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Zimbabwe & Malawi 2019


NSY
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Zimbabwe & Malawi July 2019

Itinerary

 

10/7 LHR to JNB

11/7 JNB to Buffalo Range

Chilo Gorge lodge Gonarezhou Nat Park 3 nights

Chilo tented camp 2 nights

Chilo Gorge lodge 1 night

Fly Buffalo range to JNB

JNB Airport hotel 1 night

Fly JNB to Lilongwe 

Mkulumadzi lodge to Majete Nat Park 3 nights

Fly to too Pumulani on the shores of Lake Malawi

Fly Pumulani via Lilongwe to JNB

25/7 Fly JNB to LHR

We have been thinking of a trip to Zim for years now but did not fancy Harare & customs there.

Then we found a way to fly direct to Buffalo range from JNB. The customs at Buffalo range were the most low key of any we have ever been to. Greeted with - Welcome back! - but we had never been to Zim before but customs officer replied you built our roads & bridges etc.  So passport stamped bags checked and away we go on the 2-3hour drive to Gonarezhou.   

Arrive at Chilo Gorge lodge in time for lunch sitting outside looking down onto the Save river, with hippos, crocs basking in river & on banks.

After settling into our room which had a balcony overlooking the gorge we go on an afternoon/evening game drive.

We ford the river to go into the national park and see elephants, wildebeest, kudo, impala, warthog etc.  There was lots of bird life including waterfowl on the lakes.  We had our first sundowners of the trip by the lake.

This is my first post on this site.

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Welcome to ST @NSY and nice to start your journey here with a TR! no one will argue with you on that. 

 

I look forward to hearing your views on Gonarezhou - I was there in November 2016 with Owen for a 7-night stay with GBC. It was a memorable experience. (we did our TRs on the trips)

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~ @NSY:

 

Welcome to Safaritalk!

 

Thank you for providing your itinerary.

 

Were there any photographs with sightings of interest?

 

Please enjoy your membership in Safaritalk. It's a welcoming site.

 

         Tom K.

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Looking forward to hearing more about this trip. We are really keen on any TR's, particularly retrospectives, as current one are in such short supply. The Malawi part of your trip, which includes Majete, will be particularly interesting to me. And I love Goners.

 

Good to meet you @NSY and welcome to Safaritalk :)

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@NSY

 

Welcome to Safaritalk and I am also looking forward to your TR especially from Gonarezhou which is high on my growing list of future safaris !

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Thanks for welcome 

Just not sure how to add more to trip report or photos & how to had text to photos

Gonarezhou is a great wild area with recovering wildlife but the Chinese have a plan to dam the gorge so things may change a lot 

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welcome @NSY! just drug - and - drop your photos! and continue to write!! I'm looking forward to your TR!

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After a continental breakfast we go on a game drive. It is just us & driver/guide Thomas in an old Land cruiser with 370000 km on clock.  We ford the Save river which is about 18in deep ,then up very steep banking to National Park gate office.  On this drive we see elephants, hippo, spotted hyena, zebra, nyala, waterbuck, slender mongoose and lots of waterfowl at Tambahate pools. We only see one other vehicle on 1st morning

Then it’s back across the Save river ford to Chilo lodge for a great buffet lunch and lazy afternoon in very comfy lodge.  Late afternoon drive we go back into NP and the other Tambahate pool  seeing lots of waterfowl again and sundowner time . On pool there is a Goliath Heron, Spoonbills, 3 types of Kingfishers. The Park is closed to traffic from 7pm so a rush out and back across river.      

fording the Save river.JPG

view from terrace at lodge.JPG

hippos from lodge.JPG

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We are staying in room 1 Chilo Gorge lodge which has a balcony overlooking the gorge & this morning there is a family of Elephants including young ones bathing in river just below us. 

After breakfast we ford the river again and into the park the ranger at the Nat park gate greets us like long lost friends. This morning we see lots of Elephants, Nyala, Kudu, and Impala & numerus birds. The park was bit busy today seeing 2 other jeeps . By 10.30am we are fording river and leaving park. Once back at lodge it is into room for an hour or so rest before lunch at 1pm. The lunches are delicious here. After lunch we have another hour or two for siesta and catching up with some reading before going out on an afternoon drive.  We again see Elephants etc. Then visit the Tambahate pool  for the excellent birdlife.

