Docstoc

Close encounters of the

Document Sample
Close encounters of the Powered By Docstoc
					                        Close encounters of the
                         furred kind
   Zimbabwe’s Zambezi valley has long been famous for its wildlife, friendly people and breathtaking
    landscapes. And now? Jonathan Tillett and Anne-Sophie Christensen travelled around northern
        Zimbabwe in a Landy named Oscar to see for themselves whether things have changed.




56 GO! September 2007
                                                                                                                               NorTherN ZimbAbwe




                                         O
                                                   n the road out of Harare we
                  mANA PooLS
                                                   stop at a police roadblock.
                  NATioNAL PArK Harare             “Where are you from?” the
                            Zimbabwe
                                         constable asks. This always seems
                                         to be the first question Zimbabwe-
                  Johannesburg           an police ask.
                                             “And where are you going? Mana
                                         Pools? You will love it there. Be care-
                                         ful of the lions. Proceed!”
                                             “Thank you,” I reply as he waves
                                         me through.
                                             Mana Pools National Park is the
                                         stuff of legend. Mention the words
                                         to any bush-loving Zimbo and the
                                         conversation turns at once to grisly
                                         tales of campers dodging hippos
                                         and buffalos, swimmers being eaten
                                         by crocodiles, and elephants tap-
                                         dancing on 4x4 bonnets.
                                             The park is unique: Forget vehi-
                                         cles queuing to see lions by the side
                                         of the road; picnic spots are non-
                                         existent; and the campsites aren’t            Mana magic                             to the distant mountains of Zambia.
                                                                                                                                  It’s nearly dark by the time
                                         fenced.
                                                                                      It’s a seven-hour drive from Harare     we check in at the main camp,
                                             The name means “place of four
                                                                                      to the park headquarters. It takes      Nyamepi. It’s a beautiful campsite
                                         pools”. In the wet season, in addi-
                                                                                      a while to shop for all the supplies    with 29 stands in the shade of giant
                                         tion to the four major bodies of
                                                                                      we’ll need and we wander among          mahogany trees on the banks of the
                                         water there are hundreds of smaller
                                                                                      the well-stocked supermarket aisles     Zambezi. We are the only campers.
                                         pools, relics of a long-ago course
                                                                                      trying to calculate the rand cost of        Across the river, the Zambezi
                                         traced by the Zambezi River. The
                                                                                      Z$28 450 for 12 eggs: Z$2 400 an        escarpment is silhouetted against a
                                         Zambezi now forms the park’s
                                                                                      egg. That’s about a rand at black       dark red sky. A goliath heron skims
                                         northern border, and a common
                                                                                      market rates. Or was that last          over the water.
                                         boundary with Zambia’s Lower
                                                                                      week’s rate? Locals wander the              None of the camps in Mana
                                         Zambezi National Park.
                                                                                      aisles too, eyes wide with disbelief    Pools is fenced, unlike many other
                                             In Mana Pools, visitors are
                                                                                      at the escalating prices.               “tamer” national parks in southern
                                         encouraged to get out of their vehi-
                                                                                          At the Total garage we fill up      Africa. There’s nothing between you
                                         cles and explore on foot. It’s the only
                                                                                      with diesel. I hand over wads of        and the wild animals
                                         national park in southern Africa
                                                                                      notes in bundles of millions to the         We’re just starting to cook din-
                                         (and possibly in the world) where
                                                                                      cashier and he tosses them into         ner when there’s a loud rustle in the
                                         you can walk without a rifle-toting
                                                                                      a cupboard without bothering to         reeds nearby.
                                         ranger in tow among elephants,
                                                                                      count them.                                 “What’s that?” Anne-Sophie
                                         buffalos, lions, crocodiles and other
                                                                                          We set off on the tar road to the   hisses. A dark object the size of a
                                         hiker-unfriendly species. You don’t
                                                                                      park office at Marongora, about         small car is lumbering towards us.
                                         just observe nature, you’re part of it.
                                                                                      four hours’ drive from Harare,              Anne-Sophie is up the ladder to
                                                                                      through the town of Chinhoyi, and       the roof-top tent like a monkey and
                                                                                      past the former commercial farm-        I’m about to follow when the hippo
                                                                                      ing districts around Karoi. Soon        turns and starts tearing at the grass
                                                                                      we’re surrounded by the dense,          at the edge of the site. A quick scan
                                          HARD AT WORK (left). Buckling down          wooded hills that dominate the          with the torch reveals a large herd
                                          for a strenuous sunset view at the          Zambezi escarpment.                     of impalas nearby.
                                          Mucheni 2 “exclusive” camp.                     Suddenly we glimpse it – the            The stars are out and we sit back
                                          A FEAST WITH FRIENDS (above right). A       road dives down into the sweltering     in our camping chairs, absorbing
                                          pride of lions devours this buffalo, just   valley and we’re rewarded with a        the sounds of the bush. This place is
                                          metres from the track at Chitake camp.      magnificent view across the plains      something special.                   >
www.gomag.co.za                                                                                                                                   GO! September 2007 57
