Vic Falls, Hide, Hwange, Duma T, Kwetsani, GraniteSA

Sep 30th, 2007, 07:03 AM
  #1  
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Vic Falls, Hide, Hwange, Duma T, Kwetsani, GraniteSA


Who knew the > sign would elongate the title? Now we do.

This is copied and pasted from Aggron’s orginal, but with the title rewritten to exclude the >s.

Hope that was ok. Now people can comment on the report, which Aargon took the time to write, without perpetuating the problem formatting.

VicFalls>Hide,Hwange>DumaT+Kwetsani>GraniteSA

Author: Aggron
Date: 09/30/2007, 12:41 am

18 flights later we're back in Seattle only wishing we could go back - like right now! Both (my husband) Randy and I would go back to the Hide in Hwange in a heartbeat. Excellent guides, abundant variety of wildlife and we were lucky enough to have the camp owners holding down the fort. In the "Honeymoon Suite" I couldn't help feel a little like Osa Johson when I heard, "Knock knock!" each morning. Randy nearly jumped out of the bed the first night believing an animal was in the bed only to discover it is a fabric covered hot water bottle! Met some very nice women associated with a Zimababwe mission, they stay on a regular basis. We saw (my favorite) 3 painted wild dogs - 1 of which had just been introduced from Botswana to the local two. Each of the guides are wonderful and the night drives were fun but one guide, Daffe, was by far the best. He is so smart and kind; we as others enjoyed his knowledgable walking safari's and down to earth nature.

Of course everyone in Zimbabwe wants to know where people are buying their gas and meat. We don't take photos of the empty stores to help preserve the dignity of the large groups of people trying to get from here to there with no vehicles on the road to take them - from here to there.

Inspired years ago by an article in our local (Sammamish) newspaper claiming guests need to keep their tolieties in your drawer because, "the monkeys will steal your soap!" was exactly the reason I pleaded to stay at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Discoving our soap is on the shelf and not a monkey in sight (nor any other animal)during our stay I am convinced they have eaten the monkeys and I wouldn't blame them when their family needs to eat. Like much of Zimbabwe we found Victoria Falls pretty deserted. We did enjoy the variety of food at the BOMA and was trying to enjoy the entertainment but it was a bit difficult with some very bombed blond guy taking over the drum show sitting there with his pants unzipped. After our many travels around the world (much for mountain climbing) this is a place on the planet we came away truly insprired to support in some way when we are home. The watering hole program in Hwange will be one such way we will be able to support the needs of this country.

We stayed next in Botswana at Duma Tau and Kwetsani. Duma Tau prepared a very lovely candlelight dinner for us by the pool to help us celebrate our 25th anniversary. Both camps had two things in common - wonderful camp suites and poor guides. I found it frustrating trying to communicate to management that I wished to do such and such only to be pushed off onto our undesirable guides. This even after seeing 6 wild dogs they claim to not have seen in 2 years. I wouldn't go back.

Last on to Londolozi in Sabi Sands where we have the priviledge of meeting the last Tsalala male lion cub with his mother and aunt. We saw various fine animals in facinating situations and had an awesome villa but the true beauty of this camp is found with their sensational guides. These guys are exceptional. They are all certified many holding the highest level obtainable. Their professionalism and straighforwardness makes you shake your head and think, 'Man, I gotta come back here!" Sure, the suites are swell but it was the entire staff which made this camp shine. We selected the Granite Camp based upon its attractiveness (a special treat for our anniv.) and for the investment in conservation. We had the opportunity to visit the "off site" village housing the workers and small children, meet the school children and the local community "doctor" supporting their very basic clinic. We were also very impressed with the level of detail the camp hostess "Linky" provided. Always anticipating our wants even from 5 AM wake ups and making sure everyone was relaxed, comfortable and enjoying themselves.

This forum was one resource we used to help make our plans. I guess we are now in the "camp" of those who will not stay at another Wilderness Safari camp. We created our own itinerary but needed help booking all the flights and pulling it all together. We were truly amazed by "Angela M" of CCA who made it work and was a true pistol to work with. Highly recommended.

Travel safe out there

Author: HariS
Date: 09/30/2007, 05:48 am
Aggron,

What were the gameviewing highlights from Hwange, DT and Kwetsani?

The 6 wild dogs at Kwetsani? - that was my assumption as the dogs just denned at Duma Tau just now.

Hari
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 07:22 AM
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Thanks Lynn, Hopefully no one will post on the old one.
CarlaM is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 07:48 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2007
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Aggron - Many, many thanks for your post, which I found most helpful. It is difficult to obtain first-hand, recent travel info on Zimbabwe. We are planning to visit Zimbabwe in May 2008, and have been looking into staying at Vic Falls (3 or 4 nights) and then the Hide in Hwange (3 or 4 nights).

How did you get from the Falls to the Hide, and then back?

