Matusadona Water Wilderness

Jul 21st, 2005, 07:02 PM
Original Poster
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Matusadona Water Wilderness

I am currently planning next year's safari, and was thinking of beginning in Zim -- time at Wilderness Safaris' camps in Hwange, Matusodona and Mana Pools, but Matusadona Water Wilderness is no longer advertised on the Wilderness Safaris website. I vaguely recall reading that its been closed due to the substantial decline in visitors to Zim. Can anyone confirm?

Also, any info from those who have stayed at Makalolo or Chikwenya, the camps I am considering.

After time in Zim, I intend to self drive in Kgalagadi.

Thanks, Michael
thit_cho is offline  
Jul 21st, 2005, 07:46 PM
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Hi Michael,

Yes, unfortunately MWW has been shut down due to the ongoing situation in Zimbabwe. It is sad and we lovers of safari adventures can only hope that eventually the Zim situation will improve enough (and hopefully soon enough) that the parks in northern Zim can be saved from disaster. It is a beautiful area with incredible wildlife and I have loved all my vists there.

Makalolo and Chikwenya are great camps. Makalolo in particular is situated close to Vic Falls and offers superb wildlife - elies galore, lions, buffalo and in a lovely setting, especially after the rains. Chikwenya is also special - with the lovely Albida trees and the waters of the Zambezi nearby. A day trip into Mana is worth it as this road is not often traveled and I have seen cool stuff like bushpig, nice herds of eland and wild dogs on this route.

I would recommend a visit of 2-3 days at both Makalolo and Chikwenya. There is a nice woodpile hide (like the one at Savuti - actually it is the one Savuti's was fashioned after) which is in front of Little Mak and you can head there for good Elies and maybe Sable if you're lucky. Zim is a great value still and I only hope these 2 camps continue to get visitors like yourself as they offer a great experience.

jweis is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 03:39 AM
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Thanks for the info. I have stayed at Savuti, so I'm familiar with that hide.

What do you mean when you state that when I stay at Chikwenya, I should do a day trip into Mana -- I thought that the lodge was within Chikwenya. I am certainly going to visit Mana Pools and I'd really like to stay in the park. Are there other, better camps better situated wihtin the park boundaries.

I guess I'd sacrifice night drives if I stay within the park, so I'll have to take that into account.


thit_cho is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 04:04 AM
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hey michael,
i stayed at makololo in january. you can search my posts for a report. its a great place. i am planning a trip for sept next yr and this time i will hopefully visit chikwenya.
bigcountry is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 04:41 AM
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For accommodation in Mana Pools you should contact Beks Safaris ( As far as I know they've bought Ivan Carter's Vundu Camp in Mana Pools.

Jul 22nd, 2005, 11:20 AM
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I am glad to see this post as I was going to ask if it's risky to go to Zimbabwe as I'm hoping to go there next year (I was there in 2001). My tentative itinerary includes Chikwenya and Little Makalolo as well as a lodge/camp called Rhino Lodge Safari Camp in Matusadona. Has anyone heard of or stayed at Rhino Lodge? I can't seem to find anything about it when I've searched.
phernska is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2005, 12:01 PM
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I must correct my last posting:
Vundu Camp is owned by African Bush Camps (a joint venture of Beks Safaris, Bushlife Safaris & John Chase Safaris),
Vundu Camp is the only permanent camp in Mana Pools NP I know about.


Rhino Island Safari Camp is in some way associated with African Bush Camps or Beks Safaris, at least they are owner of the domain (not online yet). I would contact them for further information.

Sep 5th, 2005, 06:49 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 8
Hi all,

This is my first time on Fodor and I was excited that there are inquiries regarding Vundu Camp and Rhino Island Safari Lodge since I just returned from there. It was my first safari and I couldn’t have asked for a better first time experience. It looks like Mitch got the contact details covered, but here's a bit of my experience.


Rhino Island Safari Camp is located right by the bank of Lake Kariba called Elephant Point, which is aptly named. Everyday, we saw elephants, either from our bungalow or from the lodge’s premises. Sadly for the lodge, we were the only visitors there at the time, but for us, it was an awesome treat. The staff and the camp manager, Jenny, was great. The main thing we went to see was the black rhino and after tracking rhinos for 1 day and a half, we were finally rewarded with an awesome sighting of a male rhino. We first found him in the thickets and then quietly followed him down a hill until we were able to watch him from the top of a terminate mound. He knew we were there, but he just carried on notwithstanding our presence. As we perched on the termite mound, an elephant quietly walked by. It was amazing. We couldn’t have done it without our guide, Nick Murray. We thought that Nick is an excellent guide. He knows Matusadona and Mana Pools like the back of his hand.

