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Found 61 results

  1. I feel that I have to apologise for the severe delay in posting this TR and at least need to START before I leave for Africa again in a few weeks' time. Life has somewhat taken over in the past couple of months. My father in law was admitted to hospital whilst we were away and died two weeks after our return. The 14 weeks since we have been back therefore have been somewhat of a blur, but with the festive season, we have had time to decompress (and process 9000 photos) so now I can start, if not finish, before we go to the Kruger. We were not sure that we could afford a "posh" safari in 2017, given the hammering that the pound received following Brexit. We thought that it may need to be South Africa again, given that all other countries charge in US $, which are now 20% more expensive for us to buy. I had booked flights a year in advance with air miles and had managed a first for us - we would be flying first class! So, when I rang our travel agents with our dates, it was completely without expectation. In fact, my opening line was "I don't think that we can afford this, but give it a go and we'll see what we can do". This prompted a long stay discount for African Bush Camps and free return flights for Matusadona and we did not fall off of our chairs at the cost when she returned with an itinerary! In fact, it was not much more than our first Zim trip cost in 2011 (given that the infrastructure has now improved e.g. scheduled flights), albeit not including the international flights and it would be our longest safari ever - we had a deal! We took a suggested night out at Vic Falls, as we had been there in dry season before and decided to break the journey in Johannesburg, as on our previous trip, the 25 hours of travelling half killed us! So we would stay with our friends overnight in JNB and drive to the airport the following morning. Itinerary 31/8 Overnight LHR to JNB 1/9 Overnight in JNB 2/9 JNB to VFA, internal flight to Hwange Somalisa Main Camp, 4 nights 6/9 Internal flight to Matusadona Changa Safari camp, 4 nights 10/9 Internal flight to Mana Main Zambezi Expeditions 3 nights Kanga Camp 3 nights 16/9 Internal flight Mana to Harare (refuelling at Kariba), Harare to JNB, JNB to LHR (quite tiring) 17/9 Home So 2 nights in the air, 1 in JNB and a massive 14 in the bush. Given it was our first experience of first class, I couldn't resist taking some iPhone photos.... Dedicated check in area Leading to a very quiet dedicated security line, that leads straight into the lounge, where the Concorde room has a restaurant before you then eat again on the plane - starter main notice the proper glassware and table setting! two windows back in Africa Sorry, I realise that this is a safari forum, not a plane spotter's one, but it was all pretty impressive and unlikely to be repeated often (certainly not paying cash!). It is very nice having your bed made for you, with proper linens as well as being in the nose of a jumbo. Being at the front of the plane, we disembarked quickly, but there was still a bit of a queue for immigration, but not too bad. Very slick service at the Avis desk to get our 24 hour car hire (actually managing to use a free rental voucher for once) and despite there being 3 separate accidents on the motorway, we got to the Northern Suburbs of Joburg at about when expected and could chill out and catch up with our friends for the rest of the day.
  2. Zimbabwe has had some big changes made in the last few weeks and we on the ground there, are all very positive that we have a more positive future in store with some really good messages coming from our new leadership. So for those who have boycotted Zimbabwe on political grounds I encourage you to have a rethink and support our wild areas and people of Zimbabwe. We have a full range of safari camps and beautiful National Parks to visit and I believe some of the best value for money experiences in Africa. Please contact me and we can discuss a range of options that will work for you, this is a good opportunity to see some of the best wildlife areas of Africa.
  3. Having spent two weeks, last month, in the Western Cape, on the way back home, I made a stop-over of eight days in Zimbabwe, at Camp Hwange again. This time, it was very hot (around 42° C) and dry, as we will see on the pictures, but not as it should normally be at this time of the year. Indeed, some trees, mostly teaks, were already covered with leaves. Is it because of the last rainy season, which had been extremely wet, and late rains in June? The two days before my arrival, there had also been a few heavy showers. The large natural pans were not yet completely dry as they should have been, but apart from Salt Pan and Dwarf Goose Pan, they were only good for mud baths. Salt Pan Dwarf Goose Pan But as far as wildlife is concerned, everything was as it should be at this time of the year, namely: A lot of elephants, Large herds of buffaloes, Many lions (I’ve seen about 35 different lions and most of them several times), A few leopards, And many active scavengers. I unfortunately did not see the male cheetah which regularly visits the concession (there are several marking spots). This male covers a large territory and had been seen during several days before the day of my arrival. As for wild dogs, they had been seen at Mandavu. Twice, we went to Little Toms and Big Toms to see the Toms pride, but in fact it was not necessary to go so far to see anything as there was always activity around the waterhole in front of the camp.
  4. As last year, I left Selinda in the middle of the morning and landed at Kasane at noon. A driver was waiting for me. The formalities at the two border posts were carried out, as usual, without problems. Two hours later, we reached Hwange Town where we turned right and quickly arrived at Mbala Gate where my guide of last year, Washington Sibandi, was waiting for me. He was again my guide but only for the three first days. For the two last days, I joined Adam Jones, who was guiding a keen photographer who was in camp for fifty-five days. For information, the journey to the camp is about 2 hours and a half if you do not see anything spectacular on the way. In this year of heavy rains, the situation was similar to that of Selinda ; water everywhere, on the roads and on the plains. Hwange had, moreover, given itself some airs of Okavango. So apart from hippos, shy elands, solitary elephants and some plains game, we did not see a lot of mammals. No matter what, we were again able to focus on birds and smaller creatures. There were nevertheless some good and interesting sightings of lions, leopard, martial eagle, spotted eagle owls and…… bullfrogs. Concerning the camp itself, nothing more to add to what I wrote in the report on my stay last November : still a great place with great people. The day of my arrival, between Masuma and Shumba, we found the Masuma pride making its way on the road. Unfortunately, it did not stay there and disappeared very quickly on the left side in the mopanes and the kopjes. When we arrived at the camp, we were told that four lions, two females and two sub adults, called the Super Models, had been spotted nearby. Photo taken in the space between the hood of the vehicle and the windscreen, turned down on it. One of the two dominant males of the Masuma pride, Liam or Mandla, seen near Masuma. Another lion, this one nomadic, was heard roaring every night and even seen by other guests feeding on a dead elephant.
  5. I'm just so disgusted with humanity right now. Nothing else to say, I don't want to get into the whole lion hunting debate all over again, but I hadn't seen this posted yet; I thought folks here would want to know.