1835757381_viewfromroom1.JPG.1c0c41962a19e29497d462ac80e5ee51.JPG

View from room 1 Chilo Gorge Lodge  

 

heron.JPG.4d87a2ea397aac6e8f91443f97f16776.JPG830324467_spoonbillsbypools.JPG.806a8b976ebd5653164508aa24788a5e.JPG

                                                                                                                                                             Birdlife at Tambahate pool

 

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By the Save river crossing 

 

292973281_ele2.JPG.957638e26849b1bc40039c51651618c3.JPG1204332239_ele4.JPG.75c3ed6197c12439a08037dfb05e14e1.JPG

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We have the normal early quick breakfast then out in jeep into Nat Park. We go to Tambahate pools lagoon & see lots of birdlife again including: Jacana, Storks, Herons, Ducks, Geese, Fish Eagles as well as Hippos. Our morning coffee & biscuits are served here. Thomas tells us a story about when he was here with 6 other clients; they went to the toilet block by the picnic area and after the first four have been a National Park truck pulls up & Thomas tells other 2 to wait as they have come to clean the toilet. Once the National Park staff have gone the other two go in, then come running back saying there is a snake in toilet!  Thomas says no this can’t be true as four have already been to toilet and Park staff have cleaned - but he found a Mozambique Spitting Cobra there! Thomas rings park staff later & they cannot believe it was there.  A few weeks later Thomas is there with another group, one lady screams & throws her camera onto ground shouting snake!!  It is a 10ft long Cobra but it is facing away from her. Thomas said if it had been facing towards her it was within striking distance.

There is only the two of us in lodge tonight for dinner & it is an awful meal. Maybe they sent the chef for a night off & cleaner cooked!

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Sorry about the quality   

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Higher up the Save river from Lodge 

1506906515_groundbird.JPG.d88d89a662636b36274110b294a37c92.JPG

Nightjar Rufous Cheeked

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Today after normal continental breakfast we leave for 2 nights at tented camp.

We do a full day drive via Mozambique border to top of Chilo Cliffs, On way we see elephant’s & Steenbok & place where Cheetahs sit looking for pray, you can tell by scats left on stones. The view from the Cliff tops is extensive looking down onto the bush for miles around.  We see 2 Elephants approach each other from opposite sides of river below. We have a long drive down escarpment to valley floor & Cross River to arrive at Fishens picnic site which look up to the cliffs that we were on top of before.  Then it is back along river to tented camp. Along the way we see a herd of approx. 200 buffalo fording river. This was an awesome sight.   There are 4 tents & another tent to eat in. In camp it is just us with Thomas & a cook with helper. Our tent is on the river bank and looks out over river edge grasslands to river. There are Elephants, Waterbuck, Warthog & Impala just in front of us & across river Buffalo, Élan, Impala, Wilder best, and some Hippos in water.  There are frogs in open-air bathroom including one that seems to like sitting on the tap head.  We settle to sleep listening to Hyenas & Lions calling       

1083538912_lookingdownontheplains.JPG.2a506459bba2f96baf27a914fd96b155.JPG

View down from top of Chilojo cliffs

1401157632_elebelow.JPG.ed7a6a34b1270c05c631a87bf107eb5e.JPG 

419002064_cliffsfrombelow.JPG.400f96c49f3b8f4174cd862df12daf0b.JPG1501514918_cliffsfromriver.JPG.7432823040c785de629e8cc26903d8ed.JPGbuffalo.JPG.be5de0a0543b17675d933087dbf29b47.JPG

Buffalo cross Runde river

520572651_ele3kick.JPG.eb199dbd3c614952b565d98c5ffbd698.JPG1785871603_malGrysbokSharpes.JPG.d757db705eda73c37a49b0ad83775976.JPG

Sharpes Grysbok

cliffs from top.JPG

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A great start with lovely photos!

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Today after normal continental breakfast we leave for 2 nights at tented camp.

We do a full day drive via Mozambique border to top of Chilo Cliffs, On way we see elephant’s & Steenbok & place where Cheetahs sit looking for pray, you can tell by scats left on stones. The view from the Cliff tops is extensive looking down onto the bush for miles around.  We see 2 Elephants approach each other from opposite sides of river below. We have a long drive down escarpment to valley floor & Cross River to arrive at Fishens picnic site which look up to the cliffs that we were on top of before.  Then it is back along river to tented camp. Along the way we see a herd of approx. 200 buffalo fording river. This was an awesome sight.   There are 4 tents & another tent to eat in. In camp it is just us with Thomas & a cook with helper. Our tent is on the river bank and looks out over river edge grasslands to river. There are Elephants, Waterbuck, Warthog & Impala just in front of us & across river Buffalo, Élan, Impala, Wilder best, and some Hippos in water.  There are frogs in open-air bathroom including one that seems to like sitting on the tap head.  We settle to sleep listening to Hyenas & Lions calling       

