Part 7: Bumi Hills Hotel, Lake Kariba

By Bert Duplessis

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Nov 16 & 17:  Bumi Hills Hotel, Lake Kariba

The Bumi Hills Hotel is located on a perfect spot, high on a bluff overlooking Starvation Island and the Umi River area of Lake Kariba, the world’s largest man-made lake by volume, which filled up in 1963.

The hotel was once a thriving concern in the 1960’s and 1970’s but fell on hard times during Zimbabwe’s era of civil unrest and conflict in the 1990’s when farm confiscations, economic woes and  food shortages reduced tourism numbers to a trickle.

The Bumi Hills Hotel has now been beautifully restored and it would be a great addition to any Zimbabwe itinerary, the lake and nearby Matusadona National Park offering a wide range of activities including game drives, walking, boating and fishing.

Our standard room (#1) was perfectly fine and quite comfortable.  We did have a major issue with the air-conditioning though.  It was switched on at night at about 9:00pm until about 5:30AM, the reason being cost-related (there is no mains electricity; all power is generator-driven).  During summer on the shores of Lake Kariba it is really critical to have an air-conditioned room around the clock, so I would not recommend this hotel for travel from about October through March, unless this issue can be addressed.

The air-conditioning issue aside, the Bumi Hills Hotel has a lot going for it.  The location is arguably one of the best in Southern Africa, with a simply stupendous view over Lake Kariba and the surrounding hills in Zimbabwe and beyond to Zambia.

The infinity pool is one of the prettiest and best-maintained I have seen anywhere and if you pull your lounger to the right hand side of the pool, close to the ledge, you may just nix  the idea of any activities and spend a lazy late morning or afternoon right there.

There is an outdoor bar on the other side of the pool, a terrace as well as an indoor dining area, a TV room and full sized billiard table, so plenty to keep oneself occupied right around the lodge itself.  If you do venture out into Lake Kariba – and of course you would –  fishing can be very good for both bream and Tigerfish, the latter being most active in the hotter summer months from October through January.

One afternoon we took a boat cruise which doubled as a game drive due to the many mammals along the shoreline, as well as hippo in the water, crocodiles all over the place and many African Fish Eagles as well as other water-associated birds such as cormorants, gulls and terns.  There were dozens of elephants, all looking very red due to the dusty red dirt residue on their hides, as well as buffalo, waterbuck, impala, warthog and baboons.

The food at Bumi Hills was very good, made even better by the table for two with a view, where we enjoyed all our meals. Truly, one could not ask for a more spectacular spot – we were never in a rush to finish up a meal!  On the last night I was treated to a local sugar-bean stew  served with sadza, and some greens on the side.  They could have served  that every night!  Some really good local South African wines were included in the rate, definitely a good idea. The manager  looked after us particularly well and was around constantly inquiring about our well-being.  Very much appreciated.  Even though there was a large party of 25 or so  Zimbabweans at the hotel at the same time – celebrating someone’s 50th birthday – we never felt ‘left-out’.

On the second day, Kathy  and I took an inspection outing to nearby Musango Lodge, which we have  used a few times in recent years.  We really liked what we saw at this lodge, which has an impressive main building/lounge; if you sit in the right spot you can watch the sun come up in the east, turn your chair around and watch it set again in the west.  With unobstructed views in both directions.  Just like Bumi Hills, Musango Lodge has a long list of activities even including, and the rooms looked very comfortable, consisting of tents inside a rock/brick shell.  We were there in the middle of the day  – it was hot – but the interior of the tents was quite comfortable.  So for someone wanting to include Lake Kariba and who prefers a traditional safari camp, Musango would definitely be the right choice.

Early on November 18 we enjoyed a last breakfast at our special table over the lake, packed away the last few items in our hand luggage and started on the first leg of the long, long journey back to Texas.

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