Luxury Travel Specialist, Leonie, Reflects on Her Phenomenal Conservation-Focused Safari 

There’s much to love about Zimbabwe, from admiring the enchanting white splendour of Victoria Falls to encountering wild animals at spine-tinglingly close proximity. A lion’s roar might make you jump out of your skin, while the musky scent of elephants swaggering towards a waterhole will leave you transfixed for longer than is necessary. It’s a country that awakens all the senses but also stirs the heart as it’s a significant player in conservation, preserving its wildlife and rare ecosystems and supporting local communities.  

In Spring 2023, I went on a two-week safari in Zimbabwe, exploring its breathtaking national parks and renowned sites like Victoria Falls. The only difference to standard safaris was that mine was conservation-focused, meaning the sites I visited and safari excursions were enhanced by my guide’s intimate understanding of the flora and fauna, animal behaviour and ongoing conservation challenges. I even got to stay in accommodations with their own conservation foundations, some are re-introducing white rhinos into the wild, aiding local villages and treating injured elephants.  

 Check out Wayfairer’s conservation-focused Zimbabwe safari here! 

Leonie_Jake_zimbabwe_trip Sunset_zimbabwe_leonie_photos-1

 

Location 1: Harare  

Our holiday in Zimbabwe commenced with an overnight visit to Harare, a city smaller than other capitals, but because of its sprawling geography, it is pretty spread out. Home to roughly 1.5-3 million people, Harare has obvious South African influences, with local brands in many stores. Nestled in the charming Borrowdale neighbourhood is Armadale Lodge, a beautifully renovated colonial-style farmhouse that was our home for the night.  

Location 2: Mana Pools National Park and Concessions  

The next day, we transferred to Mana Pools National Park, an inspiring UNESCO World Heritage site nestled along the Zambezi River, marking the northern boundary between Zimbabwe and Zambia. As we travelled, I couldn’t help but gaze across the river, noticing how the majestic landscape unfolded to reveal the breathtaking expanse of the Lower Zambezi National Park.   

elephants_zimbabwe_leonie_photos

 

Elephants_water_hole_zimbabwe_leonie_photos

 

Mana Pools is a remarkable destination, renowned for its unique offerings, such as canoeing across the river with only hippos and the scorching sun as your companions. Walking safaris are also a must-try here; since the park is one of the last natural wilderness areas in the world, you’re guaranteed to see some incredible wildlife. The park has a phenomenal concentration of elephants, who have unique feeding behaviour – you might notice some stretching their bodies and trunks in unusual ways to eat from unreachable branches.    

Vundu Camp 

While in Mana Pools, we stayed at Vundu Camp, a remote and serene establishment on the shores of the Zambezi River. The camp features eight recently refurbished tented chalets, each designed with outdoor and indoor bathrooms overlooking the river. The heart of Vundu Camp is its traditional main area, where WiFi, a well-stocked bar, a communal dining spot, and a downstairs fireplace create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Managers Sophie and Ant were excellent hosts, and Nick Murry (founder, polymath, and professional guide) was often there with his son. The whole experience couldn’t have felt more relaxed or homely, made more so by the outstanding, home-cooked meals we devoured.  

Vundu_Camp_Room_-_Double_kr4syf_h24yx7 Vundu_-_Main_Lodge_Experience_zimbabwe

With excellent, knowledgeable guides at Vundu, we thoroughly enjoyed the game drives (which you can also do at night). But the standout experience had to be when we went out into the bush with Nick and Columbus, one of Zimbabwe's top vets, to look for baby elephants displaying bad legs. Darting the mother and baby and participating in taking blood samples with the vet made me want to take action and support Nick’s foundation – Bushlife Conservation. You’ll feel the same way when you’re actively helping the elephants here, and safaris will never be the same again! I can promise you that!  

Location 3: Victoria Falls 

No safari in Zimbabwe would be complete without a visit to Victoria Falls, renowned for being the world’s largest sheet of falling water. It’s known to locals as ‘Mosi-a-Tunya’ (‘the smoke that thunders’) because the Zambezi River plunges dramatically into the Batoka Gorge, creating a thunderous cascade of water that rebounds with mist and rainbows. There are various activities here, including helicopter rides, zip-lining, canyon swinging, and white-water rafting. But we opted to self-guide around the area as it’s well signposted.  

