Tomorrow we are finally off to the bush. We have been here 3 weeks but have been advised to stay in or near Harare. Things haven’t really changed here, in fact rumour has it that it’s getting even worse (if that’s possible) than before the elections. But enough is enough – we need to go camping.
The Zambezi Valley is the most sublime place. The river winds lazily along on its way to the Indian Ocean – though if you are canoeing you will realize that it is not lazy at all. The valley stretches out on both sides of the river although it is wider on the Zimbabwean side and narrower on the Zambian.
Close to the water’s edge the trees are mainly Mahogany – huge big trees with green cropped canopies. There are plenty of other beautiful types of trees – figs being some of the most interesting, but it is the Mahogany which is synonomous, to me, of the area.
Underneath these canopies are impala, kudu, waterbuck, warthog, zebra, elephant, wild dog, baboons a plenty, hyena, lion… to name but a few.
But before we head to Mana Pools we are going to Chitake.
Chitake is a seriously extreme camp.
There is nothing there. Nothing at all. No official campsite, no buildings, no water, certainly no loo’s. You take everything with you and you leave nothing behind but your footprints when you leave. And you do not share the campsite with anyone. When you book it you are assured of your privacy in that very private place.
Why go there you might ask?
For the lion.
The area is always full of lion. We have frequently been surrounded by them. Really surrounded. On one trip 7 lionesses, one cub and a large male walked through and around our small campfire , two deck chairs, small table, 2 little gaslamps and our landrover. At one stage they roared and the glasses on our table rattled to such an extent that they nearly fell off. Each night they shared the campsite with us. It was terrifying, awe-inspiring, and the reason we keep going back.
Friends of ours have just come back from there. The same thing happened to them. They woke up one night to find a lioness scratching herself on their tent. She then proceeded to lie down, roll against the tent, and spent the night there. Her family were scattered around the rest of the campsite. They (our friends) swore they hardly breathed all night – and certainly didn’t sleep!
So we are going to spend 2 nights there and then 4 nights on the river at Mana Pools. We will not be canoeing this year. Last year we were bucked by a surprised hippo, and whilst a metre and a half in the air, we had time to see 2 enormous crocodiles slide into the water waiting hopefully for a nice little snack. I feel I need a break from that sort of adrenaline kick this year!
The wonderful and unique thing about Zimbabwe is that tourism is almost non-existant. This obviously has a lot to do with the political situation, but even before 2000 Zimbabwean tourism was a very low-key affair compared to Kenya and South Africa. So when you go to our parks you are pretty well alone in them and are not irritated by a constant stream of traffic cruising back and forth waiting for information as to where to see wild dog, where the lion kill is, the baby elephant that’s just been born, etc.
In our parks you are privileged to witness these scenes alone.
And that is when you can truly appreciate the magnificence of the African wildlife and the beauty of the African bush.
There is nothing better than settling down in your deckchair as the sun slips behind the mountains on the Zambian side, sipping a cold glass of wine, and watching whilst the sun sets on another heavenly African day.
As a postscript I have added some of the photographs I took whilst there… and ended with one of sunset on Kariba…