The Sunday Mail
When one thinks of a Zimbabwean safari, one thinks of rich physical beauty, dense wildlife populations, the most ethereal views and the magnificent bush all around.
The chance to be up close with lions, elephants and buffaloes is the dream of any nature lover.
The modern safari is incomplete without the touches of luxury right in the middle of nowhere: fine china under the stars, cocktails beneath towering umbrella shaped trees, crisp linen in a tented camp.
Many safari lodges in Zimbabwe provide all this, but the recently opened Mana Pools Safari Lodge, situated in the heart of Mana Pools National Park, offers more.
This is the first permanent safari lodge in the park, and at any given time – at breakfast, lunch or dinner – one can be paid a visit by elephants and other wild animals right there at the facility.
Mana Pools National Park is home to four of the Big Five (only the rhino cannot be found here), and the new safari lodge offers serenity and a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of city life.
So thick are animal populations at Mana Pools Safari Lodge that under no circumstances are guests allowed to leave their rooms without a professional escort at night.
And since the owners of the lodge have deliberately ensured there is no telecommunication at the place, it simply means bed time is bed time.
There is nothing as exhilarating as lying in your beautifully furnished room, tent flaps closed, and listening to the sounds of elephants and hippos on the other side of the wall.
Eco-tourism is the buzzword here, and Mana Pools Safari Lodge is powered by a solar system which provides refrigeration and all lighting and hot water.
This is a relaxing cut-off between safari and comfort.
The architecture — all rich wood and iron is developed around various trees one of which is a giant Mango-Cordyla Africana present in the main dining and lounge areas.
All of the lodge’s 12 chalets feature a luxurious bathroom en-suite each with free standing shower, dual hand basins, and nestle close to the park’s eastern boundary on Rukomeshi River.
The lodge itself overlooks the lower Zambezi River from which picturesque sunsets and sunrises can be viewed – all complemented by game drives and sundowner river cruises.
Mana Pools Safari Lodge is owned by an affable Italian vet who simply wants to be called Francisco, who having come from a steel and concrete country says Zimbabwe’s bountiful nature inspires him.
“I did the designing and the construction and I did not want to touch anything. Gum tree wood was used for the lodge. I started five years ago and just recently finished.
“Part of the money that I will get for the lodge will be used for the conservation of the park, I do not want to come here and take advantage. I feel that even if I am not obligated to, I want to do something with this place, it is unique.”
Mana Pools Safari Lodge is committed to conservation of flora and fauna within the national park and is spearheading an anti-poaching initiative partially funded by the Sino-Zim Wildlife Foundation.
They have donated boats, a helicopter, a drone and a micro-light plane to the Zimbabwe National Parks Authority for aerial surveillance and quick deployment against poachers and other environmental risks.