Somalisa Expeditions: Our full report
A reinvention of a classic Hwange safari camp, Somalisa Expeditions opened at the start of 2017.The camp sits among a grove of acacia trees in a private, 150km² concession in the heart of Hwange National Park, and offers a friendly if relatively simple safari experience.
Just a kilometre or so from its more luxurious sister camps, Somalisa Camp and Somalisa Acacia, Somalisa Expeditions is an almost exact replica of the original Somalisa Camp (now refurbished to be one of the most luxurious properties in the park), and aims to deliver a simpler, more traditional safari experience than either of its siblings. Despite being the newest of the three, Expeditions – with its relaxed atmosphere, quality service, and intimate bushcamp feel – has quickly become one of our favourite camps in the park.
Although the six tented rooms here are the same that were originally at Somalisa Camp, they certainly don’t feel tired. Rather the reverse: we thought they looked great when we stayed here in November 2017. The tents – two of them combining to form a family tent – are built on raised wooden platforms along a tree line that marks the bank of an ephemeral river. These usually dry riverbeds are used by wildlife as natural paths through the park, and on our last stay, we were treated to a large male lion roaring outside our tent, silhouetted by the light of the moon: a spectacular way to be woken up. To make the most of any wildlife sightings in the riverbed during the day, each tent has a small veranda with directors’ chairs.
Inside the tents, polished wooden floors and green canvas walls exude a rustic, natural feel, balanced by some smart and stylish teak furnishings, while mesh windows allow light and fresh air into the room. The semi-outdoor en-suite bathroom at the back of the tent is a slightly more solid structure of wood and corrugated metal, with a space between the walls and the canvas roof. Despite simple building materials and the presence of a plumbed shower, flush toilet, copper fittings, lavish toiletries and fluffy towels instil their own charm and feeling of comfort.
Back in camp, Somalisa Expeditions’ main area matches the simple but stylish design of the tents, with its lounge and dining area on a raised wooden deck. A former swimming pool provides welcome relief from the heat for the park’s famous elephant herds, which much prefer the crystal clear water to that in the more natural waterhole in front of camp.
Activities from Somalisa Expeditions – game drives and walking safaris – usually take place within the concession, but can also venture further into Hwange. All are led by fully licensed, knowledgeable and, in our experience, enthusiastic guides. Our guide didn’t mind staying with us in the rain to watch lion on a kill; in fact I’d say he almost encouraged it.
Throughout our stay, we were impressed the by the relaxed yet attentive service of our hosts. There was no hint of the stiff, overly formal atmosphere that can prevail in some camps; here it felt as though they were genuinely enjoying getting to know the guests and were happy to be there. One of the hosts even accepted an invitation to join us on one of our game drives.
Somalisa Expeditions provides the experience of a traditional safari camp in the middle of a wildlife-rich area, balancing its simple rustic design with more stylish and comfortable elements. It's a great choice for travellers looking for a classic African safari camp that can deliver excellent guiding and superb wildlife viewing, both on activities and from the camp itself.
- Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
- Ideal length of stay
- A three- or four-night stay at Expeditions is ideal for most visitors, and would combine well with a stay in Victoria Falls town. Some visitors choose to link a stay here with one or more of its sister camps, which include Kanga Bushcamp and Zambezi Expeditions in Mana Pools or Linyanti Tented Camp and Khwai Tented Camp in Botswana.
- Somalisa Expeditions can be reached by road from Victoria Falls. This fairly economical option takes about 3½ hours: 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, then it's about a half-hour game-drive transfer to the camp.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- When we’ve stayed at Expeditions, the food has been excellent – light meals in the heat of the day and more substantial fare in the evenings. As always on safari it’s unlikely you’ll go hungry here.
Breakfast is the usual buffet served before your early-morning activity. There is an extensive range of cereals, porridge, juices, cold meats, cheeses, fruit, fresh bread and muffins, with a hot breakfast cooked to order.
Lunch is a relatively flexible meal. It’s usually taken on return from your morning activity, but when we arrived late from another camp they were happy to whip up an enjoyable light lunch of fish with salad and bean falafel followed by home-made ice cream.
After your siesta and before your afternoon activity, high tea - with sweet and savoury snacks – doubles as a time to meet up with your guide and other guests before heading out into the park.
Dinner is a sit down, three-course meal, usually taken communally with guides and senior staff joining guests. Following carrot soup to start, we had an expertly cooked steak with mushroom sauce served with baked potatoes, roast butternut squash and courgette. Dessert was a fantastic apple crumble with custard.
- Dining style
- Mixture of group dining and individual tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Meals in the bush, by the pool or on your room’s verandah can be arranged on request – with advanced notice.
- Drinks included
- All drinks stocked at Expeditions are included – beers, South African wines and soft drinks – but note that no drinks imported from outside Africa (eg: champagne) are available.
As part of Somalisa’s drive to be eco-friendly, all guests are gifted an aluminum water bottle that they can fill up as needed during their stay with fresh filtered water – thus obviating the use of numerous plastic water bottles.
- Attitude towards children
- Somalisa Expeditions accepts children aged 12 and over.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Children over the age of 12 years are welcome at Somalisa Expeditions. However, the walking safari activities are restricted to children aged 16 years and over.
- Special activities & services
- Two of the tents at Expeditions share a deck, forming a family tent.
- Generally recommended for children
- Families with children under 16 would be better placed at Somalisa Acacia.
- Somalisa Expeditions is an open safari camp, deep in the bush, with dangerous big game often passing through. The swimming pool is also unfenced. Children must be under parental supervision at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Somalisa Expeditions
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Somalisa Expeditions 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.
- Power supply notes
- The camp is run primarily on solar power, but has a back-up generator. Battery-charging facilities are available in the main area and in guest tents.
- 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
- Water supply notes
- Water from the borehole is filtered multiple times, and provides clean and fresh-tasting drinking water.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- 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 by a guide. Air horns are provided in each tent to attract attention in case of emergency.
- Fire safety
- There is a fire extinguisher outside each tent and in the main area.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- There is a complimentary laundry service included, with the exception of underwear, for cultural reasons. Washing powder is provided in each room for guests who wish to hand wash these, and any delicate items, themselves. Laundry submitted in the morning is usually returned the same day, weather permitting.
- Each room has a small electronic safe for valuables.
- Accepted payment on location
- As everything here is pre-paid, there should be no need to pay for anything. We recommend that any tips are offered in US dollars.
Other lodges in Hwange National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.