Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2016 in Mana Pools National Park.

I spent two days recently at the new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools National Park.

The only thing “little” about this camp is it’s size – just ten safari tents (I guess even that isn’t so little!). Perched on the edge of the Zambezi River, in an exclusive concession in the north-west of the famous national park, it’s got one of the most spectacular locations of any camp I’ve seen. Mana is famous for it’s photogenic landscapes and teeming wildlife, and Little Ruckomechi is slap-bang in the middle of all the action.

My guide was Honest Siyawareva – he’s one of the best I’ve met on my explorations of Africa’s wild places – for several reasons. More on him in another blog, but it’s worth mentioning that as we drove the corner into camp for the first time, a young bull elephant approached us as if to say: “Hey, this is my camp, what you doing here!?”. Well, he was right of course. This is his land, and it’s one of the reasons I love Mana so much. The animals are still in charge.

Like all young bull elephants, he was full of bravado, and walked up to the vehicle, raised his huge head and tusks, and sniffed us as his trunk came within half a metre or so of us in the open vehicle! Honest was cool, calm and collected all the way through.

“There are plenty of elephants in camp,” Honest laughed afterwards. “First time guests get scared, but within a few days, they’re so used to elephants wandering around that it becomes normal”.

Well put, Honest. I like that kind of “normal”. Elephants wandering past my room and through my daily life SHOULD be normal…and it’s why I love my work, because I get to live among wild animals for large parts of the year.

What I really love about Little Ruckomechi is it’s small size and it’s personal, down-to-earth atmosphere. I felt like it was my own personal camp, without over-the-top luxury. Sometimes, some safari camps and lodges seem go too far with luxury interiors. I think they sometimes forget that the wilderness around the lodge is the most important part of the experience. At Little Ruckomechi, the rooms are large, airy and full of light (but still cool), with great views of the Zambezi Valley and alibida forests on the floodplains. I hope to go back!

Check out Little Ruckomechi on the Wilderness Safaris’ website here.

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

The camp’s welcome committee. My guide Honest Siyawareva negotiating with a young bull who stood in front of our vehicle as we arrived at camp.

 

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

The map at camp, showing the lay of the land.

 

Good afternoon, Mr Elephant. Another bull wanders through camp...remember to always look left and right, and left again, when emerging from your luxury tent!

Good afternoon, Mr Elephant. Another bull wanders through camp…remember to always look left and right, and left again, when emerging from your luxury tent!

 

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

As soon as I arrived, these elephants wandered onto the floodplain in front of camp…

 

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

I really enjoyed the rooms at Little Ruckomechi, mostly because you feel connected to the surrounding wilderness, even though the luxury interiors are more than comfortable. There are no windows, only mozzie netting that keeps the bugs out. The afternoon breezes keep the room cool, and the tents are built under large albida and mahogany trees, so there’s good shade.

 

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

Looking out over the floodplain towards the Zambezi River…

 

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

Little Ruckomechi is small and intimate and personal.

 

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

Albida and mahogany trees provide deep shade to the camp. During the hot and dry September and October, it’s most welcome!

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

Guide Honest Siyawareva explaining how wild sage makes for an excellent pizza topping!

 

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

A young bull elephant coming to enquire about the lunch menu…

 

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

Pretty soon, you’ll get used to this sort of thing when staying at Little Ruckomechi…

 

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

This is what makes Mana Pools and camps like Little Ruckomechi so special…there’s a definite sense that the animals are still in charge, and we are just visiting their home.

 

The new Little Ruckomechi camp in Mana Pools

While staying at Little Ruckomechi, I popped in to check out “Big” Ruckomechi…the larger camp a few kilometres west on the Zambezi River. Also owned and managed by Wilderness Safaris, it’s also got a great view of the Zambezi, but it’s less personal and intimate.

Scott Ramsay of Love Wild Africa is a photographer and writer in protected areas, national parks and nature reserves in Africa.
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