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Zimbabwe & Botswana in green season | Matopos - Chobe - Vic Falls - Hwange


LarsS
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I’ve been back from Zimbabwe for a while now, but it was quite busy at home, so it took me a while to find the time to post this trip report.

 

My wife and I went to Zimbabwe with nothing booked except a stay at Hwange at the end of our 2,5 week trip. This ended up to be our trip itinerary:

 

  • Flight from Amsterdam to Jo’burg, next day flight to Bulawayo, 3 nights including full day trip to Matopos
  • Bulawayo to Victoria Falls by public bus, 2 nights
  • Victoria Falls to Chobe, 2 nights
  • Chobe to Victoria Falls, 5 nights
  • Victoria Falls to Hwange by Intercape/Pathfinder, 3 nights
  • Hwange to Bulawayo, 1 night
  • Flight Bulawayo to Jo’burg, night flight to Amsterdam

 

 

 

We decided to fly in to Bulawayo instead of Harare, as Hwange and Matopos were our main goals to visit. Also, it ended up to be much cheaper, as Jo’burg is very affordable from Amsterdam by KLM and we went to Bulawayo with a low budget company.

 

I was really curious about Zim and after visiting I can say it’s in my top 2 African countries with Zambia. The people were very friendly and easy going. The country is very clean, litter seemed non-existent and (almost) everywhere you could drink water from the tap (which we did and no side effects).

 

Bulawayo probably isn’t visited a lot by tourists. But there are some good restaurants, a nice museum and we had a nice stroll around town. If you decide to visit Matopos, I would definitely recommend visiting the town as well.

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Matopos

 

 

We booked a whole day trip to Matopos with Black Rhino Safaris and were guided by Andy, a great guy who really loves the wild. He asked us how we’d like to experience the park. A question that can only be answered in one way: in the best way as possible. So that was what Andy delivered.

 

We drove into the park, got out and started walking. We climbed almost to the top of one of the rocky hills for some great views and see what kind of animals were around. We soon found what we were looking for and climbed down again. We were really walking in the wild, no people at all, no paths and trying to find the animals we spotted from the hill.

 

We soon found the wildebeest and zebra’s and could get quite close to them. They did got a bit nervous and were almost ruining are chances to get close to the white ones. Our guide proved to know the animals very well. He knew when to be quiet and when to make certain sounds so the animals would feel comfortable. He managed to avoid panic and with some patience the white ones walked away from the zebras and wildebeest. We followed them through the bush without disturbing them and managed to come real close, within 10 metres of the two: a female with youngster. At one point, they felt so comfortable the youngster just lay down for a sleep. Such a special experience!

 

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We went back to the car, drove to another area and had lunch on the banks of a lake. Some hippos were checking us out, but they decided to stay in the water. Clearly they don’t recognize great food when they see it.

 

Despite being there just after the rainy season, you can see on the rocks along the lake the water level wasn’t as high as it can be.

 

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Afterwards we went to a cave with paintings of the San people. I learned to never say bushmen again as it’s an insult which brands them as less than people. We were given the choice to visit Rhodes grave and some rock paintings, but we weren’t very interested in the grave, so opted for option B: a more remote cave with great paintings, no people and great views. Again, it was a great choice. We parked the car and went for a walk through the bush and up another rock hill. The paintings were very interesting and pretty clear to see. We stayed on top of the hill for a while, had some good conversations and just enjoyed the scenery.

 

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Chobe

 

 

In Victoria Falls we booked a two night trip to Chobe. Which wasn’t as easy as I expected. In town centre there are many tour operators who offer trips to Chobe. But none offered overnight trips, although some did have it promoted on their shops. Fortunately we found a tour operator out of town, Afrika Tours and Travel, who could help us out with a trip departing the next day.

 

 

We stayed for two nights at Chobe Safari Lodge. A pretty big lodge, 100+ rooms and camping. We prefer smaller lodges, but didn’t had a lot to choose from and this kept the costs down. The rooms were very spacious and comfortable, the food was nice as well. But you didn’t feel being in the wild. The gamedrives had a tight schedule, but more about being back in time than departing on time. The drivers were nice, but I ended up being the guide for the whole vehicle. That said, we knew what we were in to, so we just enjoyed the sightings.

