Vundu: The Lowdown

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It’s fair to say we have known (and enjoyed) some pretty swanky safari camps in our time. But the ones that really grip your soul are places like Vundu: owner run and deliberately focused on the safari experience rather than the level of luxury.

What’s Vundu really like?

Vundu sits on the banks of the Zambezi in Mana Pools– a park that holds a soft spot in the heart of many safari purists. Owner Nick has been guiding in Mana for 20 years, is a wild dog expert (of course), and has guided David Attenborough (naturally). With such a stellar reputation, Vundu is deservedly popular, but you shouldn’t expect it to be glitzy. There’s very basic wifi, no pool, and no a/c even in the baking months of October and November. The eight tented chalets are large and airy, twin-bedded and have high thatched roofs. Each has an ensuite bathroom with flushing loos, and both indoor and outdoor showers – the latter are magical, if you haven’t tried them yet, we can heartily recommend. The overall feel is comfortable, deliberately authentic and no-nonsense. If you want a pillow menu, this is wrong camp. The main area has a cosy firepit, and a dining area raised up amongst the trees. Food is wholesome, just the sort of warming grub you need after a day on safari. With such bush-loving fellow guests, conversation is usually excellent, though occasionally just a little competitive- who did get the best wild dog photograph?

What can I do at Vundu?

Having downplayed the camp (we hope) it’s now time to really show off what you do come to Vundu for- the activities and guiding. As we’ve already mentioned, Nick is a guide of some note, and Desiree isn’t far behind him. They have a fantastic team of guides supporting them, leading serious walking safaris, game drives, and canoeing. Drives are usually in the national park, and are often used as a means to an end- a way of reaching a walk. Because of this, we’d recommend photography-focused guests book a private vehicle. Walking safaris at Vundu are truly magnificent. Often they take place on Vundu’s small private concession, which means you don’t need to contend with the crowds found elsewhere in the park. Nick knows many of the animals personally so it’s not remotely unusual to walk close to a lion kill or within a trunk or two’s distance of a bull elephant. From first hand experience, this may be singularly the most wonderful and terrifying thing you ever do. Certainly a thrill never to be forgotten. Lastly canoeing safaris- for some reason these don’t get so many headlines, but we rather love these. Floating gently down the Zambezi, looking at the stunning escarpment over in Zambia and dodging the odd pod of hippo is a pretty wonderful use of an afternoon.

Children at Vundu:

This is a tough one. On one hand, this is a camp with so many potential dangers that it seems impossible anyone would take their children there. Large and dangerous animals can and do wander through camp at any time of day and (mainly) night. Walking safaris and canoe safaris aren’t at all suitable for nervy kids. And yet… Nick and Desiree have raised their own children who spend plenty of time in camp, and there is a family tent here. So for very mature children, who can listen to serious instructions, and parents who are happy to have a pretty rigid eye on their kids, Vundu can work, and there is certainly the expertise here to make a fun family safari happen.

Giving back at Vundu:

The owners of Vundu run the “Bushlife Support Unit” helping to combat poaching. They also work to protect the extremely vulnerable wild dog populations around Mana Pools.

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