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Basic outline of month long Zim safari


panamaleo
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I am no photographer or techie to post them, so just the basic outline. This in no way compares to other Trip Reports. Happy to expand if anyone needs more information or impressions. Overall tour agent was Natural High Safaris in the UK. Thank you, Catherine Ronan, for such excellent communication over many months! Ground transport arranged by Rawana and Jos Safaris; again excellent. Traveled solo, older female; my fifth safari.

 

Left July 17 from my home in the western highlands of Panama via Panama City-Sao Paulo-Joburg-Bulawayo. Arrived July 19 at Banff Lodge, Bulawayo; decent restaurant; dated rooms.

 

July 20 pick-up at Banff Lodge for 8 hour enjoyable road transfer to Chilo Gorge Lodge, Gonarezhou NP with driver Billy Dally, Manager of Amalinda Collection's Matopos Camp. Five nights at Chilo, with 2 of them at their Mahove tented concession inside the NP. Had the tented site to myself and guide/Chilo Operations Manager Andy Walton...cheeky elephants; great conversation, and total privacy. This is a remote and beautiful part of Zim; so glad I chose to add it to my initial itinerary! Clive Stockil, renowned conservationist, and Chilo's owner, was a most gracious host, as were new Managers, Richard and Gillian Thornacroft, who left for Rio to see their daughter compete in the Olympics representing Zimbabwe near the end of my stay.

 

July 25 was a 9 hour road transfer to Amalinda's Camp, Matopos; again enjoyable, despite the frequent police stops. Everything was in order on both long road transfers, so no problems, and terrific packed-lunches. Spent 3 nights at Camp Amalinda. This was the most unique safari accomodation I have experienced. My rock "cave" was beautiful! Matopos is more about history and culture than game-viewing, although I did see my first rhinos very close-up (maybe 18 feet), and the beautiful cave paintings, Rhodes' grave, a village school, non-touristic village and a well-organized orphanage. I believe Matopos should be on all Zim itineraries to lend an overall view of the country's culture.

 

July 28 was a road transfer to Hwange NP (about 6 hours) with a 5 night stay at African Bush Camp's Somalisa Acacia Camp; the smaller of their two adjacent camps. Totally luxe; met Beks Nvdlou; fabulous food; amazing number of elephants (my favs); Cecil's remaining pride of 11 lions; wild dogs, and was often the sole guest under the guidence of Magic Mike (and hip Training Guide Makosi). My favorite camp of the whole trip! Abundant wildlife, but tempered by the fact that the only water sources are human-managed. Hwange is at 3300 feet elevation, with Kalahari sands, so mornings were bitterly cold (28F or -2C). Celebrated my birthday at Somalisa Acacia.

 

August 2 was a short flight to Bumi airstrip in Matsuadona NP on Lake Kariba. Stayed 5 nights at Rhino Camp; rather rustic, but with warm hospitality from Karl Wright and his step-father Guide Peter Totler (spelling?). Again, several days I was the only guest. Sundowners on Lake Kariba are rightfully-legendary. I had internet here, and both Karl and Peter were comforting when I received tragic news of a close friend's passing. Thank you, kind men.

 

August 7 was a boat and road transfer to Mana Pools, and Zambezi Expeditions tented camp, another African Bush Camps location on the Zambezi River for 3 nights. Only guest most of the nights, and typical of ABC, gracious hospitality. Amazing wild dog sightings; a canoe ride for sundowners one evening, and a wild dog kill right on the "beach" last night in front of the tents. I really enjoyed my Guides Cloud and Lovemore. Mana Pools is about the light and the dust and the dogs, and after the Hwange dryness, Mana was so green.

 

August 10 was a short transfer to Stretch Ferriera's Goliath Camp for 5 nights in Mana Pools, but I cut it to 3 nights. Rustic camp; surprisingly great food, and Stretch gets you very close to the old bull elephant Vicar. Boswell seemed to be on vacation during my stay. Stretch is a legend (in his own mind perhaps?), but he does know how to track, and we got close to a pride of lions on foot. I decided to cancel my last 2 days there, and arranged a transfer to ABC's more-inland Camp Kanga. Spent my last 2 days of 26 safari nights at Kanga, and wow! Beautiful camp on a pan,and amazing wild dog action. If not for a large wooden buffet table on the dining deck, we would have had a wild dog-impala kill under our feet one evening.

 

August 15 was a short flight from Kanga's private airstrip to Harare. Spent the night at gorgeous Highland House Hotel. Highly recommended.