 

We saw some pretty nice things, including lions on a buffalo kill. But maybe the sighting I liked the most, was this beetle:

 

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An impression of the gamedrives and boat trips we did there:

 

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We saw a few very big herds of impala.

 

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Some lions just relaxing on day one.

 

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Day two: a big group of lions near a buffalo kill.

 

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A great show by these elephants practising their skills. You could hear the tusks pretty loud when they were clashing.

 

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Probably the same lion pride as on the buffalo kill, but this time on the move. I have seen lions before, but I felt intimidated. They were walking between the cars and really looking like bad ass lions dominating the area. The male was marking his territory. When they decided to take a nap just behind our car along the road, another guide just drove straight at them and made them go away. Some unbelievable behaviour of a guide...

 

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There was some wildlife at the lodge. Not only these mongoose, but warthogs as well.

 

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Victoria Falls

 

 

Ofcourse we visited the Victoria Falls. As the water was high, the falls really lived up to their name ‘the smoke that thunders’. We did an amazing helicopter flight before visiting the falls on foot (and got really soaked).

 

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Hwange

 

 

Our final destination: Hwange. This was the national park I was most excited about, despite being it the green season. We stayed for three nights at Khulu lodge and the lodge really exceeded our expectations. On arrival the first elephant was waiting for us at the waterhole in front of the viewing deck. We appeared to be the only guests for our entire stay and did not only have the whole lodge for ourselves, we also were upgraded to the honeymoon suite with outdoor showers and bath.

 

 

The lodge was located in Sikumi Forest, just outside Hwange. We had gamedrives in both areas. The vegetation around the lodge was, being it a forest and green season, very thick. It made wildlife spotting hard and at times frustrating.

 

The people at the lodge, the guide, the food, the suite, the viewing deck, the campfire, the diner for two under the stars, the great stories by the staff and ofcourse the wildlife, elephants in particular: we had an experience of a lifetime!

 

 

 

 

Regularly elephants were visiting the lodge, at daytime or at night. Drinking from the waterhole...

 

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...or the swimming pool. With this guy I got in a bit of a fight. He didn't like me moving a little bit, despite being very careful, and the ellie threw water at me two times. The staff had never seen this before. Btw, not only elephants visited, we also had 2 male and 2 female lions passing by within 70 metres from us sitting at the campfire. No pictures, but some video will follow when I have time.

 

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Very pleased to find the roan antilope. It moved away pretty quick.

 

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The 'Serengeti' of Hwange. An area where Cecil has been seen before. Great views and diversity of animals.

 

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Every morning we woke up with bush babies coming 'home' to our room. And late in the afternoon when we were showering, they were going out for the night. Funny animals. I had never seen them before, only heard them a few times. Their jumping skills are very impressive.

 

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Elephants make a pretty good roadblock.

 

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Ok, I cheated a little bit. This wild dog is from the Painted Dog Conservation we visited on our day of departure. The dog remains on the list of seeing in the wild for the first time.

 

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Our next destination? It might be Zimbabwe again!

Edited by LarsS
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Sorry for posting some portrait pics in landscape, don't know if I can change that easily or should use Photoshop or something to fix it?

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Sounds like you had a good trip. What was the public bus from Bulawayo to Vic Falls like?

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@@LarsS Needless to say I'm delighted the you loved your trip to Zimbabwe so much. I've already been there 3 times, and I can't wait for my trip there later this year to Gonarezhou and Pamushana. I'm going to both because they get highly recommended to me by my future safari goers. I'll definitely be visiting Hwange national park again. I'm planning to stay in Hwange in the Simantella area in the park. I particularly love your photos of the crowned cranes because I think that they are a magnificent and eloquent bird.

