Eat Stay Do in Zimbabwe

Sadly, tourism in Zimbabwe (anywhere outside Victoria Falls) is long gone. The campsites and places of interest, once humming with people gawking at the sites and locals selling curios, are all but deserted and local people are struggling without the revenue which tourism brings. It is, however, very safe and I would recommend you visit this forgotten gem of a country!


TO STAY: There are quite a few places to stay in Kariba. The small town on the hillside offers a number of camping options but I found the sites stark, barren and uninspiring. Due to Zimbabwe’s political situation, there are very few tourists around Kariba has just about become a ghost town. You’re able to resupply here but I continued 20kms on around the lake to the Charara campsite (NAU) which was like paradise on earth. Thick grass and trees galore make for a very welcome break. It’s a short walk down to the water’s edge – take a drink with you and enjoy the sunset!

To see the position of the campsite – see the Zimbabwe map here.

Charara Campsite on Lake Kariba

Charara Campsite on Lake Kariba


TO EAT: Stop at Lions Den near Karoi for the best biltong in just about the whole of Africa!


TO STAY AND DO: I was really fortunate to have family in Harare to stay with. I would recommend using AirBnb to find a family home to stay in here and don’t have any further knowledge of hotels or otherwise. There are a number of top end hotels in Harare – the Crown Plaza, Holiday Inn or the famous Meikles Hotel. There’s nothing of significance to see in the capital city but there are a few things to be aware of that it is illegal to walk on the sidewalks or drive down the road in front of the President’s “palace” after 6 p.m. If you do so, you will be on the wrong end of a large gun and threatened with a large fine and/or imprisonment by the guards. If this happens, keep calm. You will probably have to pay a massive bribe.

Arcadia is a beautiful dam about an hour outside of Harare and makes for a most pleasant day trip.

Tea Farms near Arcadia Dam outside Harare

Tea Farms near Arcadia Dam outside Harare


TO STAY AND DO: Situated in the North East section of Zimbabwe, the area around Nyanga and Mutare is absolutely stunning and one may assume you were in the Lake District or some place of similar beauty. I didn’t have long here and spent most of my days driving through lush green hills and forests. World’s View offers an incredible visa of the Eastern Highlands on a clear day.

Trout beck Inn, below the World View turnoff, has maintained very high standards since it was built. The stone built fireplace in their entrance hall, as been burning continuously since 1951. Fishing is an extemely popular activity in these parts. There are other options for sleeping in the area and I chose to stay at the official Nyanga National Park campsite. Like most other places in Zimbabwe, I was the only vehicle in the campsite that evening.

Leopard Rock hotel is an old favourite with immaculate gardens and a world class golf course.

The Mturazi (or Mutarazi) Falls and Honde Valley are worth a visit.

For a beautiful and windy drive further south, you can visit the Vumba mountains area.




TO DO: Visit Great Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe Ruins) – the largest collection of ruins in Africa south of the Sahara.

Built between the 11th and 15th centuries, Great Zimbabwe was home to a cattle-herding people who also became adept at metal-working. Atop a granite outcropping, walls merge with enormous boulders to form the fortified Acropolis. In the valley below sits the Great Enclosure with almost a million granite blocks in its outer walls. The stonework, entirely without mortar, gradually improves until the newest walls stand double the height and width of the oldest structures. At some points the walls are 11 meters high and extend for over 800 meters.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Great Zimbabwe Ruins


TO DO: Visit Matopos National Park – an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys. The national park is the oldest in Zimbabwe, established in 1926 as Rhodes Matopos National Park and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

Cecil John Rhodes' Grave at Matopos National Park

Cecil John Rhodes’ Grave at Matopos National Park

Eat Stay Do in Zambia


TO STAY AND EAT: On the way from Zambia to South Luangwa National Park I stayed at Mama Rulas camp. It’s perfectly positioned for an early morning launch into the park and the newly tarred road makes the journey fairly quick and painless. The park fees give you entry for one day only (the day of purchase) so it’s worth leaving really early to make the most of your first day in South Luangwa. Mama Rulas has a campsite and budget rooms set in a beautiful wooded area. By early afternoon the bar fills up and you can drink and eat to your heart’s content – all for a very reasonable fee. The town of Chipata has almost everything a weary traveller could ask for – Spar for groceries, mobile phone shops, KwikFit for a spot of vehicle maintenance and even a Debonaires pizza place!


