Reviews of Vundu Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Fantastic Canoe Safari and Pack of Wild Dogs
I have to say that yes it's true that the three days I took on my canoe safari were indeed one of the most spectacular wilderness experiences that anyone can have in Africa or for that matter in the world. It was wonderful to paddle down the Zambezi River and see the both Mana Pools National Park and Lower Zambezi Park in Zambia from the perspective of the river.
There are literally thousands of hippos in the river, and one also sees elephants, buffalo, bushbuck, and a tremendous variety of birds including little bee eaters, goliath herons, and many others.
I don't consider the canoe safari dangerous because you are accompanied by some of the best and most experienced guides in Africa. They all carry both a pistol because it is more effective at short range as well as a rifle. I had a fellow canoeist who had an incredible ability to dodge hippos, and scare them off by hitting the canoe with his paddle. His name is Mark, and my guide's name is Alistair. However, I wouldn't recommend going on this canoe safari for those who are faint at heart.
In the three days that I was at Vundu Camp I was most unlucky because the game viewing hadn't been as good when I had come here two years ago nor as in the same league of Goliath camp. I did however see an elephant tear down a leadwood tree with his trunk which was quite a site to see. After six days of no luck, I was finally rewarded by seeing no less than 15 wild dogs returning from a kill. It was just as I was leaving Mana Pools. When my guide said look there's wild dogs over there I thought he was joking. It really made my stay at Vundu Camp worthwhile.
It was nice having Nick Murray, his wife Desiree, and their two children were staying at the camp. My guide Alistair was a true gentleman and it was fascinating to talk to him about his experiences as a pilot, guide and soldier.
The rooms are somewhat austere but comfortable. I love the open air showers.
My only serious complaint about Vundu Camp is that while I was there 4 out 5 of their vehicles experienced breakdowns. However, I'm sure that Nick will get the problem resolved.
The food was good, although not quite up the standards of my last stay. It was also less plentiful.
A wonderful river location
We had a super four nights at Vundu, complementing perfectly our immediate previous four nights off the river at Kanga. Dean McGregor is a brilliant guide - very knowledgeable and a wonderful sense of humour. Our walks with him were packed with interest - as well as fantastic animals - and the canoeing was the highlight of what was, all round, a brilliant trip.
In camp we were made to feel very welcome by Nick and Natalie.
As for the animals, we were delighted to see nyala for the first time ever; but the most memorable has to be the (male - his mate followed a couple of nights later) pennant-winged nightjar flying into the lounge area one evening - fabulous.
Elephants for lunch at Little Vundu
Little Vundu is in a beautiful location right on the banks of the Zambezi. Once again we spent most of our time walking in the bush and along the flood plain. One morning at breakfast Mark heard alarm calls and we set off quickly on foot just in time to see a lioness walking among the thickets behind camp.
At lunchtimes in camp elephants would walk through right alongside the dining table. One bull in particular would walk up almost to within touching distance.
We were lucky to see the area's Wild Dog pack not far from camp. The puppies were chasing a warthog which was very exciting to watch. We saw the Wild Dogs on two other occasions, the last being on foot and during which we were able to watch at close hand the darting and re-collaring of one of the dogs by the Painted Dog Conservation team.
Great time at Vundu
Mana Pools is beautiful: it was a pleasure just to be there. We liked that we could drive until we found something interesting and then investigate on foot, rather than having to decide in advance whether we wanted to drive or walk, as in some other places. It made wildlife viewing feel spontaneous and exciting.
Nick Murray is up there with the best of the guides we have had on several safaris. He took care to find out about our interests and experience, and then to repeat activities we'd enjoyed or find new ones we'd asked for. We couldn't believe how close we could get to lions and elephants on foot and yet feel completely safe.
We found Vundu to be a very friendly and sociable camp and this added to our overall enjoyment of our stay. We spent our time in camp with guides, guests and staff-everyone just mixed together.
Best afternoon cakes of the trip!
Negatives about Vundu-having to leave!
Vundu Camp review
This camp was right up my alley. The rooms were comfortable yet not pretentious, the staff was friendly without being overly-enthusiastic (which some staff tend to be), and the owner and guide Nick was what I like in a host, answering questions and asking about things he wanted to know about us, but in an honest, genuine exchange.
We love to walk in the bush, and this was the best walk ever. About an hour in, on our way to a wild dog den, we had to do some very quick lateral shuffling to get out of an ele's path, Nick then found the den, we sat down and watched the pack return, the puppies come out and be fed, the vultures come in to join the feasting, just incredible! We had stay as long as we dared, as the light was beginning to fade and we had about 4 km to traverse to get back to the vehicle. It was on the return that we were saw the dust cloud of the buffalo, were mock-charged by a lone female maybe looking for her calf, and heard the hyena very close by.
