There is a buzz in the air; a tangible, enthusiastic zest that accompanies new beginnings. Not only is the landscape around Linkwasha Camp in Hwange National Park donning its lush emerald-green dress, the camp itself, after recently going through a complete transformation (the camp was reopened in May 2015) – is looking utterly gorgeous in the summer sun.
For safari purists accustomed to rustic thatch and wood this is something completely different! Yet the combination of chic, modern architecture and warm old-fashioned hospitality won me over in no time at all.
Summer in Hwange is exceptionally easy on the eye. Despite not getting as much rain as usual this year, the bush is beautifully green with puddled roads and natural pools spilling across the landscape and creating mirrors for the most beautiful sunsets. The only thing missing is the large herds of elephant, which, with water aplenty, disperse into the woodlands.
Linkwasha is the most upmarket of three Wilderness Camps in Hwange, all within a 52 300 hectare private concession. The camp looks over a beautiful waterhole vista which attracts plains game like wildebeest, impala, waterbuck and sable pursued by lion, cheetah and wild dog, all sighted close to camp during my week-long stay.
One morning I was in the shower (which has an open bush view), when a herd of impala came galloping past me followed by a pack of wild dog. I was absolutely thrilled! I lost sight of them (wild dogs are marathon runners!) but then while I was getting dressed I heard them chirruping and yelping excitedly, which could only have meant their hunt had been a success. I called a group together and we hurried to the end of the boardwalk to see if we could catch sight of them. Unfortunately they were deep in a patch of woodland but what a start to the morning!
The wildlife has been abundant and the scenery is overwhelmingly beautiful; it’s a wonder to me that more people don’t visit during the green season. This sentiment is shared by many of the Linkwasha staff members including general manager Joe Hanly, who grew up in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands. “At this time of year the birdlife is unbelievable. It’s lush, green and vibrant and with all the plains game you never know what you’ll see around the corner. The wildlife in camp has been pretty remarkable; a few days ago we had a wild dog kill literally outside the main car park. We had cheetah at our fuel station, we had lion in front of camp, all in the space of a couple of hours. Another special sighting I’ve had was watching a herd of over 100 eland at the waterhole. They congregated from different areas and just sort of met up, it was very special to see, I’ve never seen so many.”
Another highlight of Linkwasha is the friendliness of the staff and the knowledge and experience of the guides. Linkwasha’s head guide, Lewis Mangaba has guided in the Serengeti (Tanzania) as well as in South Luangwa (Zambia) and brings a lot of experience to the team. “The six of us (guides) are a wonderful team. 2015 wasn’t an easy year following the bad publicity of Zimbabwe with the death of Cecil and the politics behind our president yet we are hopeful for 2016 and our aim is to restore confidence in Zimbabwe. As guides we are ambassadors for our country as well as for our company and we would like the world to know that Zimbabwe has a lot to offer – we still have wonderful national parks and wonderful people working together to take care of them. Linkwasha Camp has been featured in quite a few magazines which helps us spread the message”
Thank you to the wonderful staff at Winderness Safaris‘ Linkwasha for hosting me! I loved every moment of it!