Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge: Our full report
Elevated atop a cliff, Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge has fantastic views over the Save River below and Ghonarezhou ...... National Park beyond. Refurbished and re-opened in 2012, the lodge lies just outside the park, whose north-eastern boundary is formed by the river.
We first visited in the late 1990s, but in the subsequent decade the lodge’s fortunes followed a similarly rocky path to those of Zimbabwe itself. We were delighted then, when at the end of 2012, a team of enthusiastic Zimbabwean and ex-pat investors informed us that the refurbished Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge was now open. We were even more encouraged to hear that a key figure in this team is Clive Stockil, a man instrumental in the foundation of the original Chilo Gorge Lodge and a pioneer of Zimbabwean conservation.
A member of the Expert Africa team went to visit Chilo in June 2013 and we were really impressed by a lodge offering a great variety of activities and serving as a fantastic base from which to explore the vast and still relatively unknown Gonarezhou National Park.
Chilo Gorge’s main area makes the most of the views. Large, open and constructed from stone, timber and thatch, it houses the bar, a small library, a few lounges and the dining areas in an expansive double-storey structure which provides plenty of nooks and crannies for relaxing in. .
At the front of the main area is a large outdoor pool which also takes advantage of the views. The lodge will gladly provide dinner on the patio by the pool for guests who want to eat out under the stars. When the weather cools or the rains arrive there is also an indoor dining area, which has more of a restaurant feel to it, with separate tables.
Game viewing from the main area is interesting in its own right. On our last visit we saw a number of nyala come down to drink late one afternoon on the opposite bank of the river. There is also a large number of hippo and crocodile which call the Save River home, while elephant and buffalo come to drink at the water’s edge regularly.
Accommodation at Chilo Gorge comprises 15 chalets across two different locations:
- Ten king-size or twin chalets are located at the main camp, each overlooking the river gorge from a private balcony with glazed doors. These split-level chalets are very comfortably furnished and decorated in the local Shangaan style, and are kitted out with en-suite showers, mosquito nets, tea- and coffee-making facilities and a minibar. On our last visit to Chilo Gorge we stayed in the ‘Hornbill Chalet’, with fantastic views onto the river and sandbank about 40 meters below.
The chalets have an elevated bathroom behind the sunken bedroom. The toilet is situated in its own separate cubicle with a locking swing-door for added privacy. Complementary toiletries are provided, and on our last stay the high-pressure shower had plenty of hot water.
- Four self-catering double chalets and a family chalet (sleeping up to six) are set in Nhambo Camp, a little way from the main area. This smaller enclave of Chilo Gorge includes its own plunge pool, barbecue area and kitchen, and is a good option for a family or group of friends looking for a more self-contained option. Guests may also head to the lodge for their meals while staying in these units; they don’t have to stay on a self-catering basis.
The diversity of activities offered by Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge is excellent, and includes morning and afternoon game drives and nature walks in the north of Gonarezhou National Park, accompanied by fully trained and armed professional guides. It’s also possible to walk to the Chivilila Falls, about 2km from camp – again with an armed guide. Game cruises on the Save River are another option (water levels permitting) as is canoeing during the rainy season.
Visits to the Shangaan village of Mahenye, with which the lodge has very close ties, can be arranged on request. On our last visit to Chilo, we enjoyed an afternoon drive around the village, spending a couple of hours exploring Mahenye and visiting the village school. A community centre was under construction in Mahenye and we’re sure it’ll be a fascinating place to learn more about the local tribe, the Machangana.
The Machangana survive through a subsistence way of life and have a great respect for the local environment. Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge, largely due to the influence of Clive Stockil, is very conscious of the conflict that exists at the boundaries between wildlife and human habitation, and doesn’t try to sugar coat these issues.
Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge has undergone a renaissance and is now a very smart, luxury safari lodge offering a great variety of activities and some fantastic guiding. The variety of activities here is of real appeal, and we particularly appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the very real challenges facing this area in the context of a remote wilderness experience.
Country manager: Zimbabwe
- Gonarezhou & Save Valley, Zimbabwe
- Ideal length of stay
- We’d recommend a stay of about three nights at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge, especially if you’d like to partake in the ’Chilojo Adventurer’.
- Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge is a six-hour drive from Harare, with guests transferred between Harare and the lodge by six-seater minibus. It’s worth bearing in mind that the price of the transfer is for the vehicle so the more people travelling, the less expensive the transfer is per person.
By air, it is possible to charter a plane into Chilo’s private Mahenye airstrip year-round, these flights typically depart from Harare. Between April and November, daily scheduled flights run from Mana Pools or Harare to Mahenye airstrip and vice versa, subject to availability and a minimum requirement of two passengers.
Alternatively, there are scheduled flights between Johannesburg and Buffalo Range Airport (60km from Chilo Gorge) on Mondays and Thursdays.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Dining style
- Individual Tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Not Available
- Drinks included
- Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra and may need to be requested in advance.
- A variety of environments including three major rivers, the Chilojo cliffs and a network of water pans allows Gonarezhou National Park support a rich variety of birdlife making Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge a fantastic option for birdwatching in Zimbabwe.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Photography holidays
- Gonarezhou National Park is perhaps Zimbabwe's most varied national park. The range of landscapes, wildlife and birdlife make it a photographers dream and a top guide from Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge only makes it better.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Cultural experiences
- Chilo Gorge does a great amount for its local community. It has very close ties with the Shangaan village of Mahenye, and can organise trips here. It’s a real insight into an authentic Zimbabwean village, and a very interesting experience.
- See ideas for Cultural experiences
- Walking safaris
- Gonarezhou is one of Zimbabwe's least developed and least visited national parks. This largely unspoilt wilderness is one of the best places to explore on a walking safari and Chilo Gorge's guiding team are one of the best to show you around.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Attitude towards children
- All age groups are catered for.
- Property’s age restrictions
- All age groups are catered for.
- Special activities & services
- Children’s beds and cots are available.
Highchairs are available.
We have a selection of children’s toys.
- Generally recommended for children
- Chilo Gorge has a family chalet and we’re told that the staff are dedicated to providing a wildlife experience for the entire family. Indeed, Nadine and John (lodge managers at the time of writing in March 2013) have a four-year-old daughter and therefore have first-hand experience of what works for small children in a bush environment.
- There are potential dangers to children from wildlife, including Gonarezhou’s notoriously aggressive elephants, as well as from the swimming pool and steep cliffs, so parents must be vigilant at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- The lodge has WI-FI, a land line telephone, e-mail and Skype connectivity.
There is mobile reception with the local provider.
- TV & radio
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The lodge has first aiders on site and a doctor available in nearby Chiredzi.
In the event of an emergency we have a casualty evacuation plan from our private airstrip with Medical Air Rescue Services (MARS).
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- 24 hour security patrols the property
- Fire safety
- The lodge has fire extinguishers throughout and lightening conductors.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is included in the all-inclusive package. Turnaround times are normally 24 hours.
- All rooms have safes and there is a safe at the lodge.
The Lodge accepts US$.
- Accepted payment on location
- Credit Cards are accepted (1.5% commission charged by the provider)
Other lodges in Gonarezhou & Save Valley
Alternative places to stay in this same area.
Chilo Gorge Tented Camp
Chilo Gorge Tented Camp is a classic safari style property in Zimbabwe's isolate Gonarezhou National Park.
Pamushana Lodge is one of the most luxrious in Zimbabwe, facilities include a tennis court and spa. The wildife watching is excellent too.
The Savé valley is a new area for us, however Chapungu is an exciting new camp run by a team we know and trust in a very promising area.