If you’ve never been to Zimbabwe before, you’re in for a treat. It’s one of the most beautiful, enigmatic, diverse and friendly countries in Africa. At Imvelo, we aren’t just about luxury lodges and there’s more to us than spectacular experiential photographic safaris – we believe in enriching the lives of those who live around us as well as our guests by ensuring that it’s the local people and wildlife that directly benefit from our visitors. Our program has blossomed into a showpiece and model for truly successful community-based ecotourism in Zimbabwe.
Why Imvelo Safari Lodges?
Experiential safari lodges and camps that make a difference: Imvelo Safari Lodges have four very unique camps in and around Hwange National Park. And while our lodges certainly deliver luxurious creature comforts, we firmly believe that travelers today are increasingly seeking the luxury of exclusivity, of remote places, of small intimate camps and unique, authentic interactions with nature and local people. And this is where we really excel. For us, it’s all about enjoying a safari in new and unique ways, like our Elephant Express rail safaris, bush yoga, underground blinds, biking, walking and even canoeing safaris to name a few! Coupled with our incredibly impactful community and conservation programs and immersive cultural activities, Imvelo really is doing things differently and offering a very unique safari experience.
Camps & Lodges
Imvelo Safari Lodges offers a portfolio of four individually unique lodges and camps in Hwange National Park. Each has been meticulously designed to offer all the comforts of home, a splash of luxury and an exciting dash of uniqueness. 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 in Hwange, famed for its thousands of elephants.
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.
The definition of a classic tented safari camp, Bomani is situated in a private concession on the magnificent Ngamo Plains, on the edge of the remote and unspoilt southeastern corner of Hwange National Park. Bomani offers nine tented accommodations plus a private two-bedroom family suite and a thatched chalet set around a prolific waterhole.
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, and has been called “the greatest elephant show on the planet.”
With just six 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.
Imvelo likes to do things differently – with a focus experiential safaris such as game viewing from canoes on flooded plains 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.
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!
Imvelo continues to innovate and introduce world class safari activities for our guests to enjoy on safari with us in Hwange! Always ready to explore new ways to experience our magical environment, Imvelo’s latest activity is canoeing – not on one of Africa’s great rivers, but on Ngamo’s seasonal wetlands. Slipping quietly along on a golden pond, drifting past photo opportunities with the game grazing on drier land- truly one of the most spectacular safari activities out there. Pushing past a watery wonderland of lotus lilies, mesmerizingly close to wildlife, with no current pulling or whitewater rushing just ahead, will certainly be a memorable experience! This activity is dependent on the season’s rainfall.
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!
Unique Safari Experiences
And while our lodges certainly deliver luxurious creature comforts, we firmly believe that travelers today are increasingly seeking the luxury of exclusivity, of remote places, of small intimate camps and unique, authentic interactions with nature and local people. And this is where we really excel. For us, it’s all about enjoying a safari in new and unique ways, like our Elephant Express rail safaris, underground “look-up” blinds and more.
In 2022, a groundbreaking conservation project was launched when two male rhinos were reintroduced to the Hwange ecosystem by Imvelo in collaboration with a host of community groups, NGOs and the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority. Guests on Imvelo’s Rhino Experience will learn about the Community Rhino Conservation Initiative – CRCI for short – as well as how the rhinos are protected and future plans for the initiative. Travelers then walk to join the rhinos and the Cobras guarding them where they will enjoy lots of photo opportunities and time to appreciate Thuza and Kusasa in their new home. Guests staying at Camelthorn, located on the same community land as the Ngamo Rhino Sanctuary, sometimes enjoy a surprise visit by the rhinos at the lodge itself! 70% of total funds generated from visits to see the rhino go directly back to the communities.
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 railcar 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!
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!
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 18 waterpumps. 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.
Imvelo Safari Lodges know how to take it to another level with pop-up spa services on offer! 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!
Meet Butch and the Imvelo Safari Lodges team
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. Read More
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.
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.
Hayley Plaskett – Marketing and Sales Director
Hayley was born in Zimbabwe and has always had a passion for travel. Her education was in Business Science, and after years working and traveling across the world, she has spent the last 9 years shaping and growing the Imvelo Safari Lodges portfolio in Zimbabwe as the Marketing and Sales Director overseeing the development and delivery of a fully integrated marketing strategy for the business and leading for sales growth worldwide. Hayley says ‘The Imvelo brand is today a one-of-a-kind experiential and community-based success story – and it has been a privilege to bring Hwange National Park (where I spent my childhood growing up) back onto the map for those looking for something life-changing on top of an exceptional safari’. Hayley is now based in Capetown, South Africa and manages the role remotely.
Hayley VanHese lives a true and full Zimbabwean life. As the daughter of a tour guide and grandparents that lived in a bush environment, she is no stranger to the outdoors and has always had a great love for the wilderness. At school Hayley mostly enjoyed business studies and developing her computer literacy skills. Motivated by her combined passions, she went straight into the tourism industry after graduating from Dominican Convent in 2007. Gaining knowledge and experience along the way, she joined the Imvelo Safari Lodges team in 2015. Hayley’s fun-loving personality makes for a jovial relationship amongst colleagues, and though she spends a lot of her time at her desk, she takes every opportunity to get out of town and enjoy the wonders of the wild.
Margaret ‘Mags’ Rajah – Sales & Reservations Manager
Sales and Reservations Manager Margaret Rajah has been helping agents plan everything from honeymoons to family safaris in the Hwange National Park. Her secret lies in her own love of traveling, nature and conservation. Margaret has been with the Imvelo team for almost four years and her love for the role of creating amazing adventures has grown and continues to do so. She always wears a smile to work and thoroughly enjoys interacting with agents and assisting with booking and planning their guest’s dream holiday which Mags says is the most rewarding part of her job. Mags is a mom of two and a born and bred Zimbabwean who grew up spending her childhood exploring all corners of the country.
Nimisha Daya – Sales & Reservations Manager
Third generation Zimbabwean, born, raised and educated in Bulawayo, Nimisha began her career in Travel and Tourism in 2014 with Eco Logical Safaris Travel where she had worked her way through various roles in the company from accounts assistant to travel consultant and then to General Manager. Driven by her passion for travel and tourism she studied through the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and obtained her Diploma in Managing the Travel Business. In June 2021 she joined the Imvelo Safari Lodges team as one of their Sales and Reservations Managers where she continues to grow in her career and indulge in her passion for tourism, making guests experiences unforgettable while working closely with colleagues who share the same interest.
Community and Conservation
Imvelo Safari Lodges has proven 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 thoughtful, innovative and impactful programs to achieve their goals, some of which are highlighted below. Read More
Building classrooms for children in neighboring communities
Providing thousands of dental and eye treatments via their annual Mobile Health Safari
Drilling and maintaining boreholes to provide fresh drinking water for communities and Hwange’s wildlife
Running a feeding program to ensure community children receive a hot, nutritious meal every day at school
Donations of more than 30,000 books to local schools
Wildlife borehole maintenance and pumping within Hwange’s borders
Innovating a hybridized solar/diesel borehole pump to ensure fresh water delivery 24 hours/day
Funding and outfitting anti-poaching teams comprised of local community members
Fire break maintenance
Operation of Jozibanini Camp in the park’s remote reaches to deter poachers (and to provide an unparalleled wilderness experience to lucky guests!)
Learn more about Imvelo’s community and conservation programs here.