Giltedge Africa Team Leader & Senior Consultant, Nikki Theron, recently went on safari in Zimbabwe and Zambia. First stop, Victoria Falls, where she visited lodges on both sides of The Falls. Then, on to Elephant’s Eye in Hwange, the largest national park in Zimbabwe.
Here’s what she had to say …
The Elephant Camp, Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)
The setting at The Elephant Camp was more beautiful than I’d imagined. Those sweeping views with the spray from Victoria Falls rising up in the distance – even though I travelled during low water season. Sitting on my private deck, quietly sipping my morning cuppa was the perfect start to the day!
Sundowners at edge of Batoka Gorge was a real highlight. If I’d had the time, I also would have loved to do the Victoria Falls Canopy Tour, whizzing through the forest canopy on ziplines. And meeting Sylvester, The Elephant Camp’s rescued cheetah, is an experience I’ll never forget! (Read more about Sylvester in our tribute at the end of this blog post).
- Location: Private wildlife concession within Victoria Falls National Park.
- Accommodation: Main Camp has 12 luxury suites, while West Camp has 4 suites.
Old Drift Lodge, Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)
Arriving at Old Drift Lodge by boat made us feel rather like royalty. Well, I did anyway! Such spacious public areas and the suites are heavenly. Old Drift really feels like a private piece of paradise. As for the team, they’re fantastic – especially our guide AB. What a character, he had us in stitches! And so knowledgeable.
A moment that stands out was the following morning, standing on the deck surrounded by the most captivating pink and orange skies. It was about 5:30am and I just thought “Shame, my colleagues are all about to start getting ready for work…” Then I finished my coffee, hopped on the game drive vehicle, and forgot about them! ? [Thanks Nikki – Ed]
- Location: Overlooking the Zambezi River, just 7km upstream of Victoria Falls.
- Accommodation: 10 luxurious double suites and 4 family suites.
Thorntree River Lodge (Zambia)
Thorntree River Lodge – just wow! From the moment we arrived, everything was amazing! I headed straight to the sun loungers … IN the pool. Minutes later I had an ice-cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc placed in my hand. Heaven!
Like both Elephant Camp and Old Drift Lodge, the beautiful suites at Thorntree River Lodge are absolutely ideal for couples and honeymooners. Each has its own deck area, private plunge pool (not heated but the well-stocked mini-bars help with that), indoor and outdoor showers…what’s not to love?
- Location: In Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, on the Zambia side of Victoria Falls.
- Accommodation: 12 beautiful suites, each opening onto Zambezi River views.
Elephant’s Eye, Hwange (Zimbabwe)
Being a tented camp, Elephant’s Eye Hwange is for the slightly more “adventurous” traveller and has a rustic romantic feel. Each room is set up on a raised platform, almost like having your own little treehouse in the bush. I’d imagine it being even more so during the icy winter nights with the fireplace in your room. The bathroom’s gorgeous bathtub overlooking the waterhole found even me, the fierce CapeTonian “water warrior”, giving in and running a (small) bath on my last night.
Throughout my safari, the food just kept getting better and better. Then we arrived at Hwange (which was probably about 5kgs later) and met Mofat and Enok … man …can they cook! Masterchef doesn’t know what they’re missing! We also had a really fun “Picasso in the bush” experience, and I’d have loved to spend a night under the stars on the Elephant’s Eye sleepout deck – a bucket-list experience I’ve yet to tick off!
It was pretty hot and dry in Hwange, so the game viewing wasn’t that great. But most surprising was the lack of elephant herds we were all expecting to see, especially considering the amazing waterhole situated right in front of camp (when they’re not drinking directly from the pool).
On our final night, after feasting (more food!) at our boma dinner under the stars and having retired to our rooms, we heard this trumpeting in the distance. It grew louder and louder. Suddenly, elephants came parading around the waterhole, some heading straight to the pool. We all came out onto our balconies and stood in awe watching these gentle giants enjoy a late-night dip.
It was the perfect send-off!
- Location: Private wildlife concession, close to the entrance of Hwange National Park.
- Accommodation: 8 tented chalets, each with a double or twin beds and wrap-around veranda.
A Tribute to Sylvester:
GIltedge Africa does not support animal interactions, however, for Sylvester (The Elephant Camp’s cheetah ambassador) we made an exception. And, once you know his amazing story, we feel you too will understand why.
Nine years ago, a guide rescued a hungry and orphaned cheetah cub whose family had been killed by lions. He was just 2 days old! Sylvester was raised and cared for by the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust; he had thousands of acres to roam and run, amazing handlers and the biggest purr! While Nikki was walking with him, he decided to playfully nibble at her hip: “He basically thought he was a big kitten”.
Sadly, last week Sylvester was attacked by a wild leopard and, despite the best veterinary attention, his injuries proved fatal. During his life he had a tremendous impact on so many guests, while helping local rural children forge a new or deeper connection with conservation. He will be sorely missed. Read more about Sylvester’s story.
Would you love to go on a safari? Drop us a message to start planning your own unique African adventure.