Sunday 27 January 2013
Chizarira National Park is situated on the Zambezi escarpment in the north/west part of Zimbabwe, overlooking the great Zambezi Valley and the upper waters of Lake Kariba. A remote area of 192 000 hectares of wilderness country with magnificent gorges, plateau and floodplains, this National Park is unique and in a class of its own.
The area is relatively undeveloped and road conditions are rough within the park.
Backpacking wilderness trails, escorted by an experienced and armed Officer of the Department, are run during the dry season within Chizarira.
The trails are not readily available, but with prior arrangement at station level it can be arranged, ranging from a few hours duration to a few days depending on visitors’ needs.
An armed Game Scout can be made available to escort visitors on daytime walks within the park.
It should be noted that unaccompanied walking by visitors is not permitted.
There are six exclusive camping sites established at present, each of which is limited to one party of a maximum of 12 persons.
We visit a few of these sites.
Kaswiswi Bush camp is situated on the upper reaches of the Luizilukulu River, 6-km from the park headquarters.
This camp has the best facilities.
Facilities consist of two sleeping shelters; one dining shelter with concrete table and benches plus a braai /cooking place.
The camp also boasts an ablution block with flush toilet, shower and a kitchen area, all with hot water.
Please note that water may not be available during the dry season.
Mobola Bush Camp is situated on the Mucheni River below the Manzituba Spring, 6-km from the park’s headquarters.
No shelters have been constructed at this camp as yet, and the only facilities are concrete table and bench.
An ablution block with flush toilet, shower and basin and kitchen area, all with hot water, now exist at Mabola.
Water is pumped from the perennial Mucheni River, which is close by, into a header tank.
The Mucheni View campsite is situated on the verge of the escarpment overlooking the Valley and in the distance, Lake Kariba.
The camp is 4-km from Park’s headquarters with minimum development, comprising of a braai stand/cooking place, a shade and a toilet.
Please note that there is no water at this camp.
Other campsites are: Mucheni Gorge Camp Site, Kaswiswi 2 Camp site and Busi Bush Camp which is 35-km from the parks Headquarters.
The way to Chizarira, our next destination, lay up the Tashinga road, through the almost aboriginal Batonka tribal area, but first you had to get out of the park.
The 82-km stretch of road over the Matusadona Mountains before you joins the Karoi – Binga road is rough and not suitable for saloon cars.
Even in 4x4 the road can be a tester. During the rainy season some of the bridges are washed away and can
defy all driving skills.
During heavy rains the road might be impassable. It is advisable to inquire about the condition of the road before starting your journey.
From Matusadona, the mountains that form the escarpment resemble a barrier, and barrier is in fact what Chizarira means.
Chizarira National Park straddles the Zambezi Escarpment at its highest point, a journey of about 200-km from Tashinga.
It will take you more than half a day to reach the park headquarters.
It is a fascinating drive through the Ume, Sengwa and Lusilukulu river valleys, before climbing the steep side of the escarpment.
The 20-km spectacular twisting climb up geological step of Chizarira to the park headquarters is rough and 4x4 are essential, especially during the wet season.
The Matusadona National Park is situated on the shores of Lake Kariba between the Ume and Sanyati Rivers.
It covers an area of 1407 sq. km of which only a third is provided with roads for visitors.The other two thirds consists of very wild, rugged and inaccessible country.
The park has a beautiful, shady camping ground at Tashinga on the lake-shore.
There is an ablution block with hot and cold water, showers, toilets,
Wash basins and baths.Firewood and braai facilities are available.
Some of the campsites boast sleeping and dining shelters.
For the adventurous canoes are available for hire to explore the shores of the park.
The colors of an African sunset over water will provide spectacular memories of Lake Kariba and the unspoiled beauty of Matusadona.
Visitors are allowed to get out of their cars and view game on foot, but this is done at their own risk.Wild animals are dangerous and unpredictable.
Elephant, buffalo, impala, kudu and water buck are plentiful, whilst rhino, lion, sable, eland and zebra are frequently seen.
Escorted walks with a game Scout are possible, subject to availability
of staff at the time.
Free fishing throughout the year is obtainable in the Kariba Lake.
Tiger, bream and vundu provide good sport but a word of warning – look out for crocodiles when standing at the water’s edge and avoid swimming in shallow/shoreline areas.
Ume and Mbabala are exclusive camps.