                                                                                                                           Padding after lions
                                                                                                                          Another unique activity on offer is
                                                                                                                          lion tracking – on foot. Of course,
                                                                                                                          there’s nothing to stop you heading
                                                                                                                          into the bush alone and picking up
                                                                                                                          the spoor. Good luck to you.
                                                                                                                              But, as part of a research project,
                                                                                                                          six prides have been fitted with
                                                                                                                          radio collars and these lions can be
                                                                                                                          located precisely, and quickly.
                                                                                                                              Norman is excited about the
                                                                                                                          project. “Tourists use their own
                                                                                                                          vehicle and pay us a fee (about
                                                                                                                          R100 per person), and an armed
                                                                                                                          ranger drives with you to the near-
                                                                                                                          est road point. Then we use a radio
                                                                                                                          receiver to locate the pride on foot.
                                                                                                                          It’s a good arrangement – I get my
                                                                                                                          data, and we offset our costs.”
                                                                                                                              Sometimes you find the lions
                                                                                                                          hiding in tall grass.
                                                                                                                              “We call that adrenaline grass,”
                                                                                                                          he says.
                                                                                                                              I feel a tingle of excitement.
                                                                                                                          Guaranteed, up-close lions without
                                                                                                                          a vehicle in sight and contributing
                                                                                                                          to research at the same time! We
                                                                                                                          decide to give it a go tomorrow.
                                          35 hippos and six crocodiles per         GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM (above).            The phone rings again. “Good
 Adventures on foot                       kilometre of river.”                     The number of hippos and crocodiles    afternoon, Mana Pools. Hello?
At the park headquarters we meet              This makes for exciting kayaking.    in the Zambezi means kayaking offers   Hello?” Still nothing.
senior warden Norman Monks. He            The park rents out kayaks by the         guaranteed excitement.                     Norman sighs. It’s easy to under-
is waving a recent copy of You maga-      hour, with or without an armed rang-                                            stand the frustrations of running a
zine at us, featuring an article titled   er. You can bring your own kayak,                                               World Heritage Site on a low budget,
“Zim’s New Killing Field”, and he’s       but no motorised boats are allowed.                                             with no phone connection and no
not happy.                                    I ask Norman about the liberal                                              aircon (it reaches 48 °C in summer).
    “We work for next to nothing. I       policy of allowing tourists to walk                                             So what makes it special?
stay because I care about this place.     (or kayak) unaccompanied in the                                                     “To sit quietly somewhere and
Why do people write these lies?”          park. “It began as an experiment,”                                              have an elephant come right up to
    I scan the article, which alleges a   he says, “and it’s never been                                                   where you’re sitting,” he says, “and
variety of horrors, including whole-      changed. Mana Pools is about inter-                                             feel safe. And the beauty of the Zam-
sale slaughter of game for food,          acting with nature. Tourists have                                               bian escarpment.”
complete with graphic photos.             that right, and they must take the
    Norman is keen to set the record      consequences. It’s like walking in                                              We’re driving back to
straight. “Look around for yourself.      parts of Joburg at night.”                                                      Nyamepi camp when a park vehicle
Do you see any of it? I’ve been in            The evidence suggests tourists                                              in front of us stops. “Lion!” says one
Parks for 31 years, and in Mana           take the responsibility seriously. In                                           of the rangers, “Over there!” Every-
Pools for 11 years. Show me where         the past 11 years there have been                                               one gets out of the vehicle, which is
this is happening.”                       only three fatalities – two victims of                                          what you do in Mana Pools when
    He has a point. Game popula-          elephants and a woman on honey-                                                 you see something interesting. Sure
tions are monitored by the World          moon who was charged by a buffalo.                                              enough, a large pride is sitting
Wide Fund for Nature and the Afri-        If that’s too much excitement, game                                             beneath a mahogany tree nearby.
can Wildlife Foundation, and they         rangers can be hired to guide you on                                            Suddenly there’s a snarl, and one
report no major changes here in           foot or in your own vehicle.             “Another unique activity on            lioness takes a step towards us.
recent years.                                 Norman’s office phone rings and      offer is lion tracking – on foot.          “Stop! Stop!” yells the ranger but
    “Not many people know this,           we all jump. It hasn’t worked for six    Of course, there’s nothing to          we’re not sure if he’s talking to us or
but in winter, our flood plain has        months. “Good afternoon, Mana                                                   the lioness. It doesn’t take us long to
the highest concentration of large        Pools. Hello? Hello?” He puts down
                                                                                   stop you heading into the              decide. We dive for the vehicle,
herbivores (elephants, hippos, buf-       the receiver. “At least they’re trying   bush alone and picking up the          pulses racing. We look at each other.
falos) in southern Africa. We have        to fix it.”                              spoor. Good luck to you.”              Lion tracking is going to be fun!
58 GO! September 2007
                                                          NorTherN ZimbAbwe

