 own private concession, which precludes them from visiting the vast majority of the national park’s riverine areas – and hence some of the most interesting parts of this World Heritage Site.
Ideal length of stay: 2–3 nights would be ideal at Ruckomechi. It combines well with canoe safaris along the Zambezi, and could also be combined with one of the camps further east in the national park, or even Kanga Bush Camp which is far from the river.
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.
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit to Ruckomechi the food was really good. A typical day’s dining may look something like:
A light breakfast of cereals and fruit prior to the morning game drive, before returning for a full brunch in the late morning.
Tea in the late afternoon may consist of sweet milk tarts with tea and coffee or savoury onion tartlets with iced tea.
Dinner – a three-course affair – which would begin perhaps with a butternut soup followed by roast fillet of beef with a green bean salad, and a baked peach cheesecake for dessert. A few days a week a barbecue (locally known as a braai) might be served. Here you could be offered a selection of steak, sausage or chicken with a selection of salads and baked potatoes, again followed by a dessert.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Yes drinks are usually included at Ruckomechi
Photographic: BAlongside 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 Photographic in Zimbabwe
Attitude towards children: The camp doesn’t accept children under 6 years old, but this rule may be relaxed if the entire camp is booked exclusively.
Generally recommended for children: Expert Africa doesn’t recommend Ruckomechi Camp for children under the age of about 16; there is very little to entertain youngsters in between guided safari activities.
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.
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 area: 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.
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.