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Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa Epic


wilddog
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In 7 days I leave home for a 5 week trip to Southern Africa. The first two weeks will be spent camping in Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, travelling through Gona Re Zhou NP - Zimbabwe, Limpopo NP – Mozambique and Kruger- SA.

 

The first section will be a great adventure seeing an area which is totally new to me and not one of the more noted wildlife destinations. Whether there will be good animal sightings, during this first section, remains to be seen but when these do occur, we will probably not be competing with other tourists! I can make up for any shortfall on wildlife viewing when I reach Kruger.

 

During the latter part of my trip I will re rejoining the Ingwe Leopard Project in Mpumalanga to assist with the research and see the progress since my last trip therein April.

 

I will be making notes and taking pictures and will pull a report together when I get back.

 

Getting very excited now!

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madaboutcheetah

Awesome!!! Have a great trip and happy travels ..........

 

Regards

Hari

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Sounds like quite an adventure, have a great trip and safe travels.

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Excellent stuff. Safe travels and look forward to reading of your adventures... Matt

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  • 3 months later...

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First installment of belated trip report will be posted in next few days. Sorry about delay,GW!

 

 

Edited by wilddog
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This trip combined a week's travel through remote and not often visited parts of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, with a week in Kruger to complete the wildlife sighting tick boxes!

 

It was a long but fascinating road and track trip covering approximately 2000 kilometres over the 2 weeks and travelling through very varied terrain, both wild and cultivated.

 

Chapter 1 – Harare to Lake Kyle and Great Zimbabwe

 

After an overnight stay in Harare with my safari guide and his family, the Hilux was fully loaded up by the safari team to cover the first weeks travel. Once in to Gono Re Zhou we would have no access food, bottled water and fuel supplies for nearly a week, so credit must go to the team for excellent planning.

 

We headed out of Harare heading south along the main route to Bulawayo and Francis town. Along the way we passed through Chivhu, a typical Zimbabwean agricultural town with shops along the road but his town has one special difference: a pub which actually houses the jail cells. This on the presumed basis that most crimes are drink related! May be some truth in that! We then turned off the main road and headed south east towards Masvingo (the site of the old Fort Victoria) and on to Lake Kyle (Lake Mutirikwe) for an overnight stop and to visit the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.

 

After a long, but interesting drive we reached Lake Kyle mid afternoon and went to the park entry post and then on to the park headquarters to try to find our camp site. We seemed to be the only people in this area so we chose a site right on the lakes edge and having claimed our site we then set off to see the Great Zimbabwe ruins. My interest in the ruins had been triggered by a recent TV programme about advanced civilisations within Africa and so I was very pleased to have this on the itinerary.

 

Unfortunately the site of the ruins was on the other side of the Lake and we had to leave the park to reach it which limited our time as we need to be back before the gate closed. The gate staff were very helpful and arranged to have some fire wood ready when we returned.

 

The ruins of Great Zimbabwe are an incredible sight and the labour that went into building this kings' palace (1100AD onwards) is impressive.

 

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The palace is constructed out of stone walls linking huge boulders to make passage ways, private quarters, feasting and meeting areas.

 

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The kings' palace is sited on top of the hill with the wives palace set out in the valley below. According to local legend, the king would simply get a servant to summon the wife he required by calling from the palace heights, into the valley.

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Due to the shortage of time and the risk of being shut out of Lake Kyle National Park we were unable to visit the wives quarters. On our return camp was set, the braii lit, and, as there are no large predators or elephants within the park, we simply set up our bedding on the ground.

 

We had a wonderful evening with a rather late G and T sun-downer, the first of many excellent braii-prepared meals and a glass of wine, followed by a night of gazing at the stars in the Africa sky as we fell asleep; a perfect beginning to my adventure.

 

The next morning we did a slow game drive through the park, as we headed back to the main road coming across several mammal species including a group of de-horned and tagged white rhino and a herd of giraffe.

 

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As we left the park it was conformed that adjacent to the park up to 50 Lions were held within a private area. The reason for the lions being held there was not made clear to us, we can only guess at the reason.

Edited by wilddog
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Thanks for the Greater Zimbabwe photos and info. I have been intrigued by this place that is not often visited.

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Thanks Atravelynn, Great Zimbabwe is worth a visit, if you ever pass that way.

 

The other sections of my report:-

 

Chapter 2 Gono Re Zhou- Zimbabwe

Chapter 3 Limpopo National Park - Mozambique

Chapter 4 Kruger- S.A.

 

will follow as soon as I have refined my image insertion technique. (this is my first report). So far I have over shrunk/compressed my images!

