Imvelo Safari Lodges2019-09-14T09:20:18-05:00

Hwange National Park &
Victoria Falls,

At a Glance

  • WHO’S WHO: Mark Butcher, Managing Director and Guide; Hayley Plaskitt, Marketing Director

  • WHAT WE DO: A collection of tented camps and lodges in Zimbabwe
  • WHERE: Victoria Falls and Hwange NP, Zimbabwe
  • UNIQUE SELLING POINTS: Experts in experiential safaris, Elephant Express game-viewing train, The Stimela Star sleeper train from Vic Falls to Hwange, pioneer of community-based tourism

Why Imvelo Safari Lodges

Imvelo Safari Lodges isn’t just about luxury, and there’s more to their operation than spectacular safaris. They believe in enriching the lives of those who live around their camps as well as their visitors’. They are determined to ensure that the local people and wildlife directly benefit from tourism. Imvelo’s safari lodges and camps were meticulously designed to offer the comforts of home, a splash of luxury and an exciting dash of unique. Locations were carefully selected…

Imvelo Safari Lodges Map

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Imvelo’s 2019 school lunch program

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    • Tourism that genuinely benefits wildlife and local communities
    • Authentic visits and interactions with local communities – Imvelo guests are invited to visit schools and community projects
    • Unique offerings, including the Elephant Express game-viewing train transfer, the Stimela Star sleeper train, the chance to go on a ‘pump run’ to check on water availability for Hwange’s wildlife and more
    • Photographic hides allow guests the chance to get eye-to-toe views of Hwange’s elephants and other wildlife
    • Jozibanini – a totally off-the-grid camp in Hwange’s most remote reaches, allowing for a real back-to-nature experience

    Imvelo Safari Lodges isn’t just about luxury and spectacular safaris. They believe in enriching the lives of those who live around their camps as well as their visitors’. They ensure that the local people and wildlife directly benefit from tourism. Guests who stay at Imvelo’s unique, owner-run lodges enjoy incomparable wildlife and photographic safaris with fully qualified and highly experienced guides, guided game walks, bird watching, spectacular views and surroundings, adrenaline-packed activities, luxurious accommodation, and thoughtful, friendly and attentive staff.

    Visit Imvelo Safari Lodges’ website

  • The Kusini Collection is proud to represent a group of like-minded businesses in Africa and Latin America, who believe in having a positive impact on our world. They collaborate with local communities and conservation organizations within their destinations with the belief that empowerment of people and place and being a voice for wildlife and natural areas will result in healthy ecosystems and communities. Here’s just a taste of what they are up to…

    Imvelo Safari Lodges believes that engaging and empowering local communities bordering national parks is the first and most important step in conservation. To that end, they have an exhaustive list of programs to achieve their goals, some of which are highlighted below.


    • Building classrooms
    • Providing annual dental care via their Mobile Dentists Safari
    • Drilling boreholes for communities
    • Crafting a school meal scheme
    • School book donations


    • Wildlife borehole maintenance and pumping within Hwange’s borders
    • Funding and outfitting anti-poaching teams
    • Fire break maintenance
    • Operation of Jozibanini Camp in the park’s remote reaches to deter poachers (and provide an incredible wilderness experience!)
  • MARK ‘BUTCH’ BUTCHER – Managing Director and Guide

    Even though ‘Butch’ is Imvelo’s Managing Director, he still spends as much time as he can spare in the bush. Butch’s wildlife career started in 1979 when he became a ranger for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. He completed a BSc in Zoology and Botany at Rhodes University before moving on to work for Zimbabwe’s Forestry Commission. As Provincial Wildlife Officer, Butch was responsible for all the wildlife that roamed within 1.8-million acres of indigenous forest. He quickly discovered how essential the local people’s support was to the well being of the estate. Butch began to develop programs that would both engage the people and benefit the natural ecosystems. He finally left the Commission to develop these initiatives from the other side of the fence. Butch’s lifelong passion for Hwange – its elephants, wildlife and communities – formed the cornerstone for Imvelo Safari Lodges to grow into what it is today.

