Ruckomechi Camp: Our full report
Refurbished in 2016, the smart Ruckomechi Camp spans nearly a kilometre of riverfront in a private concession ...... just beside the north-west corner of Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, where the vast Zambezi River flows against a backdrop of the Zambezi escarpment. This scenic location, coupled with a high concentration of large game such as elephant and buffalo, has made Ruckomechi a classic name in safaris for many years.
Ruckomechi Camp stands in its own private concession, a short distance upstream from its newer sister property Little Ruckomechi. Covering a little under 40km2, the concession is bisected by the Ruckomechi River, with the eastern half within Mana Pools National Park, and the western side in Hurungwe Safari Area. It's an area of varied habitat, from mopane woodland and scrubland to open grassland, attracting high concentrations of wildlife. This private concession not only allows for greater flexibility of activities than is possible within the national park itself, but also helps to provide a more exclusive game-viewing experience.
Ruckomechi Camp underwent an extensive refurbishment in 2016, upgrading their rooms, main area and vehicles. While this turned the camp into one of the more luxurious properties in the Mana Pools area, the connection with the river and surrounding bush hasn’t been lost.
The camp has ten large tented chalets, two designated as honeymoon suites, and a third forming a family chalet, with an extra bedroom and toilet. All are set along the riverfront, with one long side having views of the surrounding bush and river, and a wooden veranda where you'll find a couple of comfortable fold-up chairs.
Flaps of canvas and mesh open from the veranda directly into the rooms, whose walls and tables are tastefully decorated with local art and decorative features. The beds are covered in crisp white linen, with natural wood headboards, reflecting Ruckomechi's use of local materials. Each chalet also has a writing table, a very comfortable leather chair, a free-standing fan, and bedside lamps using low-energy LED light bulbs. Insect-mesh windows allow a breeze through, and canvas flaps can be rolled down to keep heat in and rain out. Power for electricy and hot water comes from individual solar-power units.
A canvas wall divides the bedroom from the open-plan, en-suite bathroom, which has a wet-room-style walk-in shower, a separate flush toilet, and a long wood-framed mirror set above two contemporary ceramic washbasins. Large mesh windows take up most of the wall at the front, providing further views of the Zambezi River and any wildlife that may happen to be wandering around camp.
The main area at Ruckomechi is constructed from canvas and local materials. A big, open-sided tent provides an airy lounge, with plenty of comfy furniture in neutral colours, as well as a small library and well-stocked bar. Extending from the tent is an extensive wooden platform, where meals are taken beneath the open sky. Somewhat separated from this deck is a small infinity pool surrounded by sunloungers.
Safari activities at Ruckomechi include boating, walking and driving, almost all outside the park itself. While the concession offers excellent game viewing, it is important to note that normal game drives do not go into the main, central area of the national park, which is famous for its long pools, forests and high densities of wildlife.
Guests may, in theory, request to explore beyond Ruckomechi's concession by arranging to hire a private vehicle from the camp (at a cost of around US$400, plus park fees), but we recommend that this is arranged with us in advance; previous travellers have found it impossible to organise once on the ground.
A bonus of Ruckomechi's location on the edge of the park is that it is the only Zimbabwean camp along this stretch of the Zambezi offering river trips (at extra cost) in motorised pontoons and motorboats. These craft are not permitted within the park boundaries, but here come into their own for river-based game viewing, sundowner cruises and catch-and-release fishing trips.
Other options from the camp are half-day canoeing trips in Canadian-style canoes, along with walking safaris and short nature walks led by fully qualified walking guides.
For something a little different Ruckomechi has a romantic sleep-out deck. A little way from camp, this raised platform completed with double bed shrouded in a mosquito net allows guests to sleep under the stars surrounded by the sounds and smells of the bush.
Ruckomechi Camp is an upmarket property with a fantastic location on the banks of the Zambezi River. Taking full advantage of its location, it offers one of the most luxurious experiences in the area, with a variety of water-based activities, as well as walking safaris and game drives. The camp's private concession has superb and exclusive game viewing, although a downside of this is that it can stop guests exploring the majority of the national park's riverine areas, and hence some of the most interesting parts of this World Heritage Site.
Country manager: Zimbabwe
- Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
- Ideal length of stay
- 2–4 nights would be ideal at Ruckomechi; there's a lot to see.
- Ruckomechi Camp is generally accessed by light aircraft. The nearest airstrip is Mana West, which is around 30 minutes' drive from Ruckomechi depending on what you see along the way.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- We enjoyed our meals here on our last visit in October 2018. Most dietary requirements can be catered for if the camp is given sufficient notice.