  6. Reports To read the full article click here.
  7. Last month, while I was at Camp Hwange, I had the opportunity to visit Dave Carson’s new bush camp, simply called Hwange Bush Camp. It’s a semi-permanent camp, that opened in May and only for seven months until November, located in the remote northern part of the park, near Deteema, half way between Robin’s Camp and the crossroads with the main road from Sinamatella to Main Camp . The camp is managed by one of the best Zim pro guides and certainly the best for that part of Hwange, the experienced Spike Williamson. Here are some pictures that I made during my visit. For more information, here is the address of a website :
  8. As @@twaffle stated in her superb trip report , there are many trip reports on Mana Pools, and it's hard to imagine I have anything new to offer. But, I for one, love reading EVERYTHING I can get my hands on while trip planning, and so there may be something I write that inspires someone else, so I will push on. I also like preparing these trip reports, as they become like a diary to me, to read on those dreary work days when Africa seems just too far away, and I need to remind myself why I continue to work! And so it was, after reading many of these said reports on Mana Pools, and of the reportedly outstanding Doug MacDonald, that I found myself, on the 2nd of December 2014, sending these words to Doug: "Hi Doug, I feel really silly asking, but I hear you book up really quickly, so I was wondering how far ahead I should book you if I wanted a September 2016 private safari in Zimbabwe?" Doug, to his credit, did not make fun of me, and did in fact answer my email (which the other guide I contacted at the same time did not, and still hasn't), and we started planning our adventure. Initially I had another couple coming with hubby and I, but unfortunately they had to pull out only a few months out from the trip. Fortunately we were able to go on our trip regardless, although with some changes and extra expenses for us. Our itinerary was: Depart Brisbane 16th September 2016, then 2 nights Victoria Falls, 4 nights Davison's camp in Hwange, 3 nights Chitake Springs, and 6 nights Mucheni 2 on the floodplains. We were supposed to have 2 nights in the Chikwenya Lodge as well, with 4 in Mucheni 2, but they changed hands and shut, so we ended up remaining on the floodplains. Our original itinerary had Doug guiding us in Hwange, but unfortunately when our friends pulled out it just added to the cost too much, and so we didn't meet Doug until Mana Pools. I wish we had had Doug guiding in Hwange From Mana Pools we flew to Harare, then on to Johannesburg to stay overnight, before heading up to Rwanda and Uganda to see the gorillas (trip report here ) Australia to Africa is a long way! This time we flew South African Airlines from Brisbane to Perth and then Perth to Johannesburg, where we had a 6 hour stopover at 5am. I had slept quite well on the Perth to Jo'burg flight, but we elected to get a room at the airport hotel (cost around US$70) to get another few hours sleep. It was a good decision. When we landed in Victoria Falls, we felt refreshed and ready to go. We stayed at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, overlooking the lovely waterhole and the vast Zimbabwe plains. Our first activity (all planned and booked by Doug), was the sunset cruise on the Signature Deck of the Zambezi Explorer. It was a lovely relaxing introduction to our safari. Hubby anxiously awaiting his first Zimbabwe beer of the trip! Having slept well overnight, we were up very early as Doug had arranged for us to be picked up at 5.30am, to get to the gates of Victoria Falls in time for opening, and sunrise at 6am. I had found a small ebook about how to photograph Victoria Falls, so I knew I wanted to head straight for Viewpoint 8, to get a shot of the falls with the sun rising.... this one.... Unfortunately we weren't the first photographers lining up at the gate, so the other two, who also know where to head, ended up getting a slightly better position to my left. Never mind - they were very kind and let me sidle up as close to their tripod as I could! I took many shots of the falls: We had thought about crossing to Zambia for a dip in Devil's Pool, but then we thought - ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND!!! - and elected not to!! This was the only spot there was a rainbow at the time we were there. It was the correct time of the month to photograph moon bows when we were there, but we didn't do it. It is quite a different view from the Zambian side! Being dry season the water was low, which made it quite interesting I thought, with the variation in the water flow along the falls, and we also didn't get wet! I was there in January 1999, and I got absolutely soaked! It was much easier photographing the falls without constantly worrying about a wet lens. Back on the Zimbabwean end, there was an astonishing amount of water here! I could stand and watch water like that all day. Of course we had to say hello to Dr Livingstone too: We were on a tight schedule, though, as we were being picked up at the gates at 8am for our helicopter ride. We had wanted to go early, before the really harsh light, but it did mean we only spent 2hours at the Falls that morning. We had planned to possibly go back (which would have meant paying another entrance fee) but we ended up elsewhere....(it involves cocktails and lawns!).
  9. We left Selinda in the middle of the morning and landed at Kasane at noon after a stop at Savute to board a few extra passengers. A driver was waiting for us. The formalities at the two border posts were carried out, as usual, without problems. Two hours later, we reached Hwange Town where we turned right and quickly arrived at Mbala Gate where our guide, for the next five days, was waiting for us. Along the gravel road that leads to Sinamatella, we saw some kudus and warthogs and a breeding herd of elephants. During the five days that followed, we only saw a few solitary males but no more herds. Why? Simply because of the weather. Indeed, all along this route, the weather gradually deteriorated and when, late in the afternoon, we arrived at Camp Hwange, the sky was dark. It’s the only cheetah seen throughout the trip. It’s a male who was on arrival near the camp. The following days, we found its tracks without seeing it again. As you can see, the sky was already threatening. The following day (and night), it rained, in a regular way, of a light rain, the sky remaining overcast, with the consequence that a lot of mammals, in dispersing, had left the proximity of the artificial water holes. The following days, the sun was back with however, which did not help things of course, the passage, at the beginning of the evening of the second day, of a violent thunder storm which lasted less than an hour bringing nearly twice as much water than the twenty-four hours of rain from the previous day. We were on a game drive, close to the camp, more precisely at Shumba Pan, when we saw, in the distance, the black clouds approaching. We got back immediately. We had hardly arrived until the elements suddenly broke out in the form of torrential rains limiting visibility to barely twenty meters. The amount of rain was so high that the Kalahari sands could not absorb it fast enough so that a water depth of a few centimeters remained on the ground during the storm. Another result of these first rains was the appearance of scorpions and snakes, mainly non-venomous. It’s also the time for the nuptial flight of termites to occur. Those termites make the happiness of all, mammals, birds, reptiles, batrachians, adding to their daily menu. So we did not see a lot of animals (I think that my quota of mammals for this trip had been reached during the previous ten days in Botswana ). I had a similar experience, in the same weather conditions, in 2004 in Selinda, also in November. The first two nights and early mornings, we heard the roaring lions but then could not find them; we saw leopard spoors and even found the remains of a prey (duiker) in the teak forest but there also without seeing it or them. No matter what, we were able to focus almost only on birds; around 125 species were seen and identified. I had never even seen some species before, such as eurasian hobby, indian myna and the melanistic form of the gabar goshawk, but also steppe buzzard and african cuckoo. Some might tell me it was a hit and miss. I do not see it that way. Indeed, I really enjoyed those five days at Camp Hwange, one of the best camps I have been given to visit in Africa during the last twenty years. Unlike a lot of camps, Camp Hwange is not part of a group ; it’s the property of professional guide Dave Carson. It’s a great camp because emphasis is placed on high level guiding and safari experience. There are eight rooms, all facing the water hole. They are constructed so that you can observe what happens there whether you are in the shower, in front of the sink or even in bed. The camp is managed, with a great sense of hospitality, by Zimpro guide Julian Brockstein and his wife Ashleigh. The other guides are the veteran Spike Williamson, Adam Jones, who recently obtained his pro licence, and two learners. One of them, Washington, was our guide during the five days. I was surprised by the level of competence of this one that already exceeded that of quite a lot of guides of other African countries. Julian taught me a lot of things, which I did not know, about less prestigious creatures like the common egg-eater (it's a non-venomous snake without fangs) because he found, after the storm, three of them in front of my room. It also taught me that the scorpions are luminescent, when exposed to the light, all particularly the starry nights of full moon and a fortiori when one points at them a flashlight. And, less important certainly but nevertheless good to take, the food is gorgeous. To find out more about Camp Hwange and the tests that a Zimpro guide has to go through to obtain his license, I urge you, if you have not already done so, to read the interview that Julian Brockstein gave two years ago to @@Game Warden. By the large number of bones and skulls (at one time I thought I had discovered the elephant cemetery ), as well as dried elephant dung, found on the concession and especially around the water hole, I told myself that the animal activity had to be great in the dry season. This was confirmed to me by the guides, increasingly as we move forward in the dry season. What makes October the best month to get there. It seems that then and especially around Masuma dam, the lions regularly kill elephants. Masuma Dam November 2016. Masuma Dam, May 1998. Dead elephant at Shumba Pan.