At this Nick said it was getting dark, we could maybe go on rather than investigate, although we all knew this is what we all wanted to do so, after an nanosecond of consultation we headed into the the thick bush to see what we could see. Nick stopped dead about 30 meters in, turned and said "lion, large male", we turned left and kept moving toward the heart of the activity (maybe another 20-30 meters), stopped and could hear and see a pack of wild dogs on the flank, the buffalo herd was moving off ahead of us, the hyena and lion to our right (or behind). At this point it was agreed that we had used up enough the daylight and needed to move off. 20 minutes later (we must have really been moving along) we were back at the vehicle and on our way to camp.
At no point did we feel in any danger. Nick's astute understanding of the situation and conditions and our ability and willingness to follow ever instruction and stay close together (we are very fit, have walked in the bush through all types of terrain and habitat and hopefully our vulnerabilities and limitations) made this feel we had done something very special, but not an experience for everyone.
Go and spend three days or more at Vundu if you like to walk and canoe. It's the best!
Vundu Camp review
Vundu was a great experience from a wildlife and guiding point of view. Having not visited Zimbabwe for 11 years, it was amazing to find that our guide at Vundu was Mark, who we had last met when he had guided us at Musango camp on Lake Kariba. We had a great few days in Mark's company, which included a hilarious encounter with a male elephant which is definitely worth sharing on YouTube; an amazing sighting of a female leopard and her cub; lions eating a young elephant (gory but fascinating); and close-up, on-foot viewings of the local pack of wild dogs.
As a camp, Vundu is functional rather than comfortable and it feels tired and in need of some TLC. Some "sprucing up" would make Vundu feel more cared for, without losing the real bush camp feel.
The layout of the camp along the river left no space for any "sitting out" area in front the of the tents and little to see in camp, although the antics of the vervet monkeys around the dining area were always entertaiing.
Vundu Camp review
Excellent location and guiding. Amazing to walk up to lions, wild dogs and very large elephants.
A very different safari experience with the guides also doing the hosting in camp, this enabled us to find out more about how the country is doing.
Also managed to get to Mana Pools just before it started getting really hot!
Vundu Camp review
Thank you very much for putting our minds at rest about travelling to Zimbabwe. We had the most amazing 3 days at Vundu camp. Our accommodation was very comfortable with en suite open-roofed bathrooms & hot showers but it wasn't too chic which suited us very well.
There was a pan in front of the accommodation & we often saw elephants, warthogs & buffalo there. We had lovely food including home made cakes for afternoon tea. We ate together with the other guests & guides in the evening & met some interesting people.
You were right about the Zimbabwe-trained guides - we had an amazing guide called Andy who was great fun but also had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the animals he showed us. He tracked a lion on day one & we felt so safe with him that we went for a canoe trip on the second day which we had vowed not to do for fear of hippo attack.
He knew the area very well so was able to take us to the hotspots for animal viewing & we had a nice mixture of driving in the jeep & walking. It was quite cold in the early mornings in August but the jeep was equipped with blankets so we were kept warm. Our 2 girls age 10 & 12 really enjoyed it. The camp was a few feet from the Zambezi river which was beautiful.
Vundu Camp review
Vundu is a nice camp in a beautiful location on the banks of the Zambezi River. We were met at Chirundu by our guide, Mark van Zuydam, and Mark spent the next 4 days with us (2 at Vundu Camp, 2 along the Zambezi as we canoed downriver). Mark is a superb guide. Extremely knowledgeable and personable. The mixture of driving and walking game viewing offered at Vundu is great. We had high expectations for Mana Pools and were not disappointed.
Our highlight here was the time spent with Mark canoeing downriver. The paddling was leisurely, with plenty of game viewing along the way. The mobile camps set up before we arrived were excellent and quite comfortable, with great food and fantastic views of the Zambezi at sunset and sunrise. For those interested in a little adventure, a canoe trip at Mana Pools should not be missed!
Additional comments on the multi-day canoe trail: As I said, the Ruwesi Canoe Trail was the highlight of our Mana Pools visit. Our guide, Mark van Zuydam, was the absolute best! The river experience is really an adventure, and having a competent guide is a critical part of the trip. We saw lots of game (including passing by hundreds of hippos!) from the canoes, and enjoyed walks when on shore. The mobile camps were very comfortable in spectacular riverside settings.