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Chapter 2 Gono re Zhou – Abode of the Elephants Part 1 - The Save Runde Sub Region

 

On leaving Lake Kyle we again had a long drive heading south, and then, east through firstly, Triangle, the main agricultural centre for sugar cane; and then Chiredzi, where we topped up with fuel and on to Gono Re Zhou.

 

To enter the Save Runde Sub Region of Gono Re Zhou N.P. you first pass through the Malalangwe Conservation Trust land, where we saw a group of 3 female sable antelope one of which was definitely pregnant. We also saw a male Nyala, a first for me, but typically I did not have camera in hand.

 

On arrival at the main gate to Gono Re Zhou we found that the park had been very quiet. A group of people had been there 3 days ago but only for the day. We were apparently the only people staying in the park and certainly the following days would support this comment.

 

On entering the park and reaching Chipinda Pools, part of the Runde River, we saw 3 male elephant drinking at the water's edge,

 

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a very large crocodile, which quickly slipped off the semi-submerged causeway as we crossed the water, and a group of hippo.

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We then headed south east to our first Campsite in the park, Directors Camp. En route we saw impala, kudu, bushbuck, wildebeest, buffalo and elephant. This last two were notably skittish, in particular the elephants, who clearly were not happy with the presence of vehicles, and probably assumed evil intent. I had read previously that the elephants here tended to be aggressive.

 

As we travelled through the woodland and flood plains we could see a wealth of animal tracks going to and from the river bed clearly indicating large amount of animal traffic, Whether would see these vast numbers of animals remained to be see.

 

Director's camp was on a site on the south bank of on a Runde river, facing the world famous Chilojo cliffs.

 

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The evening sun brought out the wonderful colours of the differing strata and the slopes beneath which are richly populated with young and old baobabs.

 

At the base of the cliffs bull elephants were happily crossing the river, while also in sight were impala, baboons, saddle bill stork, crocodile and Egyptian geese, all crowded in and around the remaining water.

 

The camp area with braii was set up under the trees, with my personal large palace of a tent,

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suitably equipped

 

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together with the 'staff quarters'

 

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a bucket shower.

 

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and a long drop toilet (with seat) discreetly set up behind some bushes.

 

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So we were set for the next 3 nights.

 

After a G and T, showers were taken, an excellent meal with wine was prepared and we sat and enjoyed out first night in Gono Re Zhou.

 

Prior to going to bed we set up a series of smouldering elephant dung fires downwind of our tents in the hope of deterring any elephants or other potential dangerous animals that might decided to investigate us over night.Despite this, during the night I awoke to the sound of snuffling directly outside my tent (near my head). This is always a slightly nerve wracking experience but after about 10 minutes whatever it was went away. My first thought was hyena and my guide, who was fully aware of our visitor, thought so too, although we could not find any tracks the next morning to confirm this as the ground was covered with leaves behind the tents. We had seen hyena and baboon tracks on the ground when we set up the camp so this is the most likely explanation.

 

The next morning we drove along the side of the river exploring the various view points and empty camp sites dotted along the river bank in the area. On our way we came across two elephant bulls. The first bull was half on the track and seemed very anxious about our presence, remaining quite still we watched him for a few minutes until he resumed feeding and then reversed slowly way, taking another route.

 

The second; was a little less anxious

 

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and after a bit of ear flapping, crossed the road and then grazed quietly to one side, keeping one eye firmly on us as he ate

 

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The most developed campsite we came across was probably Fishans Camp some few kilometres up stream which has ablution blocks and open sided rondevals with braii areas overlooking the rocky river bed with potential for fishing.

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Having looked around our personal preference remained Director's camp which provided the full rustic experience and the best views.

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We came across kudu, impala, klipspringer, duiker, warthogs, wildebeest and a variety of bird life.

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Whilst watching another coucal later we also noticed an elephant shrew lurking under the bush in the back ground; a rare sighting in day light. Not a good picture but nevertheless proof of the sighting. (Coucal in left foreground)

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The bush is quite thick in this part of Gono Re Zhou dense here with very limited large open spaces and you are not allowed of road. We did not come across any predators, but we did find tracks of both hyena and leopard that day, as well as buffalo.

 

During the afternoon back at camp the elephants headed down from the river bank towards the water and the remaining fresh green shoots of weeds and grass.

 

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Following behind the main group was a very old bull who got to the remaining green vegetation adjacent to the water and stood there for some time. His lack of activity in the burning sun might suggest that he was not long for this world.

 

We quietly and slowly walked into the river bed where were able to get within a reasonable distance to get a closer look and to get some pictures.

 

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In the evening we went and sat on the bank of one of the smaller tributaries to the Runde River where Carmine Beeater were nesting. Several antelope, warthogs and baboons walked along the river bank and into the river bed opposite where we were seated.