Victoria_falls_train_zimbabwe_leonies_photos Victoria_falls_zimbabwe_leonie_photos-1

Our first stop was The Lookout Café, where we could see vibrant rafts plunging through the torrents below. The café and shops are great for getting a sense of the fall’s majesty and for remembering that there is also wildlife here. Baboons wandered around as if it was their domain, while elephants confidently walked through the town. Quite a surreal moment, to be honest!  

But the star of the day was the sunset dinner cruise. We got to enjoy quality cuisine while the sun set beneath the glistening expanse of the Zambezi River. This was a peaceful and humbling way to appreciate the scenery, and any budding photographer should pack extra batteries – you’ll want to use them. We returned to Old Drift Lodge, ready to rest after hours of exploring.   

Location 4: Hwange National Park 

We took a road transfer from Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park, which took around three hours and offered unique experiences, like dodging potholes and stopping at the Painted Dog Conservation Centre. Spanning nearly 15,000 square kilometres, Hwange is one of Zimbabwe’s best national parks, especially for wildlife sightings. There are around 200 dogs, four of the Big Five and cheetahs in the open Eastern areas.  

Cheetah_zimbabwe_leonie_photos

 

lion_zimbabwe_leonies_photos-1

 

Bomani Tented Camp 

The guiding standards in Hwange are also excellent! This is especially true for the team at Bomani Tented Camp, an Imvelo Safaris property owned and managed by Mark Butcher. He is a long-time PRO guide with an eccentric personality and a real community-conservation focus. There are 11 tents and one thatched family bungalow, while the main lodge overlooks Bomani Pan, offering an open dining room, bar area and lounge. 

Bomani’s remote location, on a 5,000-acre private reserve in the Ngamo Forest Area, is impressive, made even more so by the fact that few have the right to traverse here. This means you’ll have sightings of the Ngamo lion pride and buffalo herds all to yourself. Unsurprisingly, the camp offers diverse activities, such as day and night drives, bush brunches, rhino encounters, community, conservation and hide visits.  

4._Imvelo_Safari_Lodges_-_Bomani_Main_Lodge_ruo5n3_edjlhw-2 17._Imvelo_Safari_Lodges_-_Bomani_-_Saddlebill_Interior_of_the_Twin_Room_qdjtke

During our stay at Bomani Tented Camp, we met our guide, Ndaba, who was our favourite guide for the whole trip. He approached everything with a contagious smile, politeness, attentiveness, curiosity, and a solid knowledge base. He took us on off-road and night drives; the latter is a real plus since it cannot be done on either the ABC/Wilderness concessions. We observed genets, African wild cats, springhares, and scrubhares. Unfortunately, we narrowly missed hearing the lions' roars as they disappeared into the thicket.  

More importantly, Imvelo focuses on community-conservation tourism, encouraging guests to visit nearby villages to learn about the Matebele people’s daily activities and tour the school to hear traditional songs. Butcher partnered with Malilangwe Trust to bring two rhino bulls to Camelthorn’s small concession. The project is called the Community Rhino Conservation Initiative, and guests must visit it as part of their stay. It was a two-hour experience, and we enjoyed seeing the rhinos and getting within metres of them.  

bomani_lions_vgjhhn-1

 

Zebra_zimbabwe_leonies_photos

 

Location 5: Back to Victoria Falls  

Our safari in Zimbabwe ended with a second visit to Victoria Falls, where our minds were full of ideas of when we’d make the trip again!  

Sounds like you're kind of trip? Book Now!

If you’d like to experience this Zimbabwe Safari itinerary, Wayfairer has just launched a two-week, group trip to the area, giving you behind-the-scenes involvement with conservation and people empowerment projects. It’ll also take you to the extraordinary locations I visited – Victoria Falls, Mana Pools National and Hwange National Park.

But hurry, there are only 12 spots available for this trip in June, and you don't want to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Click the button below to start planning your conservation-focused safari!

 

We understand that booking trips, especially adventurous and alternative ones such as this can be intimidating, so get in touch; we can take the stress out of your holiday planning and organise a trip you won’t forget!

Get in touch