Changa Camp is set beside Lake Kariba, in Zimbabwe's Matusadona National Park.
Changa Safari Camp : Our full report
Changa Safari Camp is one of the newest places to stay in Matusadona National Park having only opened at the end of 2012, it’s also one of the most luxurious. A member of the Expert Africa team first visited Changa only a few months after it had opened and was very impressed with what he saw. Read on to find out what we discovered and feel free to give us a call to discuss it all in more detail…
Changa Safari Camp is located on the eastern side of Matusadona National Park, in its own private concession, with exclusive access to nearly 5 kilometers of Lake Kariba’s shoreline. As the waters lap the shoreline, guests could be forgiven for thinking they had arrived on a remote and rugged stretch of Indian Ocean coastline. The vast body of water that is Lake Kariba stretches out in front of the lodge, dotted with dead trees sticking out through its surface, there’s even a private beach – although you won’t be doing much swimming due to some rather large reptilian residents lurking offshore. Never fear though, there’s a small but adequate plunge pool, elevated above and adjacent to the beach, with views out across the water. Further adding to the beach feel at Changa is a very laidback ambience, we were struck by how efficient and yet relaxed all of the staff here were.
The main area at Changa is set back from the water, shaded by the tree line. An extensive, split-level decked area plays host to the dining area (where brunch is usually taken), a couple of lounge areas and a split-level deck. The lounge areas are situated under a thatched ceiling with open sides leading out onto the decking which drops down a short distance to the beach. There’s a fire-pit on the beach and on our visit we ate dinner here too – all set up under candle light. There are a few very comfortable sofas here and to the side is a tea and coffee station, which stays stocked throughout the day. Walking through and on towards the swimming pool one comes across the bar, set aside and quite separate to the rest of the main area this doesn’t really share the views that the rest of the camp benefits from but it’s cool, open and breezy.
Accommodation at Changa consists of eight large canvas chalets. Each has polished concrete floors and there are floor to ceiling gauze-mesh windows, making the rooms very light and airy and allowing a breeze to pass through. When the temperature drops canvas flaps can be rolled down to keep rain and cold winds out. There are also long curtains which can be pulled across when it’s too hot to roll the canvas down. The chalets are long and run roughly linearly along the shoreline, linked to one another and the main area by long, winding concrete paths which lead on to wooden walkways closer to the main area. On entry into each, through a door at the side, there is a large double bed immediately in front of you. To the right is a shelf with some filtered drinking water, a few glasses and some pamphlets containing information on the camp and national park. There are also some matches and a porcelain mosquito coil container found here.
Passing through the bedroom, again with views out onto the lake in front, one arrives at the en-suite bathroom. This is separated from the bedroom by a canvas wall. Here there are his and hers wash basins and a shower at the rear. There are some complimentary toiletries and a plenty of towels, flannels and floor mats, as you’d expect in a lodge of this quality. To the side of each the basins, in the corner of the room is a laundry basket where guests can leave their clothes in the morning and expect them back that evening (weather permitting).
In it’s own little nook is a dressing table and behind it a partition which provides the location for a wardrobe and some storage space. There’s a shelf here containing insect repellent spray for the room and body. Right in the corner of the bathroom is a separate cubicle, which contains the loo, with a curtain that extends across for privacy.
Carrying on through a side door is an outdoors shower and bath – very nicely decorated with local ornaments and mosaic patterns designed into the walls. Again there are some complimentary toiletries including body lotion, shampoo and moisturizing lotion.
Back in the main room of the chalet, through a ‘front’ door is a wooden deck with a couple of camp chairs and a hammock – perfect for relaxing in with a good book, lulled by the sounds of the Lake lapping at its shores.
Activities at Changa focus on 4WD game drives and boat trips on Lake Kariba. On our last visit here we spent a great afternoon on the camp’s pontoon. We spent a couple of hours fishing and photographing the dead trees along the lake, as the Sun began to set. We then upped anchor and began to head home, stopping off for sundowners along the way. These had been setup by the camp on a remote stretch of the lakeshore. We enjoyed a drink and some nibbles as the Sun set across the Lake before an evening game drive back to camp and a spot game viewing along the way.
The following morning we spent a really enjoyable three-hours or so tracking lion from the vehicle and then on foot. We felt very confident in our young yet experienced guide who combined just the right amount of adventurous exuberance with caution and care while walking through some quite thick bush.
