Dave’s Trip Report to Zimbabwe
Hidden under the radar for many years, Zimbabwe is one of Africa’s most authentic and wild safari destination. With excellent camps that offer brilliant game viewing and fantastic value for money, a seasoned safari goer must add this to their list.
Towards the latter part of 2019, Dave – one of our experts here at Africa Odyssey – explored the two main safari destinations in Zimbabwe: Mana Pools and Hwange National Park.
Here is his journey:
Dave began his trip in Mana Pools, a seasonal park like the Lower Zambezi across the river in Zambia. It is open from May to the end of November with the best game viewing being from July onwards. During the dry season, it offers some of the best walking safaris in Africa and is rightly famed for its wild dog population which featured in the BBC’s Dynasties. One of the other highlights of the park are the canoeing safaris along the majestic Zambezi River.
Ruckomechi was Dave’s first camp. This is still Mana’s finest camp, located in its own private concession along the banks of the Zambezi River and with river facing rooms, this sunset is typical of any stay here. With wonderful game viewing due to its location and with options of game drives, walks or boating safaris, it is the perfect way to begin or end a trip.
Vundu Camp is as authentic as a safari camp can be, this is where Sir David Attenborough stayed whilst making the Dynasties episode about the wild dogs of Mana Pools. It was here that our own David came across these charismatic canids. There is rarely a dull moment whilst watching these dogs and Dave was lucky enough to see them attempt to hunt across the floodplains that Mana is renowned for. Nic and Des, old safari guides themselves have kept Vundu as authentic and old school as possible.
Walking safaris are what Mana Pools is all about. Stretch Ferreira’s Goliath Camp is an old school, rustic, tented intimate camp where walking safaris are the main focus. Here Dave got up close and personal with this elephant bull as well as coming across some more of Mana’s big game all guided by the legendary elephant whisperer of Mana Pools himself, Stretch Ferreira.
If you had to describe Mana Pools in one photo it would be that of a large bull elephant on its hind legs feeding from a sausage tree. This image became a reality for Dave, who took this picture (above) whilst staying at Nyamatutsi. A beautiful bull elephant was casually feeding from the underside of an overhanging sausage tree before he decided to reach up, raising his forefeet off the floor, to grab more succulent vegetation. Located in a semi private area and less visited of the park, Nyamatutsi lived up to expectations with great guides and stunning views over Africa’s oldest and wildest river.
To see wild dogs once in a lifetime is special enough but coming across them multiple times in a matter of days is beyond expectations. Dave spent time at Chikwenya Camp and was lucky enough to come across a pack of around ten individuals out on their morning patrol. Apart from the Selous in Tanzania and parts of the Greater Kruger in South Africa, Mana Pools is definitely the place to visit if you are searching for these extraordinary predators. Chikwenya is in a small concession which gives you more time to learn more about some of Africa’s wild animals.
Mana Pools and Zimbabwe in general is very dry and very hot during November. This is the end of the dry season and if the rains don’t come early enough, many large herbivores suffer from dehydration and malnourishment as did last season. As you can see in the picture above from Dave’s stay at Sapi Explorer, the sagging skin on the lion’s belly indicates he hasn’t eaten in a while, but with depleting resources for the herbivores, it is only a matter of time until he gets his fill. The Sapi concession has a great mixture of open plains, riverside area and dense thick woods broken up with waterholes. This part of the park is truly wild and raw and when Sapi Springs re-opens it will be the wildest experience in Africa.
Hwange National Park was Dave’s next destination. Easy to get to from Victoria Falls (by plane or by road transfer) it makes for the perfect addition to a visit to the falls or a Botswanan safari in Chobe. Like Mana, Hwange was very dry and the vegetation was sparse. Whilst Mana Pools is lucky to reside by the Zambezi river, Hwange has no such luxury and the larger herbivores were already feeling the strain of the drought.
Hwange’s open areas are perfect for cheetah who thrive in the terrain here. Dave had multiple sightings whilst staying at The Hide especially this one relaxing after a kill. With lodges located in the park itself being limited to only a handful, the deeper into the park you go the better. The Hide is small and intimate and great value for money and as Dave found out very good to mix with other camps in the park.
Hwange is notorious for its elephant population and Somalisa Expeditions is the perfect camp to see these pachyderms. Deep into the National Park and away from the day trippers, Somalisa is styled like that of the camps in East Africa with raised Meru style tents but as a permanent camp it has all the trappings of a more luxurious camp.
This picture sums up the harsh reality of the dry season. Whilst having some incredible encounters, Dave managed to capture this image of a male lion on his final morning in Zimbabwe whilst staying at Davison’s Camp. The male lion had killed an elephant, weakened by the drought, and was lazing around after gorging himself all morning. It was the perfect way to round off an incredible trip full of exceptional sightings.
If you would like to talk to Dave or one of our other Africa experts about a possible trip to Zimbabwe or any other country in Africa, please contact us.