    SIBAHLE ‘SIBS’ SIBANDA – Imvelo Head Guide

    Sibs – Imvelo’s Hwange head guide – was born in 1974 and qualified as a professional guide in 2000. Zimbabwe has stringent guide licensing regulations and our pro-guides are widely recognised as some of the best in Africa. Sibs started his career with pioneering Hwange safari operator Touch The Wild, before moving onto Wilderness Safaris in Hwange and Mana Pools and Conservation Corporation Africa in Matetsi. Sibs also spent a year in Botswana, working as a cultural guide with the San people of the Kalahari desert. Sibs’ passion and working knowledge of Western Zimbabwe’s people, Parks and ecosystems turns every tour into an exciting one.


    BLESSED MPOFU – Professional Guide & River Guide at Zambezi Sands

    Blessed was two years with Asilia Tanzania at Olivers Camp, and Namiri Plains Camp, Serengeti, as guide and relief manager; and two years with Asilia Mozambique’s Explore Gorongosa operation as camp manager. He was five years with Rani Resorts at Indigo Bay as guide and diving instructor; four years with Rani Resorts at Stanley & Livingstone as activities specialist; four years with Conservation Corporation’s Matetsi Lodges as head guide; and four years with Shearwater as canoeing and safari guide.



    HARRIS MUPEDZI – Professional Guide, Bomani and Camelthorn

    Harris has 11 years experience as head guide and assistant general manager Ibo Lodge, Cabo Delgado, north Mozambique. He spent four years as head guide for Landela Safaris at Bumi Hills, Katete and Fothergill Island Lodges, Kariba; and three years with Safari Sun at the same lodges under its previous owners. He started his career as a boat captain and then learner guide at Fothergill, Sanyati and Gache Gache Lodges.



    TYRON HURST – Professional Guide at Nehimba Lodge.

    Tyron qualified in 2011 with his full guiding licence, after five years apprenticeship in the safari industry around Zimbabwe. Before joining Imvelo in 2016, he worked as a freelance professional guide, primarily taking mobile safaris through Hwange and walking in the Matopos National Park.


  • Imvelo Safari Lodges offers a portfolio of six individually unique lodges and camps in the Victoria Falls area and Hwange National Park.  Each has been meticulously designed to offer all the comforts of home, a splash of luxury and an exciting dash of unique. On top of this, the locations have been carefully selected for two vital reasons: the local communities dedication to our conservation partnership and their proximity to some of nature’s most impressive wonders, from the famous Victoria Falls, to the mighty Zambezi River and Hwange National Park, famed for its thousands of elephants.

    Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Park:

    Gorges and Little Gorges Lodge

    With ten stone and thatch chalets and five luxury tents, Gorges has arguably the most spectacular views in Southern Africa and offers a unique Victoria Falls experience from a peaceful and idyllic base on the edge of the Batoka Gorge, 30 minutes from Victoria Falls town.
    Gorges and Little Gorges Fact Sheet
    Gorges and Little Gorges Lodge Wetu iBrochure
    Gorges and Little Gorges Lodge high-resolution photos

    Zambezi Sands River Camp

    With ten spacious luxury tents set along the banks of the Zambezi River upstream of Victoria Falls, Zambezi Sands is unique in that it features both water-based safari activities in the Zambezi River (canoeing, fishing and boat safaris) and land-based activities in Zambezi National Park (driving and walking safaris) but is also just a short 1-hr drive to Victoria Falls.
    Zambezi Sands River Camp Fact Sheet
    Zambezi Sands River Camp Wetu iBrochure
    Zambezi Sands River Camp high-resolution photos

    Hwange National Park

    Camelthorn Lodge

    Camelthorn’s eight forest villas are nestled in the cool woodlands on the southern edge of Hwange’s famed Ngamo Plains. One of only three lodges in Zimbabwe built on community land, Camelthorn offers both a spectacular wilderness experience as well as un-choreographed and meaningful cultural encounters in the nearby villages, the lodge’s partners and neighbors.
    Camelthorn Lodge Fact Sheet
    Camelthorn Lodge Wetu iBrochure
    Camelthorn Lodge high-resolution photos

