Welcome to thethoughtfultraveller.com’s Zimbabwe accommodation series!
Thanks to the wonderful Sikeleli Safaris, this lucky blogger has gained an exclusive insight into the best safari camps, lodges and hotels that the country has to offer.
Stay tuned for Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls highlights…
It’s rare to find a place consisting of the most luxurious surroundings, yet the most humble, down to earth attitude. Somalisa, which combines the two, is therefore quite the gem. I’d say hidden gem, but that would be a lie – the FT’s How To Spend It covered its renovation last year, and Green Tourism just awarded it a coveted Gold Star .
Nevertheless, as the first camp that African Bush Camps opened, back in 07, it’s safe to say Somalisa remains one of the best safari destinations in the world.
Situated within its own private concession in Hwange National Park (Zimbabwe’s biggest), the camp appears neither showy nor dazzling from the outside.
It’s when you take a sip of their home-made welcome drink and are greeted excitedly and individually by each member of staff that you realise the star quality that Somalisa possesses.
This quality means that it attracts people of a fascinating calibre. An elderly couple I’d met joked they were here to ‘ski’ – that is, ‘spending the kids’ inheritance’. They had travelled all over the world and had incredible anecdotes. Another couple were ticking off birds they’d seen in their bird-watching book. They were excited to tell me they’d surpassed the 100 mark in Hwange, and their fun-loving presence always added energy to the evening meal.
The above is useful in illustrating 1) how good the game is there (the staff all knew and loved Cecil the Lion, and were happy to share stories in his memory) and 2) how many couples are also there (it’s a pretty dreamy honeymoon destination).
In terms of decor, the camp is tastefully furnished. Relatively large compared with others, there’s several dining areas (indoor and out), as well as several pools (for humans and elephants).
And boy, do elephants come. Sit outside sipping a drink from the ever available bar and it’s almost unlikely you won’t see them en masse.
Yep, the above photo was taken from Somalisa’s split level decking. With very little zoom.
This is because these tents take ‘glamping’ to new levels.
As you’d expect, the beds are fantastically comfortable, and the facilities second to none.
You see that bath over there? It overlooked some zebras casually munching away. Even if you don’t impress easily, you’ll be impressed.
A nice touch, also, is the amount of thought that’s gone into sustainability and social initiatives in both the room, and the camp.
The (gorgeous) gowns and laundry bags on offer are made by the Thandanani Sewing Project, a group of 10 widows and single mothers from nearby town, Dete. Meanwhile, everywhere you walk, there’s solar panels to be found.
There’s also an incredibly warm atmosphere, unlike in many other five star accommodations out there. Dinner is sometimes cooked in front of you, often eaten beneath the stars, and always delicious.
To add to the special experience, Somalisa also owns a telescope. So if it’s a cloudless night you can quite literally see the stars that you’re dining under.
The staff were some of the best I’ve seen – assistant camp manager, Tracy, was truly fantastic, driver Mayeso was the sweetest ever, and game guide Peter was the most experienced I’ve come across.
A true gentleman, and speaker of a casual 14 languages, he just knew animals inside out. Being in Cecil the lion’s former territory certainly didn’t hurt in making the game drives simply spectacular either.
Showing how close you can come to a lion (Bhubesi, to be exact) is really all that needs to be said.
Somalisa epitomises luxury with a heart. It’s a firm achiever of the ‘best safari in the world’ accolade.
And it’s not somewhere you’ll ever forget.
To book Somalisa Camp please visit Sikeleli Safari’s website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.