The Elephant Camp

The Elephant Camp: Our full report

Rooms
12 tented chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (91%) From 9 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
All year

The Elephant Camp is situated on its own private concession within the Victoria Falls National Park, 15 minutes’ drive from Victoria Falls town and the waterfall itself; guests are offered two complimentary transfers per day. Designed to match the style of a safari camp rather than that of the larger hotels within the town, the camp is managed by the charismatic Jonathan Ellway, who has a wealth of experience in the tourism industry.

The Elephant Camp is set on a rise overlooking the national park and on to the Batoka Gorge. Game does pass through the area – a couple of old male buffalo had made a spot below the main lodge their home during one of our visits – but fundamentally The Elephant Camp is a place to relax in a bush setting at the beginning or end of a trip, and a base for visiting the Victoria Falls.

With a canvas structure, and a breathtaking view of the Batoka Gorge, the 12 luxury tents at The Elephant Camp feel like those at a smart safari lodge, matching the style of lodges in Zimbabwe’s more remote national parks, yet with the bonus of mains electricity and WiFi.

That said, The Elephant Camp doesn't rely on scenery alone to impress guests. The whole camp is designed and decorated in a simple, almost minimalist style and to very high specifications.

Each tent is identical, split into three sections with a private deck and plunge pool in front. All three sections are separated by sliding doors, which can be opened to make the whole tent very open and breezy. The same is true of the doors leading out onto the viewing deck, so that guests anywhere in the tent can enjoy the views. Mesh windows keep insects out but allow light and air in, or the whole tent can be closed up and cooled with air conditioning and fans.

Inside, the floor is polished concrete, scattered with a few rugs and mats to add colour and warmth. In the private lounge area, an old teak chest acts as a coffee table, with a comfortable settee and chair offering a spot to relax, perhaps with a good book – the camp has a small but very good selection of reference and fiction in the main area. There's a tea and coffee station here, too, as well as a well-stocked minibar.

The adjacent bedroom features a double bed with a draw-around mosquito net, and a ceiling fan above. There’s also a small writing table, and a full-length mirror. The clean lines and subtle decoration of the bedrooms are evident in the en-suite bathrooms as well, where you’ll find a bath as well as indoor and outdoor showers, a flush toilet, and a deep porcelain washbasin with complimentary toiletries.

The main area at The Elephant Camp has a large wooden deck where meals or a sundowner can be enjoyed as you watch the spray rising from The Falls in the distance. A proper swimming pool is situated here too. Moving inside there's a large lounge with a couple of seating areas, a dining area and a central bar.

Since the camp is situated in its own private concession, guests don't have to be back in camp before the national park gates close, so can choose to stay in town for dinner.

Interesting for guests are two animal encounters that are available at the lodge. The first, an ‘elephant interaction’, is thanks to an elephant sanctuary on the concession, run byWild Horizons. Elephants orphaned in the 1990s have been raised and habituated here, and in the early afternoon it is possible to meet them and the staff who look after them (trained by Kansas City Zoo), as well as to touch the elephants and feed them by hand. The animals are well looked after, and trained through positive reinforcement methods, and although this is a commercial operation, it is low key and run with a strong concern for ethical responsibility.

The second potential encounter for guests at the camp is with a cheetah named Sylvester, and the staff involved in his care. Orphaned as a cub, Sylvester was found by national park rangers and raised by humans. As he grew larger, his care was passed to the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, who provide veterinary care for injured wildlife in Zimbabwe, and whose headquarters are next to The Elephant Camp. Sylvester has a large fenced enclosure where he spends the night, but during the day he is free to roam the concession. As he is well habituated, Sylvester is used as an ‘animal ambassador’, helping to teach local schoolchildren about human–wildlife conflict.

Animal encounters of this ilk in Africa can be controversial, and sometimes harmful, especially when large predators are concerned. However, we consider that the encounters at The Elephant Camp are done well, and we don’t have any ethical concerns. The animals involved were either orphaned or injured and would have died without human intervention, and none were removed directly from the wild in a harmful manner. Additionally, as these animals are not used for breeding, the populations are kept small and the number of animals used for such encounters doesn’t continually increase in pursuit of greater profits.

However, the individual animals used in the encounters are fully habituated, and can’t be released back into the wild, so direct benefit to conservation is limited (and The Elephant Camp is very upfront about this). Additionally, some people may not feel comfortable getting so close to animals that are generally considered as ‘wild’ species, and may prefer to save their encounters for the more natural setting of the national parks.

Our view

More like a safari lodge than a city hotel, The Elephant Camp is conveniently located for the airport and is a good choice for visitors to the Victoria Falls. With good service, comfortable rooms, and a superb view, we would certainly recommend a couple of nights here, perhaps at the beginning of a trip to recover from a long-haul flight, or at the end of a safari.

Geographics

Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Ideal length of stay: 2–3 nights

Directions: The transfer by road from Victoria Falls Airport takes around 15 minutes.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Wild Horizons

Staff: Manager: Jonathan Ellway

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: The food at The Elephant Camp was very good when we last visited in May 2016. Options are varied and interesting, with game meat often appearing on the menu.

Breakfast is served between 8.00am and 10.30am, with earlier breakfasts available on request. There’s both a continental and a cooked buffet, and a chef is on hand to cook eggs to order.

Lunch is served between 12.30pm and 2.30pm from a set menu, but with red meat, white meat and vegetarian options available. On our last visit we enjoyed stir fried beef with peppers and fragrant rice, finishing with some homemade ice-cream,

Dinner is a three-course meal, with the same menu format as lunch. We started with a mozzarella, tomato and pesto tart, moving on to ostrich medallions, cooked medium rare, with roast potatoes and steamed vegetables, and rounded off with crème brûlée for dessert.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Soft drinks and wines, spirits and beers are included in the price. High-end liqueurs, champagne, imported wines (except most South African wines) and spirits are not. Each guest is provided with a free water bottle, which can be refilled with filtered water. Bottled water is also available on request for those who prefer.

Further dining info: Private dining can be arranged

Children

Attitude towards children: Children over 7 are welcome; children under 7 may be accepted on request.

Property’s age restrictions: Minimum age usually 7 years

Special activities & services: None

Equipment: None

Infrastructure

Power supply: Mains Electricity

Power supply notes: There is a back-up generator.

Communications: Cellphone reception is available at The Elephant Camp, and there is free WiFi in the main area.

TV & radio: No

Water supply: Mains

Water supply notes: All the rooms at The Elephant Camp are fully plumbed in, with hot and cold running water.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: Management staff are trained in first aid. The nearest doctor is in Victoria Falls.

Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk

Security measures: Guests are escorted to their rooms by security guards after dark.

Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are positioned throughout the camp.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Included

Money: N/A

Accepted payment on location: Credit cards are not accepted at The Elephant Camp. Cash payments may be made in US dollars.

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