 Things that go                                          boats further down the shore.
 bump in the river                                           The Zambezi is flowing fast
                                                         and it’s hard work paddling
We’re alone again on our second                          upstream. We’re surrounded by
night at Nyamepi main camp. It’s                         blue and green – the river
a nerve-racking stroll over to the                       reflects the cloudless blue sky
dilapidated ablution block after                         and the morning sun accentuates
dark and I half expect to meet one                       the lush green of the riverbanks
of the many prowling hyenas face                         and islands where buffalos graze.
to face in the urinals.                                  There are hippos everywhere.
    In the morning, we meet one                              We’re gliding back down-
of the rangers for a spot of kayak-                      stream. Thud! The kayak stops
ing on the river. It’s 7 am and the                      and lifts briefly out of the water.
sun filters through the fine acacia                      “Don’t worry!” says our ranger.
leaf canopies in a spectacular                           We’ve bumped into a hippo. For-
light display.                                           tunately it decides to submerge
    We’re expecting a briefing of                        again and we drift on by.
what-to-do-if-a-hippo-charges                                As I drive back to the camp,
but our ranger, an old bush vet-                         I swerve to avoid a long stick in
eran, simply hands us a paddle                           the road before realising it’s a
each, rests his rifle against the                        black mamba.
bow, and off we go.                                          It rears up by my open win-
    We’ve barely drifted a few                           dow as I fumble with the gears.
metres when it becomes clear that                        Jeepers! Luckily there’s no need
the kayak is not entirely water-                         to consult the superbly titled
tight. We glance fearfully at the                        Management of Snakebite in
large congregation of hippos in the                      Rhodesia (1964) that I picked up
middle of the river as water begins                      at the flea market in Harare for
to seep in around our feet. “Don’t                       R5 and we drive on, my hands
worry!” says our ranger. We swap                         shaking slightly.                 >




                                                                    ent
                                                                             ZAMBIA
                                                              carpm
                                                       ezi es
                                                  Zamb
                                                     Zambezi River
                              Nyamepi
                          (park headquarters)
                                                Chessa          (Nyamatusi
                                                                area)

                      Mucheni




                                                         Mana Pools
                                                         National Park




