John's Camp: Our full report
Opened in April 2017, the small, semi-permanent John's Camp is set up at the beginning of each safari season ...... in one of Mana Pools National Park's campsites on the banks of the Zambezi River. Here they stay until the end of the season in mid November, when the camp is entirely dismantled.
With excellent sister properties such as Nsefu and Nkwali in Zambia and Mkulumadzi in Malawi, amongst others, John’s Camp represents Robin Pope Safaris’ first foray into Zimbabwe. In Mana Pools they have chosen a superb location for their brand of simple yet comfortable and adventurous bushcamp, backed by great service and a top guiding team. Do note, though, that while it’s possible to combine John’s Camp with RPS properties in other countries, it isn’t especially easy, as you would need to be routed through the Zimbabwean town of Victoria Falls.
John’s Camp was named after the renowned Zimbabwean safari guide John Stevens, who – despite his busy private guiding schedule – endeavours to spend as much time here as he can. John chose the camp’s current location at Mana Pools’ Nyamepi 1 campsite – although this might change in the future subject to permissions and permits. The current site is a spectacular location at the eastern end of the park, overlooking the Zambezi floodplains, the river beyond and the Zambezi escarpment in the distance. This area of the park has traditionally been quieter than the western side, partly due to its proximity to the park’s wilderness area. We expect that Nyamepi 1 will remain the camp’s setting for the foreseeable future.
With just six Meru-style tents, the camp radiates an attentive and personal feel for all guests. Although simple, the tents are well thought out and comfortable, with a double or twin beds, solar reading lamps, a luggage rack and tea and coffee station. Aside from a basin at the back of the tent, the en-suite bathroom lies through a zipped door. Here, open to the sky but perfectly screened and private from the outside world, are a flush toilet and bucket shower, which is filled with hot water on request (though do remember to allow 30 minutes for the staff to heat it for you).
In front of the tent is a small shaded veranda with a couple of folding chairs, perfect for enjoying a morning coffee, relaxing with a drink and a book, or simply soaking in the majesty of your surroundings.
The main area is equally simple: a big open-sided mess tent housing a communal dining table, a small lounge area and the “bar” – a help-yourself coolbox that is regularly restocked. But the main attractions here are the location and the view. The camp is designed to maintain a simple, authentic safari feeling, with a focus on meals under the stars and evening drinks around the campfire instead of king-size beds, air conditioning and swimming pools. As a result, we felt especially close to nature and the wilderness on our visit in October 2018, particularly when hundreds of buffalo passed through camp in the heat of the day, retreating to the shade after a cooling dip in the river, making a magical if not particularly restful siesta.
All activities from John's Camp are led by professional licensed guides, though meeting or being guided by John himself cannot be guaranteed unless he is booked as your private guide, at an additional cost. In addition to game drives in the Mana Pools area, options include walking safaris in the park which, given Robin Pope Safaris' long history of walking safaris in the South Luangwa National Park, and the relaxed nature of the wildlife in Mana Pools, we expect to be an incredible way to explore the area and encounter both small and large wildlife.
Land-based fishing is also possible, with a daily bag limit for edible tilapia, and on a catch-and-release basis for the prized tigerfish.
It is worth noting that canoeing, for which the park is well known, is not so easily arranged from John’s Camp. If you would like to know more then please speak to us as with sufficient notice we can usually make arrangements for this with a third party.
With a spectacular location and a genuine bushcamp feel, John’s Camp is a fantastic option for those looking to get closer to nature in Mana Pools National Park. The focus is firmly on the wilderness that surrounds you with excellent guiding and friendly service adding to the experience.
Country manager: Zimbabwe
- Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
- Fly from either Victoria Falls (1½ hours) or Harare (one hour) into Mana Pools, where a guide will meet you and drive you through the park to the camp (approx. 45 min).
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board
- Food quality
- Despite the semi-permanent nature of the camp, the food quality here was superb on our visit in October 2018. With sufficient notice the camp can cater for most dietary needs.
Breakfast was a simple meal of porridge and rusks with a selection of juices and tea and coffee, served round the fire. The aim here was for an easy meal to allow guests to get out into the park quickly for the morning activity. We understand that a more substantial cooked breakfast is available to order.
Lunch was a quiche loaded with roasted veg, served with a chickpea salad – a fairly simple meal but perfect for the middle of the day in the October heat.
Our three-course dinner was served under the stars, lit by paraffin lamps. A butternut soup starter was followed by lasagne served with Greek salad and garlic bread: a welcome change from the usual meat and two-veg usually presented on safari. A lime-cream pudding, similar to a key-lime pie, rounded of the meal beautifully.
- Solo Travel
- John's Camp doesn't charge single supplements and both meals and activities are taken as a group with other guests. This makes it an affordable and sociable option for solo travellers visiting Zimbabwe's Mana Pools National Park.
- See ideas for Solo Travel
- Attitude towards children
- Children over the age of 12 are welcome.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No children under 12 unless the camp is booked on an exclusive basis, or by special arrangement.
- Special activities & services
- Generally recommended for children
- John’s Camp is a simple bushcamp with little to entertain children and a decidedly adult feel. We don’t think it is well suited to families with younger children.
- The camp is located in a wildlife-rich area of the park with no fences and direct access to the Zambezi River, so children staying here would need constant supervision.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from John's Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at John's Camp 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
- Rooms are lit by solar lighting and there is a charging station in the main area for electrical.
- None available to guests; the camp has communications for use in case of an emergency.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- River water is used in the showers, flush toilets and basins.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Camp management and guides are trained in first aid. The nearest airstrip is a 45-minute drive away, and in an emergency guests would be airlifted from here (in daylight hours only) to Harare, taking about an hour.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- All guests are escorted to their tents after dark. Managers and guides all sleep on site.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers around the camp.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Not possible
- While there are no safes in the tents, valuables can be handed to the management for safe keeping.
- Accepted payment on location
- There are no card facilities here as there is little need to pay for anything, but any payments and tips should made in US dollars cash.
Other lodges in Mana Pools National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.