My latest travel insurance adventure took me to remote camp on the southern shores of lake Kariba in the Matusadonna wilderness area of Zimbabwe. The first thing you notice about Rhino Camp is that it’s a far boat drive across the lake from Kariba town. Local Zimbabweans may construe a negative from this but really for a few dollars more fuel that would be a mistaken way of looking at it. The extra distance adds to the adventure and the feeling that you are getting away and into the wilderness into your own private space. Something that the closer camps seem to have lost and which Rhino camp fully embraces.
On arrival at the camp we were picked up by the camp manager, and our guide Steven Chinhoyi and driven in open top landrovers to the camp a short distance from the harbour. Elephants and the ubiquitous impala teem the shore line are accustomed to vehicles or generally not overly fearful of human activity.
The first thing that strikes you when you get to the camp is how well it blends with the shady Natal Mahogany trees its sits under. A double story thatched structure holds a comfortable lounge upstairs with great views of the lake and underneath is the bar and dining area. We sat down for a lunch under the trees and were visited by a bull elephant grazing quietly around the camp not more than 20 metres from where we ate. The camp is run by Jenny and Karl Wright and from the booking to the greeting and hosting its a very professionally run operation. Man-made structures are kept to a minimum to add to the wilderness feel and all the paths are simply well trimmed paths through the thick jesse bush consisting of neatly raked sandy soil that occurs naturally. Not once did I get the feeling that I would lack any comforts but the minimalist approach to disturbing the natural landscape added to the feeling that I was truly in the bush. In short, the balance between comfort and unspoilt surroundings was almost perfect from my perspective.
Some people of more nervous disposition may beg to differ and certainly walking from the main dining/lounge area to the rooms one has to be aware of the possibility of bumping into a dangerous animal. The elephant we encountered outside one of the rooms was friendly but wary. At night, Steven provides armed escort to the room and its is certainly not advisable to walk around at night. There are no fences.
The rooms are raised platforms under thatch that over look the lakes and a real highlight of the camp. The fact that they are raised above the bush gives a great view almost 360 degrees, that is if you keep the canvas flaps up. The beds are situated under mosquito nets and face the view of the lake. A coffee table and couch complete the lower part of the room for a sitting in an absolute splendorous environment under cool thatch, raised above the bush, overlooking the spectacular lake and scraggly, artistically-sculpted, dead mopani trees in the lake. I found this style of room refreshingly better than a luxury tent because you feel so much part of your surroundings but your elevation not only makes you feel safe, but also gives excellent opportunities for birding and game viewing, reading, resting – need I say more!
Entering the rooms up the stairs from the back you pass the open-air bathroom. It’s screened from outside view because it is surrounded by reed walling. I was glad that in the heat of Kariba the shower was under the stars. The water is hot though, from fire stoked boilers and the toilets are flushing. For the shy couple there could be a bit more privacy but I don’t see how they could have been done any other way. As rudimentary and simple as it is, the bathroom is quaint and charming and everything from soap to towels to hand wash is provided.
The activities include, game drives on open-topped land rovers along the shore line, walking and boating including fishing and game drives. Boating is great for spotting water birds and hippo and you can catch perhaps the most exciting fresh water fish, tiger and one of the most delicious, bream. We opted for the game drive. Stephen Chinhoyi was our guide and his knowledge of the bush was excellent. This accompanied with a very amenable and accommodating attitude (photographing dragonflies was easily and enthusiastically assisted).
The low lake provided a large expanse of grassland loved by impala, elephants and hippos. The elephants are very relaxed there and therefore its easy to drive up close to them to get some great pictures. At the extreme edge of the lake the bush is thick with mopani and jesse bush which is home to all sorts of interesting animals such as banded mongoose and the ever present and frightening looking, golden orb spider which is actually harmless.
The game drives and the boating are manna from heaven for wild life photographers. Even the elephants gave us a few mock charges but the spectacular birds such as raptors, fish eagles, lilac breasted rollers, bee eaters all give ample opportunity to catch your shot.
Nature enthusiasts will also learn much from the knowledgeable Stephen who is always willing to stop and show you something interesting that his sharp eyes pick out.
A morning and an evening on a game drive feel likes a week of firsts, there is always something new to see and experience. The sunsets on Lake Kariba are events not to be missed. Apart from sinking your beverage of choice in an explosion of colour in one of Africa’ s most spectacular settings, Stephen put all the photographers in front of elephants and dead trees with water in the back ground.
Rhino Camp provides a wilderness experience that combines well thought out simplicity with comfort, great service and good food. If you want to experience Africa at its finest topped off with the magical Lake Kariba there can be few better places. If you are not used to the bush or frightened of wild places and crawling things then perhaps do not come. If you like comfort but still want to feel at one with your surroundings this is your place.
Travelinsure provides comprehensive travel insurance for South Africans travelling abroad. We recommend our Africa and Asia cover for those wishing to come to Rhino camp. For more information on booking a trip here see the Rhino camp website at http://www.rhinosafaricamp.com/.