Somalisa Camp sits in the shade of an acacia woodland....
Somalisa Camp: Our full report
Situated on the eastern side of Hwange National Park, Somalisa Camp underwent a complete rebuild in 2015, converting the camp from a simple, rustic property to one with a much more luxurious style. This smart camp retains its location beneath a grove of acacia trees, fronted by an ancient dried-up watercourse known as the Sumamalisa Vlei, and provides a great place to view the large herds of elephants for which Hwange is famous.
A leading example of eco-friendly safari camps, the reincarnation of Somalisa incorporates recycled building materials in a very creative way, and for every living tree used in its creation, 20 were planted. There is also a solar-power farm generating all the electricity, and a purity system that allows the camp to recycle 80% of water used. Clearly a lot of thought went into the camp’s design, but the basics weren’t forgotten and you can expect excellent guiding, a focus on the safari experience, and great service.
Somalisa is divided into two – Somalisa Camp and Somalisa Acacia. Somalisa Camp consists of seven tents, whilst Somalisa Acacia has two standard tents and two family-sized tents. Each portion of the camp has it’s own almost identical main area, but which operate with their own staff, kitchen, and guides.
Spread out in a large arc under the shady canopy of acacia and camelthorn trees, and far from the boy-scout image of a 'tent', each of Somalisa’s Bedouin-style tented rooms are built on low teak decking, with solid wooden frames providing support for the stretched sail canvas.
Floor to ceiling gauze sliding doors to the front of the tent offer a view over the vlei, and allow for a breeze to circulate in the rooms. These lead out onto a private shaded deck with a sitting area. The tent interior is furnished with twin or queen-size beds curtained by mosquito nets in an open-plan bedroom. A low partition separates the bed from a substantial luggage storage area with a safe and charging points, and to one side is a small lounge with soft furniture. Additions such as a wood burner for colder winter nights, a fan for warmer weather and a cast-iron safe add practicality to the rooms, as well as a characterful, old-world style. By the main entrance of the room is a sliding wooden hatch, which allows the camp staff to bring you your morning tea or coffee without having to enter the room itself. The en-suite bathrooms are equally well designed with twin sinks, bath, separate shower and toilet, and outdoor shower.
The family units at Somalisa Acacia are made up of two tents joined by an enclosed walkway. A young family can opt to keep the canvas doors of the walkway open, creating one large unit, whilst a family with teenagers can close these doors to create two separate en suite rooms.
Almost all the tents are connected to the main areas by sandy paths through the woodland, although from room 1 at Somalisa Camp there is a flat wooden walkway, allowing the possibility of disabled access.
The main areas are open-sided, and built on split-level wooden decks, offering full views of the dry riverbed and the waterholes in front of camp. The waterholes are a huge draw for wildlife, while the pods from the acacia and camelthorn trees that shade the tents are particularly favoured by giraffes and elephants, so you can often get some superb wildlife viewing around the camp itself – just be sure to keep alert when walking from your tent to the main areas. The shady canopy is also a haven for birdlife, with a variety of species making this their home.
On the upper decks at the back of each main area you'll fine a spacious dining room, bar and lounge, while the lower levels form the the firepit and sundeck. Meals at Somalisa are generally communal, although those preferring to dine privately need only ask. The dining table is sheltered under the canvas roof of the main area and, while technically 'indoors', has open views down to the waterhole and beyond. The upper deck at Somalisa Camp also has a curio shop which sells a selection of clothing and crafts – some of which are made by the community initiatives the camp supports.
Each main area has swimming pools on two levels. These were built with guests in mind, but the lower pools were such a draw for the local elephant population searching for clean water, that they’ve been turned into drinking troughs for the wildlife. Guests now use the upper infinity pool for a refreshing dip.
The camp is located on a private concession of about 150km2 within Hwange National Park. As part of its extensive conservation work, Somalisa pumps six waterholes in this area, ensuring a year round water supply for the wildlife – and the result is year round excellent wildlife viewing. Guests of Somalisa have exclusive use of this concession, but will also game drive within Hwange itself. Activities from Somalisa Camp include morning/afternoon game drives and walking safaris. These are supervised by knowledgeable and highly qualified 'Zim-pro' guides, who are enthusiastic about the area's flora and fauna (guiding in Zimbabwe is some of the best in Africa, and some of the best guides are based at Somalisa).
Somalisa also has a raised platform away from the camp, and overlooking a waterhole, which is used for sleep-outs. There’s a toilet on the ground level and the ‘bedroom’ is set up on the platform. A guide will stay in a tent a discreet distance away. Speak to us for information if this activity appeals to you.
The original, simpler version of Somalisa is in the process of being rejuvenated (Nov 2016) and will reopen in 2017. Branded Somalisa Expeditions, it will have six en-suite tents on wooden platforms with bucket showers.
Our viewThe new version of Somalisa is very different from the original, which had bucket showers and was lit by hurricane lanterns. It now has a much more luxurious style, with comfortable furnishings and top service. The transformation has been done incredibly well, and much of the original character of the camp has been maintained. If you are looking for a camp with a good level of luxury and style, yet one that still feels as if it truly belongs in the African bush, then Somalisa would be a great choice.
