Ruckomechi Camp is situated along a long stretch of pristine Zambezi riverfront.
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 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 game. 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 for the start of the 2016 season, upgrading their rooms, main area and vehicles. This has given the camp a smart new edge, although the overall feeling of this classic camp hasn’t significantly changed.
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.
Canvas flaps allow movement 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 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.
Blending in well with its surroundings, the main area at Ruckomechi is constructed from canvas and local materials. A large, open-sided canvas 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 a large 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 game.
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 U$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 outside the park is that it is the only Zimbabwean camp along this stretch of the Zambezi offering boat trips 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 (for which guests will need to supply their own equipment).
Half-day canoeing trips are possible fro the camp in Canadian-style canoes. Walking safaris and short nature walks are also options, all led by highly qualified walking guides holding 'Zim-pro' licences.
Our viewRuckomechi Camp is an upmarket property with a fantastic location on the banks of the Zambezi River. It offers one of the most luxurious experiences in the area, and takes full advantage of its location on the river by offering 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.
Ideal length of stay: 2–4 nights would be ideal at Ruckomechi; there’s a lot to see. It combines well with canoe safari along the Zambezi and could also be combined with one of the camps further east, which will operate their activities inside the national park.
Directions: Ruckomechi can be reached by light aircraft from Harare – or by road/boat transfer from Lusaka or Victoria Falls (approximately 5 hours). The nearest airstrip is Mana West, which is 20 minutes' drive from Ruckomechi.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We were unable to sample the food at Ruckomechi on our last visit in October 2016, but on previous visits we have always found the food to be good. Most dietary requirements can be catered for if the camp is given sufficient notice.
On our last stay at the camp, we had a light breakfast of cereals and fruit prior to the morning game drive.
Guests return for a full brunch in the late morning. Ours was a buffet of barbecued chicken with an orange and nut salad and rice, and fresh bread – which is on hand at all meals. There was also a cooked breakfast option. A fruit platter was provided for dessert.
Tea in the late afternoon consisted of chocolate cake and savoury onion tartlets, with tea, iced tea and coffee to drink.
Typically, the three-course dinner would begin with something like a butternut soup followed by roast fillet of beef with a green bean salad, and a baked peach cheesecake for dessert. However, on our last stay we arrived after our evening game drive to find a braai (BBQ) set up under the stars. A selection of steak, boerewors (sausage) and chicken, accompanied by a selection of salads and baked potatoes, was followed by a crème brûlée, and finished off with coffee and aperitifs next to the fire.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are usually included at Ruckomechi with the exception of fine wines and premium-brand spirits. Drinking water is provided in jugs in the main area and in each of the rooms. Bottled water is also readily available from the camp.
Further dining info: No
Photography holidays: In a private concession alongside Mana Pools National Park, Ruckomechi Camp has some excellent game and a particularly scenic backdrop, so is ideal for photography in Zimbabwe. The elephants are generally very relaxed, and boat trips give good opportunities for photographing water birds, river life and close-ups of big game on the islands.See more ideas for Photography holidays in Zimbabwe
Attitude towards children: Ruckomechi doesn’t accept children under 6 years old, unless the entire camp is booked exclusively.
Property’s age restrictions: No children under the age of 6 years
Special activities & services: None
Generally recommended for children: Expert Africa doesn’t recommend Ruckomechi Camp for children under the age of about 16; there is very little to entertain youngsters in between guided safari activities.
Notes: This is a very open safari camp and dangerous game is likely to pass through. Children must be under a parent’s supervision at all times.
Power supply: Solar Power
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 rooms.
Communications: 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: None
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: Water is pumped from the Zambezi River and filtered multiple times.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
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 tent.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry at Ruckomechi is complimentary and done daily.
Money: 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 cash. There are no facilities to accommodate payment by card.