Zipping thru Zim(babwe)

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
Trip End Dec 22, 2013

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Where I stayed
Victoria Falls Rest Camp & Lodges
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

From Harare we drove a short distance to Masvingo which is the oldest colonial settlement in Zim and once camp was set up we enjoyed an afternoon exploring the Great Zimbabwe ruins which is the national monument for which the country is named after in 1980. The ruined city, a Unesco World Heritage site, was first constructed in the 11th century and was thought to be a royal palace for the Zimbabwean monarch.  We were able to walk up and around the hill complex where the monarchs lived and were able to look down on the village below.  As we walked thru the Shona village area we were treated to a traditional dance which was quite impressive as to the amount of stomping they do to shake the gourds full of seeds that are tied around their legs.

Off the next day to Zim's second largest city, Bulawayo which is known locally as the City of Kings. There was a fair number of white Africans concentrated in this city, and learned that their family have been here for many generations farming the land. So with all the politics we know about Zimbabwe in the past a lot of that occurred here.  Our campsite for the two days was a lovely property owned by a white African couple just on the outskirts of the city where there was a lot of new development occurring. 

The next day was spent in Matopos National Park with a fantastic guide Ian ( who showed us so many things my head was spinning by the end of the day! He has been the most passionate guide I have ever met which made for a great experience.

In an open air jeep with cool morning air after a good rain we set off for about an hours drive to reach the park.  Once in the park, which is home to a small population of black(17) and white(7) rhinoceros, Ian explained the habitat of the rhinos and how they operate with respect to all having access to the watering hole but having distinct areas separating the herds but still allows the bulls to have access to all herds.  Then a short drive to see the gates of the camp were scouting (as in Lord Baden Powell/boy scouts) actually began.   The camp is still in use today to train scouts who protect the rhinos and other animals in the park from poachers. Afterwards we took a small hike up a steady incline to a 360 panorama view and the grave of Cecil John Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia and the De Beers diamond company. On top there was a monument to commemorate a large battle that took place in Zimbabwe and it was there that Ian gave us a long interesting history lesson on Cecil Rhodes and the impact he has had on the country of Zimbabwe.  He even captivated a high school group that was at the site as one by one the kids started coming around us and listening to what he had to say.

After lunch it was off to see some cave paintings made by the bushmen that date back at least 3,000 years.  It was quite a hike up to the cave and in the heat but was worth it to see the paintings and have Ian describe how the bush men lived (the way they find a wife and only have one wife contrary to other African tribes) and sustained off the land (when they kill an animal they will eat all the meat: 30kgs of meat over 36hrs and then not kill again for another 2 weeks sustaining on berries and nuts in between).  There are about 2,000 bush men left in Zim.  Many have been moved to Namibia which is where we will get a chance to see them.  We also got a chance to try bush men’s soap, otherwise known as devils thorn.  It is a weed when mixed with water because slimmy and slightly soapy which acts as a cleanser and moisturizer that does not have to be washed off.

During the day we saw a variety of wildlife including clipspringer, kudu, black eagle, black breasted snake eagle, and reed buck. But the highlight of the day was to go to the game park and literally take a walk with the rhinos. Ian is very familiar with the rhinos in the park and actually refers to him as his babies.  We were able to hang out with 4 of the 7 white rhinos for I would say about half an hour.  We were no less than 10m from them at some points and had a few "oh shit" moments where we had to back away quickly but slowly if you know what I mean.

The rhino numbers are severely down due to the extreme poaching that is occurring for the rhino’s tusks.  Ian estimates that because of the long gestation period for a rhino and the poaching the rhinos maybe gone from this park in 5 yrs or less.  He would like to see a program initiated whereby they dart the rhinos, cut off the tusks and sell it to meet demand, rather than having poachers kill.  In the meantime he is trying to raise funds to build a fence around the park to keep the poachers out.  They catch dead (scouts have the right to kill poachers) or alive on average 20-25 poachers a month.

Just as sun was setting we got to see a couple rhinos remains, one who was shot by a poacher and you could see where they cut the tusk off and then one who died of old age.  Both had been stripped clean and just the bones remained, one had been there for 5 yrs, the other just one. We were able to pick up and play with the bones and were amazed by how light they actually were. A cold drive back to camp in the open air jeep greeted by a warm dinner and a campfire.  Just another day in Africa!

Next day it was off to Hwange National Park where we would be partaking in 3 game drives (afternoon, night and then next morning).  A pit stop was made at the Painted Dog Conservation ( where we had a chance to learn about the lifestyle and habitat of the painted dog and got a chance to see three dogs that were in the rehabilitation facility due to injuries, with the premise that they will return to their packs when fully healed.  They have a fenced in area that they use to introduce a dog to a new pack and when fully integrated they will re-release the whole pack.  A boardwalk has been built for us to walk across the fenced area to the rehab facility.  An interesting hour spent.

