Recently, a colleague and I had a truly well-rounded Okavango Delta experience. We enjoyed the thrilling game sightings of Shinde, the water ways and game drives at Splash Camp before ending up at the lushness of Setari Camp in the Panhandle. Technically, the Panhandle is the Okavango Delta, but it offers an entirely different experience.
We were captivated from the word go. Heading off to SHINDE CAMP, we were picked up from the airstrip and told that it’s a 40 minutes game drive to camp. Being 10am, we expected a relaxing drive with little game, perhaps the odd impala, zebra or elephant. To our amazement, we saw a cheetah mother and her two cubs relaxing on an ant hill. Then after speaking on his radio, our guide asked if we wanted to see something awesome which turned out to be a pride of lions with baby cubs. All this within 40 minutes of arriving in the Delta! Complimenting the game experience was Shinde Camp itself. This camp is for everyone: families, groups, honeymooners. Shinde Enclave even has its own chef and private guide. Two nights is just not enough time to enjoy the splendour of this camp.
Our next stop was SPLASH CAMP. After the amazing sighthings before, we jokingly told our guide that Shinde had set the bar very high and Splash was unlikley to match what we had already seen. And what did the tracker pull out of the hat? A honey badger, quite a rare sighting! We were beyond excited. That was followed up during our stay with a large pride of lions numbering 17 with at least 5 males and numerous lionesses and cubs. We even got to see a hyena taking a mud bath in the middle of the day to cool off, while checking out a nearby impala. The impala was clearly not getting the memo that it could be lunch! There is boating at this camp and water permitting, mokoro rides are also on offer. Set in a private concession, this is a real escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Both Shinde and Splash camps are in game rich areas and there was constant action during our stay!
It was then that Keneilwe and I were off to SETARI CAMP located in the Panhandle. This was a different experience all together. Huge Papyrus, big reeds line the water ways and the very tall Palm trees give this area a lush “jungle” feel. With water as far as the eye can see, boating and mokoro rides are available all year round. As you navigate the waterways, your guide will delight you with stories of life in the Panhandle and even show you how to make hats and necklaces from reeds and water lily pads. The bird life is truly spectacular. Walking through the village is a must do with beautiful original Setswana mud huts and dancing children. Take advantage of helicopter flights to see this part of the Delta by air. But most of all, put your feet up with something to drink in your and enjoy the tranquillity of the Panhandle
I knew there was something special about Mana Pools the minute the plane touched down on the dusty airstrip. I could not put my finger on it just yet, but little did I know I was about to experience the magic that Mana Pools has to offer.
Located in the far north of Zimbabwe, Mana Pools National Park lies in the heart of the Lower Zambezi Valley. Mana Pools is remote, it is wild, is incredibly beautiful and it is magical. The night skies captivated me the first night as we enjoyed a barbeque under the stars. Nowhere else have I witnessed such clear skies with sparkling stars. While trying to focus on the stars, my attention was drawn to a lion calling in the night. It seems I was not the only one distracted – it was loud and it was close!
The flood plains are teeming with hippo, crocodiles and impressive birdlife. If hippos are your drawcard, you do not want to skip Mana Pools. Canoeing down the Zambezi River would have to be the most exhilarating feeling I have experienced. A stay in Mana Pools is not complete without a canoeing safari. The guides are incredible, with years of experience (and in my opinion, nerves of steel), keeping us calm and informed throughout our journey down the river.
We were hosted by Nyamatusi Camp of African Bush Camps. A small and intimate luxury camp of 6 tents, boasting uninterrupted views of the Zambezi River. The lodge continues to Nyamatusi Mahogany, the sister camp that accommodates families. The two camps operate independently of each other, but if you have the need for more rooms, they can each take the overflow. Activities to fill your day include game drives in the Mana Pools UNESCO World Heritage Site, bush walks, canoeing safaris and tiger fishing (catch and release).
I managed to do a short walk along the shorelines with our trusted guide. It was incredibly hot under the African sun as we meandered from tree to tree, trying to get a bit of reprieve in the shade. While we did not see too many animals on the walk, our guide shared so many interesting facts and stories that kept us enthralled throughout.
Without a doubt, Mana Pools is an exceptional destination. It should not be overlooked when planning a trip to Zimbabwe. It is a special place that captured my heart, a magical place that can only be experienced. My story does not do it justice!
NYAMATUSI CAMP – FAST FACTS
- 6 Luxury Tented Suites – with air-conditioning above the bed
- All inclusive meals, drinks (excludes premium drinks and champagne) and activities
- Activities include morning & afternoon game drives, walking safaris, canoeing and fishing
- Camp closure 6 January to 31 March
- Main swimming pool and private plunge pool at each suite
- Solar power and in room charging facilities
- Accessible by air from Victoria Falls International Airport (2 hour 30 minutes) and Harare International Airport (1 hour 30 minutes)
- 45-minute game drive transfer to camp