Amalinda Lodge

Amalinda Lodge: Our full report

Rooms
9 chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (94%) From 18 reviews
Children
Best for aged 12+
Open
All year

Set in a 1.2km2 (300-acre) private concession within Zimbabwe’s Matobo Hills National Park, Amalinda Lodge occupies a truly spectacular location. The lodge, formerly Camp Amalinda, is comfortable and owner run, with authentic, cleverly designed rooms built amongst ancient granite boulders. Come for the setting, the rich history and the opportunity to track rhino on foot.

Often referred to as simply ‘Amalinda’, this was the first lodge in the Amalinda Collection. Today it has three sister properties in Hwange National park: Ivory Lodge, Khulu Bush Camp and Khulu’s Retreat.

You’ll be welcomed to Amalinda at the foot of the hill, but Amalinda’s multi-level main area is set up among the boulders, wild fig trees and paper-bark thorn acacias. The large lounge/bar feels almost cave-like, with granite boulders making up three sides of the room – though the proliferation of comfortable sofas and colourful cushions creates a welcoming space in which to relax. For a little more privacy there are other nooks to hole away in: the small library make a great spot to curl up with a book, the seats by the lodge’s wine cave/cellar have some superb views and the firepit is a favourite spot for a pre-dinner drink. In a nod to the area’s colonial history, a huge communal table constructed from old railway sleepers and rails dominates the dining room; you’ll also find a seemingly endless supply of tea and coffee here.

One of the most remarkable features of Amalinda is a large infinity pool, cleverly constructed from a natural depression within a huge granite 'whaleback', and blending naturally into the landscape. It’s well worth a visit for a drink at the pool bar and to soak in the vista, even if you’re not prepared to brave the unheated waters. Lunch is sometimes served on a ‘beach’ by the pool or in the bar itself.

Like the lounge, each of Amalinda's nine thatched chalets (including three suites) has the feeling of a natural cave, albeit an incredibly well-furnished and very comfortable cave. Each is unique, defined in shape and size by the space allowed by the boulders, which often form the walls of the room; one chalet even features a genuine San rock painting. The suites again are all different, one has an outdoor shower, a couple a bath and one has a separate sala (day bed) accessed by rope bridge. The novelty of sleeping (quite literally) between the rocks doesn't wear off quickly.

Inside, photos of Southern Rhodesia's colonial past set the mood, with leather and teak furniture adding to the overall atmosphere. On our last visit in November 2017 we felt that the open-plan rooms were a little dark but skylights were being added to combat this. Polished concrete floors run throughout, softened by various rugs and mats. The beds, surrounded by mosquito nets, are substantial; there’s a seating area with a coffee table, tea and coffee station and minibar; and you’ll also find a separate writing table with a lamp.

In the en-suite bathrooms, open-plan showers with hot and cold water are carved into the rock-face, and there are flush toilets. Outside, most of the chalets have a private balcony from which you can enjoy views of the surrounding kopjes and rolling hills beyond.

While game viewing at Amalinda is conducted both by vehicle and on foot, the activities here are less focused on wildlife than in other Zimbabwean national parks, with a compensating emphasis on cultural attractions. That said, you’ll often see Verreaux's (black) eagles soaring high above the lodge, while back on terra firma, Matobo Hills National Park has an intensively protected game area, with a high density of rhino. 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 find and approach these giants, though do note that the guides don’t walk with rifles and, while there are no lion, buffalo or elephant in the area, there is still a risk associated with this activity.

On the cultural 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'. Stepping further back in time, Matobo is also one of the world’s richest sources of San rock art. Amalinda is lucky enough to have academic archaeologist Paul Hubbard as a very engaging guide who, on some of our visits to Amalinda, has really brought to life these key aspects of Southern Africa's history. (Do talk to us about what else Paul has to offer – not just at Amalinda but as a private guide in Bulawayo and further afield.)

At a more personal level, you can also visit a traditional village to find out how the local Matabele people have lived for centuries, or see some of the development work within local communities that’s been funded by the Amalinda Collection’s profits and their 'Mother Africa Programme'.

Back at the lodge, walking and mountain biking are additional activities and 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 view

Amalinda is a highly original lodge. 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 lodge in a stunning area, and it's well worth a visit.

Geographics

Location: Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Ideal length of stay: Two nights works well here, or three if you really want to get to grips with the history as well as to track rhino.

Directions: Most guests fly to Bulawayo and are then transferred by road (approx. one hour) to the lodge. Alternatively it is approx. 4 hours by road to Hwange Main Camp.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Amalinda Collection

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On our last visit to Amalinda Lodge in November 2017 we were impressed by the high standard of food.

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 usually served in the main area. We enjoyed relatively simple but delicious tilapia (fish) served with couscous and salad, followed by a fruit sponge.

Dinner is generally a three-course meal. We enjoyed a feta and spinach filo parcel to start. Pork medallions in a creamy sauce were served with potatoes and seasonal vegetable, and a self-saucing chocolate pudding rounded off the meal nicely.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Soft drinks, bottled water, spirits, local beers and a selection of (generally) South African wines are usually included. Other imported wines, 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

Special interests

Cultural experiences: Amalinda's specialist guide, Paul Hubbard, makes this a great place 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 for walkers in Zimbabwe. 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

Luxury: Cleverly designed into the boulders of the Matobo Hills, Amalinda offers a unique take on a luxury safari in Zimbabwe. Relax after dinner with a drink around the fire, as our ancestors have for millennia, then retire to your individual suite and an “olde worlde” opulence of solid wood, leather and teak, and copper antiques.

See more ideas for Luxury in Zimbabwe

Children

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.

Special activities & services: Childcare: Amalinda Lodge offers child minding on request. Please note that the minders are members of the housekeeping staff, and are not qualified babysitters.

Equipment: None

Notes: There are numerous steep staircases and rocky outcrops around the lodge, which could prove particularly hazardous for young or unpredictable children. Supervision by a parent or guardian is required at all times.

Infrastructure

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 free WiFi is available in the reception 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 the lodge. A Medical Air Rescue Service (MARS) is available for serious incidents.

Swimming pool warning: Please be aware that the swimming pool at Amalinda Lodge does not have depth markings or No Diving signs. Bathers need to be careful when entering the pool.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Security guards patrol the property.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the main area.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is usually included.

Money: There is a safe in each of the chalets. There are no money-exchange facilities at the lodge.

Accepted payment on location: Payments at Amalinda are best made in US dollars cash. Visa and Mastercard are accepted subject to the lodge’s internet connection working.

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