Our viewChanga Safari Camp is brand new and very luxurious. We visited it for the first time in May 2013 and were thoroughly impressed by not only the quality of the lodge itself but also the professional, efficient yet relaxed approach of the camp staff, right the way through from the management and guiding team to the back of house staff. The rooms are very well appointed and have everything that one would expect from a top quality lodge. The guiding is also very good and we had every faith in our young but experienced guide.
Ideal length of stay: We’d recommend a stay of at least two nights at Changa Safari Camp. This camp acts as an excellent short stop off point for travellers visiting the Victoria Falls and Mana Pools. For those travellers preferring three nights here there is certainly enough to do to ensure that no one will be bored.
Directions: Most guests arriving at Changa will fly into Fothergill Island Airstrip in a light aircraft and then transfer to camp by boat. Sometimes, particularly when the lake gets choppy, it’s also possible to drive to the lodge, although this takes longer.
Owner: Angus Preston: 50% Kevin Higgins: 50%
Staff: May 2013: Manageress: Jo Manager: Simon Manager: Steven Guide: Kingsley
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit to Changa Safari Lodge we were highly impressed by the camp cuisine.
Our arrival at camp was just in time for lunch, which consisted of home made beef burgers, with chips and plenty of salad. This simple but very tasty meal really hot the spot and meant we arrived at our room full and happy. Dessert consisted of a fruit salad accompanied by ice cream.
That evening, on return from our sundowner activity, the dinner table had been set up on the beach in front of camp. Pre-drinks were taken next to the adjacent firepit with hors d’oeuvres served here too. These were beef kebabs on skewers with a mint sauce – very tasty indeed.
We then moved to the table where our orders for the main course were taken. This was a choice of either locally caught bream, or Piri piri chicken Both were served with vegetables, salad and plenty of local (South African) wine. Although no one in our party that night was a vegetarian, special requests and dietary requirements can of course be accommodated for. Dessert was a crème brûlée which was again very well made, and as enjoyable as any other crème brûlée we’ve ever eaten.
In the mornings a light snack is served before the day’s first activity, this consists of some muffins and toast accompanied by tea and coffee. Brunch is served on your return and is a buffet style assortment of cold meats and cheeses along with a cooked breakfast cooked to order.
Afternoon tea is traditional in a safari sense; usually something sweet (chocolate cake when we last visited) and something savory accompanied by iced tea and coffee or juice, or tea and coffee.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks are included, spirits, local wines (South African) and beers as well as soft drinks are no extra charge. Premium brand spirits and champagne are extra and available on request.
Attitude towards children: There is a family room at Changa and so young families are welcome. That said, no under 12s are permitted in camp unless the entire camp is booked out. Even then there’s a policy of not allowing under 12s to participate in game walks.
Property’s age restrictions: Changa does not allow children under 12 years of age.
Special activities & services: Children’s meals can be catered for and there are a few board games in the main area for children young and old. That said, there’s no specific facilities for children (i.e. high chairs etc.).
Generally recommended for children: Changa is an open safari camp in a remote wilderness area. Game is free to come and go as it chooses and the camp is more-or-less bordered on three sides by Lake Kariba (which again contains many dangers). There are no facilities designed for children here and the whole feel of the camp is quite mature and exclusive. A combination of all these factors leads us to conclude that this isn’t a good camp for children under the age of around 16.
Communications: There is limited mobile phone reception around Changa and on our last visit there was free Wi-Fi throughout the camp – although this was broken at the time we were there.
TV & radio: There is no TV or Radio provided here.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: Hot water comes from gas heaters and purified water for drinking purposes is supplied daily in flasks in the rooms. The shower’s have good water pressure and the hot water is extremely hot!
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in the town of Kariba. Medical Air Rescue Services (MARS) is available should there be any serious incident or illness in camp. Fist aid boxes are on site.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guards patrol the camp at night but are not armed. There is a whistle in each room and if there are any medical or security issues in the night then guests should stay in their rooms and blow this, assistance will then arrive. It should be specified that the use of the whistle is for serious health or security issues, and not for assistance in getting spiders out of the bath or shower.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers dotted all over the camp and there is one outside the front door of every chalet.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A complimentary laundry service is included at Changa. Guests can leave dirty laundry in a bag provided in each room at the beginning of the day, and can expect this to be returned by the end of the day (weather permitting).
Money: Each room contains a safe bag that guests can place their valuables in and then give to management. The manager will then lock the bag away in the camp’s safe.
Accepted payment on location: At the time of our last visit to Changa there were tentative plans for credit card payments to be accepted but these are a way off and guests should consider cash as the only form of payment accepted at Changa.