Changa Safari Camp
Lake Kariba & Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe
At a Glance
Excellent walking safaris along the shores of the lake
An unrivalled position with direct access to both Matusadona National Park and Lake Kariba
Spacious and beautifully appointed tented-rooms with large deck areas
A great combination of an authentic safari camp combined with a beach side feel
World class fishing for tiger fish and bream, best in the hotter months of October and November
Relax in your outside bathtub with mind-blowing views across Lake Kariba to the mountains beyond
240 different species of birdlife in the area
Great for those looking for a more relaxed style safari
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
From mid May through to early August the days are warm and clear but the night time temperatures can drop below freezing. September through to May is generally hot in the day and warm at night, Lake Kariba sees rain from late November/early December to April.
To start planning your holiday to Changa Safari Camp
Changa Safari Camp is located within a private concession of Zimbabwe's Matusadona National Park, on the shore of Lake Kariba. The eight spacious tented rooms all enjoy beautiful views across the lake to the Matusadona Mountains.
Changa Safari Camp enjoys a superb section of 4.5 kilometres of private Lake Kariba shoreline. At Changa, guests have the opportunity to experience a true African safari, whether it be by game drive vehicle, on foot or by boat, accompanied by the highly skilled in-camp guiding team.
The camp was created by two Zimbabwean families who have a passion for safari, and for years dreamt of building a lodge in this location. The special site they chose is a truly rich wilderness area offering exceptional game viewing. Matusadona and Lake Kariba itself contain large populations of elephant, buffalo, hippo and crocodile. Diverse and healthy populations of antelope are commonly found along the shore, and all of the big cats and varied predators are represented here. Some guests are even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of the last remaining black rhino in the thicker vegetation of the area. Birdlife is particularly prolific: over 350 species have been identified here.
The small size of the camp retains an exclusive and private feel, alongside a relaxed and laid back atmosphere. The tents are very comfortably fitted and great for couples or families. The experience at Changa provides so much diversity that you will without doubt leave wanting to visit again.
Guests stay in luxury East African style safari tents, spaced along the lake shore. The tents are large and display an influence from both colonial and local African styles. All tents are en suite with an outside 'under the stars' shower and bath and an indoor shower and loo. The large private decks in front are a great spot to sit and soak in the views. 6 of the tents can be set up as twins or king size rooms, and 2 of the tents are two bedroom family rooms.
Each tent is mosquito proofed and a fan is provided for comfort during the hot summer months.
All children are welcome at Changa Camp but children under the age of 16 are not allowed to join in game walks, but can join in other activities. There are 2 two-bedroom family tents, and additional beds can also be provided if need be.
The design of Changa is such that the camp blends naturally with the surrounding bush. The use of local materials, thatched roofs and wooden decks allows the camp to melt into its surrounds.
The main area of the camp contains an indoor and outdoor lounge area and library, both comfortably furnished. and with views over the lake. A main deck leads down to a lower deck where there is a fire pit by the sandy lake shore.
The small swimming pool is shaded by surrounding trees and the deck is equipped with sun loungers and seating areas.
The emphasis at Changa is a relaxed atmosphere, meal times come under this umbrella. Guests usually sit together around a large table in the dining room or under a shady tree on the deck.
For those that wish to stay connected to the outside world there is also a good wifi connection which is free of charge in the main area of the camp
Wherever possible, activities at Changa are tailored around the requirements of each guest. Early morning starts are the usual to catch the best game viewing. Morning and afternoon activities are varied and include: game walks accompanied by a professional armed guide; game drives in an open safari vehicle; and boat safaris for game and bird watching on the camp's pontoon boat. Lake Kariba is internationally know for its fishing. Sportsmen travel from across the world to catch the famously hard-fighting Tiger Fish, alternatively fish for bream and have your catch prepared for dinner.
