AT A GLANCE
We can’t think of a better way to the beauty of the Zimbabwe bush than on foot or in a canoe. This unique safari brings you even closer to the beauty of the Hwange National Park and Mana Pools National Park with unforgettable game viewing, beautiful African scenery and everything that you can only experience in the African bush.
Start of safari at Victoria Falls Airport, transfer to Hwange National Park
Welcome to Zimbabwe! Your fantastic walking and canoeing wildlife adventure will start today at the Victoria Falls Airport in western Zimbabwe. You will be met at the arrivals hall of the airport by a Nature Travel representative who will assist you to board your charter flight to your first exciting destination of the tour, Hwange National Park.
Although it is only a short flight to the airstrip in Hwange, it might be a good idea to learn a bit more about where you are. Zimbabwe, or “Zim” as most people call it, is renowned for being one of Africa’s most beautiful destinations with a superb year-round climate, complemented by friendly people and a great tourism infrastructure. Protected areas cover an astonishing 12.5% of the total land area of the country. There are around 200 species of mammals that can be found in Zimbabwe, including Africa’s famed Big Five (Lion, Leopard, African Elephant, African Buffalo and rhino), Cheetah, African Wild Dog, Brown and Spotted Hyaena, Giraffe, Hippopotamus and many other species of antelope and smaller mammals. The country also boasts many reptile species, almost 700 bird species, 131 fish species (including the highly prized Tiger Fish) and many other fascinating species of fauna and flora.
Upon arriving in Hwange by air after your short flight, you will be transferred to your first lodge of the tour, your home for the next three nights.
*Please note: most flights into Victoria Falls Airport only arrive around midday, so there might not be a chance for an afternoon safari activity today.
You will check in and maybe take a walk around to get acquainted with your surroundings and to stretch your legs. The lodge is one of Hwange’s “classic” lodges, with a distinct old-school feel, boasting beautiful grounds with big trees and sprawling lawns, an inviting swimming pool, a great bar and restaurant area, and excellent, personal service. The lodge is situated in the rugged northern Basalt area of the park, an area rich in natural water with seeps and springs dotting the area.You will have your first dinner in Zimbabwe before settling in for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow the action kicks off!
Hwange National Park
You will enjoy an early breakfast this morning, and then start your first safari activity.
For the next two days your activities will be based around walking excursions and game drives in Hwange National Park. You will do one activity in the morning, return to the lodge for lunch and some relaxation time, and then head out to the park in the afternoon again.
The walking safaris are sure to be an absolute highlight! There really is nothing quite like walking in the wilderness of Africa. You will discover all Hwange has to offer while on foot with one of the lodge’s professional guides. The guides will take you on a two hour walk through the bush. It is the perfect way to truly “be one” with Africa. From learning how to identify footprints, to telling the uses of different plants, to viewing wildlife nearby, all your senses will be awakened by this unique and special experience that will open your eyes to a new and fascinating world even if you have been on safari many times before.
Covering more than 14,600 km2 (5,863 square miles), “Wankie” as it is affectionately known, is Zimbabwe’s largest national park and Africa’s 10th biggest. It is almost as big as Belgium, and bigger than all of Zimbabwe’s other parks combined! Hwange was once the royal hunting grounds of the Ndebele warrior king Mzilikazi, and was declared a game reserve in 1928. With neighbouring HG Robins’ game sanctuary, it became a national park under the National Park Act in 1949. It was named after a local Nhanzwa chief, Hwange Rosumbani.
Hwange boasts 19 large herbivores, 8 large carnivores and many other smaller species of mammals, and is truly one of Africa’s great wildlife reserves. You will see why we here at the Nature Travel group love Hwange so much; this is what Africa must have been like 150 years ago, with unspoiled bush and plentiful game.
You should see some great numbers of game and a wide variety of species, with the highest numbers of animals spotted in the dry season (July to October) when the wildlife congregates around the shrunken man-made water holes (Hwange has no natural surface water), ensuring spectacular sightings, including exciting predator-prey interactions. Some of the waterholes have viewing platforms and underground hides that give a completely different perspective of the wildlife around you. The hides and platforms are naturally also superb spots for anyone who is keen on wildlife photography. The road network is also quite good, with all of them linking the most important viewing areas and of course the waterholes, ensuring a great time on safari!
You will return to camp to relax and have dinner. Remember to look up at the stars tonight before going to bed; they are truly spectacular out here in the African bush.
Hwange National Park
Your day will start with an early breakfast and then you are off again to enjoy wonderful “Wankie”! You will have morning and afternoon safari activities (one game drive and one walking excursion) and lunch back at the lodge. You will have some time to chill in the rooms or around the fantastic pool. The camp also has an observation tower that you can climb for some incredible views over the plains of Hwange.