  10. This is just too good not to share! Come and see some of the highlights of Zimbabwe. The incredible Victoria Falls, beautiful and diverse Hwange National Park and finally the unique Matopos with its stunning granite Kopjes, ancient rock paintings and a healthy rhino population. What is even more exciting is that being the Green Season (January to April) there is no single supplement. You would fly into Victoria Falls and out of Bulawayo (there is a daily flight out to Johannesburg at lunchtime with South Africa Airways) This is what the package will include: $2, 682 per person - single or sharing All transfers 2 nights at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge in a Club Room - bed and breakfast with complimentary mini bar Sunset River Cruise 3 nights at Khulu Hwange - Fully Inclusive 3 nights at Camp Amalinda Matopos - Fully Inclusive See full information through the link below Zimbabwe Green Season Special 2017 We would love to hear from you if you would like more information or to book. Contact Chloe at
  11. I'd first heard stories of an old, abandoned and almost forgotten camp in the Southern section of Hwange National Park whilst on safari in Zimbabwe with @@Safaridude : our guide, Benson Siyawareva shared scant details of a place which was now but a memory, dusty and cobwebbed but that was situated on a migratory pathway for elephants between Botswana and Zimbabwe. I've dreamt since that day of rediscovering this safari relic; as Martin and Osa Johnson had their Lake Paradise in Kenya, so I had a camp in the southern section of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Fast foward a couple of years and I heard through Mark Butcher, director of Imvelo Safari Lodges that he had taken over the lease of a long abandoned safari camp, Jozibanini and was in the process of developing a rustic, adventure style camp in an area of the park long devoid of safari tourists: of course, my attention roused, could this be the fabled place of which Benson had told me? It was imperative I found out more so I set about putting my questions to Mark in the following interview... -------------------------------------- Why is the Southern sector of Hwange underdeveloped in tourism terms? The southern sector of Hwange is underdeveloped full stop. Both by tourism and all park development, and this is a factor of geography and history. Firstly, just getting to Jozibanini which is a jump off point for the far south, is a long days drive from Main Camp, when you consider it is less than 150 km this gives you an idea about the roads ... long sections of very deep sand often low range 4 WD stuff. Also historically some of the older park plans set aside the southern wilderness areas not to be developed at all, so tourism was not encouraged there. Its viability was always going to be marginal. How does this area differ in terms of wildlife densities, flora and topography in comparison to other areas of Hwange, especially the more oft visited and popular areas? Wildlife densities in wet season are very similar to large parts of the rest of Hwange ... "this is where the elephant go in the wet season", dry season prior to us re-establishing pumped water wildlife densities were very low, in the1980's and '90's when it was being pumped I personally remember Jozibanini as 'being one of the waterholes where there were the most elephant in the dry season'. Flora and topography - very unique - two distinct and unique types down there: Jozibanini Fossil Sand Dunes. Firstly the fossil sand dunes are particularly well developed here, deep sand with teak forest on the fossil dunes and then Mopani / Leadwood combretum in the inter dune troughs with ephemeral wet season pans strung along them. Secondly the Dzivanini mud flats / basalt / mopani woodlands - some of the best Mopane woodlands in Hwange What are the seasonal differences in terms of wildlife behaviour, movement? What do you consider the best time to visit Jozibanini and why? Wet season here is a great opportunity to see Hwange's elephant enjoying their paradise... However as the dry season starts so game viewing becomes easier as wildlife concentrates around a smaller number of ephemeral waterholes and the pumped water. Best time to visit Jozi depends on what you're looking for ... if it's the intense large numbers of elephant/other wildlife concentrated experience as per my blog, (following the interview), then from late July onwards perhaps to Aug/ Sept ... if it's the green 'wet season paradise' stuff then I would go for a April /May ... if its the intense life and death drama of animals struggling for survival then it's Oct/ Nov ... they're all different but they're all good. Full moon is awesome because you can gaze out over the Jozi pan thronged with elephant at night, but moonless nights are staggering for their stars and the star beds on the decks of the Jozi tents are a major bonus. What are predator numbers believed to be and has there been any research conducted in this area of the park in recent years? Predator numbers are low because prey numbers are low because the game water supply system collapsed during the 2000's - interestingly Hwange Lion Research did a big spoor transect exercise thru the area a couple years back and discovered lower Lion densities but higher Leopard densities than other parts of the Park - and last year we sighted on a couple of different occasions a pack of over 20 plus Wild dog unknown to Painted Dog Conservation project, ... so interesting stuff. How many pumped pans/waterpoints were originally in the area, and in what state were they when you first conducted site inspections? How important is it to renovate existing waterpoints/establish new ones? The area, (?), depends where you draw the line ... when we got busy here during the '2013 poisonings' we found all the pumps and engines west and south of Mpisi hadn't been pumped for over 10 years - this included Makona, Jozibanini, Basha and Mitswiri as well as several others abandoned when they collapsed in the early 2000's e.g. Little Mitswiri. One of the biggest revelations I had was in 2012 with a film crew working in Hwange asked me to show them what Hwange would be like if we closed off the pumped water. I said I would take them to Jozi where the pumps had not pumped for more than 10 years and they could expect to see no animals and a dry dust bowl. However, when we arrived there in Oct 2012 we did indeed find a dust bowl but much to my surprise, also several herds of elephants... Jozibanini Borehole, not working for about 10 years: the elephants remembered... Those poor old matriarchs were leading their exhausted herds over 30 km from the nearest pumped water to where they remembered water used to be pumped desperately hoping to find the pumps back up and running. Is it important to renovate those old holes? Personally I believe we have a moral obligation to do it, because we built up a huge population of wildlife around those old waterholes and to just turn them off is wrong. The second reason is that leaving them turned off leaves a vacuum in that part of the park filled by poachers and under the threat of an invasion by the cattle herding residents of Tsholothso Tribal area, as is what happened during 2012 and 2013 - by re-establishing water we re-establish wildlife and make tourism possible, which fills that vacuum with a more desirable land use. The other factor that was pronounced during the '2013 poisonings' was that the law enforcement response had no place to obtain drinking water, so their patrols and their presence was limited. By simply re-establishing the water at Makona and Jozibanini in 2014 we have enabled a permanent law enforcement presence in this part of the park. Establishing new ones? A very important question ... today we recognise that the establishment of the artificial water supply system in Hwange was in hindsight perhaps not well thought out, however it is a fact and now we have a massive wildlife population, tourism industry and neighbouring communities all dependant on it continuing, so we can't turn it off - but we probably shouldn't be expanding it, the thinking as elucidated during the