Camp Amalinda has been sensitively built around the rock landscape....
Amalinda: Our full report
The owner-run Camp Amalinda sits in a 300-acre (1.2km2) private concession of the Matobo Hills National Park. In a spectacular setting amongst the ancient boulders of the hills, it’s a comfortable lodge with buildings that have been cleverly designed into the rocks – lending the impression that it has almost grown out of the landscape itself.
Camp Amalinda's accommodation consists of nine thatched chalets (including two suites), cavernous structures that are built into and beside the huge granite boulders. The novelty of sleeping (quite literally) between the rocks doesn't wear off quickly.
Each chalet at Camp Amalinda is individually designed and decorated, but all incorporate the surrounding rock – albeit with some help from the cement mixer here and there. The bedrooms have large open windows with roll-down blinds. Polished concrete floors run throughout, dotted with various rugs and mats to give a softer touch. The beds are substantial and large mosquito nets come as standard. In some rooms, wooden storage units from a bygone era are found at the foot of the bed; in others a large ottoman takes its place.
Photos of Southern Rhodesia's colonial past set the mood, with leather and teak furniture adding to the overall atmosphere. There's a seating area with a coffee table, and a separate writing table with a lamp provides a good place for updating a journal or writing postcards home. There is also a private balcony with great views of the surrounding landscape.
The en-suite bathrooms contain flush toilets, and open-plan showers carved into the rock-face, with hot and cold running water. The faux-rock washbasins were in the process of being replaced with more stylish copper and natural wood basins when we last visited in May 2016.
Overall the rooms have the feeling of a natural cave, although admittedly an incredibly well-furnished and very comfortable cave, that feel truly unique in design.
The main area at Camp Amalinda is linked to the chalets via pathways that meander through the boulders, wild fig and paper-bark thorn acacia. Guests can relax in the cavernous lounge, which is decorated with teak furniture and plenty of comfortable and colourful cushioned sofas. There's also a small library here stocked with local reference books and novels. To the side is the rather impressive bar area, set into the rock face beneath what looks like a very precariously positioned boulder (for a better idea of what we're talking about, take a look at the slide show to the side of this page).
Moving down some steps from here you’ll reach the dining and reception area, home to a frequently replenished tea and coffee station. Meals are usually taken communally at Amalinda, typically starting with a drink (perhaps from the camp’s wine cellar around the open-air firepit, before moving to the huge dining table. The table seats around 15, and has been constructed from old railway sleepers and rails, giving a nod to the colonial history of the area.
Further down the hill from the main lodge is a large pool, cleverly constructed from a natural depression within a huge granite ‘whaleback’, giving it the same natural style that is prevalent in the rest of the lodge. The pool is surrounded by sunloungers, and there’s a small covered bar area where lunch is sometimes served.
As at many of Zimbabwe’s owner-run lodges, investment in infrastructure at Amalinda was limited during the country’s more troubled years, yet the team stayed put during those years, underlying their tremendous commitment to the lodge and the area. When we visited in 2010 there were a few frayed edges, but as prospects for Zimbabwe’s future have started to look brighter, refurbishments are being carried out, and by our most recent visit, in 2016, the lodge was looking great.
While game viewing at Camp Amalinda is conducted both by vehicle and on foot, the activities here are less focused on big game than in other Zimbabwean national parks, with a compensating emphasis on cultural attractions. That said, Matobo Hills National Park has an intensively protected game area, with a high density of rhino – and Amalinda offers the opportunity to track both black and (particularly) white rhino on foot. The open terrain and experienced guides give guests a good chance to first find and then approach these giants. The area around Camp Amalinda is also famed for its high density of Verreaux’s eagle which can often be seen soaring high above camp.
On the sociological side of things the nearby graves of Cecil John Rhodes and Leander Starr Jameson are 'must sees'; the park was formerly called the 'Rhodes Matopos National Park', in honour of Cecil Rhodes.
A major attraction at Amalinda is Paul Hubbard, an academic archaeologist and a very engaging guide. On our previous visits to Amalinda, he really brought the place to life by recounting stories of these key figures in Southern Africa's history. (Do talk to us about what else Paul has to offer – not just at Camp Amalinda but as a private guide in Bulawayo and further afield.)
Guests can also see some of the development work within local communities, funded by the camp's profits and their 'Mother Africa Programme', or visit a traditional village to see how the local Matabele people have lived for centuries.