Once we set up camp at Hwange   we had our afternoon game drive with the same company, African wanders.  The elephants of Hwange are world famous and the park's elephant population is one of the largest in Africa. And elephants we saw, with the highlight being watching them all around the waterhole as the sun was setting. What an amazing sight. As we were leaving we say a very large elephants walking towards the watering hole that had a snare wrapped around it’s body past it’s front legs. The end of the snare was dragging on the ground and you could tell that every time the elephant stepped on it, the snare was tightening around her. When we got back to exit the park we reported it.  I hope they will be able to find her and remove the snare. Aside from the elephants we also saw giraffes, and pumas (warthogs).

The night drive was done outside of the park and though we didn’t see much until returning to the park gate it was still a neat experience, driving around in the dark with a spotlight looking for beady eyes.  We saw lots of small rodent type animals, some kudu and at the very end, 3 elephants and a herd of zebra’s crossing the road. We made a pit stop at the lodge that over looks a watering hole. There was very little action so we went to the human waterhole, the bar.  Our guide convinced us to have a local drink or likely his favourite drink.  A double shot of Amarula and a shot of whiskey over crushed ice. It was actually quite delicious and put some warmth back into the body for the cool windy drive back.

The morning game drive was slow with very little activity.  We did see a pride of lions via the camera lens. Meaning they were so far away we had to take a picture and then zoom in.  We knew they were there because we spotted the park vehicle. Unfortunately they were in restricted park land and we could not get closer. Aside from the lions we saw more elephants and giraffes and that was about it. 

After a quick lunch we hopped back on our truck and drove to Victoria Falls.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as I heard references to Las Vegas…..but I was pleasantly surprised and I would say the town of Vic Falls is more like Niagara on the Lake.  We stayed at the Vic Falls Rest Camp which was in a great location, right in the middle of town.  We were about a 20 min walk from the falls but could still hear them thundering in the middle of the night. I now understand the local name for the falls being Mosi oa Tunya, meaning the 'smoke that thunders’.

As soon as we got to town, we headed straight for the falls themselves.  The Victoria Falls are an enormous curtain of water, about a mile wide, falling 108 m into a narrow gorge below. In the wet season, the spray created can rise up an incredible 400 m and the falls are an impressive raging torrent. The spray from the falls can sometimes be seen from kilometres away.  Being the dry season now, the view of the falls is unobstructed by spray and it's possible to see little islets in the river below.  The views were indeed impressive and I’m glad to see them in the dry season.  I think Niagara Falls is equally impressive and both are ranked in the top 3 in the world.

Vic falls was a change over point for the tour as some people where leaving and new people where joining.  In between saying goodbyes and hellos, a few of us decide to spend the day white water rafting down the Zambezi River. We chose to do it with a company called Adventure Zone ( and we were not disappointed.  We got picked up at our camp site, taken to their lodge facilities where we got a very thorough safety briefing and signed our lives away, so to speak.  Ten minutes in a open air truck and we were at the site to get lifejackets, helmets and paddles.  With all in tow we then had to get 250m down the gorge via steep narrow metal stairs followed by a short hike along the river to the launch site. Then the fun began! 

We traveled through 19 rapids but walked around one as it was to dangerous.  The rapids ranged from a class 3 to class 5. In some spots we had a choice of what class of rapid we wanted to do. Of course class 5.  Go hard or go home was the saying of the day.  On two of the rapids our raft flipped over and I found myself surfacing underneath the raft both times.  The first time before I knew it the guide had yanked me out and the second time I manage to get myself out but at the front of the raft so was constantly fighting being pulled back under until we got through the rapid.  Both experiences were terrifying and thrilling at the same time. Definitely not for the faint at heart and probably the best rafting I’ve done to date

After a day on the water we were tired and hungry and couldn’t wait for lunch. But you know the say, “what goes down must go up”… we had to hike 230m up rocks and makeshift stairs made with branches and dirt with our helmets and life jackets to get out of the gorge. With the heat of the day, the beating sun, and being waterlogged and tired from rafting, we considered it a mild form of torture. But pole-pole (slowly in Swahili) we made it up the gorge and then gorged on lunch.  What was amazing to me was the crew that had to carry all the boats, paddles and safety equipment up the same path. Definitely fit, hard workers.  We had about an hour’s drive back into town and the day was done.  I highly recommend rafting the Zambezi if you ever get to Vic Falls. The guides we had were fantastic and fun and made for such a memorable day.

On the evening of the next day we took a sunset(booze) cruise along the Zambezi and saw a couple elephants that had swam across to a island, a crocodile, and tons of hippos in the river. All day it had been cloudy but the clouds broke away just in time to produce a bit of a sunset.  It was a really nice relaxing way to spend a couple of hours.  To keep the party going we went to the local bar just outside our camp, called Invuvu and hung out with our crew and some of the locals. 

It’s been a quick week in Zim but what I’ve seen I’ve really enjoyed.  It’s right behind Kenya and Tanzania in terms of ranking the countries I’ve visited so far in Africa.  I know as a country it’s highly corrupt but the people are fantastic and there is really a lot to see and experience here.  I would definitely put this on the list of places to return to.
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JoJo on

MoMo... Thought you would be as brown as me... but look good!

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