recent Park planning process with Ian Games and AWF was that it was okay to continue pumping at existing waterholes as the vegetation around them was pretty much just a sacrifice area anyway, and any 'new holes' would only be allowed at these sites i.e., new holes at previously unpumped water holes is not encouraged/not allowed. What is the history of the Jozibanini site? Why did you choose to develop a camp here? How much infrastructure existed and what were your first impressions upon initial site inspections and how did you envisage the new camp developing? Jozibanini was originally established as a Ranger station around 1972, and that Ranger station was built by then Senior Ranger Charlie Mackie, (at present sadly very sick), as a base from which this huge portion of the park could be managed and looked after. In the late 1990's a lease was set up to establish a tourism camp here that just got going in time for the tourism crash in 2000, the camp was abandoned and the lease was defaulted. A few years later the Ranger station was also abandoned and that whole portion of the Park pretty much left to its own devices. The worst story from that era was the pump attendants at Basha waterhole were literally forgotten and they finally, after being without resupply for several months, were attacked by elephants at night in their tin hut, from which they somehow managed to escape and walked thirsty and half starved to Makona. Pump attendants accomodation, Basha waterhole. In the wake of all this abandonment, poaching into the southern part became intense, mostly through the use of wire snares cut from the EU sponsored veterinary FMD control fence along the boundary, many many tons of wire was turned into wire snares and the wildlife with limited water was decimated. In the drought of 2012 this culminated in the biggest natural die off of Elephant we had ever seen, that resulted in plenty of 'dead' ivory available for pick up by poachers roaming in this part of the park, they then figured out how to sell ivory locally, (back doors of Chinese mines and businesses). In 2013 there was better rainfall and so no 'natural' mortality, so poachers who had now figured out how to sell ivory then figured out how to kill elephant using cyanide pellets stolen from gold mines in Southern Matabeleland. The '2013 poisonings' were not one incident but a number of incidents perpetrated by several gangs over several months, in the southern area of Hwange about 130 elephants were killed, (not the 300 claimed by some, many of those counted were dead from the previous year's drought). Fortunately the law enforcement response was strong and surprisingly usually tight lipped community members shocked by the horror of the poison did divulge information and a number of the individuals responsible were arrested and many were identified but fled the country. In the aftermath we approached the Warden, (now called Area manager), at Main Camp and we suggested to him that to prevent a re-occurrence of the poaching, the ranger station at Jozibanini needed to be re-opened, he said that in the absence of funds it would be impossible so why didn't we try to resuscitate the old tourism camp lease to establish a presence there, we contacted the owner of that lease purchased it and also agreed to assist Parks in the establishment of a new ranger station nearby at Makona. Which has happened Makona Ranger station and staff, May 2016. What was the planning brief for the new camp? The old abandoned and pretty ruined camp built in the late 1990's we decided was not worth fixing up and its style, (thatched rondavel type chalets), was not really in keeping with what we wanted to do, so we decided initially to set up a basic tented adventure type camp, that we will build on as demand grows. One of the biggest tasks initially was to drag a huge drilling rig in there to redrill the old wells, part of that required a massive 6 wheel drive truck so we opted, since we were taking that in, to load it with a 'Look Up Blind', our 20 foot steel shipping containers that we bury to ground level and equip with running water and loo. The Jozi 'Look up' provided us with some very intense 'Elephant TV' during last year's dry season. The Look Up hide, in place, and providing intimate sightings How important is the development of Jozibanini for the southern sector, the wildlife and local communities? How will the latter be involved in the new camp and receive the benefits increased tourism brings? The development and success of Jozi is absolutely critical to the southern part of Hwange, without our presence there, there is nothing ... so the cockroaches come out to play again. All staff are hired from local community and those with poaching on their CV are preferred. One of my hopes for the future is that the original inhabitants of this part of the park were the few families of San that Davison found when he came to work, most of their descendants live now in two villages at Gibi Xegu and Makulela, and are very much disenfranchised and forgotten. As more staff are required as the project grows we're looking to hiring as many of their young people as we can afford, to get them back into their park and give them useful employment. I'm looking forward to having some of those bright eyed keen young San men out front on our walking and biking trails. Work with nearby schools has already started, we've used some of our philanthropy money to build a class room block and 2 teachers houses at Sihazela School and I'm looking forward to taking our Dentists down there, if not this year then next How will you market Jozibanini and how will it compliment the Imvelo portfolio? To which type of guest would the camp be best suited? Jozi right now works well as a 2 or 3 night "Adventure Add on" to an existing Hwange or Imvelo trip. For example, if someone is interested in a 3 nights Camelthorn and 3 nights Nehimba package then they can look at a 2 night adventure add on to Jozi: An all day safari through the park with picnic lunch, ending in the late afternoon for sundowners at Jozi, an activity we call the pump run! then a couple of nights there before either returning to Camelthorn or Bomani or carrying on to Nehimba. I have said that it is probably best suited for experienced safari goers looking for something different, but having said that 2 of our groups last year were first timers and loved it. When they got back to Camelthorn, they were bragging to the other guests around the dinner table how they'd been off roughing it with bucket showers and star beds. How many guests can the camp accomodate and what are the tented facilities comprised of - how is the camp set up? How are game drives scheduled? Will there be the use of private vehicles if required by guests? Right now we have 3 tents each set up for 2 guests so for now maximum of 6, though if we get the bookings very easy to add more tents as time goes on Each tent comprises: a 12 sq m bedroom area, an en suite bath room comprising bucket shower, flush loo and running cold water only hand basin a 12 sq m front deck for star beds So far we have only had one group at a time so each group has a dedicated full pro guide and so activities decided day by day as discussed and planned with guests - game drives, game walks and combination, bike rides, Look Up blind, all day drive etc Another interesting aside is that Mike Ross ex Zimbo and founder of Mike Ross Travel in the UK who passed away tragically last year, we took him to Jozi in 2014 to help kind of figure out what the hell could be done with it and he came up with a number of good ideas and assisted greatly in conceptualising it - we named one of the tents 'Mike's Tent' in his memory - it was actually built on the spot under an Acacia tree where he had slept on a bed roll during his visit. Mark adds his thoughts in the following blog post which he's given me permission to publish... Sunset at Jozi... Images courtesy and copyright Mark Butcher, One can also read @@Soukous's interview with Mark, here, and his article about Hwange's elephant dilemma here. The views expressed therein are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Safaritalk.