Nick's company, Bushlife Safaris, (as mentioned by Mitch) is currently part owner of Vundu Camp. We spent one night there during our canoe safari, which was guided by Nick as well. It was beautiful. If you’re interested in contacting Nick or learn more about Vundu Camp, check out or email him at [email protected].

Ele is offline  
Sep 5th, 2005, 08:03 PM
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Ele - May I ask if you are American? Did you feel safe in Zimbabwe (regardless of your nationality?) I am only asking because I'd really like to include Hwange in my Zambia trip next year. A lot can happen in a year, and I am a bit paranoid about making plans so far in advance. Mgabe seems to be ticked off at America at the moment...something to do with a movie called The Interpreter. Anyone else read about this? (Geez.)
cooncat2 is offline  
Sep 5th, 2005, 10:28 PM
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Sharon-I read about this. The movie stars Nicole Kidman (just a so so movie in my opinion) and Mgube says the CIA made it to portray him. His minister of culture had this to say:
"The film just shows how careful we have to be and that we should know our enemy is very powerful," Chimutengwende said. "We should plan to counter Euro-American imperialism. Our enemies have resources and are determined to wage their war on the economic, social and cultural fronts."
Don't know if i'd go there...

matnikstym is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 01:23 AM
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Do I get you right, are Bushlife Safaris also owner/part-owner of Rhino Island Safari Camp?

You've just read a posting by someone who couldn't have asked for a better first time safari experience. Do you think Ele would write that if he/she had feel unsafe in Zim?

Sep 6th, 2005, 05:30 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 859
Mitch: You are right, however: You must try to understand that many Americans feel vulnerable right now. There are many countries/people who do not like us at all. So, you are going to see questions like this on the forum from time to time. I may keep asking questions myself, to hear as many people talk about their experiences as possible, so that I can feel good about whatever decision I make. It's about me/us getting into our own personal comfort zones. I may need to hear 10 people tell me that hey, it's OK - go to Zimbabwe.... so, you'll have to have patience with people like me, or ignore these posts if they bother you. Hope this makes sense to you! Thanks~
cooncat is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 09:03 AM
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I'm sorry if I was unclear. I know that Bushlife Safaris is part owner (or lessee) of Vundu Camp, but I don't know about the ownership of Rhino Camp. I do know that Bushlife Safaris have recently used Rhino Camp a lot for their Matusadona safaris and given that I only have Bushlife Safaris' contact info, I figured that it would be an additional resource for anyone interested.


I totally understand your concern as I went through the same thing myself before my trip. I am an American, and I have to admit, I had very little understanding for the situation in Zimbabwe except for the information provided in US travel advisory warning and depressing news articles that a coworker would send to me before I left for my trip (which were all very negative). The reason why I kept my trip was because at that time (rightly or wrongly), I decided to trust the advice of my US safari operator. After discussing with them the type of safari my husband and I were looking for, they recommended Botswana and Zimbabwe. Through their connections in Zimbabwe, they continually assured us that the areas that we were going to are safe. Two of our friends took the same trip as us, but one month earlier, and they were fine. When we were in Zimbabwe, I felt safe. We had a rather exclusive trip (6 guests at Mana Pools and just my husband and I at Rhino Camp -- we didn't go to Hwange), and the political situation had no bearing on us whatsoever. In fact, I am really glad that I went to Mana Pools and Matusadona. They are beautiful places with amazing wildlife and they can only perserve it with tourism support. So I am glad that I was able to contribute to and experience Zim.

