Deep in the wilderness of Mana Pools National Park, you will find an exquisite lodge named Chikwenya Desertwhere wildlife roam free and guests are ensconced in dreamy tented suites.
Revered for its spirit of conservation and hospitality, Wild region flies the flag high with its exceptional collection of properties located in vast destinations across Africa that are remote and wild. The Wilderness company name is not just symbolic in evoking the expansive characteristics of a claim; it also rings true when incorporating the wild aspect. This is particularly evident during my stay at the sensational Chikwenya in the iconic Mana Pools National Park, one of Zimbabwe’s purest and most rugged regions.
Arriving in time for brunch, my table was set under the trees overlooking the vast Zambezi River. As I wait for my meal to arrive, I gaze out at my surroundings – to my right is the main pool where guests linger over late morning mimosas or teatime canapes while reclining on the chairs long chic. The wooden terrace is perfectly polished and maintained in perfect condition should guests wish to use it during their stay. With its stunning views, it’s also the perfect place to watch the sunset over the river.
Chikwenya’s stunning interiors were conceptualized by Tanja Beyers of Professional contracts, to whom Wilderness gave carte blanche to furnish the spaces. “They let me run with things, which is always terrifying,” she tells me, “but it’s also when I’m able to produce some of my best work – it gives me the opportunity to push back. limits. I love the beaded chandeliers in the main pavilion; I feel like they anchor the space beautifully.
Tanja set to work creating a striking animal canvas with framed prints on the walls of the main living area in Richard du Toit Photography. “The images I have chosen are not the obvious Big 5, but rather interesting close-ups of an elephant’s trunk or an elephant’s eye, which gives a more artistic approach to animal images. obvious that one would find in a bush lodge.” The central living room is also Tanja’s favorite space in Chikwenya. “It feels like a space where you can curl up on the sofa with a good book. The sloping roof creates such a spacious feeling, and it’s magical to sit here as the sun filters through the trees. at the end of the afternoon.
Inspired by the raw beauty of the camp setting, Tanja chose a neutral palette, allowing the surroundings to become the focal point without detracting from the cocooning feeling guests will feel during their stay. She achieved this by layering and removing all hard surfaces and using canvas walls, rolled clay beads for pendant lights and wood slabs for bathroom vanities. “I used as many handcrafted elements as possible, with each piece of furniture considered and made to our design requirements.” The result? A dreamy space, with flowing mosquito nets and splendid artisanal touches.
With Chikwenya located in such a remote destination, Tanja and her team faced many challenges. “I’m very lucky to work with an incredible team that will overcome anything that comes our way,” she laughs. “The rainy season put a stop to all work as the roads became impassable, so we had to try to work the contract period outside of the rainy season. When the Chikwenya airstrip became unusable due to rains, site visits were sometimes two flights and 4 hours away. The weather became a challenge, but I cherished the adventure and wished I had taken more breaths from the trip back then.
A stay at Chikwenya is a combination of supreme comfort, gracious hospitality and incredible wildlife sightings. It is also a paradise for bird watchers looking to spot something extraordinary that can only be found in this special part of Zimbabwe. The Causemore guide finds an amazing range of winged species including the peculiar looking crested guinea fowl, crowned hornbill, racket tailed roller, tawny eagle and a highlight for me – a Livingstone flycatcher. On my last morning, two ground hornbills sit in the middle of the road, blocking our path. We have to wait until they finally disperse so we can get to the airstrip. It reminds me of something Tanja said about the challenges of furnishing a lodge where wildlife is present. “I put a nice leather chair in the main pavilion, only to wake up in the morning to find that the hyenas thought it was quite delicious. I also set up the tables and chairs under the trees and the elephants also had fun once we were all in bed, throwing them everywhere as they felt the furniture was in their space.
From Harare International Airportdirect flight to Cape Town International Airport only takes 3 hours and 20 minutes on Airlink’s Magnificent Kiss 190. Waiting on the tarmac, the great news sunbird The livery appears, setting Airlink apart in both looks and exceptional service from other airlines. With generous legroom, no middle seat and a choice of aisle or window seat, passengers are spoiled with delicious onboard snacks and a choice of beverages.
For more information or to book, visit www.wildernessdestinations.com
*The opinions expressed are those of the author.
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