The day typically starts with the usual safari breakfast of cereals, yoghurt, fresh fruit, cold cheeses and meats and bread/toast. A bonus on our visit was fresh pancakes with fruit and syrup, which we particularly enjoyed. Hot breakfasts of omelettes, or eggs, bacon, sausages and tomatoes can be, cooked to order, although this often delays the departure of your morning activity and often guests seem to wait until brunch for a larger meal.
Following a morning activity guests return for a full brunch/early lunch in the late morning. Ours was a buffet of soy and honey chicken with an orange and nut salad, vegetable lasagne and fresh bread – which is on hand at all meals. There was also the option of a cooked breakfast. A fruit platter was provided for dessert.
Tea in the late afternoon consists of sweet and savoury items, such as chocolate cake and savoury onion tartlets, with tea, iced tea and coffee to drink.
Our three-course dinner began with a grilled halloumi salad followed by a choice of duck or vegetable noodles with potato bake and steamed mixed vegetables. The meal was then rounded off with a wonderful apple tarte tatin, and followed by drinks around the fire.
- Family holidays
- Ruckomechi is one of the few camps in the Mana Pools area with a family room and swimming pool. An array of activities makes for a varied stay on a family safari in Zimbabwe, albeit one best enjoyed with older children.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- Ruckomechi Camp combines luxurious tented rooms with attentive service and good guiding to give a modern take on a classic safari. It adds up to a wonderful location from which to explore the iconic Mana Pools on your African honeymoon.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Photography holidays
- Ruckomechi Camp has some excellent game and a particularly scenic backdrop, so is ideal for photography in Zimbabwe. The elephants are very relaxed, and boat trips give good opportunities for photographing water birds, river life and close-ups of big game on the islands.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Tastefully decorated with local art, the sumptuous beds covered in crisp white linen, Ruckomechi is a classic camp with a luxurious touch. Experience impeccable service whilst relaxing in the plunge pool and enjoying Ruckomechi's excellent views of the Zambezi escarpment.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- Ruckomechi doesn't accept children under six years old, unless the entire camp is booked exclusively.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No children under the age of six years
- Special activities & services
- Generally recommended for children
- With a family tent, pool, and varied safari activities, Ruckomechi is one of the better camps for family safaris in Mana Pools National Park. The camp has a mature atmosphere though, and some of the activities such as walking safaris and canoeing (two of the highlights of a visit to Mana) are restricted to children over the age of 16. To get the full experience while staying at Ruckomechi we would recommend it only to families with older children.
- This is a very open safari camp and dangerous game is likely to pass through. Children must be under the supervision of a parent or guardian at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Ruckomechi Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Ruckomechi 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 24-hour electricity in all the chalets, and multiple plug sockets (for UK-style plugs with three square pins) available for charging batteries. Hairdryers cannot be used in the chalets.
- There is no reliable means of communication for guests at Ruckomechi, although the lodge does have a satellite phone and email for use in an emergency. (That said, one or two parts of the camp – notably near chalet no 1 – can often get a cellphone signal from a transmitter in Zambia.)
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Water is pumped from the Zambezi River and filtered multiple times.
Wildlife conservation initiatives
Ruckomechi has been actively engaged in various wildlife research and conservation projects. Since 2004, the camp has significantly supported the research that aims to identify the long-term effects of lion hunting on the lion population and eventually to end sport hunting in Mana Pools National Park. Together with logistical support, accommodation, facilities and human resources, the camp has facilitated interviews with local staff, as well as field trips to observe the carnivores as part of the research. Ruckomechi tour guides and environmental team also enthusiastically track lion movement, thus contributing to data collection.
Since 2006 Ruckomechi camp has been assisting field research on Lowveld wild dogs in the Savé Valley Conservancy (SVC). The continuation of the species is under threat mainly due to conflict with other predators such as lion and hyena. Land distribution programmes in Zimbabwe have also affected the SVC, where over 26% of the area has been encroached on by subsistence farmers, resulting in widespread habitat destruction due to the clearing of woodland for crops, the influx of large numbers of livestock, and the local depletion of wildlife due to intensive snaring.
Finding solutions to reduce the human–wildlife conflict is crucial for the conservation of wild dogs, and research over the years has included education and awareness programmes targeting the different communities.
Other conservation projects Ruckomechi has contributed to have included cheetah monitoring between 2013 and 2016, and since 2014 the team has been mapping the movement of elephants in the Zambezi area.
See more great sustainability projects in Zimbabwe
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- On our last visit to Ruckomechi the camp had an on-site nurse and all senior staff were trained in first aid. In a medical emergency, evacuation would be arranged to Harare or Johannesburg.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Guides will escort guests to and from their chalets at night.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers outside each chalet.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry at Ruckomechi is complimentary and done daily.
- There are no safes in the chalets at Ruckomechi but there is a safe in the main office.
- Accepted payment on location
- Ruckomechi accepts payments only in US dollars cash. There are no facilities for payment by card.
Other lodges in Mana Pools National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.