Eyes of the Elephant Safari to Zimbabwe by Szilvia Hegyi and Elena Theodosiou
Our safari to Zimbabwe started with an overnight at the African Rock Hotel in Johannesburg. The hotel is in close proximity to the airport and a great option for overnight stays. The staff was friendly and the food was great! After a delicious breakfast we were ready to start our adventure in Zimbabwe.
Next morning we went on a shared walking safari with Alistair Chambers who took us on a quest to find the wild dog den. It was a great walk, cool morning and Alistair led us – barefoot – which was a wonder to all the Americans! We got to the den and crawled on our behinds, the dogs were behind heavy brush – however we could see the puppies and also the minders who were left behind to take care of them. While we were sitting there the rest of the pack came back and we could hear the whole greeting ceremony! Lots of chirping and retching….once the rest of the pack realized we were there a lot of loud growling ensued and after a while Alistair pulled us out slowly. It was an amazing experience!
In the afternoon we drove around with Nick Murray until we found Mudzi. We parked the vehicle and the second walk of the day began. Our walk involved walking over that fine Kalahari sand which is like walking on a beach – challenging. When we got to Mudzi – he was with a whole lot of other elephants: Some juveniles, some females with young calves.
Next morning we had a morning game drive and came back to camp to collect bags and say goodbye to the staff. Nick drove us to Mana West where the Ruckomechi vehicle met us. Both of us cried when we left Vundu. Nick was lovely and gave us lots of hugs and told us we could come back, but I think he was a little overwhelmed with the two crying woman on his hands!
We left Mana West and drove slowly to Ruckomechi – our guide was Gadrick. Upon arrival at Ruckomechi we enjoyed a greeting committee of 3 elephants roaming around the main area of the camp. Even when we returned for our high tea we found the elephants were in camp and walking around the dining room area! Elena had to move from her seat because one of the ellies started to walk in her direction.
The next morning we had breakfast and a game drive, came back to camp for nice brunch and then onto Mana West for our scheduled charter flight departure. We very briefly saw a lovely young female leopard (our 1st leopard sighting on this safari!) right on the side of the track – gorgeous but we were both so taken aback no photos were taken. What a nice farewell sighting for our departure from Ruckomechi!
From Mana the flight took about two hours to Hwange. We were lucky and got a Caravan plane. On arrival in Hwange we were met by Themba who was our guide at Little Makalolo. He and his lovely wife Bee manage Little Makalolo Camp.
The next day we went out early and first sighting of the day a female leopard busily plucking the feathers off a guinea fowl! She was a distance from us but then Themba (the eagle eyed) saw that she had cubs hidden in a tree across the track behind our vehicles. She eventually made her way across the track and called to her cubs so we saw the whole family! It was fantastic and everyone around the sighting was over the moon. We say some plains game and came back for brunch and enjoyed a nice siesta!
We had a great afternoon drive – and went and saw Davison’s camp which is a lovely alternative option in Hwange. The upstairs deck is a great addition to the renovated main area allowing travelers a fantastic view of the waterhole.
On arrival at Hwange Main we were met by Lauren who drove us through to Ivory lodge which is an excellent addition to the Mother Africa voluntourism itinerary. We also went and saw Khulu Ivory which is looking gorgeous.
Departed by road to Bulawayo, which was about 2 hours. Continued onto Amalinda which is about 20 minutes away – what a special place! The camp is built among rocky outcrops and offers a wide variety of activities including walks to rock paintings and a cultural opportunity to visit an orphanage. We had room 7 and 8 set in the one corner close together so this could also work for older kids. Room 7 has a little wooden bridge to the door and a lovely outside patio and an original rock painting inside the room, what a treat! Both rooms were gorgeous (the electric blankets on the beds!!). And the first hair dryer on the trip!!!
The trip was ending, so sadly we drove to the Bulawayo Airport (a very impressive clean and tidy small airport) and flew back to Johannesburg. SA Airlink served us the best meal out of all our flights – a very nice cold chicken salad with a beautiful blueberry mousseycheesecakey pudding and crackers with cheese (and this is a very short flight about an hour and 20 minutes)!
After both of us having been on many safaris we can confidently say that Zimbabwe is one of the best safari destinations offering superb wildlife and cultural experience! We will be back!!!