Vundu Camp is located on the banks of the Zambezi River in the Mana Pools National Park.
Vundu Camp: Our full report
Vundu is a small camp with a long-standing reputation. It sits on the banks of the Zambezi River in the heart of Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, shaded by a grove of ebony and tamarind trees. An owner-run property, it focuses on offering a variety of activities in a game-rich area of the park.
Vundu Camp is owned and run by an extremely knowledgeable Zimbabwean, Nick Murray. Well-respected within the industry, he is a qualified 'Zim-pro' guide (meaning he has earned perhaps the most prestigious game-guiding qualification in Africa).
Nick has a degree in zoology and wildlife management, and started guiding in Matusadona National Park in 1988, earning his pro-guide's licence in 1991. He has been working with wildlife ever since, and since 1997 has spent most of his time canoeing the Zambezi River, and guiding in Mana Pools.
Vundu Camp has eight large tented chalets, which are clean, spacious and comfortable, if rather simple in design and layout. Outside the front of each is a private seating area with canvas chairs; inside, large wooden beams support a high thatched roof with canvas walls and shade-mesh windows. All have very secure mosquito nets covering each twin or double bed, polished concrete floors scattered with rugs, and free-standing fans. Comfortable wicker chairs with cushions, and a low table, provide a small lounge area, and a shelving unit supplies storage space.
Two of the larger chalets each have two double beds; and a larger family chalet has two separate en-suite bedrooms and a shared lounge: ideal for a family or two couples travelling together.
Each chalet has an indoor and an open-air en-suite bathroom with a flush toilet, hot and cold shower, and decorative pottery washbasins made by Nick’s wife Desiree. Both are spacious, while canvas walls provide a great deal of privacy.
At the centre of Vundu Camp is a raised communal area communal area with excellent views towards the Zambezi, with the bar, dining and lounge areas furnished with comfortable cushioned chairs, a tea and coffee station, and a small library. To the front of this wooden building is a sandy area overlooking the river, with an old ebony tree. A fire is lit here every night, providing a focus for drinks before and after dinner.
Behind the camp is a small 'pan' (a shallow grassy depression with a waterhole in the centre), which attracts game during the day. This is a great spot to sit beneath the thatch-covered platform and view game and birds coming to the pan for a drink.
The guiding at Vundu Camp is exceptionally good, and stands out even amongst the universally high standards across Zimbabwe. While Nick himself does much of the guiding here, he also has a few excellent canoe and Zim-pro guides who he uses on a freelance basis. Nick is acutely aware of the standards of his fellow guides, and at Expert Africa we frequently choose the same Zim-pro guides for private trips and mobiles, both in Mana Pools and elsewhere in Zimbabwe. On our last visit in October 2016 Nick was out of camp, so we were guided by Chester, a freelance guide who has been at Vundu since 2013.
Given Vundu Camp’s exquisite location beside the Zambezi River, it’s not suprising that activities here include first-class canoe trips. On our most recent visit in October 2016 we spent an afternoon canoeing down the Lower Zamebezi with Chester who, like all the guides at Vundu and Nick himself, holds canoe-guiding qualifications and has a great deal of experience on the water – an essential requirement considering the high concentration of hippo and crocodile along this stretch of the river. Canoe trips can be organised starting from Ruckomechi and finishing back at Vundu, or you can paddle from camp towards Mucheni, further downstream. Longer two- or three-night canoe trails are also available.
On land, Vundu's 4WD game drives and walks can range throughout the national park, although most take place in the camp's own private 'concession'. This is a prime area in the heart of the park, covering an area within about 3–4km of the camp. This is classic 'Mana' scenery – with plenty of forested areas, and some of the pools for which the park is noted. It’s very common for a drive and walk to be combined, with everyone hopping out of the vehicle when an interesting track or animal has been discovered. On our last visit we drove in the morning until we found a pack of wild dog, before walking, then crawling, to within a few metres of the pack. We were then able to sit and watch the pack interact with each other, undisturbed by other vehicles or walkers; a wonderful experience only achievable thanks to the exceptional experience and skill of our guide.
