The thundering mists of Victoria falls will welcome you to Africa, and the fertile plains of Hwange will make you a friend. The diversity and beauty of Mana Pools will make you cancel your return flight.
Safari only operates from April to November
After years of political turmoil, Zimbabwe is slowly regaining its reputation as one of the friendliest, most professional safari destinations in Africa. The warm and proud people of this land are always keen to show off their heritage, and what a spectacular heritage it is! You will be hard pressed to encounter such diversity in any other country, making Zimbabwe a great destination for anything from a quick ‘power-safari’ to a multi-stop, extended stay.
This safari starts off by dropping you into the thundering mists of the majestic Victoria Falls for a few days.
From here, you proceed to the remote and beautiful plains of Hwange National Park, once the hunting grounds of Zimbabwean royalty. These days, the serene mahogany and mopane forests hold one of the largest elephant populations on the continent, and game viewing is made easy by the paucity of water and the concentration of animals around the waterholes.
The safari ends in Mana Pools – an area of incredible natural riches. The Zambezi has created a tapestry of islands, channels and sandbanks in this valley, and its fertile soil supports tall stands of mahogany and ebony, and a rich variety and concentration of wildlife. Mana Pools has Zimbabwe’s biggest concentration of hippopotamus and crocodile, and large dry season populations of elephant and buffalo.
Approaching the Victoria Falls by aeroplane is awe-inspiring. If you press your face against the window like an impatient child, you will catch a glimpse of the Zambezi River from above, twinkling silver and blue, calm and deliberate as it drifts towards the inexorable precipice. And then all hell breaks loose. You will feel the Victoria Falls before you see them. It’s like pressing your chest against a bass speaker: the thundering of 500 000 cubic metres of water per minute reverberates though you as it plummets 108 metres into the mists beneath. Victoria Falls is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, but it is the world's largest sheet of falling water. It is roughly twice the height of North America's iconic Niagara Falls and is rivalled only by Argentina and Brazil's Iguazu Falls. Apart from its natural splendour, Victoria Falls offers activities that range from the sedate (sunset cruises, steam train excursions, walks through the rain forest or canoeing above the Falls) to the extreme (bungee jumping and white water rafting below the Falls). Flights over the Falls by helicopter or microlight are mandatory.
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.
Set in exquisite surroundings within a private Big 5 reserve, the Stanley and Livingstone is a glamorous Safari Lodge that combines stylish elegance with a sense of bygone grandeur and charmingly nostalgic decor. For a quintessential African experience, there is little to beat this magical destination.
The 16 exquisite thatched suites are large, air-conditioned and immaculately maintained. Each has a gracious lounge and a secluded patio that overlooks the tropical gardens and the constant flow of wildlife at the nearby waterhole. An outdoor jacuzzi is provided at the Honeymoon Suite. Inter-leading rooms are available for families. Nearby Ursula’s Camp is an intimate, private retreat and is perfectly suited to extended families or small groups. The 4 en-suite chalets, accommodating a total of eight guests, include a master chalet with lounge area and satellite television, a swimming pool and Wi-Fi throughout.
The Stanley and Livingstone is a fenced private game reserve bordering the Zambezi National Park. At least three of the Big 5 are sighted on most game drives, and wild dog, sable, eland, giraffe, hippo, crocodile, hyena, bushbuck, impala, baboon, kudu and waterbuck are also frequently sighted. But the highlight is often a close encounter with the ‘crash’ of endangered Black Rhino, some of which have been successfully bred on the property.
The Zambezi River and the Victoria Falls pulse with an annual flood cycle of high and low water. Summer rains in the upper reaches of its catchment area, in Angola and Zambia, flood the river, causing significant rises in its levels. At high water, the spray plume can rise up to 500 metres and is visible from over 20km away. During the dry winter months, before the regional rains return in November, the river recedes to a ribbon of water, and the Falls runs dry for much of its length. It is during the dry season that the sheer magnitude of the Falls can be truly appreciated. Clear of the shroud of spray, one can marvel at the solid rock walls of the gorge, worn smooth by the abrasive power of the water. However, the best time to view the Falls is probably between May and August, when the river is running at mid volume. Apart from being the biggest waterfall in the world by volume, what makes Victoria Falls special is that nature has provided man with a front row seat, as it were, from which to view the whole 1.7km width of the Falls. Except at the point where the river exits through the narrow channel into the whirlpool known as the Boiling Pot, it is possible to walk the whole length of the Falls through the Rain Forest and gaze at every part of this awe-inspiring spectacle.
Zimbabwe has the greater frontage of the Falls, and the deepest channels run along that side. This means that the Zimbabwean side of the Falls will still be running when the Zambian side has long dried up.
The Zambian side, on the other hand, is more intimate, and offers the chance of a swim literally on the lip of the Falls. Whichever side you stay on, take a day pass through to the other side so that you can experience the Falls from both perspectives.
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