1083538912_lookingdownontheplains.JPG.2a506459bba2f96baf27a914fd96b155.JPG

View down from top of Chilojo cliffs

1401157632_elebelow.JPG.ed7a6a34b1270c05c631a87bf107eb5e.JPG 

419002064_cliffsfrombelow.JPG.400f96c49f3b8f4174cd862df12daf0b.JPG1501514918_cliffsfromriver.JPG.7432823040c785de629e8cc26903d8ed.JPGbuffalo.JPG.be5de0a0543b17675d933087dbf29b47.JPG

Buffalo cross Runde river

520572651_ele3kick.JPG.eb199dbd3c614952b565d98c5ffbd698.JPG1785871603_malGrysbokSharpes.JPG.d757db705eda73c37a49b0ad83775976.JPG

Sharpes Grysbok

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As we awake this morning at 5.30am it is still dark and we here a great roar just outside tent. It turns out this as a Leopard walking between our tent & the dinning tent.  We go out on a walk leaving straight from camp via waterhole which has Warthog & Impala drinking plus various birds. We then walk deeper into bush seeing Wildebeest in distance watching us. We come across a group of Zebra with young who keep a close eye on us. Then it is walk back to camp. Lunch is overlooking the Runde River with views of wildlife on both banks & in the river. Later sitting at front of tent a 4ft Monitor Lizard walks round tent flap about 2ft from me & not sure who is most shocked the  lizard disappears down river bank into a pool. We set of on a game drive and see Vultures circling nearby. Thomas parks the Land Cruiser & we go of walking with Thomas. The kill was an old Nyala that had been taken but all that is left is the spine & scull. This was a very quick carcass strip by Lion, Hyena and Vultures. We could hear the commotion from the tent in the night as only 400yrds away but we did not find until seeing the Vultures above.  

warthogs.JPG.abfbeb84982fb9f821a62116848fdd23.JPGwilderbeast.JPG.95200f5f6fef2949074b197e694d7a1b.JPG1659687638_eaglewithcatch.JPG.89f1b966acf418eeacc5c906b091acfd.JPG

 

Not sure what the catch is. Maybe a goose?

 

1977182082_groundhornbill.JPG.1ebff74000606c4bab9fee5ca0ca6667.JPG

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Today we drive back to Lodge via a game drive.

It is a bit of a shock to see there are 18 others in lodge now including 9 aircrew. They are crew from Purmurga lodge owners 2 private jets that have flown in from USA.

Lunch today is a buffet which is very nice. Chef must be back

This afternoon we set of from lodge at 3.30pm to walk to falls & have a sundowner. It is very hot. Once we get to fall Clive Stilwell arrives with lodge manager to set up sundowners for a group of Chinese engineers visiting to check out if river could be dammed for a hydro project. What a shame if this is done lodge will lose the river at some times of year & falls will disappear. 

Again dinner is a buffet for 1st time maybe this is due to number of guestskudu.JPG.f1fab558e9bade40df44580d51d8579c.JPG212372798_malsteenbok.JPG.03e94081c2f5fb7ac1b6c4f360fa0df8.JPG1137445368_elebyrhuderiver.JPG.3629811616e4b12df16713607d5c5cd4.JPG

eagle on ground.JPG

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Today we move on to Malawi 

 

Goneranzou is a wild park & almost had the place to ourselves.  There is some beautiful scenery

23 mammal species seen

3 reptiles

146 birds

Chilo Gorge lodge is in a beautiful position high above the save river only 10mins drive to NP entrance across the river . Service is good

Food very good except the one evening when only the two of us in lodge,

Thomas the guide we had was excellent. 

Tented camp in a good spot on the banks on Runde Rriver

Just worried if Dam on save river is to go ahead a lot will change & how the situation in Mozambique will affect things. 

It is well worth the journey to Goneranzou

In hindsight maybe we should have had one less day in lodge & an extra day in tented camp

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~ @NSY:

 

The images in and around Chilo Cliffs are mightily impressive.

 

Before seeing them, I had no idea that such a dramatic geological setting existed.

 

Thank you for preparing this illustrated trip report.

 

            Tom K.