Human history aside, the Matobo Hills National Park also has an intensively protected game area, with a high density of rhino – and Amalinda offers the opportunity to track both black and (particularly) white rhino on foot. The open terrain and experienced guides give guests a good chance to first find and then approach these giants. The area around Camp Amalinda is also famed for its high density of Verreaux’s eagle, which can often be seen soaring high above camp.
Back at Camp Amalinda, the Heritage Spa & Sauna offers a number of different treatments and products, including 'hot-stone therapy' and Shiatsu massages – a perfect antidote to a long morning or afternoon walking and tracking.
Our viewCamp Amalinda is a highly original camp. It has been built into the Matobo Hills with an imagination and flare that not only incorporates its natural surroundings with great style and comfort, but also pays homage to the area’s history. It offers intelligent historical and cultural activities, relatively easy rhino tracking, and some gentle safari activities that pleasantly contrast with and complement the more safari-focused camps in the larger national parks. It’s a great camp in a stunning area, and it’s well worth a visit.
Directions: Self-drive or fly to Bulawayo and transfer to lodge 65km away
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit to Camp Amalinda in May 2016 we were impressed by the high standard of food on offer.
Breakfast, served in the main area, is a relaxed meal that can be taken early or organised for a little later, depending on your morning activity. There's a simple but sufficient buffet of the usual cereals, yoghurts and pastries, with a cooked breakfast available from the kitchen.
Lunch is again served in the main area. On one of our visits, we had a very hearty lasagne followed by a mountain of profiteroles drizzled with chocolate sauce.
We enjoyed two evening meals on our last visit, both of three courses. The first, a starter of gem squash followed by a chicken roulade with potato wedges, was excellent, but if anything the following evening's meal was even better. A rare steak, perfectly cooked by the chef at our table over a griddle, served with homemade chips and grilled vegetables. Dessert was lemon meringue, which again was excellent.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Soft drinks, bottled water, spirits, local beers and a selection of (generally) South African wines are usually included. Imported wines and spirits and champagne cost extra – and may need to be requested in advance. The tap water is considered safe to drink, but bottled water is available on request.
Further dining info: No
Cultural experiences: Camp Amalinda’s specialist guide, Paul Hubbard, makes this a great camp for those interested in culture in Zimbabwe. An academic archaeologist, he leads fascinating cultural and historical tours around Matobo, and the lively town of Bulwayo.See more ideas for Cultural experiences in Zimbabwe
Wildlife safaris: The Matobo Hills is an excellent and relatively easy place to track white rhino on foot, making it very appealing for a wildlife safari in Zimbabwe. The open terrain and experienced guides give guests at Amalinda a good chance to find and then approach these giants.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zimbabwe
Walking: The landscape around Amalinda is a major attraction to walkers in Zimbabwe, with granite kopjes and valleys providing fantastic backdrops. As a bonus, Matobo Hills National Park is one of the few remaining areas in Southern Africa where white rhino can be found relatively easily, and approached on foot.See more ideas for Walking in Zimbabwe
Attitude towards children: Amalinda is happy to accept children of all ages.
Property’s age restrictions: The age at which children may be taken rhino tracking is determined on a case-by-case basis – by their height, age and behaviour. However, as a guideline, most big-game walking safaris would only be possible for children over about the age of 12.
Generally recommended for children: Although children are welcome in camp at Amalinda, they don’t specifically cater towards children, and supervision by a parent or guardian will be required at all times. Many of the camps activities such as rhino tracking or cultural tours may be of interest to some children, but they also require an amount of patience and walking over rough terrain so won’t be suitable for all.
Notes: There are numerous steep staircases and rocky outcrops around the camp, which could prove particularly hazardous for young or unpredictable children.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: There’s a 24-hour generator as back-up in case of power cuts.
Communications: There is limited cellphone reception in the hills around Amalinda (best when you're on top!). Limited WiFi is available in the main area.
TV & radio: No
Water supply: Mains
Water supply notes: Bathrooms have flushing toilets and hot and cold running water for the showers and basins.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Bulawayo, about 65km from Camp Amalinda, which is where minor injuries can easily be treated. The camp has access to Medical Air Rescue Service (MARS) for very serious incidents.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Security guards patrol the property.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full Laundry Service is usually included.
Money: There is a safe in each of the rooms. There are no money exchange facilities at the hotel.
Accepted payment on location: Payments at Amalinda may be made only in US dollars cash; credit cards are not accepted.