Each consists of 2 family units containing 2 bedrooms and a bathroom.
There is a central dining room and kitchen with stove storeroom and fridge.
The units have basic furniture, linen, crockery & cutlery and cooking utensils.
Cooking is by wood stove and lighting is solar powered.
The camps are available for six-day periods (Monday to Sunday) and a maximum of 12 persons are allowed.
Matusadona once had the largest black rhino population in Zimbabwe.
Today many of their shuttered skulls are lined up like white tombstones along the road in the Chete safari area.
Dismal reminders of poachers, who shot their way through the area, in the 70's and 80's.What a sad end for these creatures which, with huge effort, were saved from the rising waters in Operation Noah.
Matusadona is now an Intensive Protection Zone as the small number of remaining rhino are successfully protected day and night by parks board personnel.
Newly introduced young rhino are kept overnight in bomas under the watchful eyes of armed guards.Still being babies they need to be fed twice a day with a nutritious milk formula, mamma style.
Then they are off to explore their new and save territory accompanied by a armed scout complete with 2 way radio who will protect them with his life.
Kariba is once again our departure point for our next destination – Matusadona National Park.
Kariba Ferries operates a ferry service across the lake on their car ferry Sea Lion and its sister Ferry Sea Horse.The 280-km trip across the lake takes approximately 24 hours.
It has two departure points, one from Kariba itself at the eastern end and the other from Mlibizi at the western end.
The government-run DDF – which stands for District Development Fund-
Shipping service ferry operates scheduled ferry trips to various destinations on the lake.
The best way to visit Matusadona is to charter a ferry from DDF. This 50-km trip will take about 4 – 5 hours depending on the whether.
Normally by road the park is reached via Karoi.
Eight km north of Karoi on the Harare/Lusaka road turn left through the Urungwe Communal Land.115 km from Karoi, the Sanyati River is crossed.
Continue on along the Binga road for a further 62-km and then turn right and continue on for 82 km to Tashinga, which is the headquarters for the park.
From Kariba this route is more than 400-km long and can take up to a full day to cover.
From Karoi the roads are either gravel or dirt. The last 80- km is rough and not suitable for saloon cars, and during the rainy season the road could be impassable even in 4x4 vehicles.
The trip on the ferry is more enjoyable though, as you can sit back and relax while you ease your way out over the lake.
As you leave Kariba behind small islands appear on the horizon as the captain skilfully manoeuvres the craft on its route.
Dozens of houseboats and other smaller craft are encountered on your way.
No wonder Kariba is known as Zimbabwe’s Riviera.
Lake Kariba is recognized by many as the tourist paradise of Zimbabwe.
It is 280 km in length and supports a large population of people and animals along the shoreline.
A wide range of activities are on offer to the visitor – game viewing, boating, sailing, water-skiing, scuba diving and houseboat cruises.
But it is the fishing that is probably the most sought after activity, particularly the fighting Tiger fish.
Wildlife in the area is prolific and elephant and buffalo are common sights along the shoreline.Other species, which one can see, are impala, water buck, zebra and sable.
Bird-life is varied and includes many water birds such as herons and egrets as well as large numbers of fish eagles.
Visitors can also hire one of the many houseboats available at Kariba.
This is the ideal fishing holiday, cruising slowly up and down the lake, stopping to fish at will, and enjoying the spectacular sunsets whilst the captain carefully moors the boat for the evening.
The Matusadona National Park lies along the southern shores of the Lake and the Department of National Parks provides several campsites within the park.
In addition there are many top quality safari operators in this area offering small, exclusive camps staffed with professional guides to take visitors on game drives, walking or fishing.
At the town of Makuti, situated high on Zambezi Escarpment, you need to fill up your tanks as there is no petrol or diesel available in Mana Pools National Park.
This is also a good time to do some last minute shopping or to enjoy an ice-cold beer at the hotel.
16 Km from Makuti on your way to Zambia you will reach the National Parks office situated at Marongora.
All visitors to the Zambezi Valley must obtain an entry permit here.
You won’t be allowed into the reserve without it.
The view onto the Zambezi Valley from the top of the escarpment is magnificent and on a clear day you can see forever.
Descending the winding pass to the foot of the escarpment you reach the turnoff to Mana Pools 16 km from Marongora where you obtained your permit.
Turn right onto the gravel road.
The distance to Nyamepi Camp and the reception office is 72 km and could take up to 2 hours to reach.