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So many good memories of Gonrezhou brought back here. Those cliffs ... so iconic. So far you seem to have some good sightings including the buffalo herd below the cliffs and the wildebeest. I cannot remember seeing that many wildebeest together. Loving this, so thanks

 

 

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Today we check out of Chilo gorge and move on. There is a bit of a problem 1st thing in that we cannot open safe which has our passports in among other things. Richard the lodge manger arrives with a gadget that resets safe and opens it but this will not work. Then he rings manufactures to no avail. Next step is remove safe & cut hole in it with angle grinder.  Howard one of the directors is also leaving today so be get a lift to airport with Howard and family.

Once at airport we are greeted by customs offices as old friends. She even comes out to wave us of. Before the trip I was worried about what customs would be like in Zim. The flight is with Federal airlines on the same fancy eight seater Pilatus PC12 plane we came on.  At Johannesburg we taxi into main airport for transfer to terminal. Immigration is very quick & efficient then it is the short walk to airport hotel for night.

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Today we have a 10am flight with South African Airways to Lilongwe. It was a good flight and as before we had better food on South African than BA. At Lilongwe we go through airport via, Visa, Visa payment, Customs, Baggage check. I think India customs’ must be teaching Malawi customs’ how to make as paperwork as possible & then into domestic side for flight to Majete. The plane is a Cessna 210 with 2 pilot seats & 4 Passenger. I think this is the smallest plane we have ever been in. It is a 90min flight to Majete. The pilot has to buzz the airstrip as animals on runway. There is a jeep waiting for us but unusually they are not clearing runway. After getting in jeep we set of for a 2 hour drive to lodge. On way we see Elephants, Kudu, Nyala etc. We arrive at lodge as it going dark & can just see view from main bomma to Shire River. The only way into camp is across a 150ft rope bridge that is ok until another person gets on it then it bounces a lot. Once across bridge we transfer to another jeep for 10min ride to lodge. We are given room no 1 which is said to have the best view as it is overlooking the junction of the Shire river & the Mkulumadzi rivers. The room is very nice with a massive zip up open front. After a quick wash we go down to restaurant for dinner. The food is very good probably the best we have had in Africa.     plane.JPG.3ed9dbd902acedd7221a576734c008ee.JPGbridge.JPG.c216c1d86c6d6e353a83b3666c0d4326.JPG830714395_roomverande.JPG.fec03baafc736eec250248cd80462cef.JPG

Room one veranda 

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@NSY

 

Gonarezhou NP , the place of elephants , is indeed Africa at his wildest and remote with the richest biodiversity of any Zimbabwe national park and you captured the scenically dramatic and majestic , red sandstone Chilojo Cliffs beautifully ! 

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At night we have to be escorted to room due to animals but as it is just coming light at 5.45 we can walk on our own to lodge. Breakfast is just cereal, yogurt and tea/coffee. We leave for game drive seeing lots of Elephants some very close up. There are birds about but nothing like the numbers in Zim. Once back a lodge we have 2 hours free before lunch. There are great views across the Shire River from out balcony seeing various animals coming down for a drink. We even see a Warthog swimming across river. The room has an outdoor shower & if we look over low wall there is a burrow that houses a couple of large Plated Lizards. Lunch is a very nice 3 coarse meal with beer or wine. After our siesta it is another game drive up into low hills and once it goes dark we look for animals by torch light & are lucky to see a Black Rhino & a Giant Eagle Owl.1436230540_waterbuckgroup.JPG.741987ec290af57a4ecca8c04ebd0510.JPG

 

The Shire river just in front of room 

1251306837_mnyala.JPG.6149becdb73cb80f225c47c0c32a328c.JPG1909160482_mnyla.JPG.15df3826f0aba09318b8c1379436d08f.JPG1862808981_owlwesternbarn.JPG.f6fa99a1862ed3f07d1a25c294f1fd1c.JPG1665094229_owlgianteagle.JPG.6617e925b28e5d26db7bd22170cb0075.JPG444449406_slmallspotted.JPG.a4c90e3cc6fc132f9edcd0b4e10ad747.JPG

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Today we have a lie in until 6.30am 

Then after quick breakfast we go on a game walk directly from lodge. The walkers comprise Mali the Guide and a Nat park ranger. We walk with a young SE asia guy. We walk along river bank seeing massive Elephant footprints in the sand then up into woodland. Every time Thomas points out poo & says this is an Impalas or this is a Hippos the guy takes a lot of photos and gets very excited. Then he does same with footprints.

