Rhino Safari Camp

Rhino Safari Camp: Our full report

Rooms
7 chalets
Traveller's rating
Good (88%) From 5 reviews
Children
suitable for ages 16+
Open
All year

Rhino Safari Camp is a rustic property set on Muuyu Island in Zimbabwe’s Matusadona National Park, a stretch of land that typically becomes a peninsula during times of low water. The camp acts as a base for walks, drives and water-based activities, and provides one of the best locations from which to explore the national park.

Rhino Safari Camp is one of the most simple and rustic camps that we offer in Matusadona, and it has quite a wild feel to it. This was highlighted to us on our most recent visit in October 2016, when we found a spotted bush snake (non-venomous and not harmful to humans) eating a large gecko in front of the main area. However, the camp also has plenty of amenities for a comfortable stay in a bush setting.

The accommodation at Rhino Camp consists of seven rustic A-frame chalets, which are raised on stilts a couple of metres off the ground, both to catch any passing breeze, and to allow for the extremely changeable water level of Lake Kariba. Each spacious chalet is well camouflaged in the bush, and is set slightly back from the island's shoreline.

It's refreshing to come across a camp that has completely done away with canvas walls and mesh windows. Instead, low reed walls nearly reach up to the low-hanging thatched roof, but leaving enough space for open windows to let in the light and the breeze. Simple furnishings include twin beds with great views of the lake and its drowned trees; a comfortable sofa and small coffee table; a reasonably sized wardrobe and a dressing table. In the early evening, large, light-green mosquito nets are rolled down and secured tightly around the beds. After dark, solar lamps and torches provide light in each of the rooms.

On our most recent visit to Rhino Safari Camp, we were woken in the middle of the night by the sound of elephant feeding just outside our chalet. It was great to be able to lie in bed, completely safe, and listen to these giants feeding just a few feet away. The open plan of the chalets at Rhino really enhances experiences like this.

Half a level down from the bedroom is the outdoor bathroom, accessed by a short set of stairs. The bathroom is equipped with a hot and cold running shower, flush toilet, and a small washbasin set in a teak vanity unit.

The wood-and-thatch double-storeyed communal main area at Rhino Safari Camp is also spacious, with great views through the bush towards Lake Kariba. The ground level has a sandy floor and contains the dining area, as well as a large wooden bar on top of which you’ll find a cold-water filter, which provides guests with clean drinking water and cuts down on plastic waste. The upper storey features a comfortable lounge and a tea and coffee station. This area is well designed to catch the breeze, so can be a pleasant spot from which to watch wildlife during the hotter months of the year (October to Novemer).

In front of the main area, closer to the lake shore, is a sandy firepit where drinks are typically enjoyed pre- or post-dinner, as well as a reasonably sized plunge pool, which we found most welcoming in the October heat.

Activities at Rhino Safari Camp include 4WD game drives and walking safaris with the camp’s professional and extremely knowledgeable guides. Such activities are usually offered on both the island and the mainland, though when the land bridge is submerged you may need to take a short boat ride to reach your game-drive vehicle.

Due to the camp’s isolation you are unlikely to have your activities interrupted by vehicles from other lodges. Thanks to this isolation, this part of Matusadona was designated an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) to accommodate the relocation and release of black rhino. Unfortunately such protective measures weren’t as successful as hoped, and the population of rhino in the park continued to fall. Although we were lucky enough to track rhino on foot on our visit, this species is now rarely spotted in the park. However, there are still large numbers of elephant, buffalo, hippo and antelope here, and the birdlife can be stunning, making the activities more than worthwhile.

Boat cruises down the lake are also a popular activity, usually for a combination of game viewing, birdwatching and fishing. Sundowners are usually enjoyed on the lake, often accompanied by breathtaking sunsets, with iconic views of submerged trees silhouetted in the foreground.

Ask us who is guiding at Rhino when you're thinking of going; in addition to the camp's usual professional guides, there are sometimes some top-class private guides who guide here for a few months at a time.

Our view

Rhino Safari Camp feels remote and rustic, and will suit travellers looking for a more traditional safari experience. The expanse of water all around differentiates it from many safari camps – but more unusual still is it's old-style Zimbabwean ethos: run by a committed team it's all about serious wildlife and good guides, with no time for modern 'safari chic'. We found that the warm hospitality, high-quality guiding and good game-viewing made for a really authentic safari.

Geographics

Location: Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe

Ideal length of stay: It takes time and effort to reach this fairly remote spot, so we’d recommend that you spend 3-4 nights here.

Directions: Guests are transferred to Rhino Safari Camp by speedboat from either Kariba (90 minutes) or Bumi Hills airstrip (30 minutes). Both can be reached with flights from Harare, Mana Pools or Victoria Falls.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Jenny Nobes and Carl Wright

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On visits to Rhino Safari Camp, most recently in October 2016, we have been pleasantly surprised at the high standard of food for such a rustic camp.

An early breakfast is served before heading out for the morning activity. This generally includes a selection of cereals and fresh fruit as well as toast, tea and coffee.

Lunch on return to camp is a more substantial meal. We had homemade burgers with freshly baked buns, bean salad and potato salad, with a chocolate mousse for dessert.

After an afternoon siesta, there's tea and coffee before heading out for the next activity. Then – on return from the activity – drinks are served around the campfire before dinner.

During our visit, the dinner table was laid out under the trees and dinner was enjoyed to the background sound of waves lapping on the shore. We dined on creamed mushrooms on toast, followed by chicken schnitzel with homemade coleslaw, sautéed potatoes and fresh vegetables, and rounded off by a dessert of strawberries, meringues and cream.

Tea and coffee are available in the main area throughout the day.

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. Filtered drinking water is provided in the main area, and jugs of drinking water are provided in the chalets. The tap water is also filtered, and is considered safe for showering and brushing your teeth, but it’s not recommended for drinking.

Further dining info: Not available

Special interests

Birdwatching: With its location overlooking Lake Kariba, Rhino Safari Camp is well placed for birdwatching in Zimbabwe. Sightings include African fish eagles, various breeds of hornbill, storks, geese, ducks, plovers and other breeds of water birds.

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zimbabwe

Walking safaris: The lakeshore and terrain around Rhino Safari Camp is incredibly picturesque. With well-trained guides and plentiful game in this area of Matusadona National Park, there is a good chance of seeing wildlife on foot – so it’s a great option for a walking safari in Zimbabwe.

See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zimbabwe

Children

Attitude towards children: Rhino Safari Camp is not suitable for children under the age of 16.

Property’s age restrictions: No under 16s

Special activities & services: None

Equipment: None

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: There is no mains electricity at Rhino Safari Camp, but there is a solar inversion system (220 volts) for charging cellphones, camera batteries etc. A traditional wood-chip 'donkey boiler' is used for heating water for showers, and paraffin lanterns and rechargeable lamps light the rooms at night.

Communications: Rhino Safari Camp sometimes has cellphone coverage from operators within both Zimbabwe and Zambia. As a back-up, the camp is also in communication with Kariba via lake navigation-control radio.

TV & radio: None

Water supply: Other

Water supply notes: Water for the lodge is pumped from the lake. The bathrooms are fully plumbed, with flushing toilets.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Kariba. Rhino Safari Camp is also linked to MARS (Medical Air Rescue).

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: There are no guards on site

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the chalets as well as in the main area.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: Laundry is included at Rhino Camp, with the exception of women’s underwear, for cultural reasons. Washing powder is provided in the chalets for guests who wish to wash items themselves.

Money: There are no safes, and currency exchange is not possible.

Accepted payment on location: Any additional payment is accepted in US dollars cash only; credit cards are not accepted.

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