 

On our return to camp we came across an elephant cow herd that rapidly ran down the river bank to avoid us. After a quite night's sleep we found tracks showing that the cow herd had come back up the river bank during the night just outside camp.

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The following morning we headed inland away from the river's edge. Along the way we came across this bull elephant that was clearly startled by our arrival but quietly moved away when he realised we were not a threat.

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Edited by wilddog
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Chapter 2 Part 2

 

As on the previous day we saw a range of antelope species, including steenbok

 

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zebra, baboon,

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vervet monkeys, mongeese, black backed jackel, a korhann (red crested I think)

 

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and a magnificent tawny eagle, with prey,

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who very obliging remained in his tree, eating the prey, as I edged nearer.

 

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In the evening we went to another stretch of the river for a sundowner and to plan our route out of the park on the northern side of the river. This required crossing the manly dry river bad at a less often used crossing point. I was left on the south bank with the usual G and T while the team checked out the crossing.

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After a quiet night, the next morning I opened my tent to see this beautiful sunrise.

 

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After a quick breakfast, camp was packed up ready to head across the river, tour through the area north of the Runde river and then travel out of the park to reach the southern sector of Gono re Rhou.

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When we got to the crossing point, as the team were deflating the tires in preparation for the assault on the river bed, we found the fresh spoor of a very large lion heading down the slopes of the river bank. He may well have been watching us the night as I sat sipping my G and T and the guys checked out the river bed. When we successfully reached the northern bank we found more lion tracks there.

 

North of the river is quite a different landscape from that in the south, which is mainly flood plain and Mopane Woodland. The terrain rises into the Pomadzi Wilderness and becomes drier and harsher.

 

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We came across Zebra, Nyala, Impala, Steenbok, Sharpes' Grysbok, Kudu

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and a small group of Klipspringer, one of which very obliging stood on the rock in classic pose.

 

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Finally we headed back down towards the Runde River to exit the park through the Chipinda Pools gate and head south along the main road to the southern Sector of the Park, the Mabalauta Sub Region.

 

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The stay in Northern Gono Re Zhou was an amazing experience. The great sense of wilderness, peace and quiet, and proximity to nature, was for me, a magical time

 

The next chapter will cover Southern Gono Re Zhou and Limpopo National Park, Mozambique

Edited by wilddog
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Thanks for the trip report wilddog - really looking forward to the next chapters...

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Excellent stuff, wilddog, your pics have rekindled my interest in visiting gonerezhou. I'm going to try and get there later this year or in 2012. Thanks!

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  • 5 weeks later...

Chapter 2 Part 2

 

Mabalauta Sub region. Gono Re Zhou and Limpopo Park, Mozambique

 

On leaving the northern sector of Gono Re Zhou we took the main road southwest, travelling through the communal lands adjacent to the north western border of Gono Re Zhou. Finally we turned left into the southern sector of the park and headed towards the Mwenzi River.

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We headed straight for camp at Rossi Pools which consisted of a rondeval with table and sleeping platform built into the cliffs overlooking the pools.

 

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Once we had set up camp we headed down towards Wrights Tower a viewing platform above the river in an area buffalo were known to frequent.

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After a considerable wait watching the sun go down the buffalo finally arrived. Despite the fact that we were hidden in the enclosed platform, they were clearly anxious and hesitated for some considerable time before finally crossing the track. We noticed that one of the buffalo was collared.

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After a good night's sleep and a light breakfast watching the animals coming in to drink,

 

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we headed away from the river.

 

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We reached the road adjacent to the main Harare - Maputo Rail line and then headed South West to leave the park and cross into Mozambique at the Sango Gate.

 

Proceedings here were fairly slow, but fortunately my guide, Doug Macdonald had done his homework and all the relevant paperwork had been prepared before we left Harare otherwise it would have taken considerably longer. Nevertheless, on reaching the Mozambique side a little persuasion was required to prevent us having to empty the whole vehicle at customs. We therefore got through relatively unscathed and in reasonable time. We passed through rural communities

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and the main town along the railway with a magnificent station.

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We then headed south towards the Limpopo National Park

 

At the Limpopo River, one of the Mozambicans had used his initiative and built a cause way across the Great Green Greasy Limpopo, (not so great at this time) and was charging several dollars to cross, the alternative was to use the normal riverbed routes either side. We supported his work.

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On reaching the Mapai gate into the Transfrontier Park it took some time for the gate keeper to arrive; the traffic through this gate is, I imagine, minimal and, certainly, we came across very few other vehicles over the next 48 hours. We asked the gate keeper about the local wildlife and he suggested that there were only impala and other small antelope in the area.

 

After a minor accidental detour heading north (navigation failure!) we then reached the Mapai Rustic camp just inside the park.