 

After a while we walk up to where starbed is. This is a small bamboo enclosed with a wc on ground floor then stairs up to 1st floor with a double bed. We go in and first place is into toilet for room with a view. There is a big open window with no glass in it. We then go up to bedroom! There is a fantastic view all 360d round. If this was not going to be our last night we would have tried it.

 

This was supposed to be where we have coffee & biscuits. Henrich the camp assistant manager drives up & says he has moved stop a few hundred yards away down track. We set of walking & eventually come across a mobile kitchen set up on the river bank for a full English outdoor breakfast.  After breakfast we complete walk back to lodge walking along river bank under the lodges.

 

After a short rest we go for another great lunch then siesta. Today we take beers back to room.

 

Then it’s down for afternoon tea & cakes (but we are to full to eat) then out on game drive we drive along way past the airstrip seeing lots of Eland. For Sundowners we stop in a dry riverbed.  On way back it goes dark and the spotlight comes out. A Leopard runs across track in front of us then lies only 15ft from jeep. Later we see 2 small spotted Genets, A Civet, Puff adder on track, & lot of Hippos of for their evening feed. We also see another Giant Eagle Owl & a Western Barn Owl

 

 

 

 

river.JPG.8ef8e032ca04d038aac45a1add0c67b6.JPG

 

River at start of walk 

 

leopard.JPG.f7e513dfc1f20bf447aa7f077f240184.JPGhare.JPG.3cb7ace20e3f8a2971c28714e5bcebe3.JPG758002045_puffadder.JPG.ea14fe080fb859b5c4f5fc5671eb8fe8.JPGe

                                                                                                                                                      Puff Adder on track

IMG_9314.JPG

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Today we leave the beautiful Mkulumazdi , this is after a late start 6.30am we have a small breakfast before going for flight to Monkey bay. We have a 90min game drive to airport and see a few animals and birds.

734473179_riverbig.JPG.d467901dc75962a23ba2f1411de88f70.JPGcroc.JPG.0487e1cc2a07d10c227d6b37c10e39d6.JPGeagle.JPG.672cc7eb16ebb5cfcd0a6698147f9f79.JPGelep.JPG.3ae30137b6f4b882469fb7c027fbddab.JPGwaterbuck.JPG.d0c670cf23df667750156557fadb4433.JPGIMG_9250.JPG.e472bc27392dada09dcfefdb4d95e7b6.JPG1167196157_fnyala.JPG.8cb2a3f2a228ed6aa53dd032e799763f.JPGlizard.JPG.e5167c53aa9b0c75b22068f2df9c9742.JPGgoshawk.JPG.b43a613d442e0d05eed1cd756e916781.JPGIMG_9382.JPG.a21f132555a06d639e6a8ff5da4cff80.JPG

There is some excellent scenery in Majete , riverside, hills, woodland

Africa parks seem to have done a great job restoring the park. We did see Black Rhino on a night drive but not fast enough with the camera to get a photo.  2.5 days was enough time to see area with hindsight again maybe link with Liwondi Nat Park.

Animal seen including Elephants 50+, Nyala, Sable, Elan, Kudu, Impalas, 3 Civets, Small spotted genet, Leopard. Grysbok, etc.

Birds seen 42 including Lizard Buzzard, Wahlberg’s Eagle, African Paradise Flycatcher, & Giant Eagle Owl

Reptiles seen 3

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We leave Majete & travel to Lake Malawi  

The guide is a bit late at the airstrip and pilot is buzzing the strip to clear Impala. He does this 3 times and is not happy with guide when he lands and tells him he should be there 30min before flight to clear the strip of any animals. The flight is 40mins in the same small Cessna just the two of us with the pilot. It is a bit cloudy and we fly a roundabout route missing clouds.

Monkey bay airstrip is in the centre of the village and has a footpath across the middle of the runway which makes a change from dodging animals. It is Club Makokola International airport & even has customs & police officer. The drive from here to Pumulani is about one hour .

Zim looked very much run down & on its knees but Malawi is worse. There seemed to be thousands of kids hanging around at roadsides trying to sell all sorts of odd items, for example an old tyre. Some are collecting empty bottles.

The road starts as tarmac then to dirt and finally a rutted track that tests the taxis limits. Lodge is a nice spot above lake shore. The Villa is enormous & inside is a bit like someplace in Greece. Lunch is very nice. This afternoon we take it easy drinking a bottle of wine in room & spend the afternoon reading etc.P7220087.JPG.c45c571365411a2767422b0d6cc7a03b.JPG

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