Travel to Zimbabwe is back in fashion as the country counts more than six months since the repressive regime of Robert Mugabe peacefully gave way to more grounded and stable governance. New hotels are opening; tour companies are seeing a significant spike in bookings and safari operators are betting that Zimbabwe, now the new kid on a very ancient block, will excite travelers anxious to experience this truly magical land up close. Great Plains Conservation which is opening two properties in Zimbabwe 2018 and is ready to unlock mysteries in this land that is finally experiencing a new found peace and stability.
The landscape and wildlife of Zimbabwe is under continuous threat – especially as President Donald Trump recently reversed Obama-era conservation efforts involving the import of ivory from Zimbabwe and Zambia. To that end, Great Plains’ new safari camps in Zimbabwe and the company’s ongoing conservation efforts to protect the lands and wildlife in any way possible creates a barrier to hunting, poaching, trophy taking and abuse of the natural balance.
“Let there be no mistake, we are in the midst of the Battle for Africa right now,” says Great Plains Foundation chairman, Dereck Joubert. “Every nine hours another rhino is killed in South Africa alone. We lose five elephants an hour across Africa. In the last 50 years, we have managed to lose 95% of our lions and leopards. At this rate, we can expect extinctions of lions in the next 10 to 15 years. …. Arguably, the most pressing issue for African wildlife is poaching. It goes to follow that if we are strategically acquiring large pieces of land to conserve then we also need to secure that land and its wildlife against poaching. The greatest need now, is what I call “The Battle for Africa,” and it will ultimately involve three species: lions, rhinos, and elephants. If we save those we have a hope. And if we don’t, everything else will go. We’re not going to let that happen on our watch.”
For travelers to Zimbabwe, every Great Plains Conservation safari is an immersion into the rare, unscripted wild adventures to be had in in Zimbabwe and other regions of Africa. It is also a statement of conservation, an up-close lesson about nature, humanity and life in these lands, and most importantly, a great Plains Conservation safari is by any account a life-changing experience.
Great Plains offers three ways to immerse in the majesty of Zimbabwe.
Greater Mana Expeditions
This adventure focuses on the private Sapi Reserve, on the eastern boundary of the Mana Pools National Park. The area, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was been awarded to Great Plains Conservation to manage. The area is part of the middle-Zambezi biosphere reserve with nearly 900,000 acres of prime wilderness — 85% of these areas only traversable by foot. For travelers to Zimbabwe who want to touch the ground, smell the earth, feel the wind, connect with the land, this is Africa’s dream walking safari destination.
Great Plains Conservation’ Greater Mana Expeditions program is a six-night expedition that explores the stunning features of the Mana Pools National Park and the neighboring private Sapi Concession; capturing the spirit of safaris of of a bygone era. Guests are based 3 explorers-style wilderness camps for two nights each exploring three unique areas within the Sapi Concession. The tents in each camp are largecomfortable tents for two with all needs managed. On nights 3 and 4 guests can experience the thrill of a Sapi Starbed sleep-out. Each expedition takes a maximum of six guests – perfect for close friends or a multi-generation family vacation (children must be 12 or older).
Access to the Sapi Reserve is through light aircraft transfers from Harare International Airport (1 hour 20 mins); or Victoria Falls International Airport (2 hours 20 min).
Mpala Jena Camp
Mpala Jena Camp in Zambezi National Park is just north of famed Vic Falls and offers travelers to Zimbabwe an exquisite and exclusive tented camp experience on a private concession within the park on the shores of the great Zambezi River. A natural spring runs through the concession and attracts an abundance of wildlife throughout the year, especially in the drier months of April to October.
The camp was named after a white impala, a rare “ghost-like” albino impala that rangers reported seeing living along the river in the area when the national park was first established. The area sees high concentrations of buffalo and elephant from June through to October and is also good for bird watching throughout the year.
The four tent Mpala Jena Camp manages a very light footprint with recycled hardwoods and canvas and electricity from its solar farm. Care was taken in the design of the tents, employing Moroccan styling and appointments that include lounge chairs, bathtub and shower in the en-suite facilities and event a plunge pool for each room. The property is conveniently located 10 miles from the entrance of Zambezi National Park, which creates easy access to Victoria Falls town. Still, the camp is remote enough to be far from other signs of humanity.
Fully inclusive rates bring all meals and libations and early morning and late afternoon game viewing in a private open 4×4 vehicle, boat cruises and guided walks.
Included in the nightly rate is either a road transfer conducted as a safari drive through the Zambezi National Park (around 80 minutes) or a more adventurous road and boat transfer that runs around 90 minutes. A road transfer from Victoria Falls Airport to town followed by a helicopter flight from Victoria Falls Town (30 mins) can be had for an additional cost.
Mpala Jena Suite
As a special treat for honeymooners, couples in celebration or families, Great Plains offers the Mpala Jena Suite, an exquisite two-bedroom villa with a private pool overlooking the Zambezi. The suite spreads out under beige flowing canvas with canopy ceilings and Moroccan style influences. The suite can be shared by adults or even five people if a child is in the party (children must be at least six years old). Guests find a central private lounge as well as dining area and en-suite bathroom facilities that include a design-worthy bathtub, indoor shower and double basins. The suite is separate from the other tents but in easy reach of all the camp facilities.
Travel to Zimbabwe
Online visas for Zimbabwe costing around $30 are now available as part of on-going government efforts to open up to the outside world in order to boost economic growth. Travel to Zimbabwe from the USA usually entails at least two stops and a journey that can last 17 to 55 hours, so it is best to book a stopover where possible.
Great Plains Conservation offers camps and safari explorations in Botswana and Kenya as well for those who want to see Africa in full and special four-night discounts during various seasons.