  12. not again , this case is seriously disturbing there have been more new cases with 5 related arrests waterholes and food have been poisoned probably with cyanide in the Sinametela area of Hwange plus part of matusdadona I am sorry links don't work well for me story title FIVE POACHERS ARRESTED FOR ELEPHANT POISONING you can get multiple sources by looking up elephant poisoning Zimbabwe 2015 the use of cyanide has been confirmed by pathology tests oranges, corn cobs and salt were left out in the bush very bad in a place with an appauling record
  13. I’ve been back from Zimbabwe for a while now, but it was quite busy at home, so it took me a while to find the time to post this trip report. My wife and I went to Zimbabwe with nothing booked except a stay at Hwange at the end of our 2,5 week trip. This ended up to be our trip itinerary: Flight from Amsterdam to Jo’burg, next day flight to Bulawayo, 3 nights including full day trip to Matopos Bulawayo to Victoria Falls by public bus, 2 nights Victoria Falls to Chobe, 2 nights Chobe to Victoria Falls, 5 nights Victoria Falls to Hwange by Intercape/Pathfinder, 3 nights Hwange to Bulawayo, 1 night Flight Bulawayo to Jo’burg, night flight to Amsterdam We decided to fly in to Bulawayo instead of Harare, as Hwange and Matopos were our main goals to visit. Also, it ended up to be much cheaper, as Jo’burg is very affordable from Amsterdam by KLM and we went to Bulawayo with a low budget company. I was really curious about Zim and after visiting I can say it’s in my top 2 African countries with Zambia. The people were very friendly and easy going. The country is very clean, litter seemed non-existent and (almost) everywhere you could drink water from the tap (which we did and no side effects). Bulawayo probably isn’t visited a lot by tourists. But there are some good restaurants, a nice museum and we had a nice stroll around town. If you decide to visit Matopos, I would definitely recommend visiting the town as well.
  14. This report relates mainly to my ten day stay in March this year. I have included pictures, scans of slides, made in May 1998 during a business trip as well as those taken in September 2000 during a ten day stay. In 1998, I spent only one night in Hwange and I completely forgotten where it was (nothing unforgettable, I guess ?). I made one game drive from Main Camp to Robin’s Camp. I saw a lot of elephants and hippos. The following pictures were taken somewhere between Sinamatela and Robin. If I remember rightly, ten days in high season, even with better viewing conditions (less vegetation and no tall grass), sixteen years ago, were not better than ten days in green season, nowadays, but this is only my opinion.
  15. We are from Austria and have booked half of a North Camp (Tens 3 and 4) in Kapula Private Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe for 4 nights: checkin September 09, checkout September 13. But we are only two persons. Unfortunately, South Camp was booked out for these dates and therefore we booked North Camp and have already fully paid it. We are looking for somebody who is interested to join us in Kapula North Camp for these dates in the second tent. Usually accommodations in Hwange in September are fully booked and it is a pity if you are in the park, looking for a place to stay and one of the tents in North Camp is empty! You can see the reviews for Kapula in Trip Advisor and there is also a web-site of Kapula:
  16. To cull or not to cull? It is a subject that causes heated debate and one that has been discussed to some length in the thread "Hwange's Dilemma" Yet, whereas the issue of culling elephant in one of Africa's National Parks brings howls of protest from all corners of the globe, the regular cull of other species, in the very countries where the loudest voices are raised on all subjects to do with Africa, seem to attract far less attention. Yes there is some local outcry, but it does not seem to be of interest to anyone outside the countries where it is taking place. I read an article today about the proposed cull of over 1,000 bison in Yellowstone Park A few weeks ago a friend mentioned to me that Brumbies, Australia's wild horses (more accurately feral), are culled on a regular basis. Link to just one article Here in the UK, celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon of protest against a national badger cull. badgers are believed by farmers to be a serious pest and spreader of disease. All these proposed culls are seen as a last resort. All are being proposed by the authorities charged with the responsibility of maintaining a particular habitat. Yet whilst all these culls do provoke some domestic protest, that protest very rarely spreads beyond national boundaries. Why is Africa different? Why does the suggestion of a cull in Africa stimulate howls of protest from all corners of the globe? How would Australians feel if Kenyans started a campaign to protest against the Brumby cull? How would Americans feel if Tanzanians swamped the Twittersphere with protests against the proposed bison cull? I am not a proponent of culls. I do not have the expertise to say whether they are right or wrong. But why do people all over the world feel that their views on the management of wildlife in Africa must be taken into consideration?