At the Falls, was it relatively easy to get from Vic Falls Safari lodge into Vic Falls town, and once in the town, were there places to get light meals, or did you eat at the hotels?

How did you handle the emptiness at the Falls?

We are still debating whether to stay at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (VFSL) or at the Matetsi River Lodge further upstream of the falls. Did you hear anything about the Matetsi River Lodge, and do you have any feedback on VFSL? What sort of game-viewing options were available at the Falls, or did you rely on Hwange for your game-viewing 'fix'?

Again, many thanks for your posting!
dombawera is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 08:43 AM
  #4  
 
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That's too bad you didn't enjoy Duma Tau or Kwetsani. When we were at Kwetsani in June 2006 we had an outstanding guide, who proved to be the best guide of our entire trip to Botswana and Zambia. Was it the guide who said they hadn't seen wild dog in two years? We certainly saw wild dog while at Duma. Who were your guides?
raelond is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 08:45 AM
  #5  
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Happy 25th Anniversary!

So you had two separate wild dog sightings? That's outstanding.

Was the translocated Dog #3 in Hwange getting along with the other two? If you saw a threesome, it seems they had formed a pack, and were agreeable.

You're lucky your husband only jumped out of bed in reaction to the furry water bottle. I've heard of guests beating it to death wtih a chair only to end up with a soaked mattress.

I hope your comments on the hide will encourage others to visit Zimbabwe.

Sorry about your experience at Duma Tau and Kwetsani. And about the drummer with his barndoor open.

But your desire to return "right now" means it was a good experience overall for you.
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 08:36 PM
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Hi Hari. The wild dogs that had a den near Duma Tau had moved out of the den and moved on before we arrived. The dogs that we saw were a different group that rapidly moved through the area. Camp staff told us that they had not seen this particular group in the area for about 2 years.

Game viewing highlights at Hwange were the large number of elephants, lions roaring all night every night, giraffe nursery with many young giraffe, and wild dogs. The newly introduced wild dog appeared to be integrating into the pack quite well, but we only saw them on one day. We certainly saw all of the big 5 and more at Hwange.

Hippos & very large crocs at Duma Tau were very impressive. Along with that the leopard, lion, & hyena predator sightings were very good. Many wonderful birds in this area as well, and the same can be said for Kwetsani as well. The above predators were spotted at Kwetsani too, along with large numbers of zebra and red lechwe.

There was no shortage of game of all varieties to be spotted at any of the camps we visited and everyday was a new experience. All the guides we had delivered outstanding sightings, but as you travel around a bit you begin to see differences in the way camps are managed and how guides deal with the day-in day-out rotation of tourists. We began to develop preferences based upon our experiences during the trip.

The leopards and lions of Londolozi were certainly a big highlight, especially when you are hearing about the history and ongoing drama of the generations of wildlife while watching the hunt or mating behavior. We were very, very fortunate to see a great variety of wildlife everywhere we went - it was all really quite good. But when you consider and experience the overall management model that Varty/CCAfrica has created at Londolozi you just have to shake your head and say, "WOW, this is really amazing - hard to beat."

Best - ranjack (husband of Aggron)
Aggron is offline  
Sep 30th, 2007, 09:19 PM
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Dombawera, let's talk a bit about Vic Falls. Actually, our time in the city was rather brief - one day, and for us that was enough. In spite of all the issues that Zimbabwe is currently facing we cannot say enough about the spirit and determination of the people. They are making-do in a very tough situation and it is remarkable to witness. I would not hesitate to go back as a tourist at this point. There are game drives available from Vic Falls but I think they make for a long day of driving. Game around the Vic Falls areas seemed a little sparse from our experience - we saw nothing at the VFSF watering hole during our time there, but we did see one elephant at the top of the falls itself and random sitings of wildlife as we drove along the surrounding roads. We heard nothing about Matetsi but all the Vic Falls hotels seem to be holding their own quite well, according to what other visitors told us. We were even able to use a credit card at VFSL because they called it in for approval to their home office in another country.

Depending on your tastes, there is still plenty to do in the Vic Falls area as they are really working hard to keep the tourism machinery alive. We kept to the VFSL area and didn't do any walking around the town area, primarily because we didn't have any real spare time. The food at the both the hotel and at Boma was very, very good. VFSF remains a great place to stay and we'd stay there again, but if the main point of the trip is game viewing then I'll be heading out to one of the more rural parks straightaway for the prime experiences. All in all, for the prepared tourist Zimbabwe remains an outstanding safari destination in our estimation.

We hired a van to drive us from Vic Falls back and forth to Hwange National Park Main Camp where the Hide will pick you up, and everyone else we met was doing the same. Because there is no readily available fuel there is almost no traffic out on the highways and there are many, many people trying to flag you down for a ride somewhere. We went through police checkpoints at several points during the 2 hour each-way trip to Hwange but there was no tension about it at all.

