Camp Hwange, a well established safari camp in the Hwange National Park.
Camp Hwange: Our full report
Camp Hwange is located in the north-west of Hwange National Park, a quite area with few properties and where the Kalahari's flat plains start to transition into rugged hills. Owned by ZimPro guide David Carson and managed by ZimPro guide Julian Brookstein and his wife, the camp has a distinct 'bush' feel to it, with an emphasis on the safari experience and top guiding.
A member of the Expert Africa team first stayed at the site of Camp Hwange in December 2011 before it had even been built. We have returned several times since, most recently in November 2016, and we've always been impressed by what we've experienced during our stay – with the high standard of guiding in particular.
Accommodation at Camp Hwange comes in the form of eight canvas and thatch chalets, all overlooking the waterhole in front of camp. Large gauze windows make the most of the view whilst allowing a breeze to blow through and keeping insects out, and a ceiling fan hangs down over the bed and helps to keep the air circulating in the hotter months. Each bedroom is simply furnished with very comfortable double or twin beds curtained by mosquito nets, a writing desk with a tea/coffee station, a wooden storage trunk, soft floor rugs and a small couch.
The en-suite bathroom has a large walk-in, solar-heated shower, washbasin with complimentary shower gels, shampoos, insect repellent and lip balm, luggage storage with safe, and a flush toilet in a separate cubicle.
The tents at Camp Hwange are linked by sandy paths to the main area. At the camp’s centre, this large, open-plan building is set under a thatched roof with supporting timber pillars opening the whole building up to 180° vistas. As well as a large communal dining table and a side table where food is served, there are a couple of seating areas with very comfortable settees and chairs around a coffee table, and a small but well-stocked bar. It's a great spot to watch animals that come to drink at the waterhole and there's a spotting scope mounted on a tripod here for a closer view.
In front of the main area is the camp’s firepit, which forms a focal point for pre- and post-dinner discussions of the day's events and sightings, usually with a drink in hand and some tasty canapés from the kitchen being served. It’s also where guests begin their day with coffee and a light breakfast. During our stay we were treated to the sight of a lion pride drinking at the waterhole, and we followed them by vehicle for a while after a quick breakfast.
Activities at Camp Hwange focus on walking and 4WD game drives. The beauty of these is their flexibility, something that we particularly enjoyed on one visit when we were due to set out on a walk from camp, but our plans changed last minute and we set out by vehicle instead to investigate the sound of lions calling from a few kilometres away. We then picked up on our walking safari later in the day. With no set schedules there's a genuine sense of adventure when you embark on each activity, and this, together with the guiding team's incredibly expert knowledge and enthusiasm, creates a really varied and authentic safari experience. Guests staying more than a couple of nights may be offered the choice of a full-day drive, instead of the more usual morning and afternoon activities.
You may be guided by Julian Brookstein, who's been managing Camp Hwange with his partner Ashleigh since the camp opened, or by renowned guide Spike Williamson who has been guiding throughout Africa for over 30 years and was brought up in the area. On our last stay we also had the opportunity to go out with Adam Jones, and newly qualified guide who trained under the Camp Hwange team, and we were impressed with his knowledge and enthusiasm too.
We’ve been on several fascinating activities with Camp Hwange’s guides, with some of the most exciting moments being when we approached lion and elephant on foot (on separate occasions) to within 20m. As we approached, he stopped frequently to check the tracks and wind direction to ensure that we could truly enjoy the experience of being close to big game on foot, while doing so in a safe and responsible manner.
We also encountered smaller species such as a juvenile python looking for a spot to hibernate, and the nests of Cape turtle doves, complete with blind baby birds. At other times we explored the rocky hills to the north of camp on foot, and went on an evening drive, ending the day watching a pride of lions interact, gin and tonic in hand.
Closer to home, the area around camp is particularly good for elephant in the dry season. There's a wood pile hide in front of camp and overlooking the waterhole which is a great place to spend a couple of hours in the early morning or late afternoon. A degree of patience is often required as you wait to see what will come down to drink from the waterhole, but it's frequently rewarded by great close-up sightings.
In recent years relatively few self-drive travellers have visited Hwange National Park. Thanks to this, and to Camp Hwange's location in a private 50km2 concession, much further west than most other lodges in the park, the camp's activities seldom see any other vehicles. As Zimbabwe starts to show tentative signs of economic recovery we have our doubts that this level of exclusivity will last, but for now Camp Hwange offers an exceptionally private game experience in one of Africa's most diverse national parks.
