Camp Amalinda has been sensitively built around the rock landscape....
Amalinda: Our full report
The owner-run Camp Amalinda sits in a 300-acre (1.2km²) private concession of the Matobo Hills National Park. In a spectacular setting amongst the ancient boulders of the hills, it’s a comfortable lodge with buildings that have been cleverly designed into the rocks – lending the impression that it has almost grown out of the landscape itself.
Camp Amalinda’s accommodation consists of nine thatched chalets (including two suites), cavernous structures that are built into and beside the huge granite boulders. The novelty of sleeping (quite literally) between the rocks doesn’t wear off quickly.
Each chalet at Camp Amalinda is individually designed and decorated, but all incorporate the surrounding rock – albeit with some help from the cement mixer here and there. The bedrooms have large open windows with roll-down blinds. Polished concrete floors run throughout, dotted with various rugs and mats to give a softer touch. The beds are substantial and large mosquito nets come as standard. In some rooms, wooden storage units from a bygone era are found at the foot of the bed; in others a large ottoman takes its place.
Photos of Southern Rhodesia’s colonial past set the mood, with leather and teak furniture adding to the overall atmosphere. There’s a seating area with a coffee table, and a separate writing table with a lamp provides a good place for updating a journal or writing postcards home. There is also a private balcony with great views of the surrounding landscape.
The en-suite bathrooms contain flush toilets, and open-plan showers carved into the rock face, with hot and cold running water. The washbasins are shaped into the surrounding granite too. The suites come with a free-standing outdoor bath.
The main area at Camp Amalinda is linked to the chalets via pathways that meander through the boulders, wild fig and paper-bark thorn acacia. Guests can relax in the cavernous lounge which is decorated with teak furniture and plenty of comfortable and colourful cushioned sofas. There’s also a small library here stocked with local reference books and novels. To the side is the rather impressive bar area, set into the rock face beneath what looks like a very precariously positioned boulder (for a better idea of what we’re talking about, take a look at the slide show to the side of this page).
Moving down some steps from here one reaches where most meals are taken at Amalinda; the dining and reception area, home to a frequently replenished tea and coffee station. Dining at Amalinda is a communal affair and the large wooden dining table can comfortably cater for 15 or so guests.
A new feature at Amalinda is the installation of a wine cellar in the main area. Guests are able to select their vintage and then retreat to an elevated and secluded seating area which will provide a quiet spot to enjoy a glass or two.
Outside is a fireplace and courtyard area, with cushions spread along a circular stone bench – a perfect spot for pre- and post-dinner drinks. The pool is massive – at least in comparison with most lodge pools – and with no real symmetry looks as though it has been formed over millennia from a depression within a huge granite ‘whaleback’. A few deck chairs make this a fantastic place to relax in the afternoon.
As at many of Zimbabwe’s owner-run lodges, investment in the infrastructure at Amalinda had been limited over the past decade. When we visited in 2010, the lodge looked good but was fraying a little at the edges, with several areas needing refurbishment. It was great to report that on our return, in December 2011, the lodge was definitely looking up.
The lodge’s team are tremendously committed to the lodge and the area – staying here during the last decade is just part of the proof of that. So whilst there’s still work to be done before Amalinda approaches the smart level of many modern lodges, we’re confident that as more funds become increasingly available, the lodge’s infrastructure will improve further on the excellent work done so far.
While game viewing at Camp Amalinda is conducted both by vehicle and on foot, the activities here are less focused on big game than in other Zimbabwean national parks. On the sociological side of things the nearby graves of Cecil John Rhodes and Leander Starr Jameson are ‘must sees’; the park was formerly called the ‘Rhodes Matopos National Park’, in honour of Cecil Rhodes.
On our last visit, our guide was the very engaging Paul Hubbard, an academic archaeologist who really brought the place to life for us by recounting stories of these key figures in Southern Africa’s history. (Do talk to us about what else Paul has to offer – not just at Camp Amalinda but as a private guide in Bulawayo and further afield.)
Guests can also see some of the development work within local communities, funded by the camp’s profits and their ‘Mother Africa Programme’, or visit a traditional village to see how the local Matabele people have lived for centuries.
Human history aside the Matobo Hills National Park also has an intensively protected game area, with a high density of rhino – and Amalinda offers the opportunity to track both black and (particularly) white rhino on foot. The open terrain and experienced guides give guests a good chance to first find and then approach these giants. The area around Camp Amalinda is also famed for its high density of Black Eagles which can often be seen soaring high above camp.
Back at Camp Amalinda, the Heritage Spa & Sauna offers a number of different treatments and products, including ‘hot-stone therapy’ and Shiatsu massages – a perfect antidote to a long morning or afternoon walking and tracking.
Our viewCamp Amalinda is a highly original camp which has been built into these hills with imagination and flare. It offers intelligent historical/cultural activities, relatively easy rhino-tracking, and some gentle safari activities in this very beautiful park. Together with its sister-property in town, the Bulawayo Club, Amalinda combines easily with Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park; this makes a great, and great-value, combination with much more variety than the average safari.
Directions: Self-drive or fly to Bulawayo and transfer to lodge 65km away
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit to Camp Amalinda in December 2011 we were impressed by the high standard of food on offer.
Breakfast, served in the main area, is a relaxed affair which can be taken early or organised for a little later depending on the morning activity you’ve arranged. There’s a simple but sufficient buffet of the usual cereals, yoghurts and pastries, with a cooked breakfast available from the kitchen.
Lunch is again served in the main area. We had a very hearty lasagne followed by a mountain of profiteroles drizzled with chocolate sauce.
We enjoyed two evening meals on our last visit, both of three courses. The first, a starter of gem squash followed by a chicken roulade with potato wedges, was excellent, but if anything the following evening’s meal was even better. A ‘fish tower’ (a stack of various fillets of fish) as a delicious entrée was followed by steak, perfectly cooked by the chef at our table over a griddle. Dessert was lemon meringue, which again was excellent.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Soft drinks, bottled water, spirits, local beers and a selection of (generally) South African wines are usually included. Imported wines and spirits and champagne cost extra – and may need to be requested in advance.
Wildlife safaris: The Matobo Hills is an excellent and relatively easy place to track white rhino on foot. The open terrain and experienced guides give guests a good chance to first find and then approach these giants. The area around Camp Amalinda is also famed for its high density of Black Eagles, which are often be seen soaring high above hills in search of dassies.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zimbabwe
Attitude towards children: Amalinda is happy to accept children of all ages. The age at which children may be taken rhino tracking is determined on a case-by-case basis – by their height, age and behavior. However, as a guideline age, most big game walking safaris would only be possible for children over about the age of 12.
Generally recommended for children: Yes, and children above about aged 8 will really appreciate it – although they will need to be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times. There are many high walk ways linking the rooms and other areas of the camp, and none have side-rails at low level – and so would be particularly hazardous for young or unpredictable children.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is limited cellphone reception in the hills. (Best when you're on top!)
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Bulawayo, about 65km from Camp Amalinda.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Security guards patrol the property.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full Laundry Service is usually included.