There are many tales to be told about our safari in Zimbabwe. But let’s start with the heart. It’s been said that people don’t always remember the things you’ve said, but they always remember the way you made them feel. It’s the same for places.
From our time at Mpala Jena Camp on the Zambezi River, I don’t remember the words from every conversation, although lines from many of them still prance across my thoughts, but I remember the sense each person stirred in me.
I don’t remember the names of every bird we spotted from the game vehicle, boat or camp deck (bad twitcher!), but I remember the feeling of beauty and awe while watching them move. I don’t remember the chronological sequence of events (scatter-brained much?), but I remember feeling time slip happily away.
I remember driving into the camp’s private concession in the Zambezi National Park with our ranger, Elliot, and looking over at a friend to say, “I feel it too…,” her looking back at me and smiling, “This is peace.”
The air was hot, the October bush was dry and the promise of elephant and buffalo lay all around us. We felt hope and purpose.
There is a simplicity to Mpala Jena Camp, even though the service is silver, the beds four-poster, the bar stocked with the finest wines and spirits, even though dining takes place over several dishes, with kind hands at every turn to see to your greatest wishes. Nothing feels out of place, nothing feels too much, but rather, humbly, subtly, at peace with the indigenous trees all around and the gentle stretch of Zambezi River alongside it all. This harmony with nature is echoed in the camp’s use of solar energy for all of its electricity needs.
Perhaps the sense of modesty at Mpala Jena also stems from the camp’s design, the use of natural elements and colours and carefully-considered, authentic, classic pieces: flowing canvas and recycled hardwoods, locally-sourced stone walls in reference to the Great Zimbabwe ruins, brass basins, leather sofas and chairs, Zanzibari chests, carved doors from India. The wooden walkways winding between the main camp and guest tents, the large uncluttered railway sleeper decks, the safari essentials: a fire pit, chairs wrapped around, the great open skies and stars allowed to shine in the remoteness.
Sitting on the sand of the riverbank one evening, our feet touching the water’s edge, we could see it all without distraction: just us and the wild, pods of hippo to the left and right, harrumphing at each other, and moving closer and closer to us as the sun sunk, shining its last light through the reeds.
We spoke excitedly amongst ourselves, but once again the words have escaped memory and only the feeling of watching those hippo, that sun, that river, remains. Only the sweet peace of a private wilderness, of nature finding its way into our hearts.
Mpala Jena Camp in Zimbabwe is a new addition to the Relais & Châteaux family, connecting another exciting destination to our Routes du Bonheur through Africa. We’ll be bringing you more adventures from the field here, but to learn more about this beautiful camp, click here.