great plains tembo plains lodge with hippo

Welcome to Tembo Plains Camp

An exciting Réserve-Collection and Relais & Châteaux Safari Camp, located in the Private Sapi Reserve

“For those travellers seeking a luxury Zimbabwe safari, Tembo Plains Camp, located in the private Sapi Reserve, welcomes you. “Tembo” means Elephant. The camp honours these animals found on these Zimbabwean plains alongside the Zambezi River. We draw on the elephant’s pace and essence for the camp’s atmosphere. Tembo Plains Camp reflects more than just a place,” explains Great Plains Conservation CEO and National Geographic Explorer Dereck Joubert. “It also speaks to the long and unique relationships we have with elephants.”

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Tembo Plains Camp is tucked away into a thick riverine forest on the edge of the Zambezi River, in the private 128,000-hectare Sapi Private Reserve, East of Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park.

Tembo Plains Camp and the 2-bedroomed Zanji Suite at Tembo Plains fit into our highest camp-level offering, the Réserve Collection of camps. Fellow Réserve Collection camps include Zarafa CampSelinda CampDuba Plains in Botswana, Mara Nyika CampMara Plains Camp and ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya. It is also a proud member of Relais & Châteaux – the only luxury Zimbabwean safari camp currently with this honour.

Tembo Plains Camp has four double or twin-bed configuration suites. Each has its own private indoor lounge area, outdoor swimming pool (with exercise bikes on an expansive veranda) and outdoor dining area. Stunning, handmade bathtubs with indoor and outside showers give the suite a sense of ‘home’ where you can move in and live. The Wi-Fi and working areas also provide space for you to catch up on business or manage your images from the day’s adventures. Each suite comes complete with a professional camera and lenses. High-quality binoculars are also available for guests to use while with us in the Sapi Reserve. All these little touches deliver the luxury Zimbabwe safari.

In the main camp’s central area, the wine cellar and interactive 5-star kitchen feature this stone design again. The spa and curio store are each individually hidden discreetly behind beautifully weathered Zanzibar doors.

“When I designed Tembo Plains, it was to reference the famous Zimbabwe Ruins but not lose sight of our love of canvas and exploring. So, we ended up with a unique combination of canvas and stone walls. The semi-circular walls inside each tented suite isolate the bath and shower from the bedroom and indoor lounge areas bringing that architectural reference inside as well. Outside, a pack-stone wall design, referencing those Zimbabwe Ruins, continues along the back of the guest bedroom. It gives you a greater sense of privacy, often an issue in tents. Still, I didn’t want a completely ‘built room’. Hence, the front has these uninterrupted views of the Zambezi River flowing just meters away from the canvas ‘tented’ portion – all accentuating the luxury Zimbabwe safari experience.” – Dereck Joubert, Great Plains CEO.

The Persian word Zanjī was a name used by medieval Muslim geographers and traders to refer to the eastern coastline of Africa, which included the Kenyan and Tanzanian coasts, Zanzibar, Madagascar and stretched to the mouth of the Zambezi River.

This word is also the origin of the place-name of Zanzibar (“coast of the Zanji”) and the Sea of Zanji. The Sea of Zanji applied to the sea expanses near the eastern portion of the African continent known by ancient Muslim travellers and chroniclers such as Al Masudi and Ibn Battuta.

Zanji also served a dual purpose as a descriptor of the inhabitants along this region of coastline in Africa.

For centuries the coastal settlements were a source of ivory, gold, and, regrettably, slaves. These traders sailed their dhows, using the variations of the Monsoon winds along the African coastline to trade.

Prominent settlements of the Zanj coast included Malindi, Gedi and Mombasa. By the late medieval period, records show that at least 37 notable wealthy Swahili trading towns existed.

Legend has it that these traders from the East were also seeking a mystical city of gold, the source of the gold that was traded. They even went so far as to sail their dhows up the Zambezi River, past the Sapi Reserve, looking for this magical city of gold.

And so, in our continuing acknowledgement of the rich history Africa shares with the East, the 2-bedroomed, private Zanji Suite at Tembo Plains thus recognises and celebrates this heritage of travellers, explorers, and traders who visited this region long before European settlers, soldiers, misfits, and missionaries walked the land.

The beautiful 2-bedroomed Zanji Suite at Tembo Plains comprises two suites flanking a shared lounge, dining area and pool. It is ideal for two couples or families travelling together and those guests looking for the ultimate private safari.

Painted dogs (wild dogs), lions and leopards are common around Tembo Plains, whilst buffalo are regularly seen up and down, and sometimes swimming the Zambezi River itself, as are elephants.

The private Sapi Reserve, a previous hunting area, was established in 2016 by Great Plains Conservation as a beautiful private photographic reserve safe for wildlife. It borders the Mana Pools National Park to the west and forms part of our mission to convert vast tracts of Africa into pure conservation land. It is now recognised as one of the finest wildlife destinations in Africa today. We access this fantastic wildlife sanctuary and the Mana Pools National Park if we want to offer a combined range of over 337,000 hectares of prime, protected wilderness for our guests. It is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and a core area of the middle-Zambezi biosphere reserve.

Enjoy the privacy of a safari, so rare today, in a wildlife-rich sanctuary along the Zambezi River with us. Here you don’t have to worry about anything else except how best to soak up every moment. Your safari with us includes everything, day and night wildlife-viewing drives, boating, canoeing or guided walks and tracking, and drinks. And, of course, our Relais & Châteaux level cuisine and service.

Our Great Plains Foundation is building a brighter future for Africa’s wild places through projects that address conservation across entire landscapes. One example of this landscape-wide approach is the private Sapi Reserve. This critical and fragile landscape came into the Great Plains fold in 2016 as a property hunted since 1957. As with our Selinda Reserve in Botswana, Great Plains Conservation immediately stopped all hunting. The 290,000-acre Sapi Concession in Zimbabwe is a crucial area with the Zambezi River as its northern border and the Mana Pools National Park on its western edge. The Sapi Concession forms the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Given its potential to play a pivotal role in conserving the broader Zambezi Valley, Great Plains took responsibility for managing this landscape – reclaiming it for conservation. Learn more about the Great Plains Foundation Sapi Restoration Project.

Quick Key

$ 1 145
01 April – 31 May 2024 & 01 – 20 November 2024

$ 1 655
01 June – 31 October 2024

The above rates are in US$ and based on a per person per night sharing basis. Single guest, child rates, private safari drive and guide rates are available on request

Tembo Plains Gallery

In addition to our own programs, Great Plains Foundation keeps a list of school needs in the countries where we work.

Needed items can be hand-carried by travellers or we can help purchase them locally. To learn more or to help support students and educators as part of your trip please reach out to