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Trip Report : Makololo Plains (zimbabwe) and Mombo (Botswana)

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Jan 21st, 2005, 01:29 PM
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Trip Report : Makololo Plains (zimbabwe) and Mombo (Botswana)

Makololo Plains

It took about 50 min to fly from vic falls airport to hwange. The drive from the airstrip to Makololo the brush seems similar to kruger national park, relatively thick and rugged. we didnt see much and i started to worry if coming to hwange in Jan was teh wrong idea. my thoughts disappeared quickly as we reached the camp. sprawling in front of us was a 2km diameter pan seemingly carved out the surrounding thick brush. from camp we could see elephant, waterbuck, ostrich, warthog, baboon, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra and a kori bustard. the setting is on par if not better than Mombo's. the place captivated me. the tents are set on raised walkways, each one overlooking the huge pan. the 3 of us were the ONLY people in the camp for our 3 day stay. during our game drives we saw teh following interesting things:

a pride of lions ("the spice girls") hunt buffalo, charging back and forth into the thick brush across the road until eventually the big bull buffs turned the lions back and sent 2 of them up a tree. amazing.

a male cheetah at night half heartedly hunting wildebeest

large herds of elephants drinking and playing at teh waterholes. hundreds and hundreds of them, more than i'd seen at kings pool in sept. also very large herds of buffalo.

2 large male lions dominant in the area on a couple of occasions.

large herds of roan and sable antelope both of which can also be seen from camp.

a large white rhino at a waterhole that was chased off into the thicket by large herds of eles coming to drink in the afternoon.

a pack of 9 wild dogs right in front of camp 1 evening!!!!

and most amazingly, sitting one night after dinner beside the plunge pool, we watched as elephant after elephant came up and drank from the pool. we were literally 5 ft away from the eles. the most incredible wildlife experience i have had. the sights and sounds of them drinking was incredible. by the time they are finished over half of teh pool has been drained.

very diverse species of birds including martial eagles, kori bustards, secretary birds, crowned cranes and numerous other eagles

other less common species seen: eland, marsh owl, small spotted genet and bat eared fox

we saw all of this and plenty of plains game in just 3 days, including 15 mammal species from camp. did i mention that we had the camp to ourselves. And our guide Tendai was very, very good. Makololo far exceeded my hopes. it has sveral differnt hides (a logpile like that at savuti, as well as numerous tree hides at differnt waterholes and a bunker hide as well). its a real shame that no one visits zimbabwe. the prices are extermely cheap for luxury safari standards. the game is more diverse tahn any camp i've been to, and the quality of game viewing is equal to any botswana wilderness camp other than mombo.

without question, makololo is the best deal on the safari circuit. and the staffs said that mana pools is just as amazing. a zimbabwe safari has to be the best deal in southern africa far and away.

i will finish my report with mombo's highlights this weekend but for roccoo's sake, i posted this along with my pics from both camps. originally i had over 1100 photos but i narrowed it down to just under 300 so as not to bore people.

http://www.ofoto.com/BrowsePhotos.js...1&sort_order=0
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Jan 21st, 2005, 02:12 PM
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Bigcountry,

Thanks for the excellent report and photos!

Wow, what a dilemma this has created. Do I head over to Makalolo Plains early next year (just a few months after my Zambian safari in September), or do I wait until September, 2006, when I will also be able to enjoy Matusadona Water Wilderness and Chikwenya, once they come into prime season?

Did you happen to get any feedback on Matusadona Water Wilderness?

I imagine that sitting there in the plunge pool while the elephants drank was an absolutely AMAZING experience.

A few questions...

Were most of those photos taken near the camp, or were you also able to enjoy extensive game drives?

What were the daytime and nighttime temperatures?

Were you able to go "offroad" while at Makalolo Plains, and if not, how much did this impede your gameviewing?

Did you feel that with only 3 guests in camp, that the food was compromised at Makalolo Plains?

