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Trip Report: Zimbabwe

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Like I wrote in a previous thread "Should we visit Zimbabwe", I just returned from Zimbabwe and my conclusion to the question was that, yes we should visit.

A little intro:
Before we went, (myself, my girlfriend and my 3 year old son), we had a lot of doubts if we should go. But we have friends working in Zim, so we had some good connections. And they have a daughter that have the same age as our son. Our friends work for a danish aid agency. We have travel in Africa before. We have visit Uganda, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia(Livingstone) and Tanzania so it was a opportunity to see a new country.


Zimbabwe 11-30 july 2007

South AFrica 30. july- 7 august

11. july

Arrived at Harare airport around 12 o´clock after a 22 hours long journey from Denmark via Frankfurt and Johannesburg
We needed to get our visa at the airport so we had to wait at immigration for an hour, but they were surprisingly nice. I have heard rumors that it is not the local custom police that work at the airport, but instead it is the CIO, Mugabe intelligence agency, so I was prepared for the worst, but no problem, which was lucky because we brought 4000 US$ in cash us with, which was more that we were allowed. Stayed the first night at Marondera. Drove past the first roadblocks on the way there,but had no problems, we just drove through. They were after the locals matatus or trucks.

12. july

Next day we drove for 4 hours to get to Gweru. We had a hard time getting diesel before we went, so we first arrived in Gweru after dark. But it was a amazing to see the clear african sky, I don´t think I have seen so many stars before.

13-15 july Gweru Antelope Park

Had a great time, doing all kinds of activities. A great places to take kids. They have around 3000 hectares were they have giraffes, wilderbeest, zebraes and other antelopes. Check out or do a search for gweru antelope park on google. We did elephant- ride, mainly because of our 3 year old son. We did canoing twice, saw lion cubs, saw the lion breeding program (they have 66 lions) and were introduced to their lion program, where captive breed the lions are "trained" to be wild again. I did two lion walks and the last one was great. We saw lions trying to catch zebraes and impala. It is a strange experience(but nice) to have a lion hunting game when it is just right next to you. They lions we walked with was around 15 months old.
Gweru was nice and a good places to take small kids. The food and lodging was nice too and overall Gweru was a pleasant stay, even if I prefer places that are wilder. But It is definitely worth stauyng a few nights there. When we were there, there were few other tourist, but the place was filled with volunteers ( around 30), most of them british or american.

15-18 july Harare

Just hanging out in Harare and having a hard time getting food and other basic stuff for our trip to Lake Kariba. Meat, milk and bread were almost impossible to find and it was only through our friends contacts that we got the proviant that we needed for our 4 days trip to Lake Kariba. We tried to find some nice places to visit around Harare, but most of the former tourist places were closed, even though that Lake Chivero still have rhino. Took a taxi ride and saw Mugabes "palace" and it was nice talking to local.

19-22 july Houseboat on Lake Kariba

The trip from Harare to Kariba town was beautiful, especially the last two hours, driving through hills and seing baboons and vervets monkey on the way. We noticed that we only saw 2 roadblocks on the way, even though we did get a ticket for speeding. The fine was 40000 zim dollars, and the police again was all right. And we were speeding so we couldn´t complain. Just around 20 km. from Kariba town we saw 4 elephants, nice to see the first wild elephants in Africa for 4 years (we travelled for 4 months in 2003) and they were quite relaxed. We arrived at Kariba town and just tried to buy the last stuff we needed, but the shops were almost empty.

We met the captain and the cock and they had already arranged everything so we only needed to pay the entry fees for the Lake and we were of. We sailed for 2-3 hours and the captain found a great place to stay for night. It was around Zebra Island. We saw a lot of hippos and crocs on the way and we also saw zebraes, waterbuck, buffalo, impala and elephants on land. All night we could hear a elephant eating just a few metes from the boat. And we had music all night from the hippos, that what was I told my son, because he first was afraid. But after that he told me that he liked the song!!

The next two day we sailed down to the shores of Matasunda National Park, the views from the boat was just breathtaking, because of the dead trees and the mountain range in the background. We again saw a lot of elephants ( around 50), hippoes, crocs, impalas,warthogs and a jackal. And the place was just so calm and quiet. We only saw one other houseboat on the Lake, so we had the whole place for ourselves. The captain told me that 7 years ago we would have seen hundreds, but now they had no tourists coming. I found that a shame, even though I liked the peace.

I have sailed on Chobe Riverfront and on the Nile in Murchisons Falls National Park in Uganda and Lake Kariba is just as good, I liked it a lot even though we didn´t allways get close to the animals, but the places is just so beatiful. And the fact we seemed to be the only people on the Lake was a big bonus too. Even though I feel sorry for the people working on the boats.

23-27. july Hwange National Park

We found a guide to take us to Hwange National Park. He normally works at Mana Pools or Chizarira but he agreed to take us to Hwange. We would have preffered to go Mana Pools, but we were told that it was just to dangerous with a 3 year old, so we dediced on Hwange instead.

We choose to stay at Hwange Safari Lodge, a big lodge but nice and it had a waterhole in front of it, we would have preffered a smaller place but none of them would take kids as small as our son. But the lodge was all right, the staff was all right even though they really tried to get us for as many US$ as possible. That were the only drawback on the place. The room was good, food and service ok and the setting was great. And the waterhole was exellent. And it only had few guest, most of them white zimbabweans, but there also was a Belgium couple staying there. They stayed there for a week andf the had seen everything incl. lions, 2 cheetahs and wild dogs!The first day we saw 51 elephants coming down to drink at the same time. It was great. The lodge is actually outside Hwange Nationall Park on private land, but it had a lot of animals coming down to drink every day. We saw a big herd of buffalo, wilderbeest, impalas, baboons, kudus, jackals and a lot of elephants. And every night we heard lions roaring.

Inside the park on gamedrives we saw hundreds of elephants, they seemed to be everywhere including the biggest tusker near Jambili I have ever seen, almost as many giraffes, kudues, wilderbeest, zebraes, impalas, kudus, sables (including two herds with 30), roan,hippos, crocs, gemsbok(just 1 with a calf),2 hyenas, jackals, baboons and a white rhion( the first white rhion I have seen). I also did some walking in the park with guide. We hired a national park scout and we came really close to some huge elephants bulls. Exiting!!

We only saw a handful of other guest, we met some americans staying at The Hide, so again we had the whole place to ourselves, even though we didn´t get to see lions( or any other big cat or wild dog) I found Hwange just as good as some of the other national parks I have visited in Africa. I saw no signs of poaching, the animals was relaxed around our car and the didn´t run away from us. Most of the diesel pumps we saw in the park was still working and there were still people maintaining them. We were told that it was many of the lodges , like The Hide and Somalissa who payed for the diesel now. So the wildlife was doing great. The only thing we noticed were that the vegetation some places were destroyed because of elephants. And Hwange is definetely one of the parks where I have seen most elephants. My guide told us that it seemed that there was just too many elephants, because some of them seemed stressed.

All in all I liked Zimbabwe a lot. I didn´t feel threatent at any time, the roads were still good and maintained it seemed and the people were friendly even though they seemed pessimitic about the future, but who can blame them. When it was possible to pay in zim dollars the things were really cheap and even though we had to pay for some things in US$ we Zim was still good value.

28-29 july Harare

Just relaxing in Harare before we should fly to Johannesburg to get our rental car for Kruger. But that is another story.

If someone have some questions just feel free to ask, I will try to answer them.

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