Conde Naste travel writer Joshua Hammer, and professional photographer, Hakan Ludwigson recently travelled to Zimbabwe to see for themselves if the ‘re-born hype’ surrounding Zimbabwe as a tourist destination is well founded. In an interesting yet honest reflection of Zimbabwe Joshua Hammer titles his article ‘A New Day for Zimbabwe?’ and writes, “For many years travelers have avoided Zimbabwe, aware that the country was ruled by a brutal regime. But Robert Mugabe’s time is growing short, safari lodges are filling up, and the spectacular wildlife is flourishing again.”
During their ten day trip of the country, Joshua and Hakan had the opportunity to visit [intlink id="1136" type="page"]Somalisa Camp[/intlink] in [intlink id="807" type="page"]Hwange National Park [/intlink], where they interviewed [intlink id="20" type="page"]Beks Ndlovu[/intlink], Founder and CEO of African Bush Camps and labeled him one of the country’s most successful black safari operators and one of the most enterprising new players emerging in the Tourism Industry today.
Encouraged, new players are emerging in Hwange. Among the most enterprising is Beks Ndlovu, a thirty-five-year-old former guide who owns Somalisa Camp. Somalisa is in a grove of acacia trees at the edge of a pan that draws a steady flow of animals throughout the day, including a breeding herd of elephants which appear at sunset to drink. I chat with Ndlovu, one of the country’s most successful black safari operators, on a teak deck leading to a small swimming pool, where guests sip drinks while bobbing in the chilly water, waiting for the elephants to arrive. In 2005, Ndlovu, who grew up near Hwange, saw an opportunity. “The white tour operators were put out of business. They left and went to Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, other neighboring countries,” he says. “The parks department was desperate to revive tourism in Hwange and bring in some revenue.” With a handful of European investors, he put in an offer for a concession in Hwange. He’s now turning a profit and operates another tent camp in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park and two more in Botswana.
Ndlovu tells me he believes the unity government has provided the economic stability to attract tourism. As we sit talking on the deck, I hear a rustle in the trees, and a procession of elephants approaches the pan. The animals—mothers and calves, including two wobbly infants—crowd around the water hole. A few braver ones approach the swimming pool, where the water apparently tastes better. They’re so close that I could lean forward and touch them, but I sit frozen in place, silently observing the spectacle.
Having visited the country several times during both its hay-day and the turbulent political and economic situation, Hammer states , ‘This time, everywhere I go on my ten-day tour, I’m struck by the beauty, the abundance of wildlife, and the optimism that’s taking hold.’
Positive publicity on Zimbabwe as a tourism destination continues and increased interest and travel to the country is being noted country-wide, with evidence provided in the increased occupancy levels at all major hotels and lodges. Offering competitive pricing compared with that of neighboring countries, whilst providing visitors with exceptional and unique safari and wilderness experiences, Zimbabwe is fast becoming the sought after destination it once was, and remains the unrecognized gem of Africa.
To review Joshua Hammer’s full article in the Conde Naste Traveller, please visit Conde Nast Traveler Magazine article “A new day for Zimbabwe”.