Thanks again for the wonderful photos...looks like Makalolo Plains is a winner. Hwange is definitely atop my list for 2006.
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Jan 21st, 2005, 02:30 PM
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Thanks, I've been wavering about a Zimbabwe safari, but I think my next safari will be Hwange and Mana Pools, and stay in Wilderness Safari lodges. I likely will not get there until 2006 since I'm off to Madagascar in May.
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Jan 21st, 2005, 02:37 PM
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welcome back and thanks for sharing. it sounds like you had a spectacular experience...without leaving your lodge!
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Jan 21st, 2005, 02:39 PM
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Bigcountry,

Wow - fantastic photos. I especially liked the lion cubs and the head on photo of the buffalo. Makalolo Plains sounds wonderful - I'm so glad we decided to go to both Zimbabwe and Botswana in Sept. Makalolo will be our first camp - may be a hard act to follow!
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Jan 21st, 2005, 04:16 PM
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Bigcountry,
Thanks for the great pics and great report. It must have been quite the experience to see everything that you did (the pics speak for themselves) and especially to have Makololo to yourselves. Zimbabwe looks wonderful.

And how cool to see the Jouberts doing their thing!

By the way, you wouldn't have bored me if you had included all your pics. All the more to enjoy.

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Jan 21st, 2005, 04:56 PM
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Those pictures are absolutely incredible. What wonderful terrain and the green foliage was beautiful. Thanks for including all of the birds. You did a great job but half way through the server broke or something. I couldn't see the leopards at Mombo. I retried going in to the album and it still cut out. I'll try again later. Anyways the photos are really great and you should be very proud. Really a dream safari. Liz
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Jan 21st, 2005, 06:07 PM
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Thanks guys for the positive feedback. i appreciate it.

rocco, to answer your questions. we had extensive game drives everyday. i just wanted to emphasize how much you see from camp as this is very unique. we would be on teh road by 530am and stay out til about 11-1130 am. then in teh evening we would leave at 430 or so and come back at around 8 pm or so depending on what we saw. makololo is in a private concession within hwange so they can drive at night without any problems. we did drive sometimes into teh public part of the park and then when it was gettig dark we would head back into the concession to look for nocturnal animals. the incredible thing is that the entire time we drove in the public park, we only saw 1 other vehicle. so it was essentially like their own private concession as well. and additionally the area around makololo and south down toward linkwasha which are part of the concessions is by far the most game rich areas of the park so u dont need to head into the public sections very often.

in terms of weather, it hadnt rained in a month, so the temperatures were seasonally very hot. they told us the weather we experienced was what octobers normal weather should be, not january. the positive of that was that teh elephants had stayed around in huge numbers. so apparently we saw peak wildlife there. i cant imagine seeing anymore eles. normally in january the elephants disperse more. our guide said that january is peak season for seeing lions and buffalo and elephants in aug/sept. we got the best of both worlds. if i were planning a safari again i would plan to visit zimbabwe in sep bc i've heard so much good stuff about chikwenya sp? and that is peak season for the eles at makololo. unfortunate i thought i heard that matsudona water camp was closing due to lack of visitation. but i cant imagine a better safari than combining 3 nights at mak, chikwenya and mombo. you will see everything. i encourage everyone who is planning a trip solely to botswana to consider zimbabwe and zambia as well or instead of bc these places are in need and contain amazing stuff and great deals.

and finally in terms of staying on the roads, since mak is within hwange you try to stay on the roads unless you see something special, like when the lions were attacking the buffs etc, then you follow off road. but there are plenty of roads and they are very close to teh wtaerholes etc so you get pretty close to the wildlife. the rules in theory are the same at mombo just at mombo they seem to bend them a little bit more.

oh and about the food. i saw no difference in quality from any other wilderness camp. high quality and way too much. they were fully staffed and ready for 3 or for 18 guests. and all the employees, guides and managers were zimbabwean so i felt good about that. these are very friendly people and i feel very much for them. they dont deserve the hardache they have had to endure.
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Jan 21st, 2005, 07:27 PM
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That is unfortunate about the closing of Matusadona, but not unexpected. When I heard a few months ago that Wilderness Safaris had closed Ruckomechi, I knew that Matusadona could not be far behind. Hopefully poaching will not become rampant in these areas, and I am especially concerned about Matusadona since it has a healthy population of black rhinos. To your knowledge, is Linkwasha still operating???