                                                                  Chitake




         Campsites
         International
         border
         Main roads           ZIMBABwe
         Minor roads
         Off-road track                                                               N
         Rivers               Marongora
         Protected are        Park office


www.gomag.co.za
 Lions FM Live at 9                       trees. “We’re very, very close now,”
                                          he whispers. His earpiece is bleep-
                                                                                    STARING CONTEST (above). On-foot lion
                                                                                    tracking offers face-to-face thrills with
                                                                                                                                “Right!” What? Through there!? We
                                                                                                                                clear a way and plough on.
“Try the Nyamatusi pride,” Norman         ing madly. Our hearts beat faster.        the felines.                                              Suddenly we see them
suggests. “They haven’t been              I’m walking at the back and glance                                                               – all nine. The lioness
tracked for a while.”                     nervously over my shoulder.                                                                      crouches a few metres
    With our armed guides Domingo             “There!” whispers Domingo. Just                                                               away at the edge of a
and Tendai we set out on the 4x4          20 m away, a lioness is crouching in                                                              clearing. Behind her, the
track to the remote Nyamatusi             the leaves, eyes boring into mine.                                                                bush is too thick and dan-
region of the park. It’s 9 am and the     “Too late – they’ve seen us!” he says.                                                             gerous to pursue them
theory is that the pride will be start-   The lioness turns her back and the                                                             any further. She glares at us
ing their mid-morning nap, and not        bush rustles as the four other lions                                                        as if to say “The game’s over,”
be in a mood to attack us.                we hadn’t seen begin running away                                                           snarls, takes two steps towards
    The drive is wonderfully scenic       from us.                                                                                    us and vanishes into the bush.
– the track winds through open                We return to the Landy to try
mopane forest and thick jesse bush,       to intercept the pride on the road.
crossing numerous dry rivers, past        Soon we spot them again, but this
herds of impala and waterbuck. It’s       time there are nine. “The ones           NO PLACE TO
been weeks since a tourist vehicle        we saw must have joined up with          HIDE (right).
came this way. After half an hour we      another pride” says Tendai. Great.       Domingo angles
                                                                                   for a better signal
stop and Domingo climbs onto the          We just walked through a pride we
                                                                                   on the radio-
roof to try to locate a radio signal.     didn’t know was there!                   collared pride.
Nothing.                                      “I want you to drive off-road for
    We drive on. Finally there’s a        a bit,” Domingo says. We look
weak signal and we park Oscar             nervously at the thick bush before
and set off on foot, the two rangers      slipping Oscar into low range
leading the way. We loop around           and bouncing off through ele-
slightly so as to approach from           phant-foot craters in pursuit
downwind. I can hear the receiver         of nine lions. “Left!” shouts
starting to bleep into Domingo’s          Domingo from the roof and
earpiece and he begins peering            I swing the wheel, narrowly
expectantly through the mopane            missing a large tree stump.
60 GO! September 2007
                                                                            NorTherN ZimbAbwe                      December Packages now
                                                                                                                             AVAILABLE!
                                                                                                                             ZANZIBAR
                                                                                                                           Arabian Nights BB
                                                                                                                          7 Nights from R5 968
                                                                                                                    Chgs R922* Total R6 890
                                                                                                                    Amazing guesthouse situated on one of the most
                                                                                                                    stunning beaches in Zanzibar. This is by far the
                                                                                                                    best value for money offered to the island. The
                                                                                                                    package includes return flights from
                                                                                                                    Johannesburg, breakfast daily and all transfers.
                                                                                                                    Valid: 01 August – 31 December 2007
                                                                                                                    Holiday supplements apply.




                                                                                                                   ZANZIBAR CHARTER PACKAGES
                                                                                                                         Zanzibar Safari Club
                                                                                                                          7 Nights from R7 514
                                                                                                                    Chgs R961* Total R8 475
                                                                                                                    Zanzibar Safari Club is just one of the six magical
                                                                                                                    resorts that are offered on the Zanzibar charter
                                                                                                                    packages that depart every Monday. The flight
                                                                                                                    times on these packages enables you to enjoy so
                                                                                                                    much more time in Zanzibar!
                                                                                                                    Valid: 17 September – 31 March 2007
                                                                                                                    Holiday supplements apply.




