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Matetsi situation update

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Because I'm considering staying at Matetsi in June, I sent CC Africa an email after reading the article on www.zimbabwesituation.com. Here's the response I received:

"I have spoken to Rolf,  Regional Manager in Zimbabwe and he has advised me of the following:

He is familiar with the article in question. There is absolutely NO reason for concern in regards to Matetsi Game Lodges.

The Matetsi area is a huge tract of land situated between Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls. The area is sub-divided into consumptive concessions (hunting) and non-consumptive (photographic). Each area has a unit number, the units mentioned in that article are unit 1 and unit 4, apart from the name "Matetsi" we are talking about a different area with a different status. There is no denying the fact that illegal hunting and poaching is a problem in many areas of Zimbabwe, as well as in some National Parks. (Most National Parks and Wildlife areas throughout Africa face poaching and illegal hunting problems).  

We are gravely concerned about these developments, but at the same time I can assure our future guests that there is NO hunting, taking place at our private concession "Matetsi Game Lodges" also known as unit 7. We do have occasional incidents of small scale poaching mainly by means of snares. Regular anti-poaching patrols are being conducted by National Parks anti poaching units based on our land as well as Police units. These are actively supported by our own security department and our ranger team. All our game drive vehicles and boats are equipped with radios. If our staff detect any signs of illegal activities response units of Police and National Park anti poaching are called immediately. With our regular game activities (game drives, walks, boating & canoeing) we have a permanent presence within our 50 000 hectare concession that presents an active deterrent to poachers and illegal hunters."

What do you think?

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    Jasher,

    Would you feel comfortable in a relatively small area of 50,000 hectares where they cannot even keep snares off their property?

    While 50,000 hectares may sound extremely large, there are many animals that require a larger habitat and since this is an unfenced reserve, these animals do not observe the borders and once they do leave the reserve there seems to be many poachers and even professional hunters (illegaly hunting) waiting for these animals.

    Although I am not a hunter, I do subscribe to an excellent hunting newsletter that provides complete reports. Believe it or not, most hunters seem to be interested in conservation and it was through my hunting newsletter (frequently e-mailed, as well, to me) that I was first alerted of what is happening in Matetsi.

    It is a very bad thing that is happening in the area and I think that Rolf is minimizing it. Last time I was there, Rolf was not even the full time manager of Matetsi but rather was also splitting his time managing a hotel or lodge in Victoria Falls. The guy was hardly there during my time, except for a great dinner in the bush and except to get his a** kicked by me when his staff dropped the ball and failed to reconfirm my flights, leaving me stranded in Zimbabwe since the flight I was on had been permanently cancelled a few weeks before. Rolf was generous enough to put me up in a suite at the Victoria Falls Hotel for the night, but my point is that I don't think he has such a great handle on things at Matetsi.

    I am not chancing it. You already feel vulnerable in Zimbabwe, but to think that there may be poachers anywhere around with possibly stray gunfire, is more than I want to chance.

    Matetsi Water Lodge is a beautiful lodge, but I don't think CCAfrica is giving straight answers. Matters of this nature, IMO, should be discussed openly by CCAfrica and it should not only be addressed when potential guests discover it on their own!

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    I don't have a definitive answer on your dilemma, but I do have a framework of questions I would be asking myself and others to help me arrive at a course of action that would best work for me. Questions I would be asking:

    - Will I be contributing to ensuring that this wild life protected zone stays that way by visiting and contributing my dollars to this lodge?

    - What is the current wildlife density in this zone?

    - Are the hunting concessions adjacent to lodge? Distance, barriers, etc.

    - What barriers prevent or discourage animals from being lured into the hunting areas from the non-hunting areas?
    (For example, while in the S. Luangwa, a very well respected guide confided to me that the lion population in the particular section of the park we were in had fallen off in recent years. He epxlained to me that this was due to owners of a hunting concession luring lions to cross the river that forms the boundary of the park into a hunting concession by using dead carcasses as bait.)

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    This report is already a year old, and the first article I linked to in a previous thread about Matetsi was to an article dated October, 2004. Therefore, this continues to be an ongoing problem.

    One last word before I post the article, is that I am not too happy with a response I received from CCAfrica, which solely blames Zambian poachers for the problems at Matetsi. Never mentioned were the illegal hunts being conducted by professional hunters from South Africa.