The park’s sheer size means that its scenery, vegetation and game vary hugely. Hwange does, however, have two distinct geographic zones. The northern area, part of the Zambezi watershed and the area where your safari’s attention is focused on, is dominated by Mopane woodland, which is distinctly different from the rest. Elsewhere the Kalahari scrublands drain into Botswana’s Makgadikgadi depression. This habitat is characterised by marshy depressions, vleis (a wet, marshy area) and open grasslands.
Hwange has more animals and a greater variety of mammal species (over 100) than any other park in Zimbabwe, as well as more than 420 species of birds. All of the country’s protected animals are to be found here and interestingly it is the only park where Gemsbok and Brown Hyaena occur together in reasonable numbers. The population of African Wild Dog to be found in Hwange is thought to be of one of the larger groups in Africa. Leopard, Spotted Hyaena and Cheetah also occur in good numbers, and the park has huge numbers of African Buffalo and African Elephants, often is massive herds.
Hwange supports a population of almost 500 Lion, and in 2015, Hwange’s Lions gained international fame with the controversial death of Cecil, a much-loved Hwange Lion killed by a trophy hunter from the United States.
Other game often seen in Hwange are Giraffe, Plains Zebra, Common Wildebeest, Greater Kudu, Impala, Sable and Roan Antelope, Waterbuck, Common Eland, Common Warthog, Bat-eared Fox and many others. White and Black Rhinoceros are sometimes spotted by a fortunate few.
You are guaranteed to see many of the estimated 50,000 African Elephants in the park. They have been enormously successful in Hwange and the population has increased to far above that naturally supported by such an area, even if it is a massive area. It is a controversial subject and it remains to be seen what will be done about it… At the moment, Hwange remains the best place in the world to see these huge and fascinating creatures. Some of the herds number in the hundreds!
Hwange is not all about pachyderms though, and is also a birder’s paradise. Over 420 species have been recorded in the park, including about 50 different raptors. Several special species occur here, and during your time you could see Lesser Spotted and Martial Eagle, African and Eurasian Hobby, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Cape and Egyptian Vulture, Secretarybird, Grey Crowned Crane, Kori Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Three-banded and Bronze-winged Courser, Red-billed Spurfowl, Meyer’s Parrot, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern Pied Babbler, Southern Hyliota, Arnot’s Chat, African Golden Oriole, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Racket-tailed and Lilac-breasted Roller, Dusky Lark, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Mosque Swallow, Violet-eared and Black-faced Waxbill, Tinkling Cisticola and Miombo Tit to name but a few.
If your afternoon drive extends into dusk, you might be lucky and see some of Hwange’s nocturnal species. On previous trips we have seen some remarkable creatures, including Serval, Common Genet, Temminck’s Ground Pangolin, Southern Lesser Galago, African Civet, Aardwolf, Cape Porcupine and the mythical Aardvark. You will return to camp in the early evening to relax and have dinner with the sounds of the crackling fire and Africa’s night sounds in the background. You will then retire for a good night’s rest.
Hwange National Park to Mana Pools National Park
You will start the day with an early breakfast, and then pack your bags and check out after two wonderful days in Hwange.
You will be transferred by road to the airport at nearby Bulawayo, from where you will take an internal flight to the north of the country.
The transfer from Hwange to your next park on the shores of the Zambezi river will give you a chance to learn a bit about your next destination, the remote wilderness that is Mana Pools National Park.
Located in northern Zimbabwe, the life-giving power of the mighty Zambezi river makes Mana Pools National Park one of Zimbabwe’s most lush and flourishing regions. The Zambezi defines this 2,196 km²(848 sq mi) park, which takes its name from four main pools (Mana means “four” in the local Shona language) formed in the river’s floodplain. These pools are the remnant ox-bow lakes that the river carved out thousands of years ago as it changed its course.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 in combination with the adjacent Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas, it is known for its natural beauty and as undoubtedly one of the continent’s premier game-viewing areas. Mana Pools is also a Ramsar-designated important wetland, and is actually contiguous with the Lower Zambezi National Park across the river in Zambia.
Upon arrival in the park you will be met by your guide and transferred to the camp where you will be staying for the next three nights. The camp offers uninterrupted views of the Zambezi river and escarpment beyond, and inspires a feeling of remoteness, making you feel like the only person in the park. Keep your binoculars at the ready though, but you may not need them as the animals tend to wander right into camp!
You will unpack, have a meal and get to know the fantastic staff at the lodge. Then it’s time for the first game drive in the park, time permitting. After the drive you will have some relaxation time, enjoy dinner and socialise into the night in the bush in Africa, with the sounds of hippos in the mighty Zambezi for company.
