By Norma Tsopo
Zimbabwe’s eastern highlands are drop-dead gorgeous! One of the finest spots along this 300 kilometre ridge along the country’ border with Mozambique is arguably Vumba Mountain.
Beyond its spectacular mountain outcrops, and unique blend of tropical rainforest and Miombo woodlands its cool and rainy weather conditions it is also loaded with jaw dropping beautiful wildlife – from rare Simango monkeys, blue duikers, and dwarf chameleons to infrequent bird species endemic to its environs.
Leopards still roam this misty mountain adding to the intrigue of this earthly paradise that most bird watchers claim offers the best views on the continent as over 420 bird species are packed in a relatively small space with some very rarely seen birds like the Swynnerton’s Robin.
There is arguably no better place to appreciate the beauty of the mountain and launch escapades from than from the small but exclusive Kwayedza Lodge in the lower Vumba.
Situated at a hillock that forms the Vumba mountain range, it offers an impressive scenic view of the beautiful landscape encompassing the Vumba mountain’s elephant head to the left and lion rock to the right as well the spectacular weather conditions as an atmospheric suntrap area with spectacular misty moments – from which the mountain derives its name, ‘Vumba’.
While Mozambique is generally to the east of Zimbabwe it lies squarely north and only a few metres out from Kwayedza Lodge’s location.
With the unique Moroccan style main building and traditional rondavel Zimbabwean structures under thatch the lodge is an architectural exhibition.
A descent pair of binoculars will also allow residents to also enjoy the amazing views of the sprawling Mozambican border town Machipanda as it creeps up into the hills that form the base of the Vumba from the other side.
Well-hidden, the remotely located lodge offers a tranquil environment for a healing escape from the hustle of office cubicles and urban life.
The quiet natural surroundings are appreciated by nature lovers, hikers, birders, mountain bikers and anyone who would appreciate a breath of fresh air.
But despite its forest location it’s at an easy 25 minute tarred drive from the eastern border city of Mutare. Only the access road to the lodge is gravel, which the owners however always make sure is passable.
Having opted to enjoy the luxury of the rondavel cottage with glass doors that allowed me to just push away the curtains and enjoy the beautiful sunrise from the comfort of my bed l was to enjoy much more.
Awoken by the most beautiful bird sounds I’ve ever heard, I was to enjoy the sight of some of the most beautiful birds including dark-capped bulbuls and a brown-hooded red-billed kingfisher chick which appeared fascinated by its own reflection took almost five minutes just on the other side of the door.
The fruit tree just outside works magic in bringing birds of all shapes and sizes right onto the room’s doorstep whose views, as l experienced, is greatly aided by the clever use of the glass-doors.
Patience and William Chatigu who own and operate this lodge and also run Ethic Tours also facilitate a tour of the Vumba to willing guests allowing them to venture up to Vumba Heights, Vumba Botanical Gardens, Bunga Forest and Leopard Rock game park as well as its 18-hole world-class golf course which is widely considered to be Tiger Woods’ favourite course.
The area is a treasure trove of natural wonderments that include beautiful hidden waterfalls and streams.
It offers a 13 km bike trail that will afford bikers an even more intimate experience with nature and even more spectacular views of the area including the magical picturesque sights of both Mutare and Vumba from a pass on the trail.
Lucky ones would run into Southern Africa’s smallest antelope – the endangered blue duiker and other antelopes on the trail with birds an obvious staple on the Vumba’s scenic menu.
While there are sightings of the leopard are not uncommon in this part of the world, their shy nature does not allow them to be seen during such trails.
Interestingly the lodge is a Fairtrade-Lodge which is betrayed right at its entry with some beautiful houses for its staff.
Fair Trade in Tourism is about ensuring that the people whose land, natural resources, labour, knowledge and culture are used for tourism activities, actually benefit from tourism.
When booking your stay at Kwayedza Lodge or with Ethic Tours, Chatigu says, you contribute to the well-being of the local community.
“We also have a charity initiative where we work with orphaned and vulnerable children among other needy cases,” Chatigu said.
Despite its location the lodge allows guests to remain connected to their friends, relatives and business or professional interests with Wi-Fi as well as updated on current affairs through cable television.
It also offers dapper massage for guests who would have made the booking.
Overall, the place is an exquisite Zimbabwe Tourism Authority two-star facility which offers accommodation for a limited, exclusive number of guests.
In the main Moroccan style built lodge there is an en suite double room with a queen size bed, walk-in dressing-room; a double room with king size bed with a sunken bathroom and toilet just opposite in the hallway; a family room with an en suite room with a queen size bed while the other room has two single beds as well as another two roomed suite with queen size beds with en suite dressing and bathrooms.
There is a common living area at the disposal of all guests – this includes a living/dining room and a well-kept outdoor complex with sun terrace.
The massage parlour is also on the outside and right at the top of the hillock to complete a beautiful layout for this exclusive lodge.