 

August 16 was the return Harare-Joburg-Sao-Paulo, and August 17 was Sao Paulo to Panama City.

 

Overall impressions of my first safari to Zimbabwe: It is suffering from a lack of tourists (for obvious reasons), but it is SUCH a worthwhile safari destination! I was always safe; the people are incredibly friendly and crave a political transition soon. In fact, many spoke freely to me of their ambitions and hopes (and of course, questioned me as an American citizen on the elections in the USA, which prompted lots of Trump laughs!). Zimbabwe provides such diverse attractions; I only covered a path east-south and west-central north; there's so much more to explore. The history is rich, yet tragic; the resources are unlimited; the people are educated and hard-working. I believe in the future of Zimbabwe. I hope other Safari Talkers will do the same by visiting and absorbing this rich destination.

 

Like I stated, no photos; just the facts. This is, no doubt, a disappointing Trip Report compared to others, but it is what I offer at the moment.

 

Louise

panamaleo@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A good TR. No photos but a succinct & detailed report none the less.

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@@panamaleo thank you for posting your impressions of Zimbabwe. It sounds like you had a very rewarding trip and although I always love seeing photos I appreciate the effort that anyone makes to give back to others on this forum. There is plenty of detail in your writing to give others planning a Zim trip information on where they might like to explore themselves.

 

And you had so many dog experiences! Wonderful.

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I´m glad you enjoyed your Zim trip - 26 days, just wow! It sounds like you had extraordinary sightings, especially with the dogs. How was wildlife at Gonarezhou? This is one of the destinations very high up my bucket list, as is Matopos (for the reasons you gave). Kanga certainly is the perfect stop to end a safari, even with (or especially with) Dogs unter the table.

 

Sorry to hear about your friend.

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Louise... everyone will survive a trip report without photos. Not only facts either - a few impressions and opinions in there too. Very good actually. "At the moment" hints at a possible future change of heart, so I will add that of course youb should feel free to write more about some places if and when you want.... or to leave it at that.

 

Why did you cut short your stay at Goliath Camp - although it sounds like it was a great choice to do so.

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@@panamaleo I understand your not a photographer, but you can have your guide take the photos for you. Also you can just point your iPad or iPhone and take terrific photos. "Stretch Ferreira" is indeed a legend in his own right and justifiably so. He knows all the elephants by name in Mana Pools and makes a point to talk to all of them. I can never forget,when he got a group of 7 of us including myself and had us pose in front of a wild elephant,it was simply a mind blowing experience. He is also a fascinating personality in his own right having been a soldier in the Selous Scouts,a vegetable farmer and a guide for safari hunters before he found his true niche as a guide in Mana Pools. I've seen many videos of him stopping charging elephants by simply yelling at them. He is famous as a guide not just in Zimbabwe but all over Africa.

 

I can't wait to visit Gonarezhou National Park as well as Pamushana. Long ago Stretch predicted that Gonarezhou would do very well because it's very well managed by the Frankfurt Zoological Society. I know that I will love it for many reasons. I know that Gonarezhou is a particular favorite of seasoned safari goers. I'll be visiting both in September this year.

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Really interesting read - thank you! Sounds like a marvellous trip.

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Thanks for your replies. I did take over 500 photos; some of them quite good, with my Lumix digital. Edited down to 314 for my own purposes, and plan to get it to 10 or 20 as the best. May try to post them in the future....but, hey, everyone has seen an ele, lion, giraffe, etc., right? I leave it up to you expert photographers to post your fabulous shots on ST.

 

Why did I cut short my planned 5 nights at Goliath to 3? I, and a fascinating solo female self-driver from Zambia (former manager at Sand Camp/Jack's Camp in the Kalahari; many years in Gabon as a teacher; truly intrepid!) were the only guests for those nights. As she was leaving for the last 2 nights planned there (and no other guests scheduled except me), I decided to leave. Stretch drives around aimlessly; sends a young tracker out early in the morning, and relies on him for radio contact re: any possible sightings (then takes personal credit for those); he's very negative about his competition in front of guests who may have enjoyed their time in those camps; he's getting older; some definite hearing loss. By the end of the day, at dinner, he was tired, bored and in a sour mood. Is it my duty, as a guest, to keep the conversation lively or lift his mood? NO. Both I, and the fellow-guest, commented on this privately. The decision to leave early (very costly for me) was dealt with cordially. I respect Stretch, but it just wasn't a good fit for me. When there's just 4 people in camp (2 female guests, Stretch and his very quiet young 23 year old apprentice); it can get "stretched." I will, however, pose this Stretch Geo-Challenge: Name 5 countries that end with the letter L. We got 3 one night; the next morning a 4th, and just 2 days ago the 5th.

