Camp Hwange

Camp Hwange: Our full report

Rooms
8 canvas-walled chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (97%) From 36 reviews
Children
Best for aged 16+
Open
15 Mar to 14 Jan

Camp Hwange is located in the north-west of Hwange National Park, where the Kalahari’s flat plains start to transition into rugged hills. Run by ZimPro guide David Carson, 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 May 2016, and we’ve always been impressed by what we’ve experienced during our stay.

Accommodation at Camp Hwange comes in the form of eight canvas-walled chalets with thatched roofs, all overlooking the waterhole in front of camp. Gauze windows allow a breeze to blow through but keep insects out, while a ceiling fan hangs down over the bed and helps to keep the air circulating in the hotter months. Double or twin beds are curtained by mosquito nets; each has a wooden storage trunk at the foot, and there's an electronic safe for securing valuables too. On the polished concrete floors, rugs and mats add warmth and a little colour to each chalet. There are electric main lights in the rooms, as well as bedside reading lights.

The en-suite bathrooms are simple but provide everything you'll require during your stay, including flush toilets and solar-heated showers, which on our last visit to Camp Hwange provided more than enough hot water for a decent length shower. There's a washbasin in the corner of the room and complimentary shower gels, shampoos, insect repellent and lip balm are provided.

The tents at Camp Hwange are linked by sandy paths to the main area. 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 from the waterhole and there's a spotting scope mounted on a tripod here to lend you a helping hand.

In front of the main area is the 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.

Activities at Camp Hwange focus on walking and 4WD game drives. The beauty of these is their flexibility, something that we particularly enjoyed on our last 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 knowledge and enthusiasm, creates a really varied and authentic safari experience.

Dave Carson guides frequently at Camp Hwange, butnot all of the time. On our last couple of visits it was great to have the chance to be guided by Julian Brookstein, who's been managing Camp Hwange with his partner Ashleigh since the camp opened. Julian is a fully qualified ZimPro guide.,

We went on several fascinating activities with Julian in May 2016, 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 elephants drinking at the waterhole as the sun set, 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 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 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 view

We’ve been sending our travellers on mobile safari with David Carson for a number of years now, and we are very impressed with his permanent camp. 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 comfortable surroundings, then give us a call to discuss Camp Hwange in more detail.

Geographics

Location: Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Ideal length of stay: At least three nights here is recommended; four would probably be optimum.

Directions: Camp Hwange is a three-hour drive from Victoria Falls or about 90 minutes from Hwange Main Camp.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Independent/Owner run

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 when we stayed in May 2016. All meals are eaten communally with the other guests and guides around the large dining table.

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, as well as hot breakfasts cooked to order.

A hot buffet lunch is usually served around 11.30am, but this depends on when you arrive back from your activities. 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.

Dinner typically follows drinks around the campfire in the evening. On our last 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.

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.

Special interests

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

Children

Attitude towards children: Flexible

Property’s age restrictions: Camp Hwange has an official age limit of eight years old but is willing to consider younger travellers on a case-by-case basis.

Special activities & services: None

Equipment: None

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.

Infrastructure

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.

Communications: There is no cellphone reception, and while WiFi is available in the chalets, this can be rather slow and sporadic. 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 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.

Fire safety: There are fire Extinguishers in all of the rooms at Camp Hwange.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Included, but for cultural reason no smalls will be washed.

Money: There is a safe in each of the rooms.

Accepted payment on location: Any additional payments must be made in US dollars cash; credit cards are not accepted.