Hwange & Matobo Walking and MTB Safari

There is no better way to truly experience the bush than on foot. On our 7 day Hwange & Matobo safari we combine walking with your nature and wildlife safari and also include a bit of easy mountain biking. This unique safari promises a unique personalised experience with nature.
ITINERARY – Hwange and Matobo Walking & MTB Safari
DAY 1:
Start of safari in Victoria Falls, transfer to Hwange National Park

Welcome to Zimbabwe! Your fantastic walking and mountain biking 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 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 Hyaena, Giraffe, Hippopotamus and many species of antelope and smaller mammals. The country also boasts many reptile species, almost 700 bird species, 131 fish species (including the highly prized tigerfish) 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, a 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!

DAY 2:
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 safari 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.

DAY 3:
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.

DAY 4:
Hwange National Park to Matobo 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 your next fantastic destination, the strikingly dramatic Matobo National Park.

The drive to reach our next lodge is about 4 to 5 hours long. You will enjoy a packed picnic lunch in a nice spot somewhere on your travels today. You will drive through Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, just before reaching Matobo. Historically Bulawayo has been the principal industrial centre of the country; its factories produce cars and car products, building materials, electronic products, textiles, furniture, and food products. Bulawayo is also the hub of Zimbabwe’s rail network. It is an attractive city with wide streets lined with colonial buildings and good tourist facilities. It is home to the country’s main museum, the Natural History Museum, as well as the Bulawayo Art Gallery, a railway museum, theatres and the Mzilikmzi Art and Craft Centre.

You will reach the spectacularly located lodge in the mid-afternoon, check in and be awestruck with the views over the spectacular landscape around you. The lodge property is situated adjacent to the park itself and the buildings appear as if carved out of the rock and blend in beautifully. There are rock pools and a sun deck where you can relax, as well as excellent cuisine and top notch service.

You will chill out at the lodge and go on a late afternoon walk around the lodge grounds, looking for birds and smaller creatures.
Then it is time for drinks accompanied by incredible sunset views. Then you will move into the beautiful boma area for dinner, followed by a good night’s sleep. Listen out for the strange, dog-like bow-wow-wow call of the Freckled Nightjar as you fall asleep… Magical!

DAY 5:
Matobo National Park

You have your first full day to enjoy all that Matobo 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 424 km2 (164 sq mi) Matobo National Park forms the core of the Matobo or Matopos Hills, an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys steeped in history. Huge granite masses, seamed, split, shaped and sculptured by time and the elements, form an array of giant whalebacks and castellated kopjes that dominate the park’s topography. Much of the country’s history has been written and played out within the confines of the Matobo Hills – from the time thousands of years ago when ancient bushmen used the rocks as a canvas for their unique and extraordinary art, to more recent times, when black and white met in war. Today, thankfully, the Matobo Hills are a place of peace and were awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 2003, principally for the incredible amount of rock art found here.

There is lots to do at Matobo, and your choice of what to do when will be difficult! There are 2 hour walks on the lodge’s property to view rock art, giant balancing rocks and general fauna and flora. Also available is a 4×4 safari into the park to look for White Rhinoceros. When the animals are located by sight or even just their tracks, the vehicle is parked and you then continue on foot. Sensation overload guaranteed!
There is the option of going on a hike in the park itself to view the Nswatugi cave that contains some amazing rock art, as well as all the way to the Rhodes Grave situated at World’s View.

Lastly, there is the option of mountain biking! It may well be one of the fastest growing sports globally, but going for a ride in the African bush is a rare privilege and a fantastic activity that not many people experience! Matobo is an ideal environment to mountain bike in, and riding on the granite is an experience not many have had the opportunity to do. It is not uncommon to ride for four or five kilometres all on the granite, surrounded by spectacular scenery. Fun guaranteed!

One of the late afternoons will definitely be spent at the famous Lightning Rock; the views are ridiculously fantastic and standing there looking out over the spectacular landscape with a drink in hand is a memory you will treasure for a long time!
Then 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!

DAY 6:
Matobo National Park

Once again you 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.

Matobo is home to an impressive range of African wildlife that you will search for during your time here, including the highly endangered Black and White Rhinoceros (the park has Zimbabwe’s last significant population of these animals), Giraffe, Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena, Hippopotamus, Sable Antelope, Common Eland, Tsessebe, Impala, Plains Zebra, Klipspringer, Common Warthog, Common Rock Hyrax and Nile Crocodile as well as Africa’s largest concentration of Leopard and Verreaux’s Eagles.

Over 200 species of trees have been recorded in the park, along with almost 100 mammal species and 175 bird species, and 39 snakes! Some of the top birds you will search for include the aforementioned Verreaux’s Eagle, African Hawk-eagle, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Lanner and Peregrine Falcon, Black-winged Kite, the mackinderi subspecies of Cape Eagle-owl, Freckled Nightjar, Coqui Francolin, Miombo Rock Thrush, Boulder and Mocking Cliff Chat, Black-collared Barbet, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Mottled Swift and Cape Batis among many others.

There are several important archaeological sites in the park, along with many caves containing thousands of rock paintings. Historical figures like Cecil Rhodes, Leander Starr Jameson, and several other leading early white settlers are all buried on the summit of Malindidzimu, the ‘hill of the spirits’, also called World’s View. After your final exciting day on this fantastic tour you will have a wonderful farewell dinner and then fall asleep under the African sky.

DAY 6:
Matobo National Park

DAY 7:
Matobo National Park to Bulawayo Airport and Departure

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, as they say, and your “Zim” adventure is almost finished.
You will start the day with breakfast, and then check out after your wonderful time in Matobo. You will be transferred the short distance to the Bulawayo Airport where you will board your onward or homeward flights.*Please note: Extensions to other parks and attractions in Zimbabwe (including fantastic Victoria Falls, beautiful Mana Pools 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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