    While poachers may target animals that will provide bush meat, and possibly even elephants, professional hunters will definitely be looking also at lions, leopards, elephants and whatever else they can shoot that would otherwise cost them many thousands of dollars in trophy fees on a legitimate hunt. You think these professional hunters are not just going wild and killing what would otherwise cost them $100,000 on a legitimate hunt?

    On a legitimate hunt, mostly the older predators and elephants are targeted, and mostly the males. Also, if there is an animal that is not an absolute prime trophy, the hunter will not shoot it, because, basically, you shoot it, you pay for it.

    However, I would be willing to bet that these hunters are just shooting whatever walks across their crosshairs, since they are not likely paying trophy fees, or are likely paying very nominal trophy fees to some hunting outfit running these illegal hunts.

    Anyway, here is some more information:


    Update On Zimbabwe - September 2003

    (Editor Note: Hunting Report President/Publisher Don Causey filed the following reports on new developments in Africa.)


    In Zimbabwe, returning hunters continue to file generally positive reports. In all, we now have 20 reports on the 2003 season, 11 of which came in this past month. The only negative news so far is from the south of the country, where unscrupulous South African PHs are reported to be conducting an unknown number of illegal safaris. Here is how we reported the matter in an e-mail bulletin earlier this month entitled, øšatch Out for Illegal Hunts In Zimbabwe?
    ø—he Hunting Report has just learned that an increasing number of safaris to Zimbabwe, particularly southern Zimbabwe, are being conducted illegally by South African professional hunters. Anyone head- ed to Zimbabwe on a safari conducted by a South African professional hunter needs to be aware of this and take immediate steps to determine if his hunt is legal. The best way to do that is by contacting Sally Bown of ZATSO, the Zimbabwe Association of Tourist and Safari Operators.

    ø—he illegal hunts we have heard about are being conducted on lands that have been occupied by so-called war veterans who don÷Ö in fact own those lands or possess the rights to wildlife on them. The South African PH÷Õ are simply capitalizing on the lawlessness and disorder in Zimbabwe. In the process, they are putting their clients in legal jeopardy, if not outright danger.

    ø—he tricky part of this problem is the apparent deception that is being carried out. One group of hunters we just heard about thought they were hunting in Matetsi, when they were actually on illegally occupied lands. Shooting an animal on such a property and taking the trophy home is tantamount to 'receiving stolen property,' Mrs. Bown tells us. On top of that, it is anyone÷Õ guess what kind of illegal activity has to occur to get the trophy out of the country. And there is still more at stake here! There is good reason to believe that some of the funds the above hunters paid their operator wound up in the pocket of an individual on the so-called Banned List. This list, you÷Îl recall, was created by the US Government a while back to identify those individuals in Zimbabwe who have profited from their association with the Mugabe Government. It is highly illegal for Americans to have any kind of financial dealings with a Banned Individual.

    øše have contacted the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) about this problem, and officials there have made it clear they condemn the illegal hunts and are doing all they can to stop them. Unfortunately, one of the most important alleged offenders is not a member of PHASA. Another alleged offender is a member, however, and we understand an investigation is underway. We are not able to release the name of this company yet as we do not have sufficient proof. The name is one that will be familiar to many Hunting Report subscribers.

    ø—his is not a warning to stay out of Zimbabwe, as a stream of returning clients are reporting good experiences this year. This is a recommendation that you be sure your safari there with a South African PH is on the up and up. A word to the wise should be sufficient.?

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    Through my sources, I was able to acquire a copy of the guest register for Matetsi for December 2004. It would appear that all is well within the game reserve and that if the guest register is to be believed that even Wild Dog have been spotted. If that is the case, then Matetsi Water Lodge would appear to still be doing well. Also, it appears that the guide that scared to death and I had, Casper, is still around, and STD would not just jump into a canoe with anyone...I think she was quite taken with Casper, although I do not know what she could possibly see in a guy that is 6'2" 220 lbs and all muscle! ;)

    Anyway, here are the guest comments for December, 2002:


    December 2004 Matetsi Guest Feedback


    Dave & Sandy Marks
    Ackloin the boat captain was excellent. He was very helpful and his knowledge of the water & fishing was superb. The service level of all the lodge staff was amazing, free drinks and laundry a nice touch. Hos: Magic accommodation superb meals, Tiger fishing, lion kill and wild dogs.