Sophie Levey (Staff)
Changa is a wonderful place to relax at the end of your safari. The tents are spacious and comfortable, with an outdoor shower and bath for those who are feeling a little more adventurous! There are game drives and walks on offer, but the real treat for us was taking a sunset boat cruise on the lake and taking in the beautiful scenery and the wonderfully peaceful surroundings.
Eliza Walker (Staff)
Changa Safari Camp is a very unique place in that it could work almost as well as a beach destination as it does a safari lodge. Whilst the crocodiles and hippos make it inadvisable to wander into the lake for a dip, you certainly almost feel like you could when you are relaxing on the sandy beach in front of the lodge. Everything here seems to be designed to make you lie back and relax, from the hammocks swinging gently outside your rooms, to the vast bathtubs with their views over the lake. Whilst you can certainly go on game drives here, I'd almost recommend it more as a stop between two other safari destinations, so that you can unwind, enjoy the setting, and indulge in some lake activities such a boating and fishing. The rooms themselves are spacious and very comfortable, with overhead fans providing a welcome breeze in the warmer months. I could happily spend weeks on end here.
A reborn Victoria Falls isnt necessarily a measure of the whole country, however. Ninety per cent of the guests at my lodge wont see anything else of Zimbabwe before departing for Botswana and South Africa. I leave them far behind, flying 230 miles east along the Zambezi to Mana Pools.
The last time I arrived at the famous national park I was in a canoe, on a 4 day paddle marked by an unnervingly close encounter with a crocodile gripping a freshly killed impala. I've never forgotten it. Nor the landscape. The wide Zambezi, braided with islands, and crawling with game beneath the hazy wall of Zambias Kayila Mountains, was the closest thing Id seen to the Garden of Eden. It still is.
Id hoped to wake up to the very same view this time. Not a chance. Mana, whose visitor numbers have doubled since 2008, doesnt have a single tented room available along its waterfront. Instead I stay 18 kilometres back into the bush at Kanga Camp. Im lucky to get in there its booked up for the next three months, part of a record season. Tourisms picking up every year, says manager Caisias Tembo, who recently returned to Zimbabwe after a decade managing lodges in Mozambique. A flood of experienced staff will soon follow me home. Some may well end up at a new camp, due to open in 2015, further from the river at the foot of the 2,000 ft escarpment.
Any disappointment at not being on the Zambezi quickly vanishes. Homely and intimate, Kangas 6 tents swaddle a pan that, as one of only two permanent water sources in the area, seethes with wildlife. From the multi-tiered deck surrounding a huge jackal berry tree, I enjoy an armchair safari watching elephant, buffalo and impala drinking in the shallow water. Later, over a scrumptious roast supper, the lodge spotlight picks out hyena, wild dog, civet cat and honey badger. Guests at the pan have seen leopards prowling, kudu fleeing predators and lions killing.
For a more active game-viewing we head down to the Zambezi, passing a 100-strong herd of buffalo, double that number of impala and five lions looking deceptively cuddly in the shade. The riverbank is still divine: a natural Mark Rothko abstract with perfectly stratified layers of sandy shore, shimmering water and green islands, beneath the Zambian tree line, ochre mountains and cyan sky.
The waterfront is dotted with magnificent leadwood, Natal mahogany and ana trees. I arrive just too late to see a bull elephant standing on its hind legs to snaffle the anas fruit: a sight unique to Mana. Instead, crocodiles dominate my day. Not just because they're prolific 2 giants for every 10 yards of Long Pool, the largest of the parks four lakes but because I meet Zera. The guide was commended for his bravery after diving into the river to fight a 17ft-long beast devouring a Dutch tourist. I acted on instinct, he says, as I listen open-mouthed. I twisted the crocs tail & it flipped over, releasing the guy. He was floating, curled up in shock and I dragged him to the bank. The croc was just behind us, but turned away when it saw other people. The tourist had eight punctures but lived. Meeting the crocodile wrestler makes my day. Actually it makes my trip.