                                                                                                                                    EGYPT
  “ROOM” WITH A vIEW (above). At
                                        Camping with                            Next day, Domingo takes us                     Coral Package
  Mucheni camp, the riverbanks glow
  red at sunset.                        elephants                           kayaking again. We can see he’s
                                                                            excited. “We were lion tracking
                                                                                                                       10 Nights from R10 122
                                      Mucheni 2 is a so-called exclusive    with some tourists this morning         Chgs R965* Total R11 087
                                      camp on the banks of the Zam-         and the lioness caught an impala        This amazing package includes 1 night Cairo and a
                                      bezi. “Exclusive” not because it      in front of our eyes,” he says. “She    full day touring the Pyramids and Sphinx in Cairo.
                                                                            brought it down and let her cubs        One night on the sleeper train. 3 Night luxury Nile
                                      offers facilities, but because you
                                                                                                                    cruise from Aswan to Luxor, with visits to various
                                      have the patch of grass and a long    finish it off as a lesson.”
                                                                                                                    historical sights. Thereafter you enjoy 3 nights at
                                      drop all to yourself. But what a          Damn! Why do these things           Hurghada in a 5 star hotel on the Red Sea and
                                      camp spot! A whole panorama of        always happen to other people?          final night in Cairo.
                                      the river opens up – 25 hippos        We sit glumly in the kayak, scowl-      Valid: 01 January – 15 November 2007
                                      and still counting, and numerous      ing at the giant kingfisher and
                                      buffalos grazing on the nearby        frowning at the buffalos. If only…
                                      grassy islands. Crocs drift with
                                      the current.
                                                                                “I am most scared of the buf-
                                                                            falo,” Domingo says as we work
                                                                                                                       VICTORIA FALLS
                                          As we arrive, a young bull ele-   up a sweat paddling upstream,                      Gorges Lodge
                                      phant decides that the acacia tree    and he tells us how he was once
                                                                                                                          2 Nights from R2 162
                                      overlooking our camping table is      chased without his rifle all the way
                                      tastier than all the others before    to the park headquarters, much to       Chgs R952* Total R3 114
                                      he eventually ambles off, stopping    amusement of some tourists, who         Amazing views from an amazing lodge in
                                      to eye us curiously from a safer      videotaped the episode.                 Zimbabwe. Package includes return
                                      distance.                                 The riverbank is glowing pink       flights from Johannesburg, breakfast
  “we were lion tracking with             The sun sets over the Zambian     by the time we hang up our pad-         daily and all transfers. Be sure
                                                                                                                    to ask our consultants for longer stays
  some tourists this morning          escarpment and the music of           dles and make our way to Chessa
                                                                                                                    if you want to enjoy
                                                                            camp at Mana Mouth, where
  and the lioness caught an           the night is the sound of grunt-                                              adventure activities.
                                      ing hippos and buffalos wading        we’re soon enveloped by the
  impala in front of our eyes.        through the shallows. We’re           night, and the sounds of frogs
  She brought it down and let         stunned into silence by the beauty    croaking, impalas barking and
                                                                                                                    For bookings or info contact us
                                                                                                                    on 011 880 3079
  her cubs finish it off.”            of it all.                            monkeys screeching.                >    info@africanencounters.com
                                                                                                                    www.africanencounters.com
www.gomag.co.za
  Dead battery!                         “Not many people know this,
                                        but in winter our flood plain
In the morning, Oscar won’t start.
Dead battery.
                                        has the highest concen-
   We’re contemplating an adrena-       tration of large herbivores
line-pumping 8 km walk back to the      (elephants, hippos, buffalos)
main camp when another Landy            in southern Africa. we have
with GP plates rolls up – the first     35 hippos and six crocodiles
and last South African tourists we
see in northern Zimbabwe! In no
                                        per kilometre of river.”
time Oscar’s up and running again.
   We decide to take a stroll around
Long Pool – one of the numerous
residual lakes created in ages gone     UP FOR GRABS (right). Acacia pods are
                                        a favourite afternoon snack for this
by, when the Zambezi cut a different
                                        young elephant.
path across the flood plain. Even
without any wildlife this would be                                                    Chitake is one of those places        unmarked 4x4 track, which we fol-
a beautiful place. Shafts of sunlight                                              where it’s okay to be scared. We’ve      low for 5 km across dry streams and
cast beams across the bush, forming                                                been warned already. At the Parks        mopane bush to a patch of flattened
a soft blue haze that seems to hover                                               and Wildlife booking office in           grass and a sign reading “Chitake”.
among the trees. We stalk a herd                                                   Harare, the official laughed as he       So this is it. I step into the dry river-
of eland and, stopping by the pool,                                                said: “At Chitake, the lions will lick   bed. There is lion spoor everywhere.
watch as a herd of elephants comes      IF LOOKS COULD KILL (opposite). A          your feet!”                              Is that a lion? No, a tree stump. I
down to drink.                          feasting lion lets the photographer know      Senior Warden Norman Monks’           turn to walk back and almost jump
   But it’s time to leave the “exclu-   she’d rather dine alone.                   parting words were: “Seriously, be       out of my skin. Not 30 m away is
sive” camps of the Zambezi river for    WE SEE YOU, WE SMELL YOU (below).          careful at Chitake.”                     a herd of about 150 buffalos and a
the wildest camp of all, Chitake, by    Large herds of buffalo and elephant con-      We soon see why. In a remote          dozen or so elephants to boot. Yikes!
a spring and a riverbed.                gregate just metres from Chitake camp.     corner of the park, we turn onto an      I tiptoe back to the car, wide-eyed.




