Musango Safari Camp is located on an island in Lake Kariba close to Matusadona National Park.
Musango Safari Camp: Our full report
The small Musango Safari Camp is situated on an island off the shores of Lake Kariba, near Matusadona National Park. It was set up in 1990 by the former head warden of Matusadona National Park, Steve Edwards – a Zimbabwean guide of considerable note – who, with his wife Wendy, still owns and manages the camp. Steve’s breadth of knowledge goes far beyond the wildlife of the area, encompassing the local landscapes, ornithology and paleontology, and this is reflected in the wide variety of activities available at Musango.
Musango Camp has eight tented chalets, each set in dense bush and standing on a raised, polished concrete base beneath a high thatched roof. At the front, partially shaded by the roof, is a veranda with a couple of large wooden chairs facing east towards the lake – and the sunrise.
Inside the tents, comfortable twin beds (or a large double in each of the two honeymoon suites) with reading lights positioned above them share the lake view. There’s a basket for laundry and a flask of water on the table. The back of each tent leads into a stone-walled en-suite bathroom which incorporates a hot shower, a ceramic washbasin and a flushing toilet in its own cubicle, all partially under thatch.
Musango’s two honeymoon suites are similar to the standard chalets but each boasts a larger bathroom, a double bed and a private plunge pool as part of a more spacious veranda.
From the chalets, gravel paths lead through the bush to Musango’s main area, a unique wood-and-thatch double-storey building. On the ground floor is a lounge and reception area, with a well-stocked bookcase, and a crescent-shaped dining table, where evening meals are served. The walls are decorated with local arts and crafts, as well as maps and photos of the area.
The upper deck, where breakfast and brunch are often taken, is large, airy and spacious with a few comfortable deckchairs positioned to take advantage of the views across the lake.
In front of the main area, and partially incorporated into it, is a swimming pool, while lush planting and well-maintained lawns create a cool and restful oasis in the African heat – and a lovely location for an al-fresco dinner. The whole camp is surrounded by an electric fence.
Activities from Musango Safari Camp include walking safaris in Matusadona National Park and game drives with experienced guides. Musango was involved in the reintroduction of black rhino into Matusadona National Park, and you can still track rhino on foot in the intensive protection zone (IPZ) next to the camp.
On the water, guests can go fishing for tigerfish, which are found in abundance in Lake Kariba, along with vundu and bream. (In the past, the world record for the largest tigerfish caught on a fly rod has been broken near Musango Safari Camp.) Game viewing and fishing from a motorised pontoon offer a steady option for photographers and the boat’s flat bottom means there’s plenty of space to move around for different angles and to store camera and/or fishing equipment.
There is usually an option to visit a typical fishing village from Musango, which provides a different, more human aspect to a trip. We particularly liked the emphasis placed on the important role that local people play in wildlife conservation, and felt that these trips were handled very sensitively; clearly there’s a good relationship between the lodge and the villagers.
To add to the mix, Steve is a keen paleontologist and has discovered a dinosaur fossil site in the park. He has a small fossil collection at the camp that he is keen to show to guests and on our last visit a small museum was being created to promote the history and culture of the local Tonga people.
The accommodation at Musango is clean, functional in design – but visitors are primarily attracted by the guiding skills of Steve and his small team, and for their knowledge of not just the flora and fauna, but also the wider cultural and conservation aspects of the area. The unique, almost beach-like setting of this lodge in a game-rich environment on Lake Kariba, also makes an interesting contrast with most of Zimbabwe’s other safari camps.
Ideal length of stay: 3–4 nights here would be ideal. Note that Steve’s guiding is a major attraction for many guests, so if this is important, let us know; it’s often possible for us to check in advance if Steve is likely to be able to guide on a particular date.
Directions: Most guests fly in to Bumi Hills airstrip, from where it’s a ten-minute transfer by speedboat or 45 minutes by 4WD, followed by a short boat transfer to the island. It takes about 1.25 hours to fly to Bumi from Victoria Falls. Alternatively, it’s possible to reach Musango from Kariba town by speedboat in approximately 1.5 hours (but note that the boat ride can be very bumpy).
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Steve Edwards
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: When we visited Musango in May 2013, the food was tasty and wholesome.
We had a light breakfast of cereal or porridge, toast and freshly baked muffins, followed by tea and coffee.
After returning from the morning activity, brunch was served, consisting of a selection of cold meats and salads followed by fresh fruit salad.
Tea, coffee and cake are served after an afternoon siesta, and before the day’s second activity.
For dinner we started with butternut soup, with beef Wellington, roast potatoes and fresh vegetables to follow. This was polished off by a delicious crème caramel, which was good enough to rival any London restaurant!
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Included except for premium spirits, imported wine and champagne.
Further dining info: No
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome.
Special activities & services: Children can make plaster-cast animal footprints, and there are guided nature walks within the confines of the camp.
Equipment: There are no cots at Musango, but Steve has devised a special chair for babies which clips onto the table. Children under five are encouraged to eat earlier. Babysitting is provided by a member of staff but please note that they are not formally trained in child care.
Generally recommended for children: With some caution, we can recommend Musango Camp for older and more mature children over ten – largely because Steve and Wendy have their own children, who spend some time in camp, and so are very understanding of the needs and interests of children on safari.
Notes: The whole camp is surrounded by an electric fence which helps to keep out larger dangerous game. Nevertheless, children should remain under parental supervision at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: Musango has a generator which is on from sunset until the last guest goes to bed. After this a 12-volt battery powers lights in the chalets. It is possible to charge batteries in the rooms (UK-style square-pin plugs) or at the bar whilst the generator is switched on.
Communications: An HF radio is used for general communications. There is also cellphone reception and internet is available for emergencies. Musango Camp is also in communication with Kariba via a Lake Safety Network which can relay messages to a contact in Kariba. They can be contacted in an emergency if all other communications break down.
TV & radio: None
Water supply: Mains
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first-aid box in the camp and Steve is also trauma trained. The nearest doctor and hospital are in Kariba, which is about one hour by fast boat or 20 minutes by air.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are three security guards and two anti-poaching staff at the lodge 24 hours a day.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all of the chalets as well as in the main areas.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included.
Money: There are no safes in the chalets. Any valuables are to be handed to the person in charge to be locked away in the office safe.
Accepted payment on location: Credit cards are not accepted. Park fees and tips are to be settled in cash, preferably in US$.