Although most types of vehicles can negotiate most of the roads in the park, care should be taken especially at the sandy river crossings.
The 220 000 ha Mana pools National Park lies in the north of Zimbabwe between the Rukomechi and Sapi rivers.
The Zambezi River forms the northern boundary and the Zambezi Escarpment the southern.
Huge herds of elephant and buffalo occur in the park and lion, waterbuck, zebra and impala are plentiful.
Nearly 400 species of bird have been recorded in the area.Open in the dry months from May to October Mana Pools is one of the most untamed areas of the country and tourist is still allowed to walk away from his vehicle through tall open forest of mahogany and acacia.
Elephant and lion are common residents so walkers need to be alert.
The Zambezi valley is one of the low-lying areas of the country with very high temperatures in the summer.
The best times to visit are the late winter or spring months when the temperatures are milder.
During the dry winter months the animals concentrate round the waterholes and the banks of the Zambezi. The veld is dry and brown with little or no grass.
When the rains comes, normally in early November, the land is suddenly transformed into a green haven.
The flood plains become carpeted with lush green grass. The whole area resembles an enormous park.
During this time the large pools along the banks of the river, which give the area its name, fills up from the heavy rains.
Nyamepi Camp is 4 ha in extent and has a total of 29 camping sites.
The camp is set on the banks of the Zambezi River and campers can enjoy a magnificent view of the Lower Zambezi National Park and the mountains across the river into Zambia.
Shady campsites are set well apart that will leave you with a feeling of solitude even when the camp is full.
Firewood is provided in limited quantities at the entrance to the camp and must be purchased.
Collecting of firewood from the veld is prohibited and visitors are urged to take their own gas stoves.
The camp has 4 ablution blocks with hot and cold showers, bath and flushing toilets.
There is no place better equipped to put you in touch with your primal nature than Mana Pools.
Here you will experience the true African wilderness, with no protective fences, no guides, and no defences.
If this thought frightens you, Mana pools is not for you.
If it excites you, you will have the holiday of a lifetime.
The best way to spend your time at Mana Pools is to enjoy being alive and a part of the natural environment.
You can do this by simply sitting on the bank of the Zambezi, and watching nature happen around you.
As the camp is not fenced you could be surprised by occasional visits from buffalo, elephant and even lion.
Be aware, even if they seem to be tame, all animals are unpredictable and can be very dangerous.
Watch out for baboons and monkeys whose only mission seems to be raiding your campsites during the day.
During the night be on the alert for scavengers like hyena. Don’t leave any food or cooking utensils outside. Lock it up in your vehicle.
Hippo might wander into the camp at night and surprise you. It could be an unpleasant and tragic surprise as it is claimed to be the most dangerous animal in Africa.
Fishing is permitted but there is a limit of 6 fish per day.The Zambezi is renowned for its tiger fish and Mana Pools is the ideal place to catch this monster of the deep.
While fishing you must constantly be aware of the presence of hippo and crocodile.
There are 2 large lodges situated a short distance upstream from Nyamepi camp each designed to accommodate up to 8 persons.
The lodges are self-contained and fully equipped with furniture, all bedding, towels, cooking utensils, cutlery and crockery.
Cooking is by gas stove and there is a gas fridge/freezer in each lodge.
Visitors should make sure all doors are locked when they are not in the lodge to prevent access by baboons and monkeys.
Sitting on the veranda you can admire the unspoiled beauty of the river as it winds its way through the valley.
Canoes are available for hire on a half day or full day basis.
Canoeist must always be aware of the presence of hippo and crocodile and other dangerous game and avoid paddling too close to them.
Enquire at the reception office for more information.
The Best way to spend your time at Mana Pools is to take a picnic lunch and park at one of the pools, especially Chine pool or Long pool, and relax while all manner of creatures come to drink.
You could take a walk to explore the vegetation, and see if you can develop an understanding of some of the myriad relationships among the animals and plants.
A walk along the river bank from Nyamepi camp to Nu Kupe camp and the Mbera River is highly recommended, but do not stray into tall grass or bush, and keep a sharp eye out for buffalo in this area.
A walk along Chine Pool, or from Chine Pool to Nu Kupe if your bush navigation is good, takes you among the tall and shady apple-ring acacias.
You should watch out for lion in this area, but the bush is quite open and relatively save.
Walking along Long Pool is also beautiful, but a bit more risky, since there is a lot of thick bush.