Our viewWe've been sending our travellers on mobile safaris with David Carson for many years now, and we are very impressed with his permanent camp, which continues his legacy of top guiding and unforgettable safari experiences. Camp Hwange is all about experiencing the wilderness first-hand. If you're looking for five-star luxury then this is not the place for you. If, however, your emphasis is on flexible, knowledgeable and charismatic guiding in very comfortable surroundings, then you’ll love Camp Hwange. Dave Carson and his team continue to offer mobile safaris and combining Camp Hwange with a Hwange Mobile is a great way to experience this great park.
Ideal length of stay: At least three nights here is recommended; four would probably be optimum.
Directions: Camp Hwange is about a four-hour drive from Victoria Falls. The first hour is on main roads in an air-conditioned minibus, and the remainder is through the park in a safari vehicle. Alternatively, the camp is about two hours drive through the park from Hwange Main Camp. The drive time through the park varies depending on what you see, and can sometimes include a picnic lunch on route.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: David Carson – ZimPro guide
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Even when we first visited Camp Hwange, before it had a fully functioning kitchen, the food was fantastic – something that was certainly still the case on our more recent visits. All meals are eaten communally with the other guests and guides around the large dining table, often accompanied by lively discussions.
Breakfast is served early, between 5.00am and 5.30am, in order to make the most of the morning light on your activities. A cold buffet of fruits, cereals, yoghurts and pastries is on offer. Hot breakfasts cooked to order are usually offered on your last morning, or before a pre-planned more leisurely start.
A hot lunch is usually served around 11.30am, but this depends on when you arrive back from your activities. During one stay we had a selection of stir-fried beef with noodles, deep-fried avocado, crispy pork with soy and chilli sauce, and a range of salads. On another visit we enjoyed beef and vegetable kebabs, chickpea salad, green salad, homemade crisps and fresh bread, followed by watermelon slices.
Dinner typically follows drinks around the campfire in the evening. On one visit it consisted of butternut squash and chilli soup, with a roast beef main course served with roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy. Dessert was a tasty bread-and-butter pudding. On our last visit we began with pea soup and fresh rolls, then had pork casserole, herbed rice, vegetables and potatoes, rounded off with a delicious cheesecake.
Partway through the morning activity you’ll usually stop for a tea/coffee break accompanied by fresh muffins and a selection of homemade biscuits. Prior to the afternoon activity, guests usually gather in the main area for afternoon tea and cake.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks and wines, spirits and beers are included in the price. High-end liqueurs, champagne, imported wines (except most South African wines) and spirits are not. The water from the taps in the rooms is filtered and safe to drink. Bottled water is also readily available.
Wildlife safaris: Camp Hwange has a very strong focus on top guiding and safari experiences. Whether watching wildlife by vehicle or tracking it on foot, you can expect to be led by incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides with a real passion for the bush. There’s lots of big game to see here, but expect to appreciate and learn more than anticipated about the small things too.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zimbabwe
Walking: David and the other guides at Camp Hwange are all experienced walking guides with an exciting mix of adventurous spirit and respect for animals and the bush. It’s an excellent camp for approaching large game on foot, and for more general walking safaris in Zimbabwe.See more ideas for Walking in Zimbabwe
Attitude towards children: Camp Hwange has an official age limit of eight years old but is flexible and willing to consider younger travellers on a case-by-case basis.
Equipment: Each chalet at Camp Hwange has a small couch that can open out as a bed for one child. For a family group with two children, one adult and one child would share a tent. Children over the age of about 18 are able to sleep in their own rooms.
Generally recommended for children: Camp Hwange is very open with no fences, and wild animals frequently pass through. In addition there is a strong focus on walking safaris, which are only suitable for children aged 16 years and over. We therefore recommend this camp for children of 16 and over.
Notes: Camp Hwange is an open safari camp and big game is likely to pass through; children must be supervised by a parent at all times.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: The camp runs on solar power, but also has batteries, so power is available 24 hours a day. There are plug sockets available for charging in each of the chalets. The plug sockets in the chalets are not suitable for hairdryers.
Communications: There is no cellphone reception, and while WiFi is available in the chalets, this can be rather slow and sporadic and only suitable for quick emails. Guests at Camp Hwange should consider themselves mostly out of contact with the outside world (although there is a satellite phone in case of emergency).
TV & radio: None
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: Each chalet has a flushing toilet and plumbed-in shower with solar heated hot and cold water.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first-aid kit on site and the guides are trained in first aid. The camp has access to Medical Air Rescue Service (MARS) for very serious incidents.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: All guests are accompanied to and from their rooms at night by an armed guide. Air horns are provided in the chalets with which to draw attention in case of an emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all of the rooms and in the main area at Camp Hwange.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Included, but for cultural reason no underwear will be washed. Washing powder is provided in each chalet should guests wish to do their own hand washing.
Money: Each chalet has a safe to store valuables in.
Accepted payment on location: Any additional payments must be made in US dollars cash; credit cards are not accepted.