Hwange resurrection

Posted by Scott Ramsay on 17 June 2020

After a decade of neglect, three camps in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park are now under private concession management that puts them boldly back on the tourism map.

Renovated and resplendent, Robins Camp is once again the premier camp in Hwange for families and self-drivers. Image: Scott Ramsay.

Robins Camp

Two hours from Victoria Falls, via Hwange’s Nantwich Gate, Zimbabwe

When I last travelled to Robins Camp 10 years ago, it was functionally extinct – walls were crumbling, roofs were caving in, and there wasn’t a ranger in sight. In the past year, this former model of traditional Hwange stay-overs has been resurrected to such a spectacular degree that it will have faithfuls and newcomers alike trumpeting like thirsty elephants at a new waterhole.

The whole camp, including its look-out tower, thatched bungalows and chalets, dining area, lounge, bar and gardens, has been comprehensively renovated. Yet the atmosphere of the old, pioneering Robins remains as redolent as the sweet smell of fresh ellie dung.

The main dining area. Image: Scott Ramsay.

The Matabele-inspired interiors are simple and comfortable, with king-size and twin beds. Family units are also available. All rooms have air con, fans and mozzie nets, with en-suite bathrooms and high-pressure showers fed by solar-powered geysers.

I perched on a sun lounger at the pool with a cold Zambezi Lager and watched the passing traffic at the waterhole in front of camp – elephant, buffalo, impala and kudu are regulars. A troop of baboons forages through camp most days, and a large gang of banded mongooses invite themselves for sundowners, drinking from the bird baths.

Wholesome buffets and á la carte meals are served on the large dining veranda, and every few nights a braai is fired up. The Zimbabwean staff and level of service are typically exceptional.

Legendary Zimbabwean service typified by Vengai Dzoro. Image: Scott Ramsay.

Robins also has a large campsite set away from the chalets and bungalows. Mopane trees give shade in summer, communal ablutions are spartan but clean, and each site has a braai area
and plug point. Book a campsite near the fenceline and you’re sure to see spotted hyenas patrolling their turf and sniffing for a lamb chop.

Game drives and guided walks are on offer. Herds of more than 100 elephants and up to 2,000 buffalos come to drink at the Deka River a few kilometres to the north, and a large pride of lions dominates the neighbourhood to the south near Big Tom’s River.

The revamped chalet rooms at Robins. Image: Scott Ramsay.

Best Feature
Of all the camps in Hwange, Robins is the best for families, with plenty of space for kids to run around on terraced lawns. It’s fenced, and there’s a big pool.

From R1,990 pp sharing, full board, R995 for kids (there’s a stay-three-nights-pay-for-two special until the end of May). Guided game drives and walks from R925 pp. Campsites are R300 per site.

010-446-7692, robinscamp.com

Deteema Springs and Deka

South of Nantwich Gate, Hwange, Zimbabwe

Deka Camp is the remotest camp in northern Hwange, ensuring guests enjoy a more intimate experience. Image: Scott Ramsay.

Hwange’s exceptional game viewing just got even better. In the north of the park, Deteema and Deka have always been closely guarded secrets among safari cognoscenti.

During the dry September and October months you will regularly find more than 1,000 elephants drinking daily from these two perennial water sources. Some experts rank it as one of the most impressive annual wildlife events on the whole continent.

The dam and springs at Deteema are also magnets for hundreds of Cape buffalo, as well as giraffe, zebra and kudu which jostle for position to avoid the lurking lions.

West of Deteema the Kalahari grasslands near the source of the Deka River draw herds of sable, roan antelope, zebra, wildebeest, elephant and tsessebe (usually the only place in Hwange where this species can be seen).

Perched on a ridge, Deka Camp looks onto the source of the perennial Deka River, surrounded by open grasslands. Image: Scott Ramsay.

These two Zimbabwe Parks campsites – previously derelict but still revered – are now privately managed by the experts at Machaba Safaris on a concession lease. Both have been converted into high-end tented camps in line with contemporary safari style.

Deteema Springs Camp is built on a historical Zimbabwe Parks picnic site (just a kilometre upstream from the dam). Eight tents on platforms are positioned above the springs which ooze from the calcrete cliffs opposite camp. From the tents’ decks, guests have prime views of the action below. Breeding herds visit in the late afternoon, moving past within touching distance of the tents.

This camp probably offers the most intimate wildlife experience in Hwange. Chances are you’ll see more animals from your bed or deck chair than on a game drive. I lay in bed at night, listening to elephants slurping up the spring water like kids sucking milkshakes through straws.

Deteema Springs Camp has one of the few permanent fresh-water sources in northern Hwange, and in the dry season elephants wander through camp every day. Image: Scott Ramsay.

Along with renowned Sinamatella, Deka Camp, out towards the Botswana border, arguably has the best views in Hwange. Eight canvas and thatched huts stand high on a ridge above the source of the Deka River, with sunrise views.

During my recent visit, a thunderstorm rolled across the horizon at dusk and lions roared in stereo from either side of the camp. Deka is an exclusive concession in the remotest camp in northern Hwange, so guests mostly have the whole area to themselves.

Intimate and rustically luxurious (with great wildlife sightings) Deteema Camp is northern Hwange’s finest all-round camp. Image: Scott Ramsay.

Best Feature
Unrivalled game-viewing from both camps and the food is excellent.

Deteema from R6,120 pp sharing; Deka from R8,190 pp sharing, both full board, including drinks, guided game drives, walks and park fees. Kids over six from R3,060 pp.

010-446-7691, machabasafaris.com


This article was first published in the April 2020 issue of Getaway magazine.

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All prices correct at publication, but are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please check with them before booking or buying.


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