Having said all this, it is important to watch the political climate and be smart in your decisions, and like you said, things can change. I can only say that for me, it all worked out. I hope that this is helpful and I do hope that everything works out so that you can experience Zim like I did!
Ele is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 09:22 AM
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Hello Ele,

Thank you for your post -- I think hearing from someone who has been to Zim recently will do a lot to ease the anxiety of anyone who is considering travelling there.

jasher is offline  
Sep 6th, 2005, 09:51 AM
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Yes, thanks ele - I am so glad you posted again. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I really feel for the people and wildlife in Zimbabwe. I hope I get to see it!
cooncat is offline  
Oct 1st, 2005, 12:22 PM
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Hi everyone - have just come across Fodor's for the first time and noticed the various messages on Rhino Island Safari Camp. It is indeed run by Jenny and her contact details are as follows :

Jenny Nobes
Tel : +263-4-303371 or 753901
Fax : +263-4-753906
Cell : +263-91-205000
Email : [email protected]

Bushlife and other Safari Operators / Guides use Rhino for their Matusadona accommodation, although Rhino is a privately owned and run camp with Jenny being the MD and one of the owners.

Jenny was looking at hosting her own site, which I don't think is finalised yet. The original website ( should still be operational, although I'm not sure how up to date it is.

On the security question, I would be surprised if any international visitors to Zimbabwe have felt at all threatened whilst in the country. Most of the negative publicity about Zim's relations and feelings towards "the West" is politcal rhetoric and in no way relates to the feelings of ordinary Zimbabweans. There aren't any anti-American or anti-European feelings on the ground so visitors shouldn't have any problems. The other thing to consider is that you would generally arrive in Vic Falls, then move on to the Matusadona and / or Mana, all of which are tourism based areas. These areas are generally far removed from any political issues that might be being aired.

Ele really summed it up well in terms of the exclusivity, the unparalled beauty and preservation through tourism support which is really important.

Hope this info helps.
Kilo is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 06:57 PM
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Thit_cho, cooncat2 & Ele.

I understand your concerns about Zim. My brother and sister-in-law lived in Mutare for the past ten years running their self-help non-profit programs. They worked hard and felt that they made progress; but they finally packed up and moved back to the states early this year. The situation in the cities and some villages is serious. They still receive daily E-mails from people trying to keep up some of the programs. We don't see much news in the US newspapers on what is going on in Zim, but there is a daily web news site that we still pick up - this has news articles from VOA News, South Africa Radio Africa, Zimbabwe Independent and other news sources.

It appears that the Hwange and Victoria Falls area and the camps recently mentioned are safe at this time. Unfortunately, tourists are staying away, so some of the camps may need to close down soon. Some friends of mine were in Vic Falls last January and their hotel was nearly empty. They did enjoy themselves and would love to return some day.
It would be wise not to drive yourself around the country or go to the major cities (Harare and Bolowayo); gas or petrol is very short and President Mugabe is destroying the infrastructure, farms and the tourist industry for his own reasons.
Zimbabwe is (was)one of the most beautiful, fertile, friendly and safe countries in Africa until about 6 years ago. My husband and I visited in 1999 and again in 2001. There were few problems in '99, but by 2001 we needed to take care when driving around. My brother did drive us around the eastern and southern part of the country to tree- house hotels, The Great Zimbabwe ruins, lovely hotels on the Mozambique border and into villages where he was helping set up schools and teacher housing. All the while we met people who were friendly and seemed reasonably happy. The large farms were operating with surplus food that was shipped out of the country for needed foreign exchange. At present, most of the farms have been invaded, looted and destroyed -food is difficult to come by and most needs to be imported (not enough is getting in because of the internal political situation. Children and elderly are starving in some remote villages. Homes and small shops are being destroyed, leaving residents without housing or income.
My brother and sister-in-law, my husband and I loved Zim and hope that it will someday return to it's former beauty.
We'd love to return to Hwange and Vic Falls and drive by the "balancing stones" near Harare again. We hope that the people we met will do well and be able to return their children to school as well as feed them.
Sorry for such a long speech, but I feel badly about this beautiful country.
- Joan
treasuresofafrica is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2005, 07:40 PM
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Joan - Thank you for a very thoughtful reply and update. I, too, feel tremendous sorrow about the situation in Zimbabwe, world where misguided politics is wreaking havoc on its own people. I pray something is done before too long.
cooncat2 is offline  
Oct 27th, 2005, 11:06 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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as far as i know those camps in the matusadona are closed. in april 2005 we stayed at rhino island safari camp in the matusadona park. it was great, lots of tracking of game on foot.fantastic rhino,lion and elephant.highly recomend.we are going back again april 2006
bumi is offline  

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