 

During the last few days the temperature had been rising steadily and we estimate that it was bout 44 degrees when arrived. We set up camp in the clearing and whilst we were doing so noticed several birds, taking the shade in the nooks and crannies of the trees and literally panting in the heat. So……we put down and dish of water and they were soon happily drinking. We then went for a walk in the region of the camp along the main trails and although we only saw duiker there were tracks of both elephant and buffalo.

 

On our return we had a problem. The whole camp site had been invaded by a swarm of African bees who had also found the water! Being a total coward when it comes to 'flying, buzzy, stingy things' (my technological term for bees and wasps), I waited at a discreet distance whilst my intrepid Safari team attempted to get ready for the evening meal. Doug was very calm but did get stung a couple of times, and in the end we all accepted defeat and stood at a distance waiting for dusk to come, when the bees would disappear. Once the bees had left, we moved the water dish to the adjacent, empty, camping area in the hope the bees would find it there in the morning.

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We awoke refreshed and rested but…………at first light the bees were back with a vengeance! They remembered exactly where the water had been, had told all their mates and unfortunately had not yet found the relocated water. We were again surrounded.

 

Greg, Doug's colleague, wanted a shower before we left but found that the bees were also all over the ablution block, trying to drink from the flush toilets and spilled water, so he had to abandon the idea. In the end, we decided it was best to beat a hasty but dignified retreat from the camp.

 

Our next scheduled camp was Sandalo, some 70 kilometres south, high in the hills. As we drove the temperature rose to an estimated 44 degrees C. The surrounding bush was very thick and totally dry, with no greenery, and there had also been a recent bush fire. Inevitably we saw very little game.

 

The Sandalo camp site had all the necessary requirements ablution block with hot showers and flushing toilets and a large camping area.

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However there were no local driving or walking game trails to explore, so given the intense heat we decided to continue down towards the South Africa border and stay at our final Mozambique camp for an extra night.

 

On leaving Sandalo camp we were beginning to travel adjacent to the Singuedzi River which eventually spills into the Elephantes River east of Massingir Dam. We saw many farms along this route; some, abandoned with nature taking over, and others still inhabited by Mozambican farmers. I understand that the relocation of the farmers is an ongoing process. It was obvious to us all that this could be prime game areas in time but at present sightings of wildlife is limited.

 

In the evening we finally arrived at Aguia Pesquiera Camp site over looking Massingir Reservoir. Facilities were of a good standard with log cabin style ablution blocks and kitchens. After our long day we set up camp had dinner and went to bed.

 

The next day we went out exploring west and south of our camp site. This area is more developed and more open and there were sightings of baboon and duiker and we came across the remains of a leopard kill. There were also tracks of large numbers of cattle.

 

We then went in search of fuel heading west of our camp site, out of the park and across the Massingir Dam wall.

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After lunch at camp we took the footpath down from our camp site to the edge of the lake and spent some time exploring the lake shore which is comprised of layers of calcrete which have been exposed by the high water eroding the top soil.

 

The next morning we were up early ready to head west into South Africa through the Giriyondo gate.

 

This journey across the Limpopo National Park was long and hard particularly for those who were driving but nevertheless, really interesting. We were of course travelling at the driest time of the year and this may have affected sightings as we crossed the park; we saw only 10 mammal species but we did identify 93 bird species over the 2 days. The bird sightings included my first sighting of a Crested Guinea Fowl (apologies for image quality!)

 

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In my opinion it is still early days for the Limpopo National Park particularly in the areas distant from the South Africa Border. This was meant to be an exploration of new, less travelled area and in this respect, we were not disappointed.

Edited by wilddog
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Sorry Wilddog, I missed the start of this report. I am really enjoying your wild and unusual experiences. The bee excitement would have been almost too much for me and the heat sounds pretty awful. Did it cool down at night to help with sleeping comfort?

 

Look forward to more of your adventures and photos. Fantastic.

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How exciting you can experience Limpopo in its early days. Nice job on that elephant shrew! The real elephants in front of the cliff is great too.

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Thanks Twaffle and Lynn

 

@Twaffle

The bees were a bit unnerving but it was clear they wanted the water and not me, but obviously I made a supreme effort not to upset them! i.e kept well way. The temperature did drop at night and as you can see we only had mosi (? bee) nets over us, so a good nights sleep. One other point fortunately as we arose so early we were up and dressed before the bees returned.

 

@ Atravelynn

It was good to see Limpopo N.P. at such an early stage of development. It would be interesting to do the route again in a few years.

 

The final Chapter on Kruger will follow soon (I hope!)

Edited by wilddog
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  • 4 weeks later...

You got some great antelope shots. I don't think you were at all cowardly about the bees, just smart.

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