62 GO! September 2007
                                      NorTherN ZimbAbwe
                                                                              Zanzibar Holidays
                                                                                Direct Flights from Johannesburg




                                                                                     7 Nights From R 4 745
                                                                              Hotel Packages at Sunset Beach Hotel
                                                                             Standard Room . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . from R4745
                                                                             Deluxe Beach Room. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . from R5375
                                                                              Includes complimentary day tour to the Spice Farms and Historic
                                                                              Stone Town.
                                                                             Fares exclude airport taxes of +/- R950 per person and Zanzibar visa fees
                                                                             and departure taxes. Fares include direct flights from Johannesburg, 7 nights
                                                                             accommodation including breakfast and roundtrip transfers. High and peak
                                                                             season surcharges apply from 03 December 2007 to 07 January 2008. Prices
                                                                             are per person based on 2 persons sharing.
                                                                             Packages are subject to availability, airfare increases and currency fluctuations.
                                                                              Weekly departures Mondays from 17 September 2007.

                                                                              Private Beach Villas




  So close, we can                    bed. Impalas drink nearby, two
  hear them breathe                   kudus stare curiously. An ele-
                                      phant meanders past. But wait a                Zi Villa                  Zi Manor                    Zi Beach
We can hear him, but we can’t         second. I grab the binos for the            From   R9850                From R7750                  From R7450
see him. During the night, that       20th time. There are six lions
unmistakable rasping grunt of a
large male lion. And close. We
cook breakfast nervously, and
                                      lying in the bushes just 50 m
                                      away. “This place is infested with
                                      lions!” Anne-Sophie says. We beat
                                                                             E    xplore the exotic spice islands from the luxury of your exclusive
                                                                                  beach villa. All villa bedrooms are en-suite and offer total
                                                                             privacy. Each of the villas has its own pool and private chef.
casting an eye around the “camp-      a hasty retreat. Paranoia begins to
site” we notice an alarming pro-      take over and we glance around                  Access the website on www.zivilla.co.za
fusion of buffalo bones and           timidly into the thick bush around     Fares exclude charges of +/- R950 per person and Zanzibar visa fees and
remains of other, recent-looking      our camp. Is that rustle a monkey      departure taxes. Prices are per person for each of 8 people sharing each
lion kills. We decide to take a       or is it that big male lion we still   Villa. Prices for fewer guests available on request. Fares include direct
drive rather than a walk.             haven’t seen?                          flights from Johannesburg, 7 nights accommodation including full board
    We’re hardly over the river-         At sunset we return to the kill.    and roundtrip transfers. High and peak season surcharges applicable during
                                                                             school holidays and December.
bank when we see vultures cir-        There is no one else for miles
cling and, drawing closer, the        around. Three more beasts and          Packages are subject to availability, airfare increases and currency fluctuations.
kill. There, just off the track, 10   two cubs have arrived and we            Weekly departures Mondays from 17 September 2007.
lions are ripping a buffalo apart,    count no fewer than 20, grunting,
and we spot five more in the
bushes. From just 4 m away we
watch for two hours as they
                                      snarling lions ravaging the
                                      remains of the buffalo. Their
                                      coats glow pink in the light of the
                                                                                           STARLIGHT
                                                                                                      TRAVEL & TOURS
devour the carcass.                   setting sun.
    Back at the campsite, we sit         When it gets dark, we make a                          Reservations : (011) 234 3840
writing diaries in the shady river-   big, big fire.                                            Website : www.starlight-travel.co.za
                                                                                                E-Mail : info @starlight-travel.co.za
www.gomag.co.za
NorTherN ZimbAbwe

