A roof over our head: From Basic to Luxury in Zimbabwe

Updated: Nov 26

Feeding black rhinos at Imire
Feeding black rhinos at Imire

After our exciting but basic accommodations at Mana Pools, and another pleasant night at Secret Garden in Chinyohi, we took a break and splurged on a day and a night at Imire Lodge, an upscale hotel and guided tour park. Everything except alcoholic beverages is included in the $180 per night per person price tag: a nice room with bathroom, 3 gourmet meals, and several tours with a guide. The park is not unlike a petting zoo for very large, semi-wild animals. There are few of each species (except for a plethora of various antilopes) but they are accustomed to the vehicle, and to people, to a certain extent. The guides and rangers know how to handle the animals and let guests know what they can and cannot do. Toddlers came along in our vehicle.

We arrived in time for a cup of tea and the afternoon tour: following and feeding 2 elephants (and posing with a very big male), feeding 2 rhinos from behind a fence, and following cheetahs as they were getting ready for the night hunt, after their daytime nap.

Dinner table setting at Imire Lodge
Dinner table setting at Imire Lodge

At 8 pm we were called for dinner, in a communal dining room, where we were served an international-style 3-course meal. The food was excellent: pumpkin-coconut milk soup with croutons and bread, chicken breast with vegetables in a red wine reduction, and an opera-style chocolate layered cake with heavy cream.

The hotel decor is contemporary African and it’s extremely tastefully done. Every detail is well thought out.

This was the first place during my Zimbabwe stays where I saw Americans, who can book from the US.

At this sanctuary park, guests are not allowed to drive around by themselves.

The next day, after an enormous breakfast, we went on another tour but had to cut it short, and skip lunch (not that we were hungry). We encountered a female elephant who had been brought as a 3-year-old orphan and grew up with water buffaloes. She was convinced that she was one of them. She was uninterested in the 2 other elephants in the sanctuary.

We set off for Nyamazi Greens, a locally owned campsite. As the next few days were planned for camping, we stocked up on groceries at a local store. We drove up winding roads for about 2 hours and easily found the campsite. Unfortunately the sloped terrain was not conducive to parking vehicles with tents on top. The toilets and showers were down a bumpy path (about 250 meters) and at first there was hot solar-heated water but no cold water. The toilet and shower stall floors are made of stones, so it’s necessary to wear flip-flops or bathing shoes. There was nobody there when we arrived and there was only boiling hot water, no cold water. After we had more or less managed to get organized, 2 staff members arrived. One spoke some English, the other only Portuguese and Shona. They were very helpful however, and one remained all night.

We canceled the next 2 nights at Nyamazi Greens, as the site was too impractical for us. We drove further on and found Far and Wide, a mix of lodges and camping facilities. We opted for camping but were allowed to use the bathroom in an empty lodge, as well as for WiFi access. (Due to electrical outages, there was WiFi only by nightfall.)

The last night on the way to Mozambique, we stayed at the Nyanga National Park. It was a Monday and we were all by ourselves. The nighttime temperatures were freezing; the tent was a little inadequate! Once again, we only had boiling water most of the time.

On the way back, we stayed at Frog and Fern in Chimanimani, a lovely group of cottages; our cottage was fully equipped with kitchen and cutlery. The setting was beautiful.

Nearing the South African border, we landed back at the Lion and Elephant near Beitbridge. The cottages are comfortable (except for some plumbing issues) and dinner is not gourmet, but fresh and plentiful. There is also a bar.

Websites and tips:

Beware: you need cash in USD everywhere, and the bills must be no older than from 2013. At Lion and Elephant, the managers were happy to be paid entirely in $1 bills, as they needed change.

Mana Pools National Park https://www.zimparks.org.zw/places-to-visit/mana-pools-national-park/ If you decide on a private campsite, make sure you ask about the total cost, calculated per person. For two people it can be upward of $200/night. At the shared campsite (with a shared shower and toilet area), in September the rate was $20/person/night for Americans and Europeans. Beware of tsetse flies.

Secret Garden https://www.safarinow.com/go/thesecretgardenbbchinhoyizimbabwe/ (do not book at $700 a night! That is probably calculated at the official exchange rate in Zimbabwe. The reality is much less expensive). The owners are very nice. Dinner is not exceptional but freshly made and plentiful. We were offered a free vehicle wash (we tipped the person who did the washing).

Imire Lodge - I couldn't load the official website because of a security issue. Here is a tour agency page: https://www.off2africa.travel/imire-game-lodge. In September 2022, we paid $180/person per night (even if you share a room).

Nyamazi Greens campsite https://nyamazigreens.co.zw/ - the best way to contact the owner is via WhatsApp.

Far and Wide - I am unsure of the website, most probably this: https://www.farandwide.co.zw/cottages-camping - For camping we paid $10/person/night. The lodge would have cost $40/person/night, but we didn't even find the bedrooms very appealing.

Nyanga National Park: As part of our group had been born in Zimbabwe, this time we received the local rate: $5/person/night.

Frog and Fern - again, the cost is per person even when you share a cottage. In this case we paid $40/person/night for our 2-level cottage. https://www.thefrogandfern.com/

And the granddaddy of lodgings, where we slept twice, near the South Africa border: Lion and Elephant - https://www.myguidezimbabwe.com/accommodation/lion-and-elephant-motel - we paid around $80 USD/room.

Imire Lodge bedroom with mosquito netting
Imire Lodge bedroom

Correction: In a previous version of this post, I had erroneously called the Nyanga National Park the Chimanimani National Park, which is further south.

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