Rhino Safari Camp is located on Rhino Island within Matusadona National Park.
Rhino Safari Camp: Our full report
Rhino Safari Camp is a simple, very rustic camp run by owner Jenny Nobes. It’s set in Matusadona National Park on Rhino Island (known locally as Elephant Point), on the shores of Lake Kariba. When water levels are low, the island is linked to the mainland via a narrow land bridge which allows the movement of game to and fro; when levels are high it’s cut off by a narrow channel.
Thanks to this area’s isolation, this part of Matusadona has been designated an intensive protection zone (IPZ) to accommodate the relocation and release of black rhino. On our last visit to Rhino Safari Camp, in May 2013, lion had killed a bushbuck in camp the night before we arrived and there were plenty of elephants and lots of impala around. The area is very good for leopard and the island also plays host to buffalo which pass through sporadically when the land bridge isn’t submerged.
Due to the political and economic turbulence of the last decade in Zimbabwe, Rhino Safari Camp hasn’t always had the visitors and therefore the investment that it’s needed during this time. All things considered, however, the camp is looking in good shape – and we found Jenny’s gracious hosting and enthusiasm for the area and its wildlife is quite humbling.
Rhino Camp’s accommodation consists of seven rustic A-frame chalets, which are raised high off the ground on stilts in order to compensate for the extremely changeable water levels of Lake Kariba. Each spacious chalet lies well camouflaged in the bush, and set slightly back from the island’s shoreline.
The design of the chalets is very simple, and it’s refreshing to come across a camp which has completely done away with canvas walls and mesh windows. Instead, low reed walls give way to open windows with roll-down reed blinds and a thatched roof which provides shelter from the elements. Simple furnishings include twin beds that have great views of the lake, a couple of comfortable chairs, a small wardrobe which gives a decent amount of storage, and a dressing table. In the early evening, large, light-green mosquito nets are rolled down and secured tightly around the beds.
On our most recent visit to Rhino Island, we were woken in the middle of the night by the sound of elephant feeding just outside our chalet. It was great to be able to lie in bed, completely safe, and listen to these giants feeding just a few feet away. The open plan of the chalets at Rhino really enhance experiences like this.
One level down from the bedroom via some stairs, the bathroom consists of a fully flushing toilet, an open-air shower and a stone washbasin set in a teak vanity unit. Hot and cold running water comes as standard. Further reed walling runs around the perimeter of the bathroom to provide privacy, while an extended overhang of the chalet’s thatched roof offers shade and shelter from the elements.
The wood-and-thatch double-storeyed communal main area at Rhino Safari Camp is also spacious, with great views through the bush towards Lake Kariba. On our last visit to Rhino Island the upper storey was undergoing a post-rainy season refurbishment but this is usually where the lounge and bar area are found, as well as a tea and coffee station, which is kept well stocked throughout the day. There is also a cold-water filter here, which not only provides guests with clean drinking water but also helps minimise the negative environmental impact of lots of plastic water bottles. A few board games and books are spread around and a small ‘library’ is a great place to relax in the afternoons. Downstairs are the dining area and another bar.
Rhino Camp is very remote, so there is no electricity, but paraffin lanterns provide a great ambience in the evenings and rechargeable solar lights give more substantial illumination when needed.
Activities at Rhino Safari Camp include 4WD game drives; cruises down the lake for game-viewing, birdwatching and fishing; and walking safaris. It’s very common to combine two of these into one activity, particularly the driving and walking.
Varied 4WD game drives are usually offered on both the island and the mainland; when the land bridge is submerged you may need to take a short boat ride to reach the game-drive vehicle. Sundowners are enjoyed on the lake, often accompanied by breathtaking sunsets, with iconic views of submerged trees silhouetted in the water in the foreground.
Armed professional Zimbabwean walking guides lead all walks – and tracking the game can be a real highlight. It usually takes a substantial amount of time to track black rhino on foot but the increasingly rare chance to do so is one not to be missed – and you never know what else you might find along the way.
Ask us who is guiding at Rhino when you’re thinking of going; in addition to the camp’s usual professional guides, there are sometimes some top-class private guides who sometimes guide here for a few months at a time.
Rhino Safari Camp feels remote and very rustic, a place to walk by day and dine by candlelight at night. The expanse of water all around differentiates it from many safari camps – but more unusual still is it’s old-style Zimbabwean ethos: run by a committed team it’s all about serious wildlife and good guides, with no time for modern ‘safari chic’ design. You’ll find that the warm hospitality, high-quality guiding and good game-viewing make for a really “authentic" safari.
Ideal length of stay: It takes time and effort to reach this fairly remote spot, so we’d recommend that you spend 3-4 nights here.
Directions: Guests are transferred to Rhino Safari Camp by speedboat from either Kariba (90 minutes) or Bumi Hills airstrip (30 minutes). Both can be reached with flights from Harare, Mana Pools or Victoria Falls.
Owner: Jenny Nobes and Carl Wright
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our most recent visit to Rhino Safari Camp, in May 2013, we were pleasantly surprised at the high standard of food for such a rustic camp.
An early breakfast is served before heading out for the morning activity. This generally includes a selection of cereals and fresh fruit as well as toast, tea and coffee.
Brunch, on return to camp, is a more substantial meal. We had fish cakes (made with fresh fish from Lake Kariba), potato salad, coleslaw and a green salad.
After an afternoon siesta, there’s tea and coffee before heading out for the next activity, then – on return from the activity – drinks are served around the campfire before dinner.
During our last visit, the dinner table was laid out under the trees and dinner was enjoyed whilst listening to the waves lapping on the shore. We enjoyed aubergine fritters for a starter, followed by beef fillet with potatoes and mixed vegetables. This was finished off with strawberries and meringue.
Tea and coffee are available in the main area throughout the day.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Yes, except for premium wines and spirits.
Birdwatching: With its location overlooking Lake Kariba, Rhino Safari Camp is well placed for spotting good numbers of birdlife, including African fish eagles, various breeds of hornbill, storks, geese, ducks, plovers and other breeds of water birds.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zimbabwe
Walking safaris: The aptly named Rhino Camp is a great place to track black rhino on foot. Armed professional Zimbabwean walking guides lead all of the walks – and tracking the resident big game is a real highlight.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zimbabwe
Wildlife safaris: The isolated part of Matusadona around Rhino Safari Camp has been designated an intensive protection zone (IPZ) to accommodate the relocation and release of black rhino, making it a good base for seeing these increasingly rare animals.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zimbabwe
Attitude towards children: Rhino Safari Camp is not suitable for children under the age of 16.
Property’s age restrictions: No under 16s
Special activities & services: None
Generally recommended for children: No
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There is no mains electricity at Rhino Safari Camp, but there is a solar inversion system (220 volts) for charging cellphones, camera batteries etc. A traditional wood-chip ‘donkey boiler’ is used for heating water for showers, and paraffin lanterns and rechargeable lamps light the rooms at night.
Communications: Subject to local area conditions, Rhino Safari Camp sometimes has cellphone coverage from operators within both Zimbabwe and Zambia, and a new phone mast across the lake should further improves the communication situation. As a back-up, the camp is also in communication with Kariba via lake navigation control radio.
TV & radio: None
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Kariba. Rhino Safari Camp is also linked to MARS (Medical Air Rescue).
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are no guards on site
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the chalets as well as in the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included at Rhino Camp, with the exception of women’s underwear, for cultural reasons. Washing powder is provided in the chalets for guests who wish to wash items themselves.
Money: There are no safes, and currency exchange is not possible.
Accepted payment on location: Any additional payment is accepted in US dollars cash only; credit cards are not accepted.