Zimbabwe: Rhinos, Rock Paintings and Rainbows

Zimbabwe: Rhinos, Rock Paintings and Rainbows

We meet with people from all over the world at trade shows and one set of countrymen (and women) that we are very fond of is the Zimbabwe lot! They are amongst the most enthusiastic people we know, so, we decided the Warm Heart should meet the beautiful Babwe! I dropped a few emails to our partners on the ground and a few hours later had an Amazing FAM trip planned, thanks to the swift response time and help from @TheAmalindaSafariCollection, @Africanbushcamps, @Wearewilderness, @Vayenisafaris, @Highlandshouse, @AfricanAlbida in Zimbabwe as well as Thorntree (@africanbushcamps) and Waterberry on the Zambia side of the falls. It was game on, Zim was happening!

Harare

There are direct flights from Lilongwe to Harare so it’s an easy transfer. Alternatively, from Vic Falls it is a short drive, mainly through the park to Hwange so getting from Malawi and Zambia to Zim is a fairly straightforward journey! Landing in Zim and just in time for lunch, I managed to secure the ever elusive Kaza Visa (Zambia/ Zimbabwe UniVisa) in Harare. I headed over to Highlands House, a beautiful guesthouse with amazing green gardens, great swimming pool and good Wi-Fi. It is very modern with classy decor touches. Service was first world standards and so was the food.

HighLands House Harare

The Amalinda Safari Collection

My good friend Sav from Amalinda picked me up and we headed to @TheJamTree to catch up with the industry greats and have a chat about how we can collaborate. It was an early start the following morning, not long after waking I was on the road and headed to the airport for my flight to Bulawayo. Edward and Shaun from @TheAmalindaSafariCollection were waiting for me on the other side and we began the drive to Camp Amalinda. Arriving at around 10 am, I was met by the wonderful Billy, he checked me in, showed me to my amazing room with absolutely incredible views of the park. This lodge is unique, the rooms are built into the granite rock that surrounds it – it’s the perfect blend of nature and comfort. The common area is very tasteful and the pool, built into the rocks, has absolutely spectacular views. Camp Amalinda is an outstanding lodge with warm hospitality, great food and exceptional guiding (Kevin was my guide and was brilliant). Nothing was too much and I felt right at home.

Rock paintings Zimbabwe

The Matopos Hills is a special and unique part of the world and should be on everybody’s checklist when visiting Zimbabwe. It is an incredible place with amazing scenery steeped in history. In particular, that of Cecil John Rhodes; his graveyard is at the top of worlds view – the views are incredible and well worth a visit. There are also ancient rock paintings dating back at least 13,000 years. A highlight of my time spent here was tracking the rhino on foot, encountering them is a moment I will never forget. I loved Amalinda and The Matopos, they are unique and special in their own way. For those more budget conscious, it’s great to know there are affordable options in wonderful locations.

Khulu Bush Camp

I was sad to say goodbye to Amalinda but it was time to head on to @Khulubushcamp, also part of The Amalinda collection. Situated just outside Hwange National Park, in their own private concession with epic game. I had the pleasure of a personal transfer by good friends Phil and Sharon Stead, owners of The Amalinda Collection.

We arrived at Khulu and WOW, what a setting. Perfect location with a modern open plan public area overlooking the pool and watering hole. Beers were cold… another very warm Zimbabwe welcome, it automatically felt like another home away from home. Highlights were having about 50 ellies in camp and drinking from the pool, meters away from me. You sense the elephants know that man and the watering holes are an excellent source of water and it’s incredible to see them so close.

Elephants Watering Hole Zimbabwe

The game drives varied with good elephant and buffalo sightings, wildebeest and plenty of antelope, zebra, giraffe, great birding and incredible scenery. The highlight was the last night when we finished our braai after dinner, tour-guide Shazza shines her torch and, like a movie, 6 lionesses chasing 2 dagga boy buffalo! We jumped into a game vehicle and followed them. The hyenas at this point have also caught on, following and hoping for leftovers we can presume. Sadly, we lost them and missed the kill (later found out it did happen on the Flei in the neighbouring concession). After all the excitement and missing out on the kill, we headed back. But on safari, you really don’t know what you will come across, en route we saw another herd of elephants drinking at the watering hole, a leopard, and an African wild cat stalking a scrub hare. From the lion to the wild cat, it all took place in just 30 minutes… incredible viewing!

Blue Bird Zimbabwe

Wilderness Safaris concession

Time to move onto Little Makalolo in the @WildernessSafaris concession the following morning. We went via Ivory Camp, which is Amalinda’s more budget sensitive Camp, fairly close by. It too has a fence protected from wildlife, so perfect for families and disobedient adults! All the camps (including the retreat) are fantastic well priced-products, with an incredible staff, new modern game drive vehicles, tasty food, stylish rooms and a great vibe.