 

In retrospect, after being led (willingly, but rather forcefully by Stretch) and photographed literally under the tusks of Big Vic at Mana Pools, I preferred being approached by the elephants voluntarily at the Hwange pans....within 10 feet. I respect elephants, and I appreciate them coming into MY space, rather than ME going into THEIR space (for a "photo-op" on a website or Facebook post). Not sure everyone will understand this.

 

@@optig, yes, Gonarezhou will come into its own soon; the Frankfurt group's work is already evident in the roadways; some work must be done to save the baobabs.

 

LOTS of dog action in Mana. I have seen them just walking along a trail in years past, but to see them at full speed on a kill is unbelieveable!

 

Lots of talk of dogs, elephants, Cecil's pride, Stretch, camps......but let's not forget the genet under the buffet table; the baboons who destroyed the curio cabinet; the ele who leaned against the water tank stanchons and brought the whole thing down in a crescendo of water and timber; the dinners and dance/song on the sand rivers; the best of all guides at Hwange (with only one eye fully-functional, Magic Mike); the lovely Yvonne who teased that the fleece beanie I wanted/needed to buy would cost me $100 at 6AM (in 28F or -2C temps that morning) or $10 by noon; the open sky with its treasures both day and night; the tiny and mighty birds; the patient and thoughful Guide Cloud at Zambezi Expeditions; and the few-but-lovely people I met in camps (yeah, that includes all you tour agents).

 

Enuf

 

Again, thank you for your comments. Louise

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I can name about 9 countries beginning with L!

 

Thanks for sharing and clarifying your reasons behind cutting the stay short at that camp - I can understand why you may have refrained from telling us the first time but this kind of feedback is very important to those planning similar trips and helps maintain a balance. In my opinion, of course.....

Edited by Super LEEDS
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Senegal, Brazil, Portugal, Nepal and I'm still thinking.

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Israel!!! How could I miss that one.

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@@Super LEEDS the countries have to END in L.....not begin with it!

 

Lost in translation!!! :huh::lol:

 

and no, Leeds was not in my list of 9.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Your Kanga visit has me very interested. Happy Birthday. Mana Pools is an excellent place to celebrate it. The dogs helped with your celebration for sure! Not at all disappointing!

 

I hope the news about your friend did not put a damper on your safari. There's never a good time for news like that.

 

Boswell needs a holiday too. Yours seemed like a great time!

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Yes, Israel, Senegal, Brazil, Portugal and Nepal. Such a clever bunch you are!

 

Kanga Camp, operated by African Bush Camps, is about 15 km from the Zambezi River in Mana Pools. Once you have spent time near the river, and of course you must, this is a nice end-or-beginning of a Mana trip. The guides do take day-long drives to the river, and as ABC's concession at Kanga is small, day trips are something to plan if you have not already spent time around the golden, open riverine expanses of Mana "main."

 

Tourism is pretty dismal in Zim, because of the economy, etc, (and "etc" covers a LOT of topics); my safari was almost private. I spent quite a few nights as the sole guest in several camps, and rarely had more than 2 other people on a drive. Am not sure this is the place to post such opinions, but Zimbabwe appears to be at a tipping point. I was able to speak openly with young staff at camps, and they do not fear Mugabe as their elders did. They have smart phones; what's app, all kinds of social media at their fingertips, and are beginning to use those effectively for change. Let all of us who love Africa; who travel there and assist conservation with our tourist money; whose hearts ache to return....let us be aware of their efforts, and support them as we can.

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@@panamaleo - as @@Geoff says your report is succinct and detailed - and it says a lot.

 

I value your opinions and I know full well, Louise, that they are well measured and considered.

 

Now as to the photos I know what you mean about fabulous shots on ST but hey you've done a helluva lot of road transfers and in my view there is a lot of room for shots of landscapes,street scenes and local peoples even if you shy away from shots of wildlife (mind you sounds like you have plenty of good wildlife/dog shots in that Lumix).

 

I would love to see more of Gonarezahou and the Matopos landscapes and any street scenes - so give them a thought.

 

Clive

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@@panamaleo I'm a bit late to reading this but I very much appreciate this report and your insights. Zimbabwe definitely on my list and I hope soon.

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