  17. Hwange's Dilemma (Please excuse the fact that this is a terrible over-simplification of the issue, but I've strived to keep it concise) Hwange is the largest Park in Zimbabwe occupying roughly 14 650 square kilometers. It is one of THE places to see elephants in Africa. According to the 2015 African elephant census it is home to 44,000 elephants, roughly 50% of Zimbabwe's elephant population. And therein lies the dilemma. Actually it is not Hwange's dilemma. What to do about Hwange is a dilemma for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA). On their website they set out their Vision and Mission Statement: It sounds good but is that really what they are doing? "effective, efficient and sustainable utilisation of natural resources" In the case of Hwange I think not. From its inception, Hwange (then called Wankie) was established on land not suitable for agriculture because it had not reliable source of year round water. The first warden – Ted Davison - found is the dry season his new domain had few animals. Those that frequented the area in the wet season departed as soon as the waterholes dried up. If his new reserve was going to attract visitors it needed animals, throughout the year. Davison saw that the only way to entice animals in and to persuade them to remain through the dry season was to provide permanent water. To achieve this Davison created a series of pump driven boreholes. His strategy worked. Animal numbers rose steadily; elephants and buffaloes in particular. (source Keith Meadows – Afterword in Ted Davison's book “Wankie – The Story of a Great Game Reserve) In earlier times, the way that this burgeoning elephant population was kept under control was through culling. (source Keith Meadows – Afterword in Ted Davison's book “Wankie – The Story of a Great Game Reserve) Unsurprisingly, once the culling had ceased, the elephant population grew unhindered and the food supply became more depleted each year, with animals having to walk further and further between food and water as the vegetation was pushed further and further from the water holes. As large mammals, the elephants can move with relative ease over the increasingly large distances between food and water, but other, smaller, animals cannot. Even when they can get to the waterholes they do not have free access as the elephants keep other species away until they have drunk their fill. Consequently, species diversity is declining in Hwange. What to do? To answer that we must first decide what we want Hwange to be. Do we want a natural sustainable habitat for animals or do we want a national park where the animals are a spectacle for tourists? (This of course begs the question of whether tourists really want to see elephants clustered around a pumped waterhole that sits in the middle of a desert?) Start (resume) culling? The situation has been allowed to slide for so long that, right now, the number of elephants that would need to be culled to achieve a sustainable population is huge. The international outcry would be deafening and it is hard to see this happening. So what else could be done? A decision could be made to turn off some or all pumps? This would force the elephants to move elsewhere and allow time for the vegetation to recover. Certainly elephants would die as a result, but other species would benefit. Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area Hwange is part of the massive Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area – a Peace Parks Foundation initiative. Can elephants be enticed to move elsewhere within the park? Or have their migration routes been effectively blocked by human settlement? But although the KAZA TFCA looks great on paper, has it actually achieved anything? There are certainly areas within the KAZA TFCA that could accommodate more elephants but although It encompasses several National Parks they are divided by large areas of human settlement that prevent any significant animal movement between them. I could not even get through to them by phone and emails I sent just bounced back. I have not bothered to mention trans-location as the number of elephants that would need to be moved and the cost involved makes it unworkable. Doing nothing is not an option One thing seems certain – if we do nothing, the elephants will eat Hwange out of existence. Once they have devoured the food supply to a point where it is unable to regenerate during the wet season they will either die or move elsewhere. If we let that happen Hwange will be finished as a viable National Park. The question for the cash strapped ZPWMA is whether to take action now and risk alienating tourists (and the 'armchair and social media conservationists') in the short term to save their resource or do nothing and watch their National Park decline until tourists no longer find it attractive; at which point it will cease to be a source of revenue. Impact on local communities The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many businesses and communities are dependent on Hwange's continued existence for their livelihoods - not because of handouts but as a source of employment and education. Many of the communities around Hwange NP are models of how communities can become involved in and benefit from their country's wildlife and tourism. If the tourists stop coming then the lodges and safari operators will go out of business and then all the local communities that rely on their support will suffer too. And that will create yet another problem for Zimbabwe's government.
  18. Hardly a day goes by without another depressing story about the plight of Africa's elephants. Elephant numbers across Africa are declining at an alarming rate under the onslaught of ivory poachers yet one National Park, Zimbabwe's Hwange NP, faces an entirely different problem; its elephant population just keeps on growing. But what, on the face of it, might appear to be good news has become, in fact, an equally serious problem; one that is as much a threat to the elephants' long term survival as ivory poaching. To make matters worse, after successive years of poor rainfall, 2016 is shaping up to be an even drier year and Hwange is facing the very real prospect of drought. To get a better understanding of the situation facing this iconic Zimbabwean park I sought out someone who knows the park and its history better than most; Mark 'Butch' Butcher, Director of Imvelo Safari Lodges. Mark Butcher Butch’s wildlife career started in 1979, when he became a ranger for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. He completed a BSc in Zoology and Botany at Rhodes University, before moving on to work for Zimbabwe’s Forestry Commission. As Provincial Wildlife Officer, Butch was responsible for all the wildlife that roamed within 1.8-million acres of indigenous forest. Whilst undertaking this enormous task, he quickly discovered how essential the local people’s support was to the well-being of the estate. Butch began to develop programs that would both engage the people and benefit the natural ecosystems. He finally left the Commission to develop these initiatives from the other side of the fence. Butch’s lifelong passion for Hwange – it’s elephants, wildlife and communities – formed the cornerstone for Imvelo Safari Lodges to grow into what it is today. MD How many elephant are there in Hwange? MB There's 44,000 according to last year's aerial count done by Elephants Without Borders, using rock solid techniques and for the first time ever we counted at the same time as Botswana counted. MD So there was no chance of them being double counted if they moved between the two countries? MB Well, they don't move that much within a month but there was always that doubt. Anyway the number they came up with, rock solid, 44,000. In fact we, all the old Hwange hands said we had in the low 40's so it concurs with what we expected. MD The natural follow up question to that is: “How many should there be? How many can the habitat sustain? MB Every single person has a different theory about it. When Ted Davison came to work here - he came in 1928, prior to that the area had been hunted by informal ivory hunters - he said he had about 500 elephants. If you extrapolate the very good data that we have now, if you extrapolate backwards, we think that there were actually closer to 1,000 elephants when Ted Davison came to work here. So the question is, 'is that the number there should be here?' When I was a young ranger in the early 80's we used to have – don't quote me on the exact number – approximately 30,000 – 35,000 elephants here in Hwange. Heavy elephant culling in the early 1980's – for better or for worse that's what was done in the old days – got the numbers down to about 14,000. It was a massive programme; it was argued a lot but, right or wrong, that's what was done. Hwange used to work quite well when the numbers were between 14,000 and 20,000. I