Picture-perfect: The scenery stretching out before us is almost too beautiful to be real. We feel the warmth of the breeze as we stand on the shore of Lake Kariba admiring the sunset with a glass of wine in our hands. Sluggishly, the hippos lift their heads out of the water of the largest artificial lake in the world. Fed by the Sambesi River, it extends over 300km. I’m already excited by the country and its people, and it’s just the first day of this ten-day adventure tour through Zimbabwe. Situated between Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa, Zimbabwe is not well known for tourism – and so it remains a real insider’s tip. After a friendly welcome from Kelly from Mavros Safaris at Victoria Fall International Airport, we went on an hour-long internal flight to get to the Bumi Hills Safari Lodge. Situated on the gently rising shores of the lake and nestled in lush bush and pasture land, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the lake with its islands and picturesque shoreline. It’s hard to decide where to sit first: on the wonderful terrace, in the infinity pool or in the luxuriously furnished suites, all of which look out towards Lake Kariba. At dusk, we see the lights from the fishing boats, steadily flashing, hoping for a good night’s catch. As if this wasn’t romantic enough, we then watch as a herd of elephants treks over to the water. Amazing.
After some delicious food in the lodge’s restaurant, I wrap up the day talking to the other guests by the fireplace on the terrace, glass of champagne in hand. You could sit here forever listening to the heated sounds of the animals now coming alive in the bush. That’s wildlife you can feel. The next morning promises us even more. We set out early in the Land Rover but not before we’ve eaten a fantastic breakfast right on the shores of the lake: It is a truly unique experience to be spoilt with such a beautifully arranged buffet of fruit, pastries and freshly prepared egg dishes whilst at the same time being able to enjoy this picturesque setting. It is therefore more than justified to compliment the committed staff at the Bumi Hills Safari Lodge who gave us an unforgettable start to this morning with their charming ease, outstanding quality and excellent service. We then set off on our safari, and once again, we have to thank our experienced guides who enabled us to get to know Africa from its most beautiful and most natural side.
Safaris as they should be: Elephants, giraffes and gazelles cross our path as we drive through the bush; black and white zebras and iridescent birds, too. The guides know the locations and routes the animals take, and they know where the lions and leopards are currently located. The biodiversity is really impressive, both on the private land around the lodge and in the adjacent Matusadona National Park, where the animals move freely and often wander down to the water on the edge of the lake. Our cameras are constantly clicking; there is so much you really want to capture. At midday, we go back to the lodge to recharge our batteries and eat lunch. In the afternoon, there is another tour on the programme, which is no less fascinating or adventurous than the one we had been on in the morning. Exhausted, but inspired, we return to the lodge towards the evening and look forward to a dip in the refreshing pool or some relaxation time on the soft daybeds. I want to retreat to my suite for a little while and go over my impressions of the day before we meet up for our evening meal. It certainly was a great start to the tour here at Bumi Hills. The luxurious accommodation, top-level facilities provided by the lodge and the numerous inclusive activities offered are fantastic and work well for longer stays too. The location by Lake Kariba is a one-off and the size and nature of the lake is also unique in Africa. The people have impressed me just as much as the fantastic countryside and exciting animal world. They make the Bumi Hills Safari Lodge an extraordinary place, where the enjoyment of nature, adventure and luxury are joined together to form a perfect whole. It almost makes me sad to think that we’ll already be moving on tomorrow. And yet, I really want to see more of this fascinating country.
I hold my breath. My heart is pounding all the way up to my neck. I’ve never come this close to an elephant bull before. How many metres separate us? Four, three? «Go ahead,» says Stretch Ferreira and I think I hear a cheeky laugh in the legendary guide’s invitation. Wrapped in concentration, I venture to take another step, happy in the knowledge that Stretch is by my side. I can almost feel the grey giant’s breath as it looks down at me. George Clooney, as Stretch Ferreira calls him, is quite calm today. He has known ‘his’ elephants for more than 40 years. He talks to them and knows exactly how to assess their behaviour and their characteristics. And that’s what makes a safari with him so memorable. On his tours, he prefers to go on foot ensuring that not only do you see elephants, lions and rhinos from the safety of the jeep, but that you also get to experience them face-to-face. After my experience with the elephant bull, I can feel the difference – and I feel like a hero. What an incredible experience.
It is 6 o’clock in the morning. The smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts into our tents – the wake-up call for breakfast in the camp. I leave my tent accommodation. Its furnishings remind me of colonial times gone by and it is surprisingly comfortable with its comfy beds, stylish wooden furniture and white mosquito nets. I go barefoot over the soft sand floor to the dining area, where we meet for meals out in the open air. Here, in the heart of the Mana Pools National Park, you have animals around you the whole time. You’ll sometimes get hippos playing in the river in front of you or a curious elephant sometimes wandering through the camp. Sometimes a pack of wild dogs will come into view. And off we go: We drive the first section in the Land Rover, and then go further on foot. Stretch and his equally experienced co-guide Al have seen some lion tracks so we are following them. And indeed: just metres in front of us is one of these majestic predatory cats. The animal looks much larger from this perspective. When the lion sees us, he suddenly jumps up. Adrenalin pumps through my veins. Don’t turn your back on him, don’t run... we all have Stretch’s mantra instilled in us. And it’s true, after this dominant gesture, the lion relaxes and disappears leisurely off into the tall grass of the steppe. Spectacular. I would never have thought such an experience would be possible. We feel as though we’ve drunk a bit too much as we return to the Land Rover where we are served a cup of tea to help us relax a bit – a ritual on every tour. One thing is certain: You couldn’t go on such an extraordinary lion adventure as this without Stretch Ferreira.