Leaving Mana, I try my luck with a second pilot. Can we swing right and fly above the Zambezi? Why not? says Janade of Halsted air charters. Youve come a long way. We cut northeast to follow the sparkling thread of river as it enters a vertiginous valley of coffee-hued rock, before passing over the Kariba dam that restrains the planets largest man-made lake.
Its a theatrical approach to my final stop. Tucked into the mopani bush above the beach, on a fat peninsular of land overlooking the distant Matusadona Mountains, Changa is the most stylish camp of my trip. With eight large, open-plan tents, each with a gauze side open to refreshing breezes, light modern African interiors and striking stone-effect al fresco bathrooms, it introduces a dash of upmarket international chic to the Matusadona National Park. Fellow guests include the French ambassador and an American business titan.
Changa, which Wilderness Safaris uses for clients visiting the lake, has seen occupancy rise by more than 50 per cent since opening in 2012. Theres more good news on the day I arrive: Air Zimbabwe is re-launching its service linking Victoria Falls, Kariba and Harare, a route mothballed for seven years. Take out the eye-watering cost of charter flights and the countrys lodges are stunning value compared to those of surrounding countries. The new service could provide a major boost.
In the 1980s, I spent a boozy week cruising Kariba, catching tiger fish and bream. In the late afternoon I head back on to the glassy lake, weaving through ethereal forests of dead mopani trees that riddle its shallows. Osprey, African darter and reed cormorants decorate their branches, like precious jewellery spotlit by a setting sun.
We cut the engine 100 yards from shore, drifting towards a lone elephant on Fothergill Island. Theyre so used to boats, explains George van Wyk, one of Zimbabwes finest guides. You can get to within 5 yards. Its quite different to being in vehicles.
It certainly is. At water level the bull elephant is huge. Magnificent. Intimidating. We silently watch it flexing the 20,000 muscles in its trunk to pull up weeds, wash off the sand and scoop them into its mouth. For us its 30 minutes of awe-inspiring theatre, for the elephant, its an 18-hour daily routine. Another day, another elephant. This time were on foot. A Matusadona specialty. Its a case of CSI Changa with George analysing dung and footprints to walk us within 60 yards of a mature bull. Mid-to-late 40s, he whispers. Great condition.
Departing the camp I request a final aerial detour. Surely I wont be lucky again? I am. This time our plane stays deliberately low, hugging the shoreline above the spot where 8 lion are eating a elephant: an instant airbo
Louisa Verney (Staff)
Changa Camp is the most stunning tented lodge on the banks of Lake Kariba, within the Matusadona National Park. The tented rooms are huge and have lovely views out over the lake. Each tent has a well laid out bathroom and you have a choice whether to shower inside or outside so you can take in the view.
We had a wonderful evening attempting to catch talapia as the sun went down... I caught rather a lot of weed but I eventually caught (a tiny) fish but I was ecstatic. So we stopped for sundowners on the lake shore to celebrate. Later we had dinner on the small beach - Changa really does have the feeling of a safari lodge on the lake/beach and it was fantastic to be able to get out and do some game viewing by boat, which was a lovely alternative to a game drive.
Canoeing on the Zambezi
Join an experienced and qualified river-guide for a canoe safari on the Zambezi River, this is a fantastic way to experience the northern safari areas of Zimbabwe and get a feel for the power of the Zambezi.
Fishing in Zimbabwe
Visitors travel from across the globe to Northern Zimbabwe to try their hand at catching one of the most iconic of fresh water game fish: the Tiger Fish. Ten-pound plus tigers are a common catch on the waters of Kariba and the wider Zambezi.
Zimbabwe is one of the best places in Africa to experience walking in the bush. The guides are of the highest quality, the game is fantastic and the different environments, throughout the country, are well suited for exploring on foot.
Location & directions
Lake Kariba & Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe
Changa Safari Camp is located in Northern Zimbabwe, on the shore of Lake Kariba in Matusadona National Park.
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