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Mpala Jena: The luxury Victoria Falls safari camp.

Great Plains Conservation’s newest Zimbabwean offering is garnering five-star reviews and there’s little guessing why. Mpala Jena, meaning ‘white impala,’ reveals a luxury riverfront retreat on the banks of the mighty Zambezi, where a slow river safari sojourn begins. This intimate safari camp rests just beyond the mist of Victoria Falls, creating an idyllic place to pause between far-flung discoveries and returning home, or for much-needed respite in the wild.

Mpala Jena Pool Area
Mpala Jena Pool Area. Images by Emma Jackson

The luxury Victoria Falls safari camp. Mpala Jena

Just beyond the lively beat of Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls town, you’ll find the unassuming entrance of Zambezi National Park. Located just upstream from the enamoured Victoria Falls, this little-known national park stretches over 56,000 hectares, evolving from mopane woodland to rich river frontage peppered with ilala palms and rocky outcrops with towering baobab trees. To its north, the mighty Zambezi River flows with intent, creating a 50km strong border from where it laps the banks of Zambia. While the Zambezi National Park may be smaller than its counterparts elsewhere in the country, there’s something profoundly captivating about its scenery, eliciting an urge to find a secluded spot along the river to immerse in its magnitude without disruption. And we found just the place.

Victoria Falls Safari Mpala Jena

Victoria Falls luxury five-star accommodation for honeymooners or hideaway seekers

Great Plains Conservation’s newest Zimbabwean offering is garnering five-star reviews and there’s little guessing why. Mpala Jena, meaning ‘white impala,’ reveals a luxury riverfront retreat on the banks of the mighty Zambezi, where a slow river safari sojourn begins. This intimate safari camp rests just beyond the mist of Victoria Falls, creating an idyllic place to pause between far-flung discoveries and returning home, or for much-needed respite in the wild.

As a destination in its own right, discerning guests can arrive at Mpala Jena, kick off their shoes, plant their feet in the sand and fulfil their safari journey right here, where the idea of ‘home-away-from-home’ takes on a new meaning as guests uncover each passing day, thanks to its core philosophy of comfortable barefoot luxury and warm Zimbabwean hospitality. Better yet, your luxury safari experience doesn’t come at the cost of the Earth, this world-class camp runs entirely on solar and is intentionally designed to minimize energy use.

An intimate take on Zimbabwe’s luxury safaris

Just five guest suites complete the serene, tented camp, connected by winding boardwalks trailing along the water’s edge, enticing newcomers to slip into the rhythm of the river and discover bush seclusion. Each sacred hideaway has a sun-dappled terrace, private bush bath and river-facing day bed to watch the wild float by. Inside and under canvas, exposed rock, natural tones and textures of the bush evoke a true sense of place, with modern comforts and thoughtful amenities, like a fully stocked bespoke bar and local coffee. At Mpala Jena’s heart, you’ll find a blissful beach-like set-up with suspended swings, a mass of soft beanbags and plenty of space to lounge and look out over the rapid

Victoria Falls Safari Mpala Jena

Ditch screen time and reach for a pair of binoculars instead; Mpala Jena is a paradise for keen birders who can expect a chorus of colourful bee-eaters, busy woodpeckers and gorgeous bush shrikes at breakfast with the echoing cry of an African fish eagle far above. Those torn between activities needn’t stress; with privileged access to the Zambezi and a fleet of comfortable boats and Land Cruisers, you can explore quiet eddies at sunrise, take a guided bush safari, or opt for a day visit to the majestic Victoria Falls where you can walk lush green paths under the cool spray of the ‘Smoke that Thunders,’ before returning to camp for a leisurely game drive that takes in glowing views at sunset.

And if the thought of rising predawn isn’t on your holiday agenda, you can simply skip the wake-up call altogether and enjoy the sanctuary of your tented suite when the sun comes up with a freshly brewed coffee on your terrace. That’s the beauty of Mpala Jena; there are no set itineraries or schedules, and you’re free to do – or not do – as you please. Those that bounce out of bed with vigour for a boat ride at dawn will be rewarded with spellbinding scenes as the wild awakens against a dramatic fire-orange sunrise sky, where you can spot nocturnal river birds returning to nest, river-bound hippos and crocodiles, scratching Guinea Fowles and lazy water monitors.

If you’re lucky, you might even spot a rare Cape claw otter or a Zambezi freshwater terrapin on your morning jaunt, much to the delight of river captains Solomon and Akilon, who guide guests up and down the mighty Zambezi, lead catch and release tiger fishing trips (bites are best between June and December) and regal thrilling stories of sightings and encounters from a life spent on the water.