    Bomani Tented Lodge

    The definition of a classic tented safari camp, Bomani offers nine tented accommodations plus a private two-bedroom family suite and thatched chalet set around a prolific waterhole on the Ngamo Plains bordering Hwange National Park.  Bomani is seasonal and is closed from 1 January 2019 – 28 February 2019.
    Bomani Tented Lodge Fact Sheet
    Bomani Tented Lodge Wetu iBrochure
    Bomani Tented Lodge high-resolution photos

    Nehimba Lodge

    Situated in a huge private concession in northern Hwange, Nehimba’s nine spacious canvas-under-thatch tents overlook the magnificent lodge waterhole which is frequented by huge numbers of elephants and other game, particularly in the dry season. Nehimba is seasonal and is closed from 1 December 2018 – 28 February 2019
    Nehimba Lodge Fact Sheet
    Nehimba Lodge Wetu iBrochure
    Nehimba Lodge high-resolution photos

    Jozibanini Camp

    With just five tents on raised teak decks, Jozibanini is a small and exclusive adventure camp situated in one of the most remote and unspoiled areas in the far south of Hwange National Park. This is a truly wild place allowing guests to completely unplug and enjoy a unique untamed wilderness experience. Jozibanini is seasonal and is closed from 1 November 2018 – 28 February 2019.
    Jozibanini Camp Fact Sheet
    Jozibanini Camp Wetu iBrochure
    Jozibanini Camp high-resolution photos

  • Imvelo likes to do things differently – with a focus experiential safaris such as game viewing from canoes on the Zambezi or tracking elephant herds on mountain bikes in southwest Hwange at Jozibanini Camp. While we love game drives just as much as the next safari operator, our passion lies in getting our guests out of the vehicles to explore our Zimbabwe in a more intimate, active and experiential way.

    Walking safaris

    The Zimbabwe Professional Guides have long been considered the best trained in Africa and therefore exploring the African bush by foot on a walking safari is a must-do while on safari in Zimbabwe. On a walking safari, all your senses are heightened and you can see, hear, smell and feel the bush. Small mysteries of the bush are unlocked and explored; tracks are investigated; and the wide variety of animal poop becomes an unexpected and fascinating learning experience!

    Canoeing safaris

    Imvelo’s flagship lodge on the upper Zambezi River, Zambezi Sands River Camp, offers guided canoe trips along the mighty Zambezi River in the network of islands close to the camp. These trips can range from less than a kilometer or an hour of paddling to 5-10km and a half or full day excursion. Zambezi Sands has its own fleet of hard rubble inflatable canoes, which are safe and very stable, as well as at least one professional canoeing guide on staff for these excursions. Picnic lunches and sundowners on the islands and banks of the Zambezi are a great way to enhance the canoeing activity!

    Horseback riding safaris

    The first activity of its kind in Southern Hwange, the magnificent and expansive savanna vleis that border Camelthorn along with the Ngamo plains make for the best safari riding areas in Zimbabwe and  guests of Camelthorn and Bomani lodges will now be able to enjoy leisurely strolls or more adventurous rides all led by experienced horse guides! In partnership with Hwange Horseback Safaris (HHS), owned and operated by Dennis and Sharon Nel, horseback riding safaris are the latest addition to Imvelo’s experiential safari model – a variety of daily horse riding activities to choose from with something for everyone, ranging from beginner level to experienced riders. Horseback riding safaris fact sheet.


    Mountain biking safaris

    At Imvelo’s remote adventure camp Jozibanini, guests can explore the area around camp on mountain bikes! Jozi is located in far southern Hwange, where for millennia, sand from the Kalahari has blown and piled into small dunes. In between these dunes are hard packed, fossilized troughs that elephants and other wildlife use to transit the area. These are the paths that will be used for the mountain bike safaris, providing a solid surface for biking. Our biking excursions are flexible though generally short and easy going (15km or less though longer rides are possible). There is always a vehicle available for support and refreshments!