TO STAY AND DO: DO NOT MISS SOUTH LUANGWA!! The park is a little out of the way but it is probably the most fantastic park I drove through the entire journey. The park offers day passes at the gate (per vehicle) which expire when the gates close at sundown. There are a number of camps on the border of the South Luangwa gates. I’m fairly sure they’re all as good as each other. We had a look at Flatdogs but it was overrun with overland truck youngsters and their pool was fairly small. We backtracked to check the west side of the bridge. Track and Trail had an awesome swimming pool but very little shade for camping. Next door, and a little further on, is Croc Valley where we settled under some lovely shady trees (and then hopped over the fence for a swim in the campsite with the awesome pool…). We did our own cooking at Croc Valley so can’t vouch for its food but beware the monkeys by day, who will steal food from your hand if you’re not looking, and elephants by night, who have been known to break into vehicles to get into the food left inside. The camp bar will take your food and store it inside its cupboards each night for you to prevent your vehicle from having its exterior rearranged…

Click here to see photos of South Luangwa on Facebook and here to read about the park.


TO STAY AND EAT: There is only one reasonable place to stop between the border of Malawi / South Luangwa / Chipata and Lusaka, and that is Bridge Camp. It’s situated on the Luangwa river just about half way across. I wouldn’t recommend you stay here if you only have a ground tent and can manage the journey to Lusaka in a day as the campsite is stark and is just a section of bare earth. The facilities were ok, nice pool overlooking the Luangwa river, and the food was fair. The whole experience was a little unpleasant with the owners bickering between themselves, and the over zealous pricing didn’t sit well with me either.


TO STAY: Lusaka has all you’ll need to stock up for your next stretch. It has brilliant first world-style malls. There are many places to stay in Lusaka but I was lucky enough to stay with friends who provided me with the comfiest of beds and a welcome braai!

Stay Eat Do in Malawi


TO STAY AND EAT: Chitimba Camp is one of the only real camps for a stop on the road between the middle and north of Lake Malawi. It’s positioned slightly back from the lake and has a grass camping area as well as basic huts for rent. The bar and restaurant areas are well run and the food is good and you can pick up very slow or non-existent wifi for a fee. From Chitimba, you can do day trips out to see local crafts, waterfalls and hike up to Livingstonia. Definitely worth the stay!


TO DO: Hike from Chitimba Camp up to Livingstonia. Despite my ordeal getting down from the mountain, it really is worth the trek up and back down again. I would stay over for a night or two, to explore Livingstonia and visit the local waterfalls. In my opinion, one day is enough at the top, two if you want to completely relax.

TO STAY AND EAT: Lukwe Eco Camp – perched on the edge of an escarpment looking down over the lake, Lukwe Eco Camp is a great option for anyone wanting to see Livingstonia. For peace, serenity, compost toilets, simple grass huts and the most incredible views, Lukwe is my choice. There is another camp nearby which is equally popular, called Mushroom Farm.


TO STAY AND EAT: Moyoka Bay is a beautifully positioned accommodation has grass huts perched on a rocky outcrop just out of town. The bar and restaurant serve good food and free wifi but you’re competing with everyone else for bandwidth so it can be slow or non-existent. The waters are crystal clear and you will often find small beach areas between the huts for swimming and snorkelling. There is no camping here and no place to open up a roof top tent either, so huts are the way forward. I might be mistaken but I don’t think there are any camping options in Nkhata Bay at all. I’d highly recommend this spot for the views and the ability to step out from hut to lake in three steps.


