Zimbabwe is renowned for its unspoilt wildernesses, and Hwange and Mana Pools are two of its most magical, covering an incredible variety scenery and wildlife. This tour makes for a fantastic ‘quickie’.
Safari only operates from April to November
If you are pressed for time, but still keen to see some of Southern Africa’s most spectacular scenery and wildlife, this safari will leave you begging for more. Zimbabwe is a country of stunning beauty, with miles of unspoilt wilderness and friendly people who are always keen to share their proud heritage with travellers. As Zimbabwe emerges from its slumber as a safari destination, now is the perfect time to experience its wildernesses. This safari takes the rhino by the horns, so to speak.
Zimbabwe encompasses a wide diversity in its habitats and scenery, but if you could only visit two, it has to be Hwange and Mana Pools. Once the hunting grounds of Ndebele royalty, Hwange is home to large herds of wildlife concentrated around its waterholes, and surrounded by ancient indigenous forests. It has one of the largest elephant populations on the continent.
Mana Pools, on the other hand, is a lush riverine ecosystem spread out along the fertile floodplains of the Zambezi River. The wildlife is relaxed due to low tourist pressures, and there is an impressive populations of the bigger beasts, making for some of the best walking safaris in Africa.
Named after a local Nhanzwa chief, Hwange National Park is the largest park in Zimbabwe. The park is remote, and off the beaten track. It is accessible from the west through a tiny border post on the Botswana side at Pandamatenga, from the east from the Victoria Falls side, and, of course, by light aircraft. Hwange used to be the royal hunting grounds of the Ndebele warrior-king Mzilikazi in the early 19th Century, and was set aside as a national park in 1929. It is a charming remnant of a bygone age, when vast herds of antelope roamed the savannah. Hwange is home to the most beautiful forests. Its huge canopies of Albizias, Mahogany and Cathedral Mopanis will leave you breathless. Hwange has a tremendous variety of wildlife, and to crown it all one of the largest populations on the continent is found here.
Mana Pools lies on the Zimabwean side of the Zambezi River, opposite the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia. It is one of the most exciting places you will ever visit, and the only danger is that you will never want to leave. The word 'Mana' means four, in reference to the four pools around the park headquarters: Main, Chine, Long and Chisambik. They are actually not in the river, but on the mainland, in an area of deep, rich alluvial soil along the southern bank of the river. They owe their existence to the scouring action of the flooded river that created a number of elongated troughs that retain their water long after the flood have subsided. This area has a park-like appearance. Massive Acacia trees tower over what appears to be, from a distance at least, a carefully manicured lawn. Further away, a border of Mopani trees and Combretum scrub begins and there is a visible line, like some extraordinary tidemark, a browse line that exactly demarcates the height to which browsing animals can reach.
Little Makalolo is a small and intimate camp. It is set on the edge of a waterhole in a section of the Hwange National Park that is known for its high density of game. Camp staff are friendly and warm, and the allure of the camp is perfectly complimented by the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings.
The 6 tented suites were designed with the perfect balance between luxury, comfort and the feeling of the untamed wild. The permanent floors and wooden doors allow some separation from the elements, while the indoor and outdoor showers and the private lookout decks in each suite offer the opportunity to immerse completely in the African bushvelt. The communal lounge, bar, dining and swimming areas are spacious, relaxed and sophisticated, and have magnificent views of the open plains and the waterhole in front of the camp.
Hwange National Park is the largest Park in Zimbabwe, occupying roughly 14 650 square kilometres, and boasts a remarkable variety of wildlife, with over 100 species of mammals and nearly 400 bird species recorded, and one of the largest elephant populations in the world.
Hwange National Park occupies roughly 14 650km2, and boasts a tremendous selection of wildlife, with over 100 species of mammals and nearly 400 species of bird recorded. It is the only protected area in Zimbabwe where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in good numbers. The elephants of Hwange are world famous, and the Park's elephant population is one of the largest on the continent. The north and northwest of the park are drained by the Deka and Lukosi rivers and their tributaries, and the far south is drained by the Gwabadzabuya River, a tributary of the Nata River. Aside from that, there are no rivers in the park, although there are fossil drainage channels, which form seasonal wetlands. In these dry sections, pans, grassy depressions and a number of man-made waterholes form oases that attract animals in their droves. Sightings at these points are varied and afford exciting opportunities to see animals at their best. On occasion, visitors are even treated to a stalk and kill, as leopards and lions often lie in wait of the unsuspecting antelopes.
Situated on the western boundary of Mana Pools National Park, Ruckomechi Camp lies on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River and offers superb views of the mountains of Africa's Great Rift Valley across the river in Zambia. The camp is shaded by a canopy of acacia and mahogany trees and is known as the elephants' favourite camp because the albida trees dotted through camp are much loved for their tasty pods. It accommodates guests in spacious en-suite tents, including a honeymoon suite, all of which open out onto wooden verandas overlooking the Zambezi River. Each tent has both indoor and outdoor showers.
Mana Pools National Park is a World Heritage Site that lies at the heart of the Zambezi Valley. It is a remote, beautiful place with spectacular views. The area offers large concentrations of buffalo and elephant, while predators such as lion, wild dog, leopard and cheetah are often sighted. Greater kudu, Burchell's zebra, impala, warthog and common waterbuck can be seen on the plains and the grunting of hippo can be heard all day.
The mighty Zambezi River flows from Lake Kariba through the Lower Zambezi Valley on its way to Mozambique. Over the millennia, it has created a tapestry of islands, channels and sandbanks in this valley. And as it meanders along, it leaves trails of mineral-rich volcanic soils in its wake, supporting the tall stands of mahogany and ebony that gather around its small oxbow lakes. This abundance of water and luxuriant greenery accounts for the valley's wealth of big game. Mana Pools has Zimbabwe’s biggest concentration of hippopotamus and crocodile, and large dry season populations of elephant and buffalo. There is a wide variety of birds, and the game is very relaxed about people on foot, making Mana Pools one of Africa's best parks for walking safaris. But it is not only by Land Rover or on foot that the excitement of the area can be enjoyed. Guided canoe trails are an incredible way to experience the river at first hand. Every kind of wild animal and bird is viewed at close quarters as the canoes glide silently past. One can drift within metres of grazing buffalo, slide by sleeping crocodiles, watch wading elephants and enjoy a sense of openness, freedom and a feeling of being totally at one with the environment that is hard to match elsewhere.
This safari commences and ends in Johannesburg, South Africa