AT A GLANCE
This specialised safari is perfect for those with a sense of adventure. We will start off in Victoria Falls which is Zimbabwe’s main tourist attraction. Then we will spend a few days on a camping/lodge combination in Hwange National Park – one of Africa’s forgotten game parks. What makes this a special safari is that we will spend a couple of nights camping at some of the best waterholes in Hwange. For this reason we have to book well in advance. From here we either return to Victoria Falls or do an extension to Mana Pools National Park, Lake Kariba or an additional night in Victoria Falls.
Start of safari in Victoria Falls, including Zambezi River boat cruise
Welcome to Zimbabwe! Your fantastic adventure and wildlife tour will start today in the town of Victoria Falls in western Zimbabwe.
You will be picked up at your hotel or guesthouse by your guide, and get to know each other. As you would have seen by now, the town of Victoria Falls is hip and happening! The town itself offers some excellent accommodation and restaurant options as well as an eclectic variety of African curios and authentic art sold by friendly Zimbabwean locals who are wonderfully welcoming and eager to help you enjoy your stay. The town is rightly known as “Africa’s adventure capital”, and there are many adrenaline-inducing activities on offer in and around town, including white-water rafting, river-boarding, kayaking, canoeing, bungee-jumping, gorge swings, abseiling, horse riding and many more. We’ll do that tomorrow!
Although we don’t have a long time in the car, it might be a good idea to learn a bit more about where we 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, the country’s tourism is bouncing back in a big way! The country boasts 10 national parks, 9 recreational parks, 4 botanical gardens, 4 safari areas and 3 wildlife sanctuaries. These areas are collectively called the Wildlife Estate which covers an area about 47,000 km2 (18,000 sq mi), which is equivalent to 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.
We then make our way to our first exciting activity of this tour, a boat cruise on the mighty Zambezi river! It is one of Africa’s most famous rivers, and there are many stories, folklore tales and legends associated with this spectacular 2,574 km (1,599 mi) long waterway. It originates in northwestern Zambia and flows through eastern Angola, along the north-eastern border of Namibia and the northern border of Botswana, then between Zambia and Zimbabwe to Mozambique, where it crosses the country to empty into the Indian Ocean. The first people to call it by the name that we know today were the Monomatapa people of the region, and the first European to come across the river was Vasco da Gama in 1498.
We will make our way to the river and board one of the many comfortable cruisers (or houseboats) that do this trip on a daily basis, with staff that know the river intimately. We will be provided with some snacks and drinks while slowly cruising the river for a few hours, a truly unforgettable experience and a great way to start our “Zim” tour!
Remember to look not just at the superb sunset (awesome photos guaranteed!), but also the fauna and flora on the water and at the water’s edge. On previous cruises we have seen African Elephant, African Buffalo, huge Nile Crocodiles, and special birds like Brown-necked Parrot, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Western Osprey, African Skimmer, African Finfoot and White-backed Night Heron to name just a few.
After our cruise we will return to our guest house or hotel and have dinner, before we settle in for a good night’s sleep after our first day.
Victoria Falls, and afternoon optional adventure activity
We will meet up and enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast, before making our way to the famous Victoria Falls where we will spend the morning enjoying one of the natural wonders of the world and walking in the riverine woodland around the falls.
In 1851, Scottish missionary explorer David Livingstone first heard of the great waterfall, but it was only in 1855 that he set out to visit it. He spent the night on Kalai Island a few kilometres upstream of the falls, having come down river by foot, and the next morning set off in a small canoe to approach the thundering smoke he had seen from afar. He landed on the biggest island on the lip of the falls, now called Livingstone Island and from there obtained his first view of the Falls. He wrote, “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”.
Victoria Falls – known to locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or ‘The Smoke That Thunders’ – is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A staggering 750,000 m3 of water thunders down the cliff face per MINUTE when it is in full flow around April each year, making it the largest waterfall in the world by volume! However, no amount of cold facts can prepare you for the sight of this unfathomably vast and powerful body of water that plunges into the Zambezi gorge. It truly is majestic and unforgettable, and a must-see for adventure and wildlife travellers from all over the globe.
Remember to bring your cameras – it’s impossible to take too many photos of Vic Falls! Also remember to hire a raincoat when entering the small park connected to the falls; even in the dry season the spray form the falls can make you quite wet. We will hike along the footpaths of the park, looking for some of the special bird species that occur in the small park, including the beautiful Schalow’s Turaco, loud Trumpeter Hornbill and quite rare Collared Palm Thrush. There are also Bushbuck and smaller mammals in the park.