used to hang around water holes and the pumped water was enough: there wasn't congestion and the other animals used to flourish; we had a lot more sable and a lot more buffalo then. We had young trees, young acacia trees. Now, as you drive around the park you'll see, we have a lot of very big trees and a lot of very, very small ones and nothing in between. Our woodlands are in an absolute nose-dive. Back then I have heard it argued that we should have elephants at one per square mile, which would be 5,000 elephants because Hwange is 5,000 square miles, or one per square kilometre, which is 14,000 elephants. But clearly 44,000 is unsustainable. So what do we do about it? MD Hwange and its wildlife depends on the pumps for water. When you drive around you see there's no vegetation close to the pumps, it's like little bits of desert. The pumps create an artificial habitat. If the pumps weren't there would there be any water? And if not, what would the animals do? MB I try to rationalise it a lot. I put myself in Ted Davison's shoes. If you read Ted Davison's book; here's a young ranger, one of Africa's five great rangers of the colonial period. When Ted Davison came to work here he had a couple of lines drawn on a map; this was his park. He walked around in here for donkey's years and he had the local San people - there were a couple of families of San people lived here - he had them show him around and what he found out within a few years of arriving here was that there was no permanent surface water in Hwange. So he had this huge “game reserve” with no year round water supply. So what used to happen was that the wildlife that was here during the wet season would migrate out of the park during the dry season. What started to happen for him in the early 30's as a young ranger he saw he was looking after his animals, he was stopping the uncontrolled hunting, he was getting on top of things but every year his animals would migrate out and when they migrated out the next rainy season when they came back there were fewer and there were lots of them wounded and there were all kinds of major issues because what was happening during the same period was that human populations were building up around the park. So, he decided to put some windmills in to pump water in the dry season so that his animals wouldn't have to migrate out and then he could look after them; they would be in his protection year round. It worked brilliantly, maybe better than he ever expected. He started putting windmills and, slowly but surely, elephants started staying and flourishing. Gradually they became sedentary. By the 1960's his windmills weren't keeping up; they weren't pumping enough water because the elephant population so increased. I say elephants but it wasn't just the elephants; elephants, buffalo, giraffe, all the wildlife flourished under his stewardship and he started pumping more and more water. Then his windmills couldn't keep up and he had to start using engines. By the late 1960's we had this huge conservation success story where the elephant population has been taken from between 500 – 1,000 up to 20,000. We've got people flying from all over the world to see Hwange's wildlife but it's essentially all artificial; it's all pumped. Fast forward now to the 1980's. The elephant population is still flourishing. When I was a young ranger here we had 60-70 water pumps and a huge elephant population. So back then, the powers that be and the ecologists said we needed to cull. So they culled the elephant population back down. Then the culling was stopped because by 1992 there was an ivory ban, no trade in ivory, ivory couldn't be sold to fund the culling, which was a good thing. We had the elephant population down to where we wanted it. Come back to the early 2000's and what we've got is an elephant population that has blossomed. Not only has our local population increased but we've drawn in elephants from Botswana and the population is back up around the low 30,000's and at the same time the Department of National Parks and Wildlife is going into a nose-dive financially because of the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar. So now they can't fund their operations. By now we've already started Bomani Lodge which has been our pipe-dream to get lodges on the periphery of the park. We're in the south east corner of the park, we have a small waterhole by our camp, we have a couple of hundred elephant come to drink each day and the whole thing is starting to come together. Suddenly, in the dry season of 2002, probably about June/July of that year, I suddenly had a monstrous influx of elephants come pouring into our waterholes, literally thousands. I had 2 or 3 thousand elephants arrive to come and drink at a waterhole where previously we'd had a couple of hundred. Knowing what was going on in the park I said “I know what's happened, they've switched the water off inside the park.” I went deeper into the park, down along the old pumps runs I used to do as a young ranger and sure enough they'd all been abandoned. Clearly this wasn't something I could walk away from. I couldn't just let these animals die, nor could I let them devastate the area around our camp. I had to do something; so we started pumping the water to buy ourselves breathing space until we could get on top of things. I know full well that pumping water is not the answer, because we've created an artificial system. My problem today is that I've been handed this artificial situation and what do we do with it? People say “you should do this and you should do that”. One of the options that are on the table is to turn off some of the waterholes. Now I know from experience that turning off just a few of the waterholes doesn't achieve anything because the elephants just move. They just crowd the others, they go to waterholes that are being pumped. What you do kill is animals like warthogs and baboons that have become dependent on certain waterholes and don't know where the other waterholes are. They are not migratory. So, turning off a few waterholes doesn't work. What we're faced with is we have to turn off ALL the waterholes or nothing. MD Are there people who argue that would be a more natural state of affairs? MB Yes. What is interesting and which follows on from that is; we could recreate the old Hwange with 500 – 1,000 elephant, 2-3 prides of lions, half a pack of wild dogs, 2-3 cheetah, 10 sable, 5 giraffe. But what would happen is that there would be no tourism. Whether we like it or not, Africa's game reserves, National Parks and wildlife survive on the back of tourism. If there is tourism and tourism dollars coming into an area there is a moral justification to the people of Africa of why they should set aside land for wildlife. In the absence of the animals, why would people come to Hwange? They wouldn't come. So there would be no tourism dollar and people would think: “Why don't we just open up the area for grazing our cattle? Why don't we just kill those 5 sable because we're bloody hungry?” And we would lose Hwange National Park. The second thing is that we've spent a lot of time developing the communities around the park to become dependent upon the park. So if we turn off the water inside the park it will potentially kill off all the animals but we're also going to devastate the communities. MD How much impact does such a vast population of elephants have on other species? MB In my opinion we don't have enough scientific study done on the elephant in our park. People go for the sexy animals; the wild dogs, the lions; but clearly the elephant is the most important animal in our National Park. They comprise over 90% of the biomass but we don't really know what's going on. What we do have anecdotal evidence, from old men like myself. I remember we used to see herds of 100+ sable in the park; to see herds of 3,000 – 4,000 buffalo was not uncommon. We would see big herds of eland, 500-800. You just don't see that any more. When I go round with the young guys, guys like Vusa, and we see a herd of 70-80 eland Vusa jumps up & down with excitement. When we see a herd of 200 buffalo it's “Oh man, we saw 200 buffalo.” A massive herd of buffaloes look like ants when viewed from Sinematella I know a lot of that is down to competition with the elephant; because what is the single limiting factor on Hwange's wildlife is the water at the end of each dry season. Hwange is a paradise for 9 months of the year; for 3 months of the year it's a tough dry season environment with fantastic game viewing, but difficult if you're an animal trying to survive. Once every 5 years you get that dry season where we have drought and the last month of that dry season is incredibly tough. Let's say Hwange is down to around 40 functioning waterholes, with 44,000 elephants drinking there. By the time we get to the end of that season we've been working hard; all of our engines, all of