It was a gut-wrenching decision this time around for me between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Eventually, however, after reading "Eye Of The Elephant" by Mark & Delia Owens, I knew that I had to visit North Luangwa. Plus, South Luangwa and the Lower Zambezi are still not 100% out of danger yet when it comes to poaching.

http://www.southluangwaconservations...m/repsept.html

Hopefully others, when planning safaris in Southern Africa, will start looking beyond the borders of South Africa and Botswana, and will consider Zambia and Zimbabwe as an alternative. Otherwise, it will not take long before the area wildlife perishes.

Thanks for sharing Makalolo Plains with the forum. I am sure that you have won a few converts to visit Zimbabwe next time around, myself included.
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Jan 21st, 2005, 08:01 PM
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A disturbing story, but one that highlights why individuals who really want to make a difference should next time consider places like Lower Zambezi National Park over a place like Phinda or Madikwe, which in my limited knowledge face no danger from poaching.

http://www.zambiatourism.com/travel/.../clzbigboy.htm

There are so many great lodges in the Lower Zambezi that it would be a shame not to support this beautiful area:

www.sausagetreecamp.com
www.kasakariverlodge.com
www.chiawa.com
http://www.chongwe-river.com/
http://www.safpar.com/mwambashi/
http://www.kanyemba.com/
http://www.anatreelodge.com/
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Jan 22nd, 2005, 06:49 AM
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I absolutely LOVED the photos - what a wonderful distraction. I'm in the unusual situation of having to work all weekend (which is something I try and avoid) so viewing your pics was a really nice reward to myself for having finished one of the sections I needed to complete.

THANK YOU!
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Jan 22nd, 2005, 08:03 AM
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hey rocco, Linkwasha is up and running fine. they had guests there when we visited. there is a gigantic pan (Ngamo) close to linkwasha that has great game including a single red hartebeest which i had never seen before. i think they use linkwasha for group safaris and special deals. and the linkwasha area is very good for the wild dogs as their are more impala down in that direction.
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Jan 22nd, 2005, 09:20 AM
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bigcountry: Thanks so much for sharing your fantastic pictures. I wanted to mention my absolute favorites... but, there were too many! I have never seen such good pix of wild dogs, wow! And, of course, your leopard pix were breathtaking. Thanks, again!
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Jan 22nd, 2005, 10:36 AM
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Welcome Home Bigcountry,
Thanks for the great trip report and stunning pictures. The diversity of wildlife is incredible. Can't wait to finish reading about your trip.
What type of camera gear and lenses were you shooting with ?

113 days and counting...
Brenda
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Jan 22nd, 2005, 10:52 AM
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Let me get on the bandwagon. Great trip report and pictures. I really enjoyed looking at them and there are so many good ones it's hard to choose a favotite!
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Jan 22nd, 2005, 07:58 PM
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Outstanding photos!!

I signed on to Ofoto and saw there were 200 + photos and I was working on something else at the time and I thought I would just peruse a few of them. No way, like a novel you can't put down I looked at EVERY one of them!!!

I may have to figure a way to add Zim onto my next trip to Zambia.
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Jan 22nd, 2005, 11:28 PM
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GreenDrake,

I am in the same boat...what I have come up with is the following:

Lunga River Lodge/Busanga Plains Bush Camp, Kafue NP (6) www.experienceafrica.com

Stanley Safari Lodge or Matetsi, Victoria Falls (2 or 3)

Makalolo Plains, Hwange NP (4)

(Then probably some time in Cape Town or alternately a few nights in Paris since my wife has not yet been to Paris and there are direct SAA flights from Paris to Joburg)

I do hope that a better option than Lunga River Lodge/Busanga Plains Bush Camp appears by the 2006 season. While the owners of those lodges are supposed to offer a quality product, I really don't care for the accomodations, especially considering that they are more expensive than the best South Luangwa accomodations.
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