Kavinga Safari Camp: Our full report
Kavinga Safari Camp is one of the few properties in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park not based on the ...... banks of the Zambezi River. Instead it lies atop a hill in a private reserve on the southern boundary of the park, a full 42km from the river. Overlooking the ephemeral Ruckomechi River, Kavinga has scenic views of the Zambezi escarpment, surrounding bush and the camp’s showpiece, its waterhole.
During the dry season (April to November) water in the Mana Pools area becomes scarce, drawing much of the wildlife towards the permanent Zambezi River. Most camps in the park are set up along the river to take advantage of this, but the owners of Kavinga Safari Camp and a few others have taken a bold alternative approach. Water might be limited in Kavinga’s remote southern section of the park, but the camp pumps a waterhole here and this, along with a scattering of natural springs on the concession, draws wildlife from miles around.
Kavinga has seven safari tents each built on a platform a couple of metres high on the edge of a cliff, looking down on the ephemeral Ruckomechi river below. This unusual construction gives a particularly good easterly vantage point over the bush, towards the camp’s waterhole and across the riverbed. As a result, guests can often spot wildlife from the chairs on their veranda or enjoy a cup of tea/coffee in the morning and – as we did on our first visit in October 2018 – watch the sunrise from bed through the large glass and gauze doors.
These sliding doors and big gauze windows allow plenty of air to circulate and add to the light and airy feel of these modern, comfortable but unfussy tents. However, if you want additional privacy or to isolate yourself from the sounds of the bush a little then there are roll-up canvas flaps that Velcro into place.
Each tent is kitted out with twin beds with bedside tables and reading lamps, all curtained beneath a mosquito net. A small chair and table with tea and coffee complete the main bedroom. To the back of the tent is the en-suite bathroom with shower, his and hers basins, large luggage rack with a safe and a separate toilet cubicle.
From the tents, winding paths lead to the main area (yes the one made famous by that hyena kill), an open-fronted two-storey structure designed to make the most of the views. On the ground floor you’ll find an open-plan lounge cum library and dining area complete with long table where guests, managers and guides eat together. Behind is a small curio shop with locally made souvenirs, and a bar where guests are encouraged to help themselves if they are unable to find one of the ever-helpful staff or managers.
From the bar a staircase leads up to the top-floor viewing deck. This space seemed seldom used on our last visit but would undoubtedly make a nice spot to relax and enjoy a book or drink. Outside, a small plunge pool is good for cooling off by day and a firepit draws guests to relax and reminisce in the evening.
More winding paths lead down to Kavinga’s water-level hide, which it offers an excellent opportunity for photographers and birders to get close to the waterhole action. There isn’t anything quite like this elsewhere in the park and we certainly felt that this was a big plus.
Other than the hide, activities here focus on 4WD or walking safaris accompanied by one of Kavinga’s fully qualified professional guides. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of animals we saw on the reserve, both in camp and out on activities. By staying close to the dry riverbed we were able to see further and visit the various water points which attract wildlife. A particular highlight was watching a pride of lion, including some very young cubs, on a fresh buffalo kill.
For birders, Kavinga has a lot to offer, not only the usual suspects but also migratory species. We were entranced by the vivid and ever-active carmine bee-eater colonies that were nesting in the banks of the dry Ruckomechi River, meaning we could get some excellent up-close photographs. In addition, the camp is open longer than most properties in the park (1 April– 10 December), giving guests the opportunity to experience the park into the beginning of the rainy season when migrant birds are more numerous. Do note, though, that outside of the usual safari season (approx mid-April to mid-November), larger wildlife can be pretty scarce.
Kavinga is a comfortable tented camp in an unusual part of Mana Pools. We were unsure what to expect but were pleasantly surprised. The area is surprisingly rich with wildlife, the activities were well run and nicely thought out and we were impressed by the unique hide. This is a great option for those looking to experience Mana Pools in a little more detail than the average traveller, for those with a little more time in the park, or for those who want to get close to the action from the hide.
Country manager: Zimbabwe
- Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
- Ideal length of stay
- Three nights is ideal at Kavinga, giving time to relax at the camp, enjoy the hide and explore a lesser-visited side of the park.
- Guests will generally fly to a nearby airstrip before being transferred to camp by 4WD. Alternatively, for those coming from elsewhere in the park, a road transfer might be arranged, depending on the distance.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- On our visit in October 2018 we enjoyed the communal eating and the tasty food supplied by the lodge. We understand that most dietary requirements can be catered for if the camp is advised in advance.
We were treated to a bush breakfast during our stay. Part way through the morning we found shelter under a tree and enjoyed bacon and egg sandwiches with yoghurt, granola bars and a selection of teas and coffees in the company of a very full-looking pride of lions who were lounging a safe distance away. Although we didn’t experience it, we understand that a more standard buffet is offered back at camp.
Lunch was a ham, butternut and feta quiche served with carrot and green salads and delicious fresh-baked bread.
For our three-course dinner, we started with chilled tomato soup, followed by an excellent beef curry and rice. Dessert was a light and refreshing lemon cheesecake.
- Dining style
- Group Meals
- Dining locations
- Indoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Bush dinners and private dining can be arranged on request.
- Drinks included
- Soft drinks, local beers and wines are included in your stay.
- Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park is a superb spot for birdwatching. While Kavinga isn’t located on the main Zambezi River, the area’s varied habitat, combined with an eye-level hide and a longer season than most of Mana’s camps, makes it an interesting option for birders.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Photography holidays
- An eye-level hide is the perfect way to capture a unique perspective on animals and birds without altering their behaviour. Kavinga, the only camp in Mana with such a hide, is a fantastic option for keen photographers visiting Zimbabwe.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Attitude towards children
- Kavinga is fairly welcoming to children, with flexible activities and mealtimes.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No children under 13 in high season (Jun–Oct). Children under 13 are not allowed on walking activities at any time of year.
- Special activities & services
- Generally recommended for children
- The camp’s design isn’t particularly well suited to families with young children and despite the pool, hide and flexible activities we don’t think there is enough to do to entertain younger children. In addition,without a fence this isn’t somewhere you can let children run free.
- Being close to the cliff edge and with steep steps up to the tents, younger children would need constant supervision here.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Kavinga Safari Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Kavinga Safari 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
- There is a back-up generator.
- There is WiFi in the main area as well as patchy cell service around the lodge.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Hot water is supplied to the tents by a solar geyser. Each tent has a flush toilet.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The nearest doctor is in Kariba, a few hours’ drive away. The nearest airstrip is 10 minutes’ drive from Kavinga, which makes an emergency evacuation much quicker. The management and guides are first aid trained,
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- There are no guards here but the managers and guides all sleep on site.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers outside each tent and dotted around camp
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Included, although smalls should be washed with the detergent provided in the rooms.
- The camp doesn’t offer currency exchange. There is a small electronic safe in each tent.
- Accepted payment on location
- There is little need to spend money here but any curios or other purchases can be settled in US dollars cash only.
Other lodges in Mana Pools National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.