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We gave our correspondent, Dr Barbara Czyzewska, one overriding mission when devising this feature series: look for luxury destinations both on and off the beaten track. For our second episode we’re delivering on diversity by profiling a destination which could hardly be more different than the crisp alpine air of St. Moritz – Zimbabwe.

As the seasons change and thoughts turn to spectacular summer trips, the more adventurous among us might be thinking of an African safari and the chance to observe some wonderful wildlife at close quarters.

If seeing the ‘big five’ (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffaloes) is your aim, then South Africa tends to be the place to go. Here, though, we’re venturing a little further north, to Zimbabwe.

Why Zimbabwe?

Home to the extraordinary Victoria Falls – a World Heritage Site – Zimbabwe also boasts some of the best wildlife encounters on Earth, with a network of giant nature reserves crisscrossing the country.

Hippo chic…

The two biggest parks are the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), which is the size of France and includes Victoria Falls, Hwange and Lake Kariba. The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, meanwhile, is equivalent to the size of the Netherlands. These transfrontier areas exemplify the close cooperation between southern African countries like Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia to preserve natural and ancient migratory channels for animals, while also maintaining their traditional habitats.

Once in a park, you can be assured of expert guidance, because Zimbabwe’s safari guides are considered to be among the best in the world. This is due to their extremely rigorous training, which takes at least five years to complete and involves everything from learning all the Latin names of birds, plants, insects and animal species to basic first aid, advanced driving skills and weapons handling. The training course is so tough that in some years only five percent of the incoming class make it to the final written exams!

Barbara’s best luxury stays in Zimbabwe

What could be a better start to an exciting safari summer if not camping? Rest assured, gone are the days when camping was uncomfortable and provided only basic facilities. For ‘glamping’ (a term combining the words glamorous and camping) options, check out these two camps, both of which are recommended by Condé Nast Traveller:

Tembo Plains Camp – is situated in a thick forest on the edge of the Zambezi River, in the private 128,000-hectare Sapi Private Reserve, East of Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park.

The pool at Tembo Plains Camp.

The camp is among operator Great Plains Conservation’s Réserve Collection of premium facilities, and it is also the only luxury Zimbabwean safari camp to be a member of Relais & Châteaux.

The camp’s suites each feature a private indoor lounge area, outdoor swimming pool and outdoor dining area. For guests who need to keep in touch with professional life, there are working areas with Wi-Fi. Each suite also comes with a professional camera and lenses, so there’s every opportunity to come away with a stunning pictorial memento of your safari.

In the camp’s main area you’ll also find a spa that opens out into the wilderness and features a range of treatments with products inspired and personally chosen by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the founders of Great Plains Conservation. Guests can also enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner menus at the ‘interactive’ 5-star kitchen and dining room, as well as the extensive wine cellar.

Fothergill at Matusadona National Park – sits in a park covering 1,470 sq. km of untouched, rugged wilderness, which is home to an exceptionally diverse range of flora and fauna. The eco-diversity within the park serves a crucial role as a habitat for a variety of lake, river, savannah, and woodland species.

Sunset dinner at Fothergill.

The park was the first in Zimbabwe to be covered by the African Parks mandate for the rehabilitation and long-term management of protected areas. As a visitor, you are directly contributing to the conservation efforts being carried out by the Fothergill team, alongside the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife management authority and African Parks.

Doing good doesn’t mean you have to forsake the comforts of a luxury stay, however. Accommodation at Fothergill is arranged across two separate but linked camps. One comprises seven Lake Suites, of which two are Family Suites. These are supplemented by Little Fothergill, which offers a further three suites that can be booked separately or as an add-on to the main suites.

All suites are bright, breezy and very spacious, with subtle yet stylish décor that includes touches of bright African color. The public areas in each camp offer Wi-Fi connectivity, while the Lake Suites and Little Fothergill have a swimming pool, alfresco seating areas and decks, as well as shady indoor lounges and dining areas. The guest experience is complemented by a private safari guide with vehicle, and a personal chef.

What to do in Zimbabwe

Bespoke safaris

Gotta see them all!

There’s more to Zimbabwe than wildlife safaris, of course, but for the purposes of this feature we’re going to focus on getting you closer to the country’s flora and fauna.

One family company that does this extremely well is Mavros Safaris. They will ensure that your stay is not only luxurious, but also that you learn about Zimbabwe’s wildlife from families who have been living in the area for generations.

The company was founded in 2016 by Alex Mavros and his wife Alexandra. Alex grew up on a game farm overlooking the Umwimsi Valley outside the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. That gave him a sense of freedom and adventure which has never left him – he says he’s still happiest off grid in the African bush camping beneath the clear night skies.

Mavros Safaris offer custom-made safari packages across the different African seasons, and which can incorporate premium extras including the finest guides as well as private flights and ultra-luxury villa accommodation.

You can discover more at the Mavros Safaris website:

Water-based adventures

If you think that you have seen it all, how about trying to meet hippos and crocodiles face to face by taking a cruise on the Zambezi River, or spotting elephants bathing in the Kariba Lake?

Cruise company CroisiEurope has created a luxurious 9-day itinerary that promises these unique experiences and much more. It was the subject of a glowing feature in Condé Nast Traveller last year.

On board the African Dream.

At the heart of the water-borne offering by CroisiEurope is the African Dream and its sister ship Zimbabwean Dream. Holding just 16 passengers in eight cabins, these well-appointed vessels take passengers onto Kariba Lake to witness herds of hippos, crocodiles, and more than 240 species of native birds – not forgetting some unforgettable African sunsets.

Last but not least, if your appetite for adventure is still not satisfied, why not book a helicopter flight over the mighty Victoria Falls – sure to be an experience that will create a lasting memory.

Where to eat luxuriously in Zimbabwe

All the luxury hospitality offerings I’ve noted above will delight your tastebuds, but here’s an interesting option to keep you well fed regardless of where your Zimbabwe safari has taken you!

Dine alfresco!

The Safari Butler is the brainchild of former professional rugby player Dean Dewdney, who made a post-career return to his native Zimbabwe with both food and travel foremost in his mind.

Using a model developed across several years, Dean’s business satisfies both these cravings, bringing an element of sophistication and elegance to the most remote destinations. Accompanied by a fully stocked 4×4 rugged bush kitchen with a portable dining room, The Safari Butler enables guests to feast in style while surrounded by untamed African wilderness.

Discover more at:

That’s it for our whistlestop tour of surprising Zimbabwe. We hope you’ve enjoyed this second edition of our luxury destinations guide, and make sure to join us next issue where we will be setting out in search of the perfect beach…

Photo credits

Main image: Bruce Williams/Getty
Hippo: David Fettes/Getty
Safari: Jason Edwards/Getty

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