Kavinga Safari Camp – a private paradise at the height of the safari season

Sally Wynn, Wild Zambezi • 16 October 2023

Browse listings

September is the most popular month for a safari in Mana Pools, and indeed throughout the Zambezi’s wild areas.  This is mainly because the leaf-fall at the end of winter allows for the best visibility for wildlife viewing, and as the dry, hot season gets underway, animals are forced to concentrate at scarce water sources.  So naturally, these are the places where the big predators hang out, and where you are most likely to spot them.

But, there are some caveats.  Firstly it’s HOT (temperatures can reach 40 deg C (104 deg F) or higher especially towards the end of the month).  It’s dusty (after a rainless winter, every blade of grass and almost every leaf has been eaten away to nothing).  It’s the bushfire season – so smoke haze drifting in from miles away often impairs visibility.  And it’s prime time safari season, so there are LOTS of people in safari vehicles and on foot - all chasing after the lions, leopards and wild dogs that are at the top of their wishlists.  This can result in some ugly crowding scenarios, especially in the Mana Pools “floodplain” area along the Zambezi River where most of the safari operators hang out.

Then there’s Kavinga Safari Camp.

In late September 2023, Wild Zambezi was delighted to visit this little 14-bed camp nestled on a cliff overlooking the upper reaches of the Ruckomechi River with the mountains of the Zambezi Escarpment as a backdrop.  

It’s located on its own private concession lying some 50 kms south of the more well-known “floodplain” section of Mana Pools National Park, and about 9 kms east of the Chitake Spring.  

Kavinga has its own private waterhole in front of the camp and several springs and water sources in the riverbed nearby.  As a result, it is a wilderness paradise all of its own, shared with no-one else!  No overcrowding scenarios.  No jostling for front line viewing.  No “insensitive” tourists or operators disturbing normal wildlife behaviour.   Top prize as far as we are concerned!

There is so much else that is top prize at Kavinga.

The Hide, for example.  This is disguised to look like a large termite mound right at the edge of the waterhole, with a carefully-designed, safe, access route descending underground from the camp above. The dark space inside has several chairs and a narrow viewing slot perfectly placed at elephant toenail level.  With camera to hand you can spend hours in here at any time of the day (or night) captivated and awed by the constant ebb and flow of animal and bird activity.  There are spine-tingling moments when an elephant sidles right up to the hide and spends moments scratching his bum against its “termite mound” outside walls! The rough, rasping sound is deafening from inside! Or when a herd of 100 thirsty buffalo thunders into the water at eye level slurping and grunting and chasing off the elephant quietly occupying the further end of the pan.  Or when the lion pride moves in to lap quietly only a few metres away from you, or you capture your very own close up of a magnificent leopard caught in the spotlight.  

Why go anywhere else?  I could have spent my whole safari in the Hide at Kavinga!

Then there’s the view from the rooms.

These are elevated on raised wooden decks and designed as sophisticated, spacious tents with canvas walls, high ceilinged, insulated, roofs and an en-suite bathroom at the back.  Sliding doors separate off the extremely comfortable bedroom from the covered verandah with chairs and a table at the front.  

Each unit has its own most spectacular view over the camp waterhole and the extensive floodplain of the Ruckomechi River below.  If you’re not in the Hide, then lounging with binoculars on your private verandah is a close second!

The owners of Kavinga have been very clever with their design, and have thought of all the essentials. The sliding doors brilliantly provide variable air and temperature control for the rooms.  And they are very effective.  You can either close the outer glass panels against the weather, or alternatively close only the inner insect-proof gauze panels which allow airflow freely through.  The mosquito nets are expansive and sensibly allow for easy access all round the bed.

There are bedside lights and fans, a lockable safe for valuables, a morning tea/coffee and water station, cotton gowns, and all the toiletries that you require in the bathroom.  You won’t find air-con and a mini-bar here – but remember…. this is a safari camp in the middle of nowhere, and, in my book, it’s best to keep the carbon footprint down!  