At the gate, I met Leo from Wilderness and headed to the Wilderness concession. The first 2 hours were very quiet as would be expected, as there are not many watering holes in this area. However, as we got into the Wilderness’ concession we could sense the change almost immediately. At the waterhole we came across a huge herd of elephants, there must have been close to 150 come through – superb. I could have watched these beauties for hours, mud-bathing, splashing, playing, posing, showing off and having a blast. Along with the gentle giants, there were giraffe, zebra and wildebeest in the background. I was on such a safari high!

Zebra Zimbabwe

Arriving at Little Makalolo with a very warm welcome, the staff very quickly reminded me that Graham Simmonds (Wilderness Sales) had warned them that I was trouble – surely not?! I bumped into good industry friends whilst here, Luke and Suzanne of Vayeni, good to catch up with them both and we enjoyed good food and good wine with lots of laughs and jokes around the campfire, sharing stories and experiences.

The camp is little (hence the name) with only 6 rooms. In a stunning setting with a lovely deck and pool, great staff and incredible guiding (Leo and Peter were both brilliant, and rumour has it, Peter is running for president – he has my vote)! Wilderness also has Davisons and Linkwasha in their portfolio. Davisons is close by and although I got to stay here on my last trip to Zim, I couldn’t help but get another peek at it to remind myself of the place. It is a little bigger with 9 rooms and truly is another gem of a camp. Linkwasha is more upmarket and fancy and has the most incredible hide for keen photographers. We were lucky to see a lion on quite a few occasions, loads of elephants, buffalo, wildebeest, cheetah, jackal, plenty of birds and so much more.

Somalisa Camp

For my last night I headed to Somalisa (African Bush Camps), it is definitely the most upmarket camp, with a really great location. The deck with pool and views of the watering hole are incredible, I can imagine there must be amazing wildlife sightings in peak season. In green season the grass in the area was quite high so the wildlife was tough to spot, but, we did see wild dogs which were a highlight.

Victoria Falls

Next stop would be Victoria Falls… African Bush camps drove me to the gate where I would meet Wild Horizons and transfer to The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Swift check-in and time to hit the epic viewing deck of their watering hole, before our friends in the region would join us for sunset and sundowners. The sunset was breathtaking and the sightings just as amazing, with over 100 ellies and buffalo coming to the watering hole for sundowners.

Vic Falls Champagne Rainbow

Later I met Shelley Cox and better half Nick Milne, who have recently set up a DMC in Zimbabwe (African Conservation Travel) and decided we should get up at 6 am, go to the falls for sunrise and enjoy a bottle of champagne – brave talk! After an enjoyable evening, it was time to head home. You never know what you are going to run into at any point when out in the wild, we encountered hippo, elephant and hyena. I missed the leopard that Shelley caught on her way home after dropping me off – you win some and you lose some! 6 am seemed to approach pretty swiftly, Shelley and Nick picked me up, sunrise and champagne at the falls were a go! What amazing views and an experience to remember. Whilst I was here, I decided to arrange a helicopter flight above the falls, you can’t come all the way to the falls and not get in the chopper, the views from above are pretty special.

Vic falls safari Lodge

After lunch it was time to head back to Zambia to Livingstone; a short transfer to the border, within one minute I had stamped out of Zim and was about to walk across the bridge to Zambia. Waterberry, the next destination is about a 45-minute drive upriver. It is a lovely, boutique lodge with a homely feel. The staff were fantastic, the food was tasty, the wifi was fast and the location great. I had a lovely sunset cruise on the mighty Zambezi river, where we saw many elephants, hippos, crocs, baboons and incredible bird sightings too – this place does not disappoint. Great dinner on the deck and early to bed.

At midday, Waterberry transferred me to Thorntree for my last night of this incredible and special adventure.  What a way to finish up the trip. The lodge is beautiful, cleverly designed with amazing everything. The staff were brilliant, rooms next level, all with plunge pools and river views, and spacious villa type design. I fell in love with this spot. Another impressive sunset cruise (they don’t get old out here) and then back to the lodge for a delicious dinner and a couple of drinks with my new mate, Warwick, from Cape Town. As it turns out he helped build Thorntree so was great talking to him and throwing ideas around about what we both do.

Good times in Zimbabwe and Zambia, I have some great ideas coming to mind after this trip and endless possibilities combining these amazing places!! Yes, everyone, Zimbabwe is safe! Don’t waste any time and get there!

Love the sound of Zimbabwe? Drop me an email to find out more about this great destination: mike@malawianstyle.com.