Melissa Shales
United Kingdom UK

Melissa is an award winning travel writer for Fodors, Frommers and Insight, including guides to Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Category: Best Kept Safari Secrets

Lake Mutirikwi in southern Zimbabwe was originally built as an irrigation dam in 1960. Its level fluctuates wildly with rainfall and the amount of water pulled off by local farmers.

Kyle Recreational park covers the whole lake and 7,600 ha (18,780 acres) of land on the southern shore. Scenically the area around the lake is dramatic with great slabs of rounded granite sweeping down to the water’s edge. It is a landscape much favoured by lizards and water monitors. Beyond this the granite hills open out to open woodland and grassland.

This isn’t Big Five country, but there are around 25 species of mammal including leopard, white rhino (dehorned to stop poaching), sable antelope and eland. It used to be a popular playground for white Rhodesians who came down here to camp, fish, go game-viewing and visit Great Zimbabwe, the magnificent ruins which are just next to the park. Recently, the park has been all but deserted.

There are a few lodges or you can camp (at one of my all-time favourite campsites, on low-lying rocks beside the lake) but you’ll need to take your own supplies. Or you can stay at the hotel at Great Zimbabwe and daytrip. Either way, 4WD is probably advisable. This isn’t somewhere for rookies who are looking to tick off species, but if you want to spend time in glorious surroundings in the African bush, it’s a fabulous place to chill out.

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