           MANA
                                      101
                                                                                Getting in. Make reservations           What to take. Visitors have to be
                                                                                with the helpful Parks and Wildlife     self-sufficient. The main camp at
                                                                                headquarters in Harare by phoning       Nyamepi has basic but functional

           POOLS                                                                  00 263 4 706077/8. You’ll need to
                                                                                make a bank transfer for park fees
                                                                                (R84 per person for up to seven days
                                                                                                                        ablution facilities (including hot
                                                                                                                        water), but if you’re staying at one
                                                                                                                        of the “exclusive” camps you’ll need
When to go. It gets really hot in     accommodation have to be paid for         and R35 per vehicle) and accommo-       to take everything, including water.
summer, so May to October are         in either rands or US dollars.            dation fees to confirm the reserva-
                                                                                                                        Where to stay. Camping options
the best months to visit. The cool        Ask around discreetly for the best    tion. Book early for July and August.
                                                                                                                        are Nyamepi main camp (R42 per
days of July and August are ideal,    place to exchange money on the            In the quieter months you could just
                                                                                                                        person per night) and seven “exclu-
when scarce water sources attract     parallel market (a working petrol         try pitching up (we did – in May).
                                                                                                                        sive” camps (R70 per person per
large numbers of game.                station is a good start) and keep tabs
                                                                                Buying food. When we visited,           night). We recommend Mucheni 2
                                      on the rate. Never exchange money
Money matters. Leave credit                                                     supermarkets in the larger towns        and Chitake, but all are superb.
                                      on the street, and exchange only a
cards at home. Since the “parallel                                              stocked all the basics. Fresh meat         Four lodges on the banks of the
                                      small amount at a time.
market” rate is currently more                                                  and beer were cheaper than in           Zambezi, sleeping four to eight, are
than 200 times the official rate      Getting there. You need a 4x4 to          South Africa. The situation in Zim-     available, at a cost of about R960
(and more than doubling every         see everything Mana Pools has to          babwe is highly unstable at the         per night for eight people – book
month), don’t even set foot in a      offer. Bite the bullet and drive up via   moment, however. At the time of         well in advance.
bank (the queues will drive you       Harare from Johannesburg, or make         going to press, newspapers report-
insane anyway). Take enough cash      a longer trip out of it and travel via    ed that supermarket shelves were
– park fees and most hotel            Caprivi and Vic Falls.                    empty in many places.




7 misconceptions
 about visiting Zimbabwe

1. They’ll fleece me at                delayed. As long as you’re not carry-    duty-free, so, if in doubt, load up     visitors are not really affected.
the border… We had no                  ing any weapons, there shouldn’t         the jerry cans (no plastic containers   Avoid discussing politics unless
problems at border crossings.          be a hold-up.                            allowed). If the customs man sug-       you’re sure who you’re talking to.
Immigration and customs staff                                                   gests otherwise, be polite but firm.
were friendly and courteous, and       3. I thought the country                                                         6. Most of the game
we sailed through in 20 minutes or     had run out of fuel? Pri-                4. Machete-wielding                     has been shot. Poaching is
less.                                  vate fuel companies are importing        war vets are rampaging                  a problem in some areas, but game
                                       petrol and diesel directly and there     in the countryside. If they             numbers in northern Zimbabwe
2. …and at the check-                  are rarely shortages in the major        are, we never heard about them.         seem not to have been affected.
points. We stocked up on ciga-         towns. A litre costs R7 and can be
rettes for this purpose, but didn’t    paid for in hard currency. Contrary      5. The police beat people               7. It’s not safe. We never felt
use them once. Smiles are the order    to popular belief, up to 2 000 litres    up in the streets. Political            unsafe. Be aware, be sensible and
of the day and we were never           of fuel per person can be imported       violence is a growing problem, but      have an adventure.
64 GO! September 2007

				
DOCUMENT INFO