Wildlife outnumbers the tourists in Zimbabwe, a relative newcomer to the luxury safari game that has plenty to offer for travellers seeking a path less travelled. Home to five UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the mighty Victoria Falls, the destination is quickly becoming a must-visit among well-heeled safari fans. Tourism conservation organisation Great Plains, which was founded in 2006 by National Geographic filmmakers and Beverly Joubert, has made its Zimbabwe debut with two new luxury camps.
Situated on the banks of the Zambezi, Mpala Jena Camp is an intimate hideaway in the 138,000-acre Zambezi National Park, a short drive from Victoria Falls. Architects Craig Hayman and Hannah Charlton and interior designer Tracy Kelly have used natural materials throughout the main buildings, while the five guest tents are covered in canvas and wrapped in translucent netted walls so guests can enjoy the sights and sounds of the local wildlife uninterrupted. Each of the tents has a shaded veranda and an outdoor bathroom, plus a private deck leading down to the sandy riverbank. After a morning game drive or river cruise, guests can explore the local craft market, set off a white-water rafting or bungee jumping adventure or pay a visit to Victoria Falls, which are just 10 miles away.
Also on the Zambezi, nestled in a riverside forest, Tembo Plains Camp is set in the 128,000-hectare Sapi Private Reserve. Five tents - four doubles and the two-bedroom Tembo Plains Suite - all offer an expansive veranda with exercise bikes and an outdoor swimming pool, as well as indoor lounge area, handmade bathtubs and indoor and outdoor showers.
Each suite is also equipped with a professional camera and selection of lenses for guests to use, and high-quality binoculars are also available to help catch a glimpse of the wild dogs, lions and leopard that roam around Sapi Reserve, or the buffalo and elephant that can be spotted cooling down in the river.
Part of Great Plains’ Reserve Collection, which includes six other camps in Botswana and Kenya, Tembo Plains is the only member of Relais & Châteaux in Zimbabwe. Paired with Mpala Jena, the two camps offer a tempting twin-stop escape and a great way to sample the wonders of Zimbabwe.