Touring Vic Falls itself, there was only a handful of other tourists on the park walkways that run along the Falls when we visited. We were told that this has been shoulder to shoulder tourists in years past, but it was like we had the place to ourselves. So what can you say - we had to consider ourselves lucky as it was a beautiful, photogenic afternoon walk and we really enjoyed it as it was.

Best, ranjack (husband of Aggron)
Aggron is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 01:44 AM
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Hi Ranjack,

Thanks for your inputs..... that's good to note that there are healthy wild dog populations in the immediate Linyanti area with the sighting of yet another pack of dog.

Cheers,
Hari
HariS is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 02:48 AM
  #9  
sniktawk
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Glad that you enjoyed Hwangwe, just as well you did not stay at the Wilderness Camps there. In addition to the Hide which I can thoroughly recommend there is also Somalisa. The prices at either of these camps is less than half of those you will pay at Wilderness in Botswana. I agree that Londolozi is very special, so are most CC Africa camps they are not in it for a profit.
 
Oct 1st, 2007, 04:38 AM
  #10  
 
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We will be ending our trip to SA in Zimbabwe on Oct. 28. Staying at VFSL. Thanks for the info of what's going on now. We plan to visit the Falls one day and do a full day Chobe tour on another. Will certainly eat at the Boma. ez
eezam is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 07:21 PM
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On second thought, i wonder if this pack of 6 are descendants of the Selinda pack? They have been pretty prolific over the years .......
HariS is offline  
Oct 1st, 2007, 07:56 PM
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Dear Dombawera -

We are not familiar with the lodge you refer to but per the website it seems nice - we liked VFSL, the rooms have nice wooden patio doors with separate screens, the beds have netting, the breakfast was excellent - the upkeep seemed fine. They drive you to the Boma and back. We prepaid everything through CCA - they also pre-arranged all of our transportation (interesting drive between VFSL & Hide), we had CCA representatives meet us at each crossing or connection which required navigating or clearing customs. We had to pay cash for park entrance fee to get into the Falls - about $20 ea I believe. We did pay about $20 or $30 for drinks at bar with our credit card when we checked out. I would have paid cash just so no one has to pay a fee - I want to get as much money as I can into their hands.

It all depends upon what you are looking for in a lodge. We thought of Vic Falls more as a hub rather than a destination except we wanted the BOMA experience since being at Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge - really. I had been told I had early breast cancer and was terminated from my job 6 weeks later - a different crazy story - but we had planned to go to Africa that year and Randy took me to Orlando to the lodge exclaiming, "this is as close as I can get you right now." We LOVED the Boma there so it only seemed appropriate to stop in Vic Falls! Besides, really, the falls are awesome. We didn't have time to go to town but driving through I am not so sure I would have gone. I would need a really good reason to go.

Since we enjoy travelling to different parts of the world we couldn't see going to the same place twice - until we went to the Hide. We just loved their tents and the main dining room with upstairs wildlife viewing - very cool structure - according to our likes. Doesn't mean it's for everyone. Most all meals were very good but I do recall one "Chicken alfredo" not being so bad but would have been more appropriately called "Chicken Something Hide Surprise!" You hear so many animals at night you feel as though they are right there - and they really are. It's very exciting!

You should find the staff exceptional in service and just plain pleasant. Coffee brought to us each morning was always very hot but we warmed the cups up before we poured the coffee. Laundry was always returned nicely folded on a hand carry tray - presented to you just as if you are sitting down to a grand style dinner!

We embraced the emptiness of the country by providing what we were able to bring in two 44 lb duffle bags. I have never travelled with such little clothes and my items could fit in a couple ziplocks. I needed space for a large bag of prescriptions which we left in SA at end of trip. (epi pens, codine, antibitics, baby asprin, first aid supplies), school supplies, yeast, sugar free jello I mean anything light weight that we could fit after standing on the scale. Couple bags of Zories and sandles, socks, baby booties and clothes up to 5 yr. The first time Randy got on he had 44 lb exactly. The next one - I was elated having 3 lbs to spare!

We also brought a couple jars of Goop and 2 Lava bars for the Hide. Money doesn't do a lot of good if there is nothing to buy - so we took what we could. It only added up to 8 bags of stuff but I know we met some needs and feel this helped fill a small void.

Oh, and I was told the pencils aren't any good because they don't have any paper - so I did bring pencils but I brought 20 peechee-like folders with 25 pc notebook in each plus construction paper and activity books all in my personal pack, heavier than ever but it made it into the hands of some struggling students.

Best regards - Aggron, Seattle WA
Aggron is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2007, 03:20 PM
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Aggron - thanks for your responses, they have been very helpful.

I think we have decided to spend three nights at Vic Falls (at VFSL), and then three nights at the Hide in Hwange.

And then onto the family farm north of Harare for 6 days (my family is one of the few remaining white farmers in the country).

Again, thanks for your help. Dombawera
dombawera is offline  
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