    Tim Hilliar
    Matetsi is a game lodge of quality that puts other game lodges in SA to shame. The service was friendly, efficient and was conducted with an attitude of excellence. The rangers were helpful at all times and never displayed an attitude of irritability. Matetsi is a place of beauty and is very magic. Thank you.
    Hos: Seeing the honey badger and porcupine, birds. Food was awesome. Other Key Ppl: Mathew was awesome, best service ever, Obert the best manager.


    Ramona and Mechthilde Kreutle
    Staff or no staff, you truly get spoiled at Matetsi Lodge. As a first time experience, truly the most memorable, words cannot describe. In short: awesome. Hos: Arrival and seeing the rooms, Boat cruise, good game drive, seeing elephants with Casper.


    J.R. and Q.D. Kerswill
    The entire staff compliment strive to make your stay a memorable one. They went beyond the call of duty to ensure our comfort. They certainly made our anniversary one never to be forgotten. Hos: The entire stay was a highlight!


    P.V. Descroillizes
    We had a wonderful, relaxing time and a memorable first night experience in the bush. HOS: exceptional and friendly service, beautiful surroundings.


    Mr. and Mrs. M. Newman
    My husband and I would like to take this opportunity of thanking everyone here for making this safari an unforgettable one. We are hoping that for our next trip to Zimbabwe we will be staying with you again. Thank you all so much again .HOS: The closeness to the elephants and the information that was shared to us by our tour guide Misheck and Kenias.


    Richard Terwillizer
    We were stranded for 6-hours in the bush. Staff did everything they could to rescue us .The staff was there to great us on our return. What a great staff you have. Hos: The anniversary celebration and seeing the animals on a game drive.


    Ian and Barbra Bayne
    Thanks to all for making our anniversary such a memorable one. The flowers, fruit, champagne and coke were special. We also appreciate the flexibility and huge attempt to meet any request. A glorious stay thank you. HOS: Game drives and elephant up close. Other Key Ppl: Moses, Naison, Emmanuel really have been friendly & most accommodating.


    Edwin Van Der Laan
    We really loved it again it’s a pity it is such a long way from Holland otherwise we could come more often. HOS: The lodges and people are amazing.
    Andrew and Jenny Duff
    Great to have a package that South Africans can afford all included. Hospitality and knowledgeable staff. Richard is passionate about what he does a real asset to the lodge and CC Africa. HOS: Variety of birdlife, diversity of terrain, landscapes and being on the Zambezi.


    Micheal Williams
    Thank you for the extra special care taken of Mike while we were here. Getting around on crutches was not easy Sharon and Rashiwe made it an absolute breeze. Other Key Ppl: West Water Lodge and the family here are always extra special. Highlights are always the boat cruise.


    Peggy Fishburn
    I would definitely like to return and certainly plan to tell all my friends about this magical place. I truly had a wonderful time. .HOS: Game drive and river cruise. Entire staff is first rate. I truly did appreciate all inclusive price, I really did like being not charged for drinks and laundry etc.


    Thanabalan Kumaraveloo
    Fabulous service and lodging, great scenery. Sighting of a young female leopard. Peter assistant manager and Fanuel and Obert were so much fun. Moses is so sweet and helpful. Your guides Misheck and Richard are superb - companions and assistance. Thanks so much for the surprises (warm bath and dinner under sky) Made our honeymoon so much enjoyable, we would love to come again and recommend this trip to friends /families.


    Matshidiso Antonette Skhetana
    This has been the best holiday ever, even though there wasn't a TV or radio but you have kept us entertained throughout . Thank you very much.


    Nik and Eleanor Trebecki
    This was a lovely experience. The staff stuck just the night note between friendliness and service. I loved the cottages plunge pool and view onto the river. Thank you. HOS:. The service especially the polite thoughtful staff and the decors and layout of the lodge cottages.


    Andrew Neall
    Both Peters (G.M) & Steve - seriously your staff here have exceptional attitudes and great people skills .They made our stay lovely. HOS: Your staff, the idyllic setting, elephants mud flinging. Matetsi’s natural beauty national park and accommodation.


    Jackie and Eamonn Quuinn
    Wonderful place and wonderful staff .HOS: The wonderful people that made our honeymoon extra special.
    Jim Nagel and Lisa Maecks
    Traveled the world and the best service I ever received was here in Zimbabwe on our first trip to Africa.


    Trend Bacroft
    This was my fourth visit to Matetsi and my wife’s second. We enjoy the hospitality of this lodge in particular as well as the bush experience. Each staff member was friendly and worked hard to ensure a satisfying experience. HOS: The variety of game sightings, relaxing atmosphere and feeling of being in the bush and not behind fences.