Luxry Safari Lodge on the Zambezi

On return to camp with new sightings and stories, you can savour coffee and rooibos tea in the morning sunshine before a colourful continental spread and a chef-prepared breakfast is presented by Tasara, Mpala Jena’s head chef. The rest of the day can be whiled away poolside, swaying lazily on a hammock by the always-open bar or in the cool breeze of the pool lounge, where interior designer Tracy Kelly has redefined barefoot luxury into an experience that feels refreshingly effortless and always unhurried.

Find time to wander around camp on the boardwalks to take in the sights and sounds; you’ll stumble upon William, the resident hippo, bashful bushbuck and troop of opportunistic but always entertaining baboons. For a touch of Mpala Jena at home, browse the boutique, where thoughtfully curated wares, locally designed jewellery, and clothing can be purchased on-property. At noon, or perhaps before your afternoon safari siesta, take a lunch break on the riverbanks with a delicious culinary journey that begins with a bright beetroot and orange salad, homemade bread, locally sourced marinated steak skewers and fried onion rings.

When you emerge from your afternoon of leisure, the bush awaits with a sunset game drive with guide Clever, who’s explored Zambezi National Park for over seven years. With limited guests at any given time, game drives are quiet and tailored to suit your wildlife wish list. And while nothing in the bush is guaranteed, the thrill of tracking spoor (footprints) in the sand, following alarm calls in the thicket and stumbling upon breeding elephant herds will take you on an expedition of discovery, eliciting a newfound appreciation of a slow safari.

Boat Safari Cruise on the Zambezi River

What you’ll soon notice when staying at Mpala Jena is the element of surprise that’s peppered into every adventure purely to celebrate the simple pleasures of life in the African bush. From a beautifully laid-out brunch set up on by the rapids or an out-of-Africa sundowner stop under ancient branches of towering baobab trees at sunset, expect the unexpected at every turn. Sometimes that means spotting an elusive cat in the fading light or a lone owl in the moonlight. Sometimes it’s a thoughtful note left by Feli, who lovingly turns down your cloudlike bed each evening, or Honest, who guides guests by torchlight to their tent at night and returns before the break of day for safe passage – passed William – for another awe-inspiring sunrise voyage on the Zambezi River.

Zambezi National Park

Nestled just upstream from the iconic Victoria Falls, Zambezi National Park unveils a hidden gem in the heart of Zimbabwe. Encompassing over 56,000 hectares of diverse landscapes, from lush riverbanks adorned with ancient baobab trees to sprawling mopane woodlands, this park exudes an undeniable allure. While it may be smaller in size compared to other national parks in the region, Zambezi National Park casts a spell on visitors with its breathtaking scenery and untouched wilderness.

Home to an array of wildlife species, from majestic elephants to elusive leopards, this sanctuary offers an intimate safari experience like no other. Its unique position along the Zambezi River provides unrivalled opportunities for river safaris, where the sights and sounds of the wild come alive against the backdrop of the flowing waters.

Beyond its natural splendour, the park is also a testament to sustainable conservation efforts. With initiatives like solar-powered operations and a conscientious approach to energy usage, Zambezi National Park stands as a beacon of eco-friendly tourism.

Victoria Falls National Park: Nature's Grand Spectacle

Nestled on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls National Park is a testament to the raw power and unrivalled beauty of nature. Spanning over 23 square kilometres, this park is home to one of the world's most awe-inspiring natural wonders: Victoria Falls. Here, the Zambezi River plunges dramatically into a chasm, creating a thunderous display of mist and rainbows that can be seen and felt from miles away.

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe Side

The park's diverse ecosystem, ranging from rainforest to savannah, is a haven for a rich array of wildlife. From graceful impalas to elusive leopards, the park offers a unique opportunity to witness the harmonious coexistence of flora and fauna in their natural habitat.

A network of well-maintained trails and viewpoints allows visitors to explore the park's nooks and crannies, providing different perspectives of the falls' majesty. The Knife-Edge Bridge, for instance, offers an exhilarating vantage point, where you can almost touch the cascading waters.

In addition to its natural splendour, Victoria Falls National Park is a focal point for conservation efforts. By implementing sustainable practices and wildlife protection initiatives, the park ensures that future generations can continue to marvel at this extraordinary spectacle.

For adventurers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts alike, Victoria Falls National Park promises an unforgettable experience. It's a place where the sheer force of nature leaves an indelible mark, and every visit offers a fresh revelation of its timeless wonder. Discover the magic of Victoria Falls National Park, where nature's grandeur takes centre stage.

Mpala Jena In Summary

Whatever your reasons for visiting, after a few days here, swept up in the magic of Zimbabwe, returning to Mpala Jena will be your easiest decision yet. The only question is who to share it with and how soon you can return.

Article by Amber Hunter of African Safari Magazine. Images by Emma Jackson and Mpala Jena

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