TO STAY: If you’re looking for a place to open up your tent on the beach and have the waters lapping (just about) at your feet, then somewhere like Chintheche Inn or Kande Beach are great options. I chose Chintheche Inn as Kande Beach is used more for the overlanding trucks stopovers and is full of vibe. Chintheche, although expensive at US$15/night, is far more peaceful and quiet. The camping area is set on beautiful green lawns and there is a well maintained pool for swimming if you don’t feel like taking a dip in the lake. This cabana style inn is used by Wilderness Safaris so lovely rooms are available for rent if you feel like a night of normality. Chintheche has a restaurant and bar that serves good food. There was free wifi in the camping area. This was one of my favourite camping spots and I ended up staying 3 days more than intended.


TO STAY: Sanctuary Lodge – advertised as a  luxury spa-like retreat, the Sanctuary Lodge itself sits in my mediocre category. There is a wonderful camping area not far from the Lodge, set under magnificent trees and has a decent ablutions block. I was the only camper during my stay, and whilst I had no reason to feel unsafe, the camping area is surrounded by forest and the walk between the Lodge and camping area at night is a bit of a trek through the darkness (recommend that you take one of the security guards with you). There is a pool at the Lodge and the restaurant is very average but there is free wifi.  I did visit Barefoot Camp outside of Lilongwe and that seemed a little disorganised and didn’t have wifi, the camping area was lovely and green but there is no pool and they weren’t serving meals at the restaurant, which meant going all the way back into Liliongwe for groceries for dinner (which is why I ended up simply staying at the Sanctuary Lodge).


TO DO: Snorkeling and Diving Lake Malawi – The south and middle sections of the lake are best for snorkeling and the warm crystal clear waters make this an extremely pleasant past time.  The north of the lake is full of silt and there is very little to see.


I used Aritel. The coverage in cities is fine but the moment you’re out in the middle of nowhere, reception is zero.

Stay Eat Do in Tanzania


TO STAY: We stayed in Masai Camp on the outskirts of Arusha on the Overlanding trip with Absoulte Africa – it’s a place to pop up your tent but is nothing special. See Lonely Planet’s write up here.

TO EAT: Can’t fault the Blue Heron, we had a light lunch here and coffee – lovely garden atmosphere and definitely worth the visit.  Blues and Chutney also comes very highly rated – it also has extremely good reports about the accommodation offered here.  We also stopped at the Mango Tree for a few drinks which was pretty good, a nice local mix of people pull in here on the weekends.

TO DO: You could always go climb Kilimanjaro – something I did in 2008… We organised our trip through African Travel Resource, and would do so again.


TO STAY and EAT:  I spent two nights with the tobacco farmers having dinner and drinks at the Orion Hotel, an old German hunting lodge in it’s heyday.  It’s probably the only place that’s half way decent in town.


To STAY and EAT and DO:  Our time at Lakeshore Lodge cannot be faulted.  The resort has a range of accommodation types, from honeymoon type chalets, to smart bandas, to camping under the mango trees.  The food is absolutely exquisite top restaurant-quality and there is a fully stocked bar with the most incredible lounge overlooking the lake.  You’ll have to come off the beaten track to get here but it’s so worth it.  The owner Chris will pick guests up from Sumbawanga if necessary.  There is so much to do here – kayak, diving, boat tours, walks – and visits to nearby game parks can be arranged.


To STAY: We stayed at the Moravian Conference Hotel.  It’s run by a Christian organisation so you’re pretty safe here.  The rooms are simple but clean – two beds in each with an ensuite.  At under £5/night, it’s more than adequate!  It’s a dry establishment so you’ll need to go elsewhere if you want a beer or two.

To EAT: We had dinner at Forest Hill, a short trip from the Moravian Conference Centre.  The owner was wonderfully friendly and the food was pretty standard but good for this part of the world – I would recommend it if you’re passing through.  They also have rooms for the night here.


If you’re looking for a tailor-made and exclusive safari experience get hold of Brad Hansen of Hansen Safaris.  Brad is extremely capable when it comes to accommodating his guests’ expectations and turning whatever adventure they desire into reality – walk like Livingstone through the bush, done!  Armed with excellent local knowledge and heaps of bush sense, Brad doesn’t disappoint – give him a shout and see what he can muster up for you!


I used Vodacom.  The coverage in cities is fine but the moment you’re out in the middle of nowhere, reception is zero.  It’s the same with all the providers.