It's perhaps worth noting that Nick has been involved in a lot of the research and monitoring of the wild dog packs in the park, so Vundu is a particularly good place for seeing this endangered species. Indeed, throughout 2016 the camp was used as a base by a BBC film crew who were staying here specifically to get footage of wild dog.
Our viewVundu Camp comes with few pretences and without the luxury, or safari chic, that most new safari camps and lodges seem to aspire to. However, in terms of the pure safari experience – the activities, the area, the game and the guiding – we rate Vundu as one of the finest on the subcontinent. Mana Pools is a really stunning park; the game in this area is great; and the guiding at Vundu is absolutely top-notch.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a 3–4 night stay at Vundu Camp. The camp offers a wide range of activities, and most travellers could happily spend 2–3 days just walking here.
Directions: Accessing Mana Pools isn't always easy, and it's always worth checking with us for the latest on this. However, there are three obvious ways to get to this remote camp:
- A scheduled flight into Mana Pools from Victoria Falls or Matusadona;
- A charter flight into Mana Pools from Harare, followed by an hours drive to camp;
- A road transfer from Lusaka via Chirundu, taking up to about six hours.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Nick and Desiree Murray
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We have visited Vundu Camp many times over the years, and have always found the food to be tasty and filling. Our last visit in October 2016 was no exception, and we were particularly impressed with the effort the camp made to cater for guests in camp with gluten and dairy dietary requirements.
Breakfast was a selection of cereals and warm porridge, followed by a hot breakfast cooked to order.
Lunch was a buffet of cottage pie, green salad, a bean salad and fresh cooked bread.
In the evening, drinks are typically taken around the bar, where savoury snacks are served, followed by dinner around the large communal dining table. During our stay we started with butternut squash soup with croutons, followed by roast chicken with rice, carrots and green beans, and a delicious strawberry fool for dessert.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are included except for premium wines and spirits. Drinking water is provided in jugs in the main area and in each of the chalets. Bottled water is also available on request.
Further dining info: No
Birdwatching: The knowledgeable guides and stunning location within deep, shady riparian forest beside the Zambezi River make Vundu camp a great spot for birdwatching in Zimbabwe. See bee-eater colonies, kingfishers and plenty of raptors.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zimbabwe
Walking safaris: Mana Pools is one of Africa’s best parks for walking, and Vundu focuses squarely on the very best professional guiding. Mana’s environment is very open, giving good visibility under a canopy of tall, old trees; walkers can often get surprisingly close to relaxed old bull elephants, as well as packs of wild dogs.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zimbabwe
Wildlife safaris: In the dry season, Mana is one of Africa’s top wildlife destinations; a lush environment with high game densities. Mana’s most experienced guides can get very close to the wildlife. If you want to crawl up to a pack a wild dogs, or sit motionless close to an elephant, come here!See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zimbabwe
Attitude towards children: Vundu Camp welcomes children aged 10 years and older, but this is flexible.
Property’s age restrictions: Minimum age 10 years
Special activities & services: None
Generally recommended for children: With considerable caution, we can recommend Vundu Camp for mature children over 10 – largely because Nick and Desiree have their own children, who also spend some time in camp, and so are very understanding of the needs and interests of children on safari.
Notes: This is a very open safari camp and dangerous animals pass through. Children must be under parental supervision at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: A small diesel generator is on during the day and charges an inverter in the chalets, giving guests light throughout the night. There are also UK-style plug sockets in each of the chalets for charging electronics.
Communications: All game-viewing vehicles have two-way radios. There is no cellphone reception.
TV & radio: None None
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: Water is pumped from the Zambezi River and filtered multiple times for washing and showers. Bathrooms are fully plumbed, with flushing toilets and hot and cold running water.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: All guides have first-aid qualifications, and there is a doctor on stand-by in Harare.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: All guests are escorted to their chalets after dark.
Fire safety: There is a fire extinguisher by the bar.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Included
Money: There are no safes in the chalets. All valuables should be handed to the manager or guide who will store them safely in the office.
Accepted payment on location: No credit cards or travellers’ cheques are accepted at Vundu Camp, but cash payments may be made in US dollars, South African rand or GB pounds.