Becs' Zimbabwe Adventure

14 June 2024

Adventure in Zimbabwe with Becs Laker

Zimbabwe 1 falls

May 17 – 29th 2024

Zimbabwe might not be the first place on your list when you think of visiting Africa, but there is no doubt it is a captivating destination with diverse landscapes and endless opportunities for adventure, there is absolutely something here for every kind of traveller.

Despite its troubled past, Zimbabwe is a destination like none I have ever experienced.  Obviously one of the big attractions when visiting Africa is the wildlife and Zimbabwe served up a smorgasbord of exceptional game viewing opportunities in the national parks and private reserves, and of course the magnificent Victoria Falls were another highlight.

Locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning "The Smoke That Thunders," the falls straddle the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The mist created by the roaring water rises high into the air.  The sight and sound of millions of gallons of water plunging into the Zambezi River below is a humbling reminder of the power of nature.  Summer to late autumn is the best time to view the Falls in full flood so we were fortunate to enjoy this spectacle, but the timing needs to be managed with good game viewing times. 

The option to take a helicopter ride over the falls provides a magnificent aerial view, revealing the full expanse of this natural wonder, or for the more adventurous, activities such as bungy, zipline and rafting can be enjoyed here.  We went for the more relaxed option of an evening river cruise to enjoy our traditional “Sundowners” and watch the sunset over the Zambezi.

Zimbabwe 2 classroom

During our stay in Victoria Falls, we had the opportunity to visit Chinotimba Primary School as part of the #PackForAPurpose initiative. Pack for a Purpose is an organisation that encourages travellers to make a positive impact on the communities they visit by supporting initiatives focused on education, health, and child welfare.  We spent time in the classrooms, meeting and chatting with the children and listening to them sing—a highlight for me. Bringing them books, pencils, balls, and pencil cases was incredibly exciting for both the children and us.  (For more information see https://www.packforapurpose)

Zimbabwe 3 Lion

Leaving Victoria Falls behind, we ventured into the Hwange National Park (‘wang-gee’), Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve at over 14 600 square kilometres. 

Renowned for its diverse wildlife and home to one of the largest elephant populations in Africa, it offers exceptional opportunities for game viewing and sightings of big cats, buffaloes, leopards, antelopes, giraffes, zebras and much more.

Our lodgings in the park had an elephant pool, inviting them to come and drink from the fresh water fountain, so we spent long hours sitting quietly observing these intelligent and surprisingly graceful giants, close enough to see all the creases in their weathered skin and their enviable eyelashes.  I adore elephants so I never got bored of observing them and I love how they mimic human behaviour and emotion.

Zimbabwe 4 elephants

Zimbabwe’s safari guides are undoubtedly among the best in the world.  Completing a full five years of training involving everything from driving skills to weapons training and learning the latin names of every bird, plant, animal and insect.  Their exceptional knowledge and passion for the bush, combined with the fun-loving Zimbabwean sense of humour, puts these guys at the top of their field.  I loved that many of them still carry cameras with them, and while we photographed lions they had their lenses focussed on the smaller residents of the park, like termites, but I thought this demonstrated a true passion for the wilderness and everything that lives within it.

Zimbabwe 6 safari truck

Zimbabwe takes conservation very seriously and has established a network of national parks, wildlife reserves and protected areas that cover significant areas of land.  Hwange is one such reserve, working collectively with its neighbours to facilitate the natural movement of the animals across the borders so they can thrive and migrate naturally, while still promoting tourism and sustainable development.  They also have robust anti-poaching initiatives which were fascinating to learn about, using resources such as rangers, drones and GPS technology to combat the illegal wildlife trade.  A big part of this also includes engagement of the local community to raise education and awareness so humans and wildlife can live in harmony with each other.  For example, working with Farmers on simple initiatives to deter lions from hunting their stock without having to shoot them.

Next on our itinerary was Mana Pools National Park in the north, situated on the Lower Zambezi.  It offered a different perspective being by the water.   This UNESCO world heritage site allowed for walking and canoeing safaris, and we were fortunate to witness a rare wild dog sighting with their 6 new cubs.  Joining the hippos and crocodiles for an evening canoe was a bit of a thrill, finished off with more Sundowners on the banks of the Zambezi and a spectacular African sunset.

Apart from being on the water, the landscape at Mana Pools (meaning “four pools”) is quite different to Hwange.  Dotted with acacia trees and a variety of plant and bird life, it is a really remote wilderness, the serenity only punctuated by the interesting honks, grunts and roars of the nearby hippos.  No mobile phones to distract your attention, out of wi-fi and a rare opportunity to switch off and connect with the world around you, which I really appreciated.

(pic: Enjoying traditional Sundowners Hwange National Park)

Zimbabwe 8 team pic

Our final stop was in the remote Bumi Hills overlooking the shimmering waters of Lake Kariba.  The Lake provided our playground for these last few days of R&R, which we really needed after 6 full days of sunrise and sunset game drives.  We did another “Sundowners” sunset cruise – quite possibly the best so far – and the following evening enjoyed a plentiful fishing trip (lots of fish, the size was a bit questionable with the smallest being dubbed ‘the goldfish’!)

(pic: More Sundowners Lake Kariba)

Zimbabwe 9 elephant lodge

The lodges we stayed in put you right in the heart of the park.  You can quite literally lie in bed and hear hippos munching outside your tent.  It wasn’t uncommon to hear big cats had been in the camp overnight and the elephants were comfortable grazing just metres from our dinner table.  Due to the large amount of wildlife living within the parks and camps, it’s normal to be escorted from your tent to main camp.  You can’t immerse yourself much more in nature!

(pic: An elephant cruising around camp, Hwange National Park)

For me, it’s often the people that make a destination truly memorable, and Zimbabwe's warm and hospitable locals sure know how to lay on the charm, inviting you to immerse yourself in their vibrant traditions and hospitality and share in the incredible place they call home.   Our experience in the lodges we stayed in was exceptional.

Africa has a unique way of capturing your heart. For some, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime destination; for others, it constantly draws them back, each visit offering a new and unique experience. 

I will certainly be heading back and I encourage you to put Zimbabwe on your travel list—you won’t be disappointed.

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