Stay Eat Do in Kenya


TO DO:  Try kitesurfing, surfing and stand up paddle boarding with H2O Extreme the only reputable water sports centre in Diani. Operated from the Kenyaways Kite Village, the instructors are very knowledgeable and have you up and going before you know it! I was SUPing from the first go, was standing on the surf board and riding waves shortly after starting…

Spend a day snorkeling or diving the reef at Wasini with Pilli Pipa Dhow Safaris.  They lay on an incredible lunch at the end of the trip too!

TO STAY: Kenyaways Kite Village – a place that I have spent more hours than I can count.  It’s relaxed and the perfect place to come and stay if you’re visiting Diani.  It has its own piece of pristine beach front and the views are to die for.  There is a great water sports centre operating from here called H2O Extreme.

If you’re looking for a more expensive and luxurious stay, get hold of Valentina at Water Lovers, a lovely small boutique resort in the heart of Diani; or Ida Andersson at Kinondo Kwetu, a gorgeous and exclusive retreat 10kms south of Diani. Kinondo Kwetu also offer horse riding on the beach and yoga overlooking the sea.  All three of the above places won Trip Advisor Travellers Choice awards last year.

I also stayed at South Coast Backpackers when I arrived. If you’re on a budget, stay here. The pool is lovely and the bar is always open.  The owners are three young French guys, Kevin, Justin and Louis, who know how to show their guests a good time.  It’s full of backpackers, volunteers and other young travellers.  Head here if you want some company and a bit of a party.

TO EAT: Get hold of Bruce at Madafoos at the Kenyaways Kite Village – great vibe, relaxed atmosphere and always filled with Diani’s usual suspects. They have fish BBQs on Friday nights and curry buffets on Sundays – not to be missed! For a more special evening, head to Sails (at Alamanara) – the chef Luke is one of Kenya’s finest and you dine under the most beautiful sails right on the beach.  The food is under-priced for the quality of cuisine that is served up!


TO STAY:  I stayed at Mombasa Backpackers.  If you’re looking for a party and great way to get meet travellers – head over here.  Look out for Rasta Dave (came to the backpackers over a year ago to stay for a few days and never left) as well as Dan Sorrell, a crazy South African full of fun who spends most nights here too. Dave the owner is very helpful and will ensure that you have a good time…


TO STAY AND EAT:  You can’t go wrong with Camp Carnelley’s. Set on the water’s edge, this beautiful array of little cottages as well as sweeping lawns for camping is the perfect spot to explore the water, Hells Gate and Crater Lake game park nearby. The restaurant, complete with a wood burning pizza oven, serves some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had! The owners Lovat and Chrissy Carnelley are warm and hospitable.  Ask Lovat if you have car trouble – he’s a mechanic of sorts…


TO STAY: I tried a few places in Nairobi but nothing compares to Wildebeest Eco Camp between Karen and the city.  It’s secure, beautifully maintained and extremely reasonable (free wifi!).  They have a range of options from tented dorm rooms (crisp linen included, couldn’t believe it!) to luxury permanent tents overlooking a lush garden. They also have a small area for camping. Can’t recommend this place enough!  You can find out more about tours going out to the Masai Mara etc here too.

Sadly if you are planning on staying at Jungle Junction, just be aware that they had two armed robberies late 2013. You make the call…  Karen Camp too is an absolute dive so don’t bother with that either!


TO STAY: We had a magical few days at Che Shale, near Malindi on the North Coast of Kenya.  Owner run, this remote retreat is set in a coconut grove away from everything and everyone!  The food is absolutely first class and you couldn’t ask for a more hospitable stay!  The winds are good here, so kite surfing is popular. Che Shale has its own kite surfing centre.


Tailor-made safaris with a focus – photography, cultural, kitesurfing, fishing, birding – you name it, these guys can make it happen. Contact Kenyan born Boris Polo at Expeditions East Africa, he knows more about the bush and coast than anyone! Drop my name, he may cut you a deal…


I used Safaricom, it’s the most widespread provider and is the provider most people use.  Buy data bundles if you plan on using the 3G for browsing – you get about 10 times more out of it than using your regular top up money for data.