We will have lunch somewhere in town close to the falls after an exhilarating morning.
The afternoon is all yours! The town of Victoria Falls is rightly known as Africa’s “adventure capital”, and there is a lot to do here. You can choose from a wide variety of optional activities this afternoon, including
• A helicopter or microlight flight over the falls and surrounding area (highly recommended)
• Bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge
• White water rafting on the Zambezi river
• Birdwatching in the area (over 450 species have been recorded here)
• Abseiling at the Victoria Falls gorge
• Ziplining at the Victoria Falls gorge
• Gorge swings at the Victoria Falls gorge
• Canoe trips on the Zambezi river
• Horse riding excursion
• Local shopping excursion
• Art Village tour
After your exciting afternoon we will once again meet up at the guesthouse or hotel and get together for dinner, chatting about our wonderful day and exchanging stories and photos. Then it’s time for bed, because tomorrow we go to Hwange!
Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park
We will enjoy an early breakfast this morning, and then depart the town of Vic Falls. We are heading south, in the direction of a park that we all love here at the Nature Travel group; Hwange National Park.
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.
We enter the Hwange National Park at the Nantwich gate and should reach our chosen lodge in time for lunch. We will check into our accommodation and enjoy a short siesta or a walk around to get acquainted with our surroundings and to stretch our 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.
We will head out on a late afternoon game drive, ticking the first mammals on our safari list. 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 love Hwange so much on this first drive; this is what Africa must have been like 150 years ago, with unspoiled bush and plentiful game.
After an exciting game drive we 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.
*Please note: there is an option to do a walking safari instead of a game drive on one of the mornings or afternoons at Hwange. It is the perfect way to truly “be one” with the African bush. The armed guides are all excellent and experienced, and will open your eyes to a new and fascinating world of smaller creatures and interesting flora around you. But don’t worry, you will probably still see big game! Please let us know well in advance if you would like to partake in this exciting activity.
Hwange National Park
Our day will start with an early breakfast and then we are off again to enjoy wonderful “Wankie”! We will have morning and afternoon game drives and lunch back at the lodge.
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 we will focus our safari’s attention 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.
If our afternoon drive extends into dusk, we 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.
We 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. We will then retire for a good night’s rest.
Hwange National Park
This morning we will have some coffee and a quick breakfast before setting off for another day of morning and afternoon game drives. We will once again return to the lodge for lunch and a short siesta (or a splash in the pool) in the heat of the day.
We 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 hides where we can get out of the vehicle and stretch our legs a bit. The underground hides also give a completely different perspective of the wildlife around us. 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 for us!
After our afternoon game drive we will return to camp or the lodge to freshen up and have dinner together. We will sit under the African sky and reminisce about our wonderful time so far and maybe start planning our next safari!
Africa has often been recognised as the continent with the most remarkable sunsets and Hwange is no different. Remember to take some photos – you will treasure them forever.
We will then head to bed and a good night’s rest; remember to listen out for the roar of a Lion or a nightjar’s call before falling asleep… Isn’t Africa fantastic!
Hwange National Park
Today is our final full day in wonderful Hwange.
We will once again follow the same pattern as our previous days, with morning and afternoon game drives, and returning for lunch and some time to chill in the rooms or around the fantastic pool. The camp also has a tower that we can climb for some incredible views over the plains of Hwange.
After breakfast we go out into the wilderness again. We 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 our time we hope to 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.
After our game drive in the afternoon we will get together one final time in the evening for our farewell dinner, having made friends for life on this amazing Zimbabwe adventure. We will chat about our trip, remembering the amazing sightings, funny moments and no doubt agreeing that Africa is simply the best!
Then we are off to bed for our final night’s sleep under the star-filled skies in the African bush.
Hwange National Park to Victoria Falls Airport and Departure
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, as they say, and our “Zim” tour is almost finished.
We will start the day with breakfast, and then pack our bags and check out after our wonderful time in Hwange. We will say our goodbyes to the wonderful staff and make our way out of the park.
We will turn northwest to the Victoria Falls Airport, a short drive away. Here we will say our goodbyes after our fantastic time together in Zimbabwe, and we will board our onward or homeward flights.
*Please note: Extensions to other parks and attractions in Zimbabwe (including Mana Pools National Park, Lake Kariba and more), Malawi, Botswana or further afield can easily be arranged. Please don’t hesitate to ask for our expert assistance.
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