  • Elephant Express

    If there’s a more fun way to travel to Imvelo’s Camelthorn Lodge and Bomani Tented Lodge in Hwange National Park, we haven’t seen it yet! The Elephant Express is Imvelo’s one-of-a-kind rail car which travels 80km from the small railway town of Dete to Ngamo siding, just minutes from Camelthorn and Bomani lodges. The Elephant Express seats 22 passengers and the finishes are comfortable and elegant. They include individual coach seating, a chemical toilet, teak tables, plenty of space for luggage, and a large aisle that allows guests to walk around comfortably and provides unrestricted game viewing. Imvelo also provides drinks of all kinds and delicious snacks en route!

    Elephant Express Fact Sheet


    Look-up blinds

    With all the active waterholes in Hwange, Imvelo installed two water-level photography blinds – at Stophie’s pan near Camelthorn and at Jozibanini pan – allowing for toe and snout level photography of Hwange’s thirsty herds! But these aren’t any ordinary photography blinds. By modifying standard steel shipping containers, including fitting it with a flush loo, and sinking it deep into the Hwange sands, Imvelo has created a cool, secure place from which to watch wildlife coming to drink. The sheer thrill of sitting in the blind in safety and comfort close enough to elephant to count the cracks on their toe nails has surpassed every one of our expectations! And over full moons guests can even spend the evening in the blind watching the wildlife come down to drink with a backdrop of stars in a crystal sky, and if you’re really enjoying yourself why not overnight in the blind – what an incredible experience, not available anywhere else in the National Park!


    All-day safaris aka “Pump runs”

    Hwange National Park has no major rivers and for the past 70 years during Hwange’s dry seasons, wildlife has subsisted here on water originally pumped by windmills, later replaced by diesel engines and now solar power. In the southern sector of the Park, Imvelo Safari Lodges shoulders the responsibility for 15 pumped waterholes. This means Imvelo is looking after approximately 20- 25% of the waterholes that sustain Hwange’s wildlife – a huge commitment of which we are truly proud!

    The engines require diesel, oil and monthly services and the pump attendants who operate them require rations and pay. A popular activity is to take an all day trip into the Park visiting the waterholes to drop off fuel and oil for the motors as well as rations and supplies for the pump attendants. A picnic lunch is then enjoyed near one of the waterholes followed by a leisurely game drive back to the lodge in the afternoon. Our Pump run usually ends with sundowners at one of the waterholes close to camp. Please note this activity only happens in the dry season when the water is pumped (usually between June – October). In the green season an all-day game drive can be enjoyed roaming across a huge section of the park stopping for a picnic lunch and siesta under a cool tree near a lily-covered pan.

    Stimela Star

    Stimela is quite literally the word we use in Zimbabwe (and Zululand) for a train, it derives from the rhythm of the sound the old trains made. Imvelo’s Stimela Star is the only private overnight sleeper train for tourists connecting Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park! The Star will transport you in comfort and plenty of old fashioned style overnight from Vic Falls and you’ll awake rested and relaxed ready for your adventure in Hwange National Park

    For 2018, Imvelo is offering five scheduled departure dates for the Star, however additional departures can be arranged for 12 or more guests on request. Powered by a diesel electric locomotive, the train cars date back to the heyday of national rail in Zimbabwe. The former Premier Class coaches and have been lovingly upgraded for today’s travelers.

    Stimela Star 2018 fact sheet and departure dates
    Stimela Star 2019 fact sheet and departure dates

    Pop-up spas

    As if Zambezi Sands, Gorges Lodge and Camelthorn Lodge aren’t already wonderful enough, Imvelo Safari Lodges have added pop-up spa services to their offerings! The spa treatments fall in line with Imvelo’s proud tradition of empowering the community through providing jobs, as their beauty therapists have been hand-picked from the surrounding community areas. Travelers can enjoy treatments (head, foot, shoulder & neck massages, as well as mani/pedis) in the most spectacular settings!

    Pop-up spa Fact Sheet

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