The world of safari is laced with the unexpected. One cannot presume to experience a set list of encounters – that is simply not the way nature works. Each morning brings new possibilities, each outing its own adventure, and each guide filled with similar passion, yet with their own areas of interest. One may select their accommodation for its location, character, amenities and provisions – of course – but the people within and the wildlife around are where you find the true beauty.
Elephant’s Eye, Hwange, is an idyllic lodge from which to explore the wilderness. Set in a private concession, on the border of Hwange National Park, it offers both exclusivity and access to the largest nature reserve in Zimbabwe. Wildlife wanders freely between, often using the pan in front of the lodge as a watering hole – as well as the swimming pool!
The rooms are spacious and welcoming with a small fireplace adding to the warm ambience. Each tent is raised above the ground, allowing animals to pass freely below, ensuring their natural corridors free of obstruction. This also gifts the possibility of sharing an outside shower with an elephant munching on tree leaves mere feet below – the epitome of an up close and personal wildlife encounter! If the elephants are not around, the view remains spectacular; overlooking a pan where a pair of resident cranes dance amongst the reeds.
Sitting on the patio or around the campfire is an invitation for observation. Plains game, elephants, zebra and an array of birdlife frequent the area, each day unique in its performance. One constant at Elephant’s Eye, Hwange, seems to be the family of weaver birds which have settled in the tree beside the main area of the lodge, swooping into the garden to source material for their nests. Their chatter and colours are an integral part of the lodge’s character, enhancing the homely feel while on safari.
Beyond the lodge offers many opportunities to find beauty. A wooden raised structure, affectionately called ‘The Eye’ is located 7 km away and overlooks a watering hole. Sundowner sessions as well as star bed sleep-outs are available – witnessing the wild quench their thirst at sunset or perhaps an overnight stay beneath the stars. ‘The Eye’ is an option for true immersion in the bush, as well as the opportunity to witness the beauty of the African starlit sky. One is enveloped in the sounds of nature, as well as in the thrill of the unexpected visitors of the night.
Ones experience of ‘The Eye’ is exemplified by the care of the staff, the attention to detail in delivery of sundowners to the turndown of the star bed is immaculate. A craft gin is served with pride, accompanied by snacks and a nature fact about the area. The final ingredient in this experience is of course the low rumblings of a herd of elephants moving towards the waterhole, joining to salute the day.
Once the sun has set, a drive back to the lodge is filled with wild possibility. Recently, a herd of breeding buffalo obstructed the road in a frantic attempt to get to safety. The guide realised the reason was a pair of male lion following in their fear filled footsteps, on the hunt for dinner. As dusk fell, the vehicle sat and observed the sights and sounds until night took over, the end of the story to be heard later around the campfire, in the distant roar of the lion. The thrill of being led back to the chalets with the King of the bush echoing through the night truly makes one feel connected to the wild.
Whether the weavers nest, the outdoor shower, a craft gin or a lion hunt – a safari fills you with awe – teaching you the valuable lesson to expect anything, but assume nothing – invested in the beauty before you.