The camp’s central living, dining and bar area is spacious and airy and has the best views of all (especially from the upstairs viewing deck)!  One of our party spotted the lions in the riverbed half a kilometre away while quietly observing the scene through her binoculars early morning!  There are a variety of covered or outdoor options for breakfasting/dining, depending on the weather, and, when it’s really stiflingly hot, mist sprayers cool down the entrances to the interior.  All the food is fresh and delicious (HOW do they do it??).

Oh… and the swimming pool.  In the heat of the day, when it’s a bit hot in the Hide, if you’re not cooling down in your spacious room with an awesome view, then I suggest that you repair to the hidden pool.  

This is another AWESOMELY CLEVER Kavinga design feature.   You know how many safari camps have a pool that was once designed for visitors, but quickly became a popular drinking attraction for elephants, along with all their slobber and slime?   Well, Kavinga have built theirs into a covered stilted deck built up high against the cliff below the main lodge, and overlooking one end of the waterhole.

Advantages….. people enjoying the pool aren't visible from the main lodge and its deck; the elephants can’t reach it; when you are using it, you feel private (and there’s a convenient loo built into the design at the back); AND it has incredible views. 

I haven’t even started on the activities – guided game drives, guided walking, coffee breaks and sundowners at various beautiful landmarks throughout the concession – different ones each day. 

You see, there’s a whole extensive private concession to explore – with the dry sandy river valleys of the Chiwuya and Ruckomechi Rivers, their cliffs and riverine woodlands, ridges full of magnificent baobabs, fascinating rock formations as the rivers emerge out of the foothills of the Zambezi escarpment mountains… and there are birds and animals everywhere.  

Even if there are several different visitor parties in camp, there are plenty of places for everyone to explore without coming across each other all the time.  Obviously with exciting finds like the buffalo herd heading to water, or the lions lying in the riverbed, you might share the sighting with two or more of the other camp vehicles.  But mostly you’ve got it all to yourselves!  

Everyone’s on the same page around Kavinga - the guides are familiar with the animals, their territories and their habits, but it also works the other way around.  The wildlife is used to the guides, the vehicles and the visitors and, because best practice guidelines are emphasised, animals on the concession generally feel relatively unthreatened – as a result the sightings are incredible.  

For me, the most refreshing thing about Kavinga Safari Camp is that there is JUST as much to entertain you in camp as there is out exploring in the wild.  You don’t have to rush about in game drive vehicles day and night frantically looking for lions and leopards.  The wild experiences are just as rewarding if you stay in camp and spend time observing!

I would recommend staying at least 3 nights and try to programme in an early morning walk in the company of an experienced guide, if at all possible.  This will provide you with the opportunity to heighten your senses in the wild and to experience some of the small treasures of Kavinga that often go unnoticed when the lions and leopards are at centre stage.

Here’s a small example – the delicate flowers and new pods of the Shaving Brush Combretum at the start of Spring in September – aren’t they beautiful?

Once the rains start towards the end of the year, the bush vegetation bursts forth and there are even more gems to be found, including some rare migrant birds, like the African Pitta.  

At the height of the safari season in Mana Pools, it’s hard to find a booking at Kavinga!  We now understand why.  It’s truly a priviledge to experience such an incredibly rich and astonishingly vibrant wildlife tapestry combined with intimacy, exclusivity and privacy.  Kavinga is a very very special place.


Wild Zambezi would like to express our profound thanks to the management and staff of Kavinga Safari Camp for allowing us to share your paradise with our special guests.  


Post a comment

Enter the three characters from the image on the right. This helps prevent automated 'bots' from submitting spam to the site. This field is NOT case-sensitive. If the characters are a bit hard to see, try refreshing the code by clicking the image.

Browse listings

Enter your details below to subscribe to the Wild Zambezi newsletter.


Enter your details below to subscribe to the Wild Zambezi newsletter.

* indicates required