Camp Hwange

Camp Hwange: Our full report

Rooms
8 chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (96%) From 55 reviews
Children
Best for aged 16+
Open
All year

Camp Hwange is located in the north-west of Hwange National Park where the Kalahari's flat plains start to transition into rugged hills - this is a quiet area of the park with few properties. The camp is 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 2017, and we've always been impressed by our experiences here – in particular the guiding has always been superb.

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. A ceiling fan hangs 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. Outside is a small porch looking toward the waterhole with some chairs and a coffee table – an ideal place to watch the sunrise with a tea or coffee.

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 sofas and chairs, and a small but well-stocked bar. It's a great spot to watch animals that come to drink at the waterhole.

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 lone lioness drinking at the waterhole. After a hasty breakfast we followed her by vehicle to find the rest of her pride – this sort of thing seems to be a regular occurrence.

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. On our last stay we also had the opportunity to go out with Adam Jones, who trained under the Camp Hwange team, and we were impressed with his knowledge and enthusiasm. It seem that these days renowned guide Spike Williamson (who has been guiding throughout Africa for over 30 years and was brought up in the area) is based at Camp Hwange’s sister camp, Hwange Bush Camp approx. 24km to the north-west.

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. Whilst this was undoubtedly exhilarating we have always had every confidence that the guides have been acting 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 view

We've been sending our travellers on mobile safaris with David Carson for many years now, and we are very impressed with his first 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.

Geographics

Location: Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Ideal length of stay: We recommend at least 3 nights here.

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

Key personnel

Owner: David Carson – ZimPro guide

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: We’ve always enjoyed the food here and the meals are eaten communally with guides and managers joining guests, which in our experience has always added to the experience.

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. On our last stay in November 2017 we enjoyed a scotch eggs served with a variety of salads and fresh bread. This was followed by a tinned peaches served with yoghurt. This light lunch was served buffet style and proved to be the perfect light bite on a hot day.

Dinner typically follows drinks around the campfire in the evening. On our last visit we were treated to a caramelised onion and blue cheese tartlet to start. The main course was a stuffed beef fillet served with creamed spinach, rice and seasonal vegetables. However, the highlight for us was a delightful self-saucing chocolate pudding.

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.

Further dining info: Packed lunches can be arranged for your onward journey with prior notice, just let the kitchen know the night before you need it.

Special interests

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.

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

Children

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.

Property’s age restrictions: Camp Hwange accepts children aged 8 and up.

Special activities & services: None

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.

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. 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 (not the main area), this can be rather slow and sporadic and only suitable for quick emails. NB there is currently a free limit of 200MB per guest after which additional data is charged. 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.

Extras

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.

X  Close