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Zimbabwe Safari


Mark Homann

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Mark Homann

After many hours of traveling confined in airports and airplanes, we finally stepped outside into the warm Zimbabwean sun. Little has changed in Harare over the last five years. They are building a double lane highway from the airport to town, the streets are a little dirtier, power cuts are a regular part of life and some of the robots (traffic lights) don’t work. It seems Zimbabwe has avoided this recession as they do not have any form of credit and it is purely a cash economy which has been depressed for 10 years. The streets are filled with renewed hope with the new US dollar economy and a power sharing government, although the Zimbabwean people are painfully aware that hope has a habit of being crushed, but right now they are just happy to have food in the shops again.

 

After spending five days with good friends (who have 26 tortoises in their yard) we met with our group and had dinner at Amanzi, a first class restaurant, three course meal, lots of fine wine for $40 a head, very good food.

 

Moving on to Victoria Falls we spent a night in the Victoria Falls Hotel which was fantastic (of course, my cousin is the GM). Vic Falls town was surprisingly clean, well run and quite busy showing the first signs of a tourism recovery. We went to the falls early in the morning and little can explain their beauty that stopped even the intrepid David Livingstone.

 

After a night in Victoria Falls we moved to Somalisa Camp in Hwange for four nights. It was great to be back in Hwange and comforting to see that it is still a world class game viewing destination. Hwange is on the edge of the Kalahari, it is very flat, dry, sandy and abundant with animals, especially elephant and Hwange is all about the elephant. We saw 400 elephant in about one hour!

 

The camp is a fantastic tented camp with loads of charm, elephant drink out of the little pool there emptying it every night. On the day that we left we had a herd of 15 elephant 6 feet from our tent. While Hwange is all about elephant, we saw a lot of other game, including lions (at least those who woke up for the early morning game drive did)

 

After a fantastic time in Hwange (we run down their Gin supplies) we were collected by Craig VanZyl and flown by light aircraft to Chizaria National Park. Chizaria is very different to Hwange. There are few roads, lots of water and the park is very rugged being on the Zambezi escarpment. Game viewing is harder here (we did see over 200 buffalo, mountain climbing elephants and antelope) but it is likely one of the very best walking areas in Africa (there are elephant trails here so old that their feet have worn paths into the rock). The lodge is built on the foot hills of the escarpment. Zimbabwe’s tourism depression has sadly caused the lodge to become run down but it has been well kept and must be one of the finest locations anywhere. The park is a plateau of rolling hills with flowing spring lines and deep river gorges that drops 900 feet over the lip of the Zambezi escarpment to the valley below. The Tonga people live in the valley existing as they have done for over a 1000 years, originally living on the banks of the Zambezi River they moved up to the Escapement when Lake Kariba was built in the 1950s flooding the valley with water. They are a fascinating joy filled group of people whose absolute material poverty is dwarfed by their zest for living. We visited village head, Judas, his 3 wives and 20 kids. He proudly changed out of his work clothes and into his suit to show us around and had some of his kids play the drums and do some dancing for everyone. Chiz lodge leases the land from the villages, enabling them to earn an income, sell vegetables and provide some employment.

 

We returned from Chiz, tired, dirty and happy for the comforts of Victoria Falls Hotel. Everyone worked hard to spend all their cash on 6 foot giraffe and other items of curious interest.

 

Sadly our numbers started to dwindle as we began to say farewell to members of our safari family until the last of us flew back to the US leaving behind a country cut off from the 21st century by a bad PR image, lack of investment and crazy politics. I have to say that Zimbabwe is still one of the safest places in the world to visit and the Zimbabwean people are still some of the kindest people in the world. 10 years of being on everyones black list has hurt the safari industry without a doubt but we are resilient people who know how to “make a plan” and I am proud of my country men for all that they have endured and wish them the hope that our enduring motto, “next year will be better” finally comes to pass. I promise a safari in the mythical land of Monomotapa and King Solomon's mines will touch even the coldest soul.

Zim_Trip.pdf

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Excellent report, Bushspots. Thanks!

 

I haven't been to chizarira for about 10 years, so it's nice to hear there are still buffalo there. Sounds like you saw all the elephants I missed on the recent (rainy) game census in Hwange.

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Mark Homann

...., Craig is a very professional guide and is a great pilot. He was great with our kids and guests. I would not hesitate to recommend him for anyone, he went out of his way to make people's stay the very best it could be.

 

Tony Chiz's wildlife have been hit hard by the last 10 years. Eles and buf are around but the plains game have taken a knock (we did not see one kilpspringer) this is a sad case of how wildlife cannot survive without income and presence from tourism. That being said the park has a new warden who is said to be good and the park's road's etc are well managed (for Chiz) if we could get people to visit the park i believe things can came right.

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