AT A GLANCE
Africa hosts some bucket list marathons and the Victoria Falls Marathon is definitely one that belongs on your list! It’s a breathing route with the backdrop of the magical Victoria Falls. Making the most of your marathon experience by combining it with a safari in Zimbabwe.
This 6-day trip will put the stamp of ‘unforgettable’ on this marathon experience for you./span>
Next race date: 13 December 2020
Arrival in Victoria Falls
Welcome to Zimbabwe! Your fantastic African running and Big 5 safari will start today when you touch down at the Victoria Falls International Airport, about half an hour’s drive away from the town of Victoria Falls.
You will be picked up at the airport, and we will load your luggage into our comfortable, airconditioned vehicle. We will drive to town and get to know each other on the way. Remember to look out of the windows too; on this road we have seen some amazing wildlife over the years, including African Elephants, African Buffaloes and many other smaller creatures!
Upon reaching the town of Victoria Falls we will check into our comfortable guesthouse or small hotel. Depending on our arrival time we will have lunch or a quick snack, and then proceed to registration to collect our race numbers and get a feel for the vibe of this incredible race. The nerves might start kicking in at this point, but it is probably just excitement about the wonderful time we are going to have tomorrow!
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 known as “Africa’s adventure capital”, and although we are here for the marathon, 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.
This afternoon is the ideal time to go to the falls themselves for a walking tour with an expert local guide. Not just is it a must-visit destination, it is also a good way to get the legs loosened up for tomorrow!
Victoria Falls – known to locals as ‘The Smoke That Thunders’ – is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the sheer power of this massive body of water plunging into the Zambezi gorge is awe-inspiring and unforgettable. A staggering 750,000 m3 of water thunders down the cliff face per MINUTE when it is in full flow around April each year! About two-thirds of the falls can be viewed from the Victoria Falls National Park on the Zimbabwean side, and our guided walk will be something you will never forget. 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 park; even in the dry season the spray form the falls can make you quite wet. We will also look around 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.
After our exciting time at the falls we will return to our guesthouse to freshen up and then we’ll have dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants in town. The locals are buzzing during marathon time and all the restaurants serve some sort of carbo-loading meal (like pasta or pizza) along with the usual excellent Euro-African cuisine, so we are sure to get something that everyone enjoys. After dinner we will return to our accommodation for a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s marathon.
Victoria Falls Marathon and afternoon Zambezi river boat cruise
Today we run!
We will have an early breakfast at our guesthouse or hotel and proceed to the start area of the Vic Falls marathon. This is a marathon like no other, and you will feel the excitement and joy in the air – this is special…
The race starts in the car park by the banks at 6:45, then we run downhill and across the iconic 115-year old Victoria Falls bridge (Cecil John Rhodes was the force behind its construction), toward the Zambian border. Often, in the early morning, there is a chilly spray from the nearby Falls, and always great views – be careful of people stopping for photos! Or will it be us taking the photos?
Turning on the Zambian side, just before the border gate, we then run back across the bridge, then turn right on to Zambezi Drive, along the mighty Zambezi River, and past the Big Tree into the Zambezi National Park. Look out for game here – African Elephant, African Buffalo and Lion are all present in this area, as well as Greater Kudu, Impala, Common Warthog and more. Although a Lion will definitely make us run faster, there are luckily National Parks’ rangers along the route to keep us safe!
The route then returns toward town via the Vic Falls Safari Lodge, and up into the residential area before returning on a second loop back through the Zambezi National Park. The finish is at the school grounds on the Kazungula road in town.
The cut-off for the marathon is a generous 6 hours, so there will be plenty of time to enjoy the superb scenery and our friendly fellow runners. When you receive your finisher’s medal it will be a special one, and one that you will treasure for a long time.
After the marathon and maybe a celebratory local beer, we will return to our accommodation for lunch, a shower and some down time.
We will get together in the late afternoon again for another amazing experience, a boat cruise on the mighty Zambezi!
We will make our way to the river and board one of the many comfortable cruisers 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 an hour or two, a truly unforgettable experience.
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, 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 a light dinner, before we settle in for a good night’s sleep after an amazing day
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 square kilometres (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! 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.
Its sheer size means that its scenery, vegetation and game vary hugely. Hwange has 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 and open grasslands.
We should reach Hwange in time for lunch, or we could enjoy lunch en route, depending on what kind of sightings we enjoy on the way. We will check into our accommodation (either in rooms at a comfortable lodge or tents in a camp site if that was your preference) and enjoy a short siesta. Then we will head out on an 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.
After an exciting game drive we will return to camp to relax and have dinner. We will sit around the camp fire and chat about our wonderful trip so far, hopefully with the legs not too stiff and sore at this point! 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 (or camp).
Hwange has more animals and a greater variety of species (over 100) than any other park in Zimbabwe, as well as more than 420 species of birds. All of the country’s specially protected animals are to be found here and it is the only protected area 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 surviving groups in Africa. Leopard, Spotted Hyaena and Cheetah also occur in good numbers, and the park has huge numbers of African Buffalo. 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. While White Rhino are apparently no longer present in Hwange, Black Rhino are sometimes spotted by a fortunate few.
African Elephants have been enormously successful in Hwange and the population has increased to far above that naturally supported by such an 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!
Other game often seen in Hwange are Giraffe, Plains Zebra, Common Wildebeest, Greater Kudu, Impala, Common Warthog, Sable and Roan Antelope, Waterbuck and Common Eland.
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.
Please note: tonight might be a good night to enjoy one of Hwange’s famous night game drives. This will give you a chance to spot nocturnal species such as Serval, Common Genet, Temminck’s Ground Pangolin, Southern Lesser Galago, African Civet, Aardwolf or Cape Porcupine. The spotlight may even uncover the rarely seen Aardvark out foraging for termites. Please let us know well in advance if you would like to partake in this exciting activity.
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 (or camp) for lunch and a short siesta in the heat of the day.
We should still see some great numbers of game and a wide variety of species, but the highest numbers of animals are spotted in the dry season 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; we will have a great time on our African safari!
Hwange is not all about predators and pachyderms though, and is also a birder’s paradise. Several special species occur here, and birders come from afar to see Southern Ground Hornbill, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern Pied Babbler, Three-banded Courser, Violet-eared and Black-faced Waxbill, Red-billed Spurfowl, Meyer’s Parrot, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Miombo Tit, Southern Hyliota, Arnot’s Chat, African Golden Oriole, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Racket-tailed Roller, Cape Vulture, Lesser Spotted and Martial Eagle, Secretarybird, Grey Crowned Crane, Kori Bustard, African and Eurasian Hobby, and Dickinson’s Kestrel, to name but a few.
After our afternoon game drive we will return to camp or the lodge to freshen up and have our final dinner together. We will sit under the African sky and reminisce about our wonderful time here and maybe start planning our next running 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 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 to Victoria Falls and Departure
And so an amazing Zimbabwean running safari unfortunately comes an end.
After breakfast and short game drive on our way out of the park, we will head back north to the Victoria Falls International Airport for our flights home.
*Please note: Extensions to one of Zambia’s (South Luangwa) or Botswana’s (Chobe) nearby parks, or Zimbabwe’s own Mana Pools National Park, can easily be arranged. This safari can also be shortened or lengthened according to your specific personal preference. Please contact us for more information.
Do you have a quick question about this safari? Speak to a specialist at