Ideal length of stay: A three or four-night stay at Somalisa is ideal for most visitors, and this combines well with a stay in Victoria Falls. Some visitors combine Somalisa with its sister camps, which include Kanga Bushcamp in Mana Pools, and both Linyanti Tented Camp and Khwai Tented Camp in Botswana.
Directions: Somalisa Camp can be reached by road from Victoria Falls. This fairly economical option takes about 90 minutes on tarred road followed by about two hours on a game drive vehicle through Hwange National Park. The second part of the journey may take longer, depending on what you see on route. Alternatively, you fly into the nearby Manga Airstrip, and then it’s about a 30 minute game drive transfer from there.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: African Bush Camps
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Somalisa is fresh, and like the camp, well thought out with light fare during the hotter part of the day and warming dishes in cooler weather.
On our visits we’ve found that a typical day begins with tea and coffee at sunrise and a continental breakfast by the fire. There’s usually a choice of cereals with fresh fruit and a selection of seeds, porridge with fruit compote, toast, muffins, cold meats, cheeses and hard-boiled eggs. Partway through the morning activity you’ll break for tea, coffee and soft drinks served with a selection of muffins and biscuits.
On returning from the game drive, we enjoyed a warm brunch during the cooler months of eggs Benedict with mushrooms, tomato wrapped in bacon, roasted butternut squash, chicken Caesar salad, fresh bread and a fruit platter. Later in the year, during the warmer months, we were served chicken kebabs with tzatziki, marinated olives, roasted vegetables, couscous, roasted butter beans, green salad and freshly baked bread, followed by Eton Mess. At another sitting we made up our own pizzas from a selection of toppings, and these were then cooked in the pizza oven by the chef and served with a salad.
Many people like to retire for an afternoon siesta, but you don't go long between meals on safari, with a selection of sweet and savoury snacks served for afternoon tea. Then, during your second activity, sundowners and savoury snacks are offered.
A full three-course dinner is served on your return to camp. We’ve enjoyed a starter of spicy butternut soup and another of orange, beetroot and feta salad. The main course on both visits happened to be a perfectly cooked beef fillet on butternut puree and courgette rosti served with butternut and potato crisps or salad. Desert was a pink grapefruit soufflé on one occasion and coffee flan on another. All this is accompanied by a selection of local beers and spirits, or your choice of South African wine.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks included – including beers, South African wines and soft drinks – although note that there are no drinks imported from outside Africa (eg: champagnes) available. As part of Somalisa’s drive to be eco-friendly all guests are gifted an aluminum water bottle that they can use during their stay to fill up with fresh filtered water as needed; instead of going through numerous plastic water bottles.
Further dining info: Private dinners are possible, with notice.
Walking safaris: A combination of varied terrain, large amounts of wildlife and superb guiding make Somalisa a superb camp for a walking safari in Zimbabwe. On one visit, the resident guide, Alex, took us on a very well-organised walking safari, and we were really impressed by his knowledge and care.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zimbabwe
Wildlife safaris: Somalisa is in an area rich in wildlife, with healthy populations of elephant, buffalo and lion. These and other animals can be seen on walks, drives, or at the waterholes in front of camp, making for a varied wildlife safari in Zimbabwe.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zimbabwe
Attitude towards children: Somalisa Camp does not accept children below seven years of age. However, there is no age limit at Somalisa Acacia, with all children welcome.
Property’s age restrictions: Children under the age of 16 are not permitted to take part in walking safaris.
Special activities & services: Short nature walks around the vicinity of the camp are an interesting and engaging option for children under 16, who may not take part in the usual walking safaris.
Generally recommended for children: For families with children between about the ages of 6 to 18 years Expert Africa recommends Somalisa Acacia. Although the camp does accept younger children, safari activities tend to be too long for them and the open nature of the safari camp unsuitable.
Notes: Somalisa is a very open safari camp, deep in the bush, with dangerous big game passing through regularly. Children must be under parental supervision at all times.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: The camp is run entirely on solar power farmed from impressively sized solar panels – the biggest of it’s kind seen as a safari camp. There is a back-up generator for the very rare occasions where this doesn't provide enough power. There is a strip of multi-national plug sockets in each tent for charging batteries.
Communications: There is no cellphone signal or WiFi at Somalisa, but the camp can communicate by satellite phone in case of emergency.
TV & radio: No facilities available.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: Water from the borehole is filtered multiple times, and provides clean and fresh tasting drinking water.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a basic first-aid kit on site with both managers and guides trained to use it. The nearest doctor is in Hwange Town, about two hours' drive away. A medical air rescue service (MARS) covering Hwange is available in the event of serious illness/injury.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are accompanied to and from their tents after dark a guide. Air horns are provided in each room for attracting attention in the case of an emergency.
Fire safety: There is a fire extinguisher outside the kitchen and outside each room.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: There is a complimentary laundry service included, although for cultural reasons, women's underwear isn't accepted. Washing powder is provided in each room for guests who wish to do hand wash these, and any delicates, themselves.
Money: Each room has a large safe in which to lock valuables.
Accepted payment on location: The camp accepts cash in US dollars, British pounds and SA rands.