Indeed Zimbabwean guides are offered guiding positions throughout the continent because their knowledge and training is so extensive.
What I like about Zimbabwe and the way that they conduct safaris is that the emphasis is exactly that – you are on safari, you are here to see the animals in beautiful wild surroundings and the safari camps and lodges that one can stay in are varied, from traditional tented to luxury. There is something for everyone!
These camps at Mana Pools and Chilo Gorge are completely complementary to each other and are from two of the most well-respected safari companies in Zimbabwe.
These operate safaris in very different parks and ecosystems and if one combines a safari across their camps, for 10 nights, there are extra financial benefits with some free flights and reduced prices in some of the camps.
This particular safari is fabulous, as one gets an all-round view and exploration of three completely different areas, and one could also visit Victoria Falls should one wish. The beginning of the year up to August is the best time for viewing from the Zimbabwe side as you are looking at the falls straight on but viewing from the Zambian side is also good.
The special itinerary starts in Harare or Victoria Falls, and one flies to Mana Pools National Park to spend six nights across Kanga Camp and Zambezi Expeditions camp.
Mana Pools is bordered on one side by the Zambezi River. On the other side of the river lies Zambia and its Lower Zambezi National Park. Kanga camp lies away from the Zambezi River inside the park and in a very private area where you are unlikely to see anyone else, except those in your small camp.
Kanga Camp is a lovely traditional camp located in a forested grove surrounding a waterhole and the staff and guides are delightful and make one feel at home straight away.
Because of the natural waterhole, the order of the day is fairly unlike other safaris in that one can really spend a great deal of the day in the shade watching the birdlife and wildlife coming to you. Peace and quiet and just absorbing nature.
After a few days, venture over to the beautiful Zambezi River and a small intimate semi-permanent camp called Zambezi Expeditions Camp. Ideally suited to the more adventurous guest, it provides wildlife-rich flood plains and magnificent views of the distant Zambezi Escarpment.
I love this camp because it sits in one of the most beautiful settings, right on the river bank. Your days are spent walking amongst the sausage trees, baobabs and African albida trees, where you can watch the elephants reach high into the albida for the tasty and nutritious pods.
The four pans of Mana are also a good place to rest and watch; just in one afternoon’s walk we saw wild dog, elephant, buffalo, hippo and malachite kingfishers, grey herons, vervet monkeys and the busy banded mongoose. There were also Meyer’s parrots, Lilian’s love birds, red billed oxpeckers and fish eagles swooping by and storks and Meves' glossy-starlings danced across the ground.
You then fly from Mana Pools to Chilo Gorge via Harare International Airport and then spend four nights at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge. This lies on the north eastern side of Gonarezhou, a very remote and very significant National Park.
Gonarezhou is known for two main highlights – its elephant herds and the Chilojo Cliffs. The landscape is so interesting; varied and undulating with seemingly thousands of baobab trees. They provide food and shelter for many species and the wildlife you may see includes elephant, buffalo, hippo, impala, nyala, warthog, kudu, grysbok, baboon and zebra. They also have the critically endangered and endearing pangolin in this park.
The best way to be ‘on safari’ here is on foot, walking along the Rundi River and through the riverine forests and baobabs. There are beautiful natural pans on the Chilo Gorge side of the Park that one could spend many hours walking around.
In the pans area I have seen impala, waterbuck, resident hippo and very good birdlife. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time bird watching at Tambahata Pan where I saw brown headed parrot, Natal francolin and many more.
For an authentic cultural experience, I recommend taking time to visit the Mahenye village outside the park. This lies in one of the poorest areas of the country and was influential and one of the ground-breaking communities of the CAMPFIRE programme.
The Mahenye Charitble Trust supports its people and the local Shangaan culture with education and conservation going hand in hand as well as respecting their cultural traditions.
This selection is a combination that allows you to see some fantastic wildlife in a variety of stunning natural surroundings. If you would like more information on Zimbabwe safaris, please do feel free to contact me for more information.
Images kindly supplied courtesy of African Bush Camps and Chilo Gorge Safaris