    Deon and Monica Jones
    Thanks very much for the hospitality and thank you very much for the last evenings preparations of the room (Moses, Kelvin and Mathew) looking forward to next visit. HOS: Last night (hippo incident. River cruise with Billy.


    Searle
    We have been to other well known places and they could learn a thing or two about personal touch .The friendliness is exceptional. We will definitely recommend Matetsi and hope to come back. HOS: Personal service and small intimate camp. Other Key Ppl: Obert, Johannes, Richard, a great team.


    Mellissa and Saiel Smit
    This was our honeymoon and I am so pleased that I choose Matetsi as they far surpassed any and all expectations. Having been in the travel industry for almost 10 years I can quite comfortably say this was the best experience I have ever had at any lodge or establishment. Keep up the work at Matetsi. HOS: The friendliness of the staff .All the staff from cleaners to camp managers. Also the competency and well organized way in which they operate.


    Verena Peters
    (The booking travel agents were useless). This lodge is truly outstanding .The staff are highly efficient and professional and definitely exceeded our expectations. We only have great things to say and recommend it to many. Keep up the fantastic work. Thank you. HOS: Game drives, Lodge itself, staff friendliness and hospitality.


    Dick Ranken
    Very thoughtful staff. Good humor. Not intrusive. Clever is truly first rate. HOS: Africa, Zambezi, Game and food.


    Ronnel Yankanna
    This lodge is definitely top. We were treated like royalty!! And the staff here are great .Hope to come back again soon. Thank for such a wonderful time. HOS: Being up close and personal with the animals and having a great fabulous guide and tracker ie.Khetho and Dennis.


    Oswald Pieta
    You cant make it better!Thank you for all.


    Kris Yankanna
    We would definitely recommend to other friends. You have one of the friendliest bunch of staff, that will make anybody’s day. Keep up the excellent work. Good luck. Hos: Game drive and Hospitality of staff.


    Andy Ranken
    Moses went beyond the call of duty for us. Thank you Moses. A great experience and would hope to return in the dry season. HOS: WiIdlife and food service.


    J H & E C Coetzee
    We enjoyed a relaxing and enjoyable stay. All personnel were very friendly and hospitable. HOS: Extended game drive, personal attention by ranger, Peter Gava, canoeing on Zambezi, flower layout and filled bath with champagne on night before departure.


    Roy and Cherylene Patterson
    Thanks you for a wonderful time, it was really awesome. We will definitely come again. Enjoy your new year. Best of luck for loads of new people to fill your camps. You deserve it! Hos; Hospitality, game drive and boat cruise.


    S. Tearle G Swart
    Mathias goes the extra mile. Staff is friendly, most helpful we have come across anywhere .Peter Gava extremely knowledgeable on walk. Obert is a great conservationist and host. Hos: Sable antelope, walk, elephant at safari lodge, moon on the river and the staff.


    Johanne Hilliar
    The place could put our south African lodges to shame; Mala Mala is a rip off. They need to take a leaf of your book. Very well done and well worth the expense. Many thanks to all the staff we will be back and will tell our friends to come. Hos: Excellent service, brilliant experience and wonderful accommodation.


    Leigh and Nona Ebben
    Matetsi is very special. Your entire staff team could teach the hospitality business in South Africa a great deal. It is obvious they do. What a wonderful bunch of people -happy, discreet, friendly and accommodating .We would love to take them all back home with us .It is always a wonderful experience to visit Zimbabwe and we have been many times. Would love to come back to Matetsi. Hos: Game drives, canoeing saw +-23 elephant (whilst on canoe), drinking, playing at waters edge - stunning. What a privilege. Kenias (shoemaker) makes the best gin tonic, whilst keeping the canoe steady.


    Kimberly Gillespie
    Our experience was so personalized that it our stay was pleasure. Not one thing could have been done to make us feel anymore at home .Every need was not only met but anticipate and fulfilled. All I can say is; we will be back. Thank you for making our first African adventure very special. You are an extraordinary camp and staff, congratulations on a job well done. HOS: Richard and Rueben were great guides, kind, knowledgeable and great with the children. The animals were the show however. The accommodation I could live in forever. Other Key Ppl: Peter, Reuben, Moses, John, Fanuel - everyone made us feel welcome and special.

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