Nhambo Self-catering Lodge
Perched on a cliff above the Save River that marks the boundary of Gonarezhou National Park in south-eastern Zimbabwe. Look down. A leopard. Watching an eland drinking. A crocodile drifting in the shallow shadows. The sun bursts above the bush. Breakfast time. For you. And the leopard.
The main lodge here is Chilo Gorge and Nhambo Self-catering Lodge is a small camp close by. You may use the main lodge for meals and activities by prior arrangement. Nhambo is a large, two storey, thatched roof kind of place. The views are immense. The camp is just outside the national park, which is just across the border from the Kruger in South Africa. Boy, oh boy, these are two different worlds. Here there are no tar roads, no fenced campsites, no shops. This is a remote location, there's no nonsense. It's vast and unexplored.
Gonarezhou is the country's second largest national park and covers just over 5,000 square kilometres. This place spews wildlife. The river is home to resident hippos and crocodiles. Buffalos come to drink. There are more elephants here than in the whole of Mozambique. Lion too, roaring at night, hyena howl. Anti poaching measures mean their numbers have finally begun to recover. In 2015 a predator survey counted 125 lions, up from 31 in 2009.
Cummnity-driven conservation fires the soul of Chilo Gorge and Nhambo and the wildly successful CAMPFIRE project (Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources) began here. Since then the CAMPFIRE method has since spread into Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and across Africa and the rest of the world.
Nhambo camp has four double chalets all with en suite bathrooms and private balconies. Nhambo is a smaller enclave of Chilo Gorge and includes its own plunge pool, braai area and kitchen. It's ideal for a family or group of friends looking for a self-contained option. But you don't have to do it, you can head to the lodge for meals if you're cooking really sucks. There's also a family chalet which sleeps up to six. This is big and private with its own kitchen, garden and two bathrooms. Children are welcome, but remember the lodge is perched on a cliff and there's a large, outdoor swimming pool.
The lodge has its own back-up generator but runs on mains electricity. Just in case you find yourself plunged into darkness on a moonless night.
Four double chalets with en suite bathrooms and private balconies; double volume living area with lounge, dining room, bar and library; garden; swimming pool; patio
Game drives, game walks, naturally. Marvel at the 1,000-year-old baobab trees, cross the river beds and wander up to the top of spectacular red cliffs. Look out for wild dogs; Gonarezhou has one of the strongest populations of these endangered carnivores.
You could walk to the Chivilila Falls which is about 2km from camp – you have to go with a guide, remember you really are in the wild here so your guide will be an armed one.
Want to go further? Get closer? Then visit the Chilojo Cliffs on the 'Chilojo Adventurer'. This is a three-night sleep out safari which helps you get properly stuck in. If you're not good at living in the moment this experience will thrust you into it. Your senses will go into overdrive, your mind can't wander off when you're this immersed in wild. Wild, wild, three nights, wild. Gonarezhou means 'the place of elephants' and the best way to see them is like this.
Or cruise on the Save River looking for game (water levels permitting) - you can canoe if it's the rainy season.
Or fish. Or bird watch at Tambahata Pan, look out for brown headed parrot and Natal francolin.
The lodge can also arrange a visit to the Shangaan village of Mahenye, as they have close ties with them.
There's a strong team of guides here, led by Zimbabwean conservationist and Chilo Gorge founding father, Clive Stockil. He was born on a farm nearby, brought up speaking local languages and is devoted to saving the animals of Gonarezhou and helping its people. He is now working on the Jamanda project. With his help, local villagers are creating a new wildlife reserve from little-used land, funded by jobs at the lodge and a small levy on visitors.
And when you're shattered, you know what? Just stay put and view game from the comfort of the camp.
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