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@@twaffle the bus was quite an experience. At first we planned to take the Intercape/Pathfinder from Bulawayo to VicFalls, which departed around 14hr. We found out there was another bus station with a Bravo bus leaving around 10.30hr. So, we chose that one as we would arrive earlier. But this is Africa. The bus didn't leave the station before 11.15. As long as there were seats available and people coming to the station, they tried to sell as many seats as possible. When we left the bus station, we stoppen on a junction only 100mtr from the bus station. Trying to get more people on the bus. Then the driver was fined by the police for stopping on the junction. We left the junction around 12. Another 200mtr further, we stopped again as there were people waiting on the side of the road. More people got in. Then we stopped at a gas station, still within 1km from the bus station, for fuel and a toilet break. But then, we hit the road and started driving. The bus stopped everywhere and for everyone, which meant in the end we arrived just half an hour before the Intercape/Pathfinder would arrive in VicFalls.

 

But still, wouldn't wanted to miss this bus ride. There where boxes of chicks in the bus, approximately over 1.000 chicks which were making a lot of noise. But after a few hours you just don't notice them anymore. Not sure if that's a good thing though. ;) The bus station was full of chaos. People arriving by car, parking in front of the bus to make sure it wouldn't leave before they were on it. People that hadn't decided which company were pulled in all directions, sometimes ending up in one bus where their luggage was in another. Some hitting and kicking between sales guys of competing companies, only to be friendly to each other a minute later. People selling all kinds of stuff in the bus and coming in up to 10 times to make sure nobody changed minds and still wanted something. Most of the people wanted to have a chat with us. We were laughed at a few times when we tried to pronounce their local names.

 

Some of the boxes with chicks

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Life at the bus station

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And we promised this guy to tell people this is what a very good salesman in Zim looks like. So:

This is a very good salesman:

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@@optig I will be looking forward to your trip report of Gonarezhou and Pamushana. I'm definitely going back to Zim one day. A return to Hwange is on my list as well as a visit to Mana. But I'm curious what other parts of Zim have to offer.

 

Hopefully you'll see some crown cranes in Hwange. We saw them probably every day. Sometimes the grass was a bit high for good pictures. But if you're going in the dry season, you won't have to worry about that.

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@@LarsS thanks for that excellent description of a unique way to travel, most of don't even consider public transport by bus like this.

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Glad you had a good trip.

 

I loved the photograph of the elephant walking though the water with the weed perfectly placed on it's head and trunk. It was reminiscent of those ceremonial Indian elephants.

 

I was shocked to read that the driver/guide in the other vehicle in Chobe moved the lions away in that way. You were obviously unhappy by this too.It does not sound as if you were in any way threatend by the lions. I wonder why he felt he needed to do this...........

 

Thanks for sharing your trip with us

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It was lovely reading about your trip, thank you for sharing! I like the photo of the young elephant with its trunk around the adult's one - so sweet!

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@@LarsS, how cute are those little Bush Babies going about their nocturnal business around you. What a fun shower.

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Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I'll bet you never forget that bus ride.

 

Bush babies in your room? I would have loved that. I've only seen them at night swinging from tree branch to tree branch, and never very close by.

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@@LarsS thanks for the TR and great pics.

In 1999 I backpacked in zim and travelled all in local transport, your descriptions brought back nice memories and some frustrating ones .

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@@LarsS

Thank you for the report - I really enjoyed it. Great wildlife and also very interesting hearing about how you travelled

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Thanks all for the kind words!

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Hey Lars, still remember you planning this. Glad to hear you had a good time, and I really enjoyed your report, thank you for sharing. It was interesting for me to see a "green" Hwange, so very different from my visit last October. Matopos looks great, too, that is one place I would really like to get to sooner or later. And the Falls were in full force for you, fantastic. Your experiences about public transport made for interesting reading. I´m jealous you had Bushbabies in your room. :)

 

So, any plans for the next trip yet?

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  • 3 months later...

@@michael-ibk Very, very late reaction, I know. I've been extremely busy with work this summer, which resulted in less time here and completely missing your reaction. Shame on me.

 

The bushbabies really were great. I've heard them many times before, but now I actually saw them. In the room and while taking an outdoor shower :)

 

 

Luckily I did manage to find some time to plan a new trip: Namibia for 2 weeks from the 4th of November.

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