Gently, the vehicle sets off. I am particularly excited about the Deteema Springs Camp in the Hwange National Park. It’s only been open a few months. I look around: Whoever thought that all African national parks are all the same is wrong. Here the countryside is mountainous and green, interspersed with rocky erosion. The main tent, situated on a hill, gives a feeling of grandeur and welcomes me with a warm and exclusive atmosphere. The accommodation is comprised of green-covered tents, which are integrated harmoniously into the hillside at large intervals and are accessible via wide, wooden walkways. This is where you can be by yourself. I take a sundowner onto my terrace and am overwhelmed by the magnificent view over the landscape stretching out before me. I am filled with humility and gratitude for this unspoilt nature and vastness, which we now have access to thanks to our new hosts at this favoured location. Even though I can see elephants and zebras down by the water below, a safari with experienced guides is a must here.
The water of the Zambesi River roars as it plunges into the canyon and the air fills with the finest droplets. The Victoria Falls, situated on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, are some of the largest waterfalls in the world and are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are just a short drive away from our last stop in the private Matetsi Game Reserve and are well worth seeing as part of the mandatory programme. The Matetsi River Lodge impressed me even more than the waterfalls: The Zambesi River is the backdrop for the luxurious Matetsi accommodation – modern villas and suites, scattered along the tree-lined shore area. They have incorporated contemporary design and precious natural materials to create inspirational living areas for its discerning guests that convey an exclusive feeling of Africa. I pass up the numerous activities ranging from daytime and night-time safaris, canoe trips and boat tours to fishing and birdwatching, and instead choose to relax in the spa and look forward to an exquisite dinner out in the open air. After ten days of unique experiences, adventures and fun, my fascinating trip really has found its crowning finale.
Events that go above and beyond what’s expected. Routes that are outside predictable standards. Hardly doable, you think? Then you’ve never found Mavros Safaris. The company belonging to Alexander Mavros, whose family has lived in Zimbabwe for generations and is successful in other industries, is wholly dedicated to the African continent. It’s about much more than just being a perfect organiser of tours and safaris in East and South Africa. For Alexander and his team, it’s about creating authentic, tangible impressions and experiences for his guests. It’s about bringing them closer to the diversity and beauty of the country. The excellent network of the most exclusive lodges, the most sought-after reserves and the most legendary guides is what makes his African tours not just unique adventures but also totally fascinating.
BUMI HILLS SAFARI LODGE
Welcome to the land of elephants: With their favoured location on the shores of Lake Kariba, in the middle of unspoilt nature yet close to the Matusadona National Park, the Bumi Hills Safari Lodge is the perfect place for you to enjoy a luxury stay whilst experiencing Africa’s wilderness up close. Ten elegant suites and one villa – furnished with sophisticated designer furniture and typical, local accessories – offers exclusivity and privacy. The pools, spa and gym are inviting as well as spacious; the terraces are part covered. If you fancy doing something other than just relaxing and sunbathing, you can take boat trips, go fishing or on a safari.
STRETCH FERREIRA SAFARIS
Stretch Ferreira is undoubtedly one of the big names in Africa. This reputation is not just down to his height – he is two metres tall! It’s more to do with his decades of experience, his in-depth knowledge and close relationship with the wild animals that roam freely around. Together with his expert team, he offers his guests a first-hand safari experience: firstly because he mainly goes through the wilderness on foot. Secondly because the camp is situated directly in the biodiverse Mana Pools National Park on the shores of the Zambesi River. A maximum of 12 guests can be accommodated in the seven functionally equipped tents. You’ll have a covered lounge, a campfire area and a dining room out in the open air.
DETEEMA SPRINGS CAMP
When they had the opportunity of opening a safari camp in the middle of Hwange National Park, the founders of Machaba Safaris didn’t hesitate for long. In May 2019, the Deteema Springs Camp opened with a concept focusing on ‘less is more’. The tent accommodation and main tent, with a restaurant, well-stocked bar and pool, has a luxurious nonchalance about it. Each of the eight tents has an elegant living/sleeping area, a lovely bathroom in the rear section and its own viewing platform. The accommodation is widely spread across the hillside, which borders directly onto a waterway and offers a high level of privacy.
MATETSI VICTORIA FALLS
An authentic property in family ownership, meeting the highest international standards: Matetsi Victoria Falls combines the most demanding hospitality with a wonderful experience of nature. This resort is unparalleled, due both to its proximity to the famous Victoria Falls and its location right by the Zambesi River and its own vast wild reserve, which guests are exclusively allowed to drive through. In the private villa, the lodges and the suites, all with their own pool, you can live in luxury, spaciousness and with a high level of privacy. With fine culinary menu creations, an exquisite range of wines and drinks, and special arrangements, you can enjoy an indulgence programme that really is in a class of its own.