With no WiFi or elaborate technology available, Zimbabwe's Sapi Reserve is a wild and remote destination where travelers can escape, reconnect with nature and truly recharge their batteries.
The 500-square-mile private reserve forms part of the Greater Mana area, which is a two-hour flight from Victoria Falls by small plane (about 90 minutes from Harare), followed by a two-hour journey by land. It's about as remote as you can get in Zimbabwe. This natural paradise, which is home to big mammals such as elephants, hippos, lions, rhinos and buffaloes as well as abundant birdlife, is the perfect destination for the seasoned safari traveler looking for a unique wildlife experience.
Like the Selinda Reserve in Botswana, the Sapi Reserve is a former hunting concession. However, in 2016 Great Plains Conservation was awarded the safari area to conserve and manage. The company vowed to protect it as a photographic safari destination. It has become a leading example of successful conservation-based tourism in Africa.
A guestroom at Tembo Plains Camp.
The goal of the Sapi Restoration Initiative is to restore a depleted landscape through strategic protections, a comprehensive conservation plan and the establishment of sustainable tourism practices.
As Great Plains co-founder Dereck Joubert mentioned on the Great Plains website: "We stepped out of the Land Cruiser a few years ago into a sea of bones of dead animals, skeletons from years and years of hunting. I looked at [Great Plains co-founder] Beverly [Joubert] and said, 'We have to' try to rebuild this place, we owe it to the elephants and other wildlife that offer up so much to us all, daily. They teach us more about ourselves than we learn about them, and it's about empathy, dignity, caring, grace and respect. Things that we built this company on are all learned from elephants. So this is where we give back. We started our work in Sapi a few months later. I am hoping it will one day be a love letter to them."
Sapi Reserve and the neighboring Mana Pools National Park now comprise more than 1,300 square miles of prime protected wilderness. Collectively they form part of a Unesco World Heritage Site as well as the core of the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve.
One of the most popular camps in Sapi is the unfenced Sapi Explorers Camp, which is located along the Zambezi River. It was built with the idea that people are transient in the animal's world. The camp offers a base from which to explore the Sapi Reserve, Mana Pools and the Zambezi River. It is an intimate and exclusive camp, with only five Explorers-style tents, each with en suite shower and flush toilet.
"One of the more exciting activities here is walking," Dereck Joubert said about the camp. "I think we spend way too much time bouncing around in the backs of vehicles today on safari. So here, our guides love to load up and hit the trail. I don't want to overpromise, but we've also been involved in a pangolin reintroduction project, so tracking the smaller things is what this is all about."
Travelers can also explore the wilderness on foot or by canoe on the Zambezi River. They will traverse the diverse terrain like the early explorers and discover the legendary Mutawatawa Pan. They will have close encounters with elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, buffaloes, elands and zebras.
Tembo Plains Camp opening in August
In August, Great Plains will also be opening a new five-star lodge, Tembo Plains Camp. With four spacious tents as well as a two-bedroom family unit and a private-guide tent, the Tembo Plains Camp will be ideal for couples, families, multigenerational travelers and those looking for an exclusive personal safari experience.
The family unit comprises two tents with a shared lounge and dining area and pool and will accommodate up to four adults. Each guest tent offers an indoor lounge and outdoor dining area, private plunge pool and exercise bikes, in addition to expansive en suite bathrooms with indoor baths, showers and double vanities. Guests will also have access to professional Canon cameras and Leica binoculars.
Twitchers will be spoiled for choice as Tembo Plains is situated in prime birdwatching country, ideal for photographers and nature enthusiasts. Activities at Tembo Plains include day and night wildlife-viewing drives, walking safaris, canoeing and boating on the Zambezi River.
Nightly rates for the family unit at Tembo Plains start from $3,271. A guest tent at Tembo Plains begins from $1,168 per person, per night.