There is a camp, nestled in perhaps one of the most remote areas of any park in Africa, that simply does not get the attention it deserves. Miles from anywhere in the south-west of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, this unassuming camp can only be reached by a 6-hour bump-along by 4X4 (game drive from one waterhole to the next and ‘cheeseburgers in paradise’ enhance this drive!) or a short flight by bush plane (the nearest other tourism facility is a 4-hour drive away). Jozibanini Camp, or Jozi as it’s fondly known, is one of the most wonderful and inspiring places I’ve had the good fortune of experiencing. The simplicity and exclusivity of the small 5-tent camp deep in the wilds of Hwange is luxury redefined.
During the entirety of my stay, I drifted back to an excerpt I have pasted at my desk from the book, “The Last Rhinos” by Lawrence Anthony. In the paragraph, Mr. Anthony is sitting on the river’s edge taking in the wild around him after a few very stressful days, he writes:
“Total immersion in the wilderness is the purest and most natural of all therapies, and best of all, you don’t have to do anything except be there. The sights and sounds are remedies for the soul, while the scents of the African bush are nature’s original aromatherapy.”
These words sum up everything I felt throughout those wonderful days at Jozi. From the warm welcome by the camp family to dining (and sleeping for those who wish!) under the stars, to each experience whether active or passive, it was evident that I was one of the lucky few to explore this untamed wilderness.
Just a few of my highlights include:
Mountain biking along elephant paths – you won’t be climbing any hills but the sometimes-sandy terrain, pocked from time to time with deep elephant footprints, and tight turns through scrubby trees keeps you on your toes. I’d recommend bringing along a good sense of balance and humor! Trust me when I say that the bush breakfast made over campfire at an active water pan makes it well worth the effort! It was a blast!
An afternoon with the elephants – I am admittedly a little claustrophobic so, descending into a steel shipping container submerged in the earth with a viewing hole cut out naturally had me a little anxious. Would you believe that we spent 5 hours in there!? The look-up hide at Jozi is special indeed, there is not only one long slot cut out the length of the container for viewing, but additional slots on each other side for airflow. To make things even more comfortable for those of us who just can’t get enough of herds of elephants up close and personal, there is a flush toilet, a cooler stocked with preferred beverages, and food delivered from camp just a few yards away. Spending the afternoon in the look-up hide on the edge of a large waterhole with countless elephants was mesmerizing and emotional!
Tracking wildlife on foot – bush walks are always a thrill especially when you find fresh cat tracks as we did! Early mornings are especially interesting to wander along the sandy paths as your highly experienced professional guide reads the tracks and tells the story of what transpired the night before. Add with the constant bird chatter and wonderful photographic opportunities with potential big game sightings on foot – the walking safari is always a favorite of mine. There is nothing quite like allowing yourself to let go of control and completely trust your guide – it is a freedom few of us ever feel.
Camp Life – as a whole camp life was a highlight for me, the tent on a raised platform with proper beds and an open-air bathroom with toilet and bucket shower even has the option of rolling the bed out on the deck for Jozi’s well-loved ‘star-bed’ experience. The style of camp hearkens back to a ‘fly-camp’ feel – a real adventure camp. Each meal next to the campfire was a delight – the chef serving up tasty dishes with a generous side of laughter. Perhaps my favorite time at camp was spent around the fire, post-dinner, with a nightcap – at times accompanied with entertaining stories that would get so animated I’d be afraid we’d ‘wake the neighbors’ only to quickly remind myself we didn’t have any – at other times, to sit quietly gazing at the wide-open star-studded sky above and relishing the fact that it was just us and the wildlife beyond the warmth of our fire. Very special indeed.
Protecting Elephant Country – Most importantly, beyond the experiences and comforts, what’s so special about Jozi is also the importance of the camp and why more travelers should visit. Jozi protects this vast track of Hwange National Park by keeping boots on the ground and poachers out. This area was unused for nearly 20 years and given its location miles and miles from nowhere, it became an easy area for poachers to access the majestic herds of elephants. In 2013 over one hundred elephants were poisoned near Jozi (with a total of 130 in the vicinity in the far south of the park that one year). Today, elephant poaching incidents have been reduced to less than 5 per annum! So, if the grand amount of good that Imvelo is doing with communities surrounding Hwange National Park isn’t reason enough to visit… we think this is the icing on the cake!
Jozi is a truly unique camp that is hard to capture in words or photographs – it really must be experienced to be appreciated! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information! I LOVE JOZI!!