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Dr Iroshini Chua reviews Nyamatusi Mahogany

Our resident travel maven, Dr Iroshini Chua, takes us on yet another adventure. 

I was not about to make any sudden movements. Immersed in the refreshing plunge pool set into the elevated deck of my tent, I listened to the elands munching the grass and watched the herd of elephants parade right past me.  After a while, the birds didn’t quite mind my presence either. Purple Starlings pecked at the earth and spectacled weavers flew from branch to branch above me. I was surrounded by the beauty of nature at Nyamatusi Mahogany Camp, nestled on the banks of one of the ancient rivers in the world - the Zambezi. 

Nyamatusi Mahogany is in one of the oldest and wildest parts of Africa – Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe. Mana Pools which is fed by the lower Zambezi river, transforms into expansive lakes after the rainy season. During the dry season, as the water recedes, the area attracts large herds of elephants, buffalo and other mammals in search of water, making it one of the most renowned game-viewing regions on the planet. “Mana” means four in “Shona” and is in reference to the four large permanent pools formed in the area. Home to 350 bird species, mammals and aquatic wildlife, it is one of the best preserved natural ecological sites and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Nyamatusi Mahogany is accessible from a 1.5-hour flight from Harare followed by a 45 min drive from the landing strip. However, we had opted to travel via chartered flight, which was arranged by our tailor-made safari specialist A2A safaris along with the rest of the itinerary for Zimbabwe. It allowed us to fly directly from our previous camp in Zimbabwe.  

Nyamatusi Mahogany is one of the 17 tented camps and lodges of African Bush Camps, which was founded by professional guide Beks Ndlovu. His passion for preserving remote lands and eco-consciousness permeates through the property. Mahogany trees, from which the lodge lends its name, provide the shade for each canvas tent, purposely placed to benefit from its expansive leafy branches to protect guests from the heat and minimize the use of air-conditioning and fans which run off solar power. All this in order to align with the philosophy of conservation of both environment and animals.  

We were in a 2-bedroom family tent which comprised two generous and spacious tents connected by a deck that overlooks the stunning landscape of the Zambezi flood plain and the Zambian mountains beyond. The master tent featured a king size bed, lounge, writing desk, refreshment station, bathtub and shower areas while the kids room featured twin beds, a lounge and separate bathroom areas. The tents were decorated in all things leather, wood, cooper and canvas, evoking “out of Africa” vibes.  

Walking into the heart of the camp almost always took my breath away. We could dine at the table, sway on a swing or sip a cocktail on one of the lounge spaces spilling on to the decks with no concrete wall separating us from the wild life wonder. A library and bar strategically located on the second floor afforded a bird’s eye view of the plains below. The swimming pool was inviting to escape the heat of the day while the campfire boma beckoned us in the evenings to exchange stories of our game drives.  

Twice a day, we embarked on game drives. Despite the rains of the preceding week that had dispersed the animals into the thick vegetation, we had sightings of herds of elephant (famous for attempting to stand on hind legs in this region), buffalos, lions and various antelopes. For the best game viewing, the months of April to October are recommended although the park is almost entirely yours from November to January.  Our walking safari proved to be exhilarating as we got up close to an unsuspecting elephant. Our knowledgeable guide always made us feel safe as he walked ahead of us with rifle in hand.   

Discovering Mana Pools and its aquatic life by boat is special - hippos immersed in water, buffalos and crocodiles along the banks, mammals approaching the waters to quench their thirst and the birdlife soaring above it all. In the height of summer, I recommend avoiding the morning heat in favour of an afternoon blissful cruise with a cold drink at hand. So nourishing was the experience for our soul, that when we stepped out of our boat, we were positively glowing from within confirmed an observant friend! 

I admit, with a pizza parlour complete with all the toppings in the world, fresh water melon juice on tap, delightful breakfast spreads with homemade muesli, pastries and eggs, 3 course lunch menus and a live Wok station at the boma dinner, I did wonder if we really were in the middle of the wilderness.  

Having travelled with A2A safaris for the past 7 years for their expertise and knowledge of the continent, I am quite certain of a little A2A birdie that whispers in the ear of the camps we visit so that our birthdays and anniversaries are delightfully celebrated. African Bush camps was fully on board to provide my family and I a very private, unforgettable, and magical experience. It was an envy inducing set up for sure, but our only audience was the family of hippos in the lake that were devoid of any green eyes. An entire bar with rows and rows of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages of every flavour from Amarula, to South African wines to Scotch Whiskey was displayed. A table and chairs arranged in a semi-circle amid a verdant clearing on the bank and facing the spell bounding view of the Zambezi River; Nyamatusi staffs’ favourite spot known to be the most scenic in the area. My husband, 2 grown children and I felt every bit spoilt and special as staff attended to us with trays of martinis and canapés in hand. Our bar tender captured the songs that broke out as the sun dipped low and the skies lit up in every shade of purple and pink. Something you should know about the staff at Nyamatusi, a reflection of Africa Bush Camps and its founder - they really do go above and beyond to make sure you leave with nothing but cherished memories of your time at Mana pools.