Mana Pools National Park
You have your first full day to enjoy all that Mana Pools has to offer.
The next two days will follow the same pattern, with one activity in the morning and one in the afternoon. In between you will return to the lodge to relax, have lunch and chill out in the beautiful rock pool or in your chalet.
The park is truly beautiful, with the highlight of course being the Zambezi river and its associated pools, wetlands, islands and floodplains. But there are also savannah areas dotted with Acacia and Baobab trees, riverine forests and hills in the distance. You are guaranteed some superb photographs.
The park is home to most of Africa’s classic big safari animals, and you will look for these during your time here. Apart from rhino, all the other members of the Big Five are here, with good numbers of Lion and Leopard especially. African Buffalo and African Elephant are abundant, and large herds of both roam around the floodplains. Some of the big elephant bulls return to the same spots year after year and the excellent local guides have developed an unbelievably close relationship with some of these “personalities”.
The river, naturally, teems with massive Nile Crocodiles and noisy pods of Hippopotamus. Although the park does have Cheetah, they are rarely seen. Other mammals we will look for include the beautiful African Wild Dog, Spotted Hyaena, Waterbuck, Common Eland, Plains Zebra, Impala, Common Warthog, baboons, monkeys and more.
There is lots to do at Mana Pools, and your choice of what to do when will be difficult! There are game viewing walks in the park with an experienced armed walking guide who will teach you about animal tracks, interesting plants, fascinating insects, the geology of the area and more!
Also available are game drives in the park to look for animals, birds and more. You’ll see some of the magnificent wildlife indigenous to the area. Your guide will show you the hidden spots best for game viewing and give you an insider’s knowledge of all that is going on around you.
Furthermore there is the fun option of catch-and-release fishing. You can try your hand at catching Tiger Fish, bream (tilapia), vundu, and many other fish species from the banks of the Zambezi with the help of a local guide.
Lastly, there is the awesome option of canoeing! The Lower Zambezi river is the perfect setting for an adventurous canoeing safari. Paddle along the tranquil waters of the river and take in the pristine scenery of the park from a unique angle. On your canoeing safari you’ll get the chance to see wildlife such as Hippopotamus, Nile Crocodiles, African Elephants and incredible birdlife from up close as you float serenely by. It is a rare privilege and a fantastic activity that not many people experience!
After your exciting first full day you will have dinner at the lodge again, socialising into the evening as you enjoy the warmth and crackle of the fire. Bed time will leave you happy and relaxed out here in the bush; this is Africa!
Mana Pools National Park
Once again your day will start with breakfast with a view! Today follows the same pattern as yesterday, with an activity in the morning and another one in the afternoon, with lunch and some siesta or relaxation time in between.
You will definitely enjoy a game walk or two during your time here. Walking is a very exciting way to experience nature and wildlife up close, and something you will never forget. Simply put, it beats a safari from a vehicle hands down! Mana Pools is famous for the top-notch quality of their walking guides; these guys have been doing it for decades.
Another brilliant feature of Mana Pools that you will discover during your time here is the absolute remoteness of the park. It is relatively underdeveloped compared to southern and east Africa’s other famous wildlife reserves, so enjoy the African wilderness at its best!
You are, however, not here only for mammals and the landscape! Due to the wide range of habitats in the park, over 380 birds have been recorded in Mana Pools, some of them really special. During your time here you will look out for Western Banded Snake Eagle, Red-necked Falcon, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Skimmer, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-backed Night Heron, Little Bittern, Long-toed and White-crowned Lapwing, Crested Guineafowl, White-browed and Black Coucal, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Racket-tailed and Broad-billed Roller, Lilian’s Lovebird, Southern Carmine, White-fronted and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Bearded Scrub Robin, Eastern Nicator, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Purple-banded, Shelley’s, Variable and White-bellied Sunbird, Red-throated Twinspot, Orange-winged Pytilia and many others.
You will again return to the lodge after another great day on safari in Mana Pools and relax. Then you will enjoy your farewell dinner, remembering the amazing sightings, funny moments and no doubt agreeing with us that Africa is simply the best!
Mana Pools National Park to Victoria Falls Airport and Departure
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, as they say, and your “Zim” adventure is almost finished.
After your breakfast this morning, you will say your goodbyes to the wonderful staff at the lodge and make your way to the airstrip in the park.
From there you will fly to Victoria Falls Airport where you started this amazing safari a week ago. Here you will board your onward or homeward flights.
*Please note: Extensions to other parks and attractions in Zimbabwe (including fantastic Victoria Falls, beautiful Matobo National Park, the water wonderland of Lake Kariba and more), Malawi, South Africa, Botswana or further afield can easily be arranged. Please don’t hesitate to ask for our expert assistance.
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