our equipment tied together with pieces of string. We've got more and more breakdowns as you get later and later into the dry season so by the end of October you've often only got something like 15-20 functioning waterholes. By the time you've only got 15-20 functioning waterholes you've got something like 2,000 – 3,000 elephants trying to drink at each waterhole. When you have 100 elephants around each waterhole 24/7 the other stuff can't drink. That's when the sable herds get absolutely devastated and the buffalo are struggling and everything else struggles too. MD Because the elephants take so much of the vegetation other species that need food and water and can't really travel the distances between the two are going to struggle. MB Yes, absolutely. Elephants have got long legs, warthogs have got short legs. Elephants can walk 20-30 kilometres to feeding grounds and walk 20-30 kilometres back; warthogs can't. Warthogs die. MD How do you think the elephant population could, or should, be managed? MB I know how they used to do it in the old days. Clearly and critically that's not politically acceptable. I believe that if they tried to do it in the old dinosaur way of going and culling Hwange's elephant again the backlash from tourism would be massive. Our tourism dollar would collapse and Hwange would collapse anyway. So culling is not an option. We know that contraception is not an option. We know also that the old migration routes are essentially closed. The migration routes that are open have been occupied, the routes to the Chobe river, the Zambezi river are full up. Chobe's got as many elephant as we have, maybe more. There's a lot of talk about going back to the old way of migrating around the place, that's not going to happen. The migration routes that are open to elephant have already been taken up. When Ted Davison came to work here Zimbabwe had a human population of quarter of a million, we've now got 14 million people. We know that we can't just turn off some of the water, so we'd have to turn off all of the water. If we turn off all of the water there will be a collapse of tourism. I believe that there is no single magic solution. I also believe it may come down to some kind of a combination of different things; a whole different management regime. Now I do know that what I know is not enough. I really, really, really would like to see some serious science and some seriously big brains, and some serious dollars brought in Hwange to try and look at this problem. Because essentially we have one of Africa's greatest parks, we have one of Africa's greatest elephant populations in a continent where elephant populations are collapsing and we are faced with potential disaster. MD So even a partial cull, a small cull, is just too unacceptable to conservationists, even though it would be killing some to save the majority. MB I know that as a young ranger in the 1980's we were fighting and dying protecting elephants. I had friends that were killed fighting elephant poachers. We put our lives on the line frequently looking after these animals. We worked our backsides off pumping water for them. When I was a young ranger, if you let a waterhole go dry it was a dismissable offence, you got fired, your career was over. That's how seriously it was taken. Now, in that environment the ecologists came to us and said “Guys, we believe there are too many elephants and these are all the reasons. We don't know of anything else to do other than cull the elephants. We think that if we're wrong the elephant populations will bounce back quickly but if we leave it without doing anything the woodlands will take hundreds of years to recover. So we'll decide in favour of reducing the elephant population.” When those things were brought to us my bosses, I was a young cadet ranger, but my bosses almost had fist fights over going out and shooting elephants in those kind of numbers. Nobody wanted to do it, and everybody was dead against it, we thought they were wrong. But the ecologists convinced my bosses that that was the way to go. But it required a massive cull. I don't know what the western world, where our tourism dollar comes from, would say if they said that 20,000 elephants need to be shot. We know that 44,000 elephants increase at around 5% per annum, that's about 2,000 elephant a year. So we know that just to hold the population they would need to kill about 2,000. We do know that in very bad drought years we lose a couple of thousand but clearly some significant numbers would need to be culled and clearly that's not acceptable. Those days are gone now, we have to start looking for other solutions; I don't know what they are. I would love to see some science and brain power brought to this debate because I believe there could be something out there that we haven't thought of. MD How bad is poaching here in Hwange? MB We have two kinds of poaching. We have subsistence poaching: In a really tough year someone from one of the communities beside the park sneaks into the park and kills a duiker to feed the family. We have that level of poaching which I believe we can live with. When I was a young ranger if we saw that kind of thing going on we didn't necessarily go after those guys hot foot. The guys we went after hot foot were the commercial poachers. The commercial poachers were the guys who were stealing wire and putting up huge snare lines and killing big numbers of buffalo and wildebeest and damaging elephant and then of course the commercial ivory and rhino poachers who were coming in armed. Very few of them at that time were from Zimbabwe, most of them were coming from outside the country. Some from as far afield as the Congo and Sudan. And those were our major serious, serious problem. Now in Hwange today we've got a very similar meat poaching problem to what I remember from back in the old days. What we've also got is an upswing in elephant poaching, the likes of which we've never seen. The elephant poisoning incident in 2013 was the worst case of elephant poaching we've ever had in the history of this park. We put paid to those guys, most of them went to jail, we stopped the situation. We've opened our camp down at Jozibanini, the old ranger station there and we're kind of keeping a lid on it. But now there's an influx of armed poachers into Hwange. What is interesting is that this year more elephants will die of starvation in Hwange National Park than will be poached in Hwange National Park and yet we got more elephant poaching going on in Hwange than we've ever had. But it's not nearly the problem that it is in East Africa. MD Is it local now, or are the poachers – the commercial ones – still coming from outside? MB We've got two kinds coming here. We've got the guys coming from outside who we call Zambians because they are coming from Zambia but they're not necessarily always Zambians and then we have out of work, often military types, from Zimbabwe who know how to handle themselves, how to handle weapons in the field, they're getting involved in it. Before, in Zimbabwe it wasn't that easy for a guy with a set of ivory to get rid of it. You can't walk into Bulawayo or Harare with a set of 50 pound tusks and wander round trying to sell them. It's not an easy thing to hide. In East Africa the guys used to just take down to the coast and slip it onto a dhow and move it out. That's why there was so much poaching there. What has happened in recent years is we've had a big influx of companies, mainly coming from China, a lot of them involved with mining etc, and now suddenly there is a source market for ivory here. So we have two issues: There's been an increase of experienced men with guns within the country and now they've got a way to move ivory. That I believe is what's fuelling our current ivory problem here. MD In general, how supportive of the park and its wildlife are the communities that live on the periphery? Here at Ngamo you are in one corner of the park and you have excellent support from the local communities, how is that replicated in other areas of the park? MB If you put communities on a scale of 1 to 5; where a community that does not poach, works really well with the parks people, the guys are involved with the safari lodges, they've got an income from tourism would be a 1. At the other end of the scale a community that dislikes the national park, hates living next to it, hates wildlife; if they had a chance to vote they'd say 'let's kill all elephant, all the lion because we don't like them' – would be a 5. I would suggest the communities around our park, on the Zimbabwean side, only 10% of them are a 1. I would say probably 20% -30% are a 5 and the rest are intermediate. We have shown with some of the communities around us what can be done; our challenge over the next 5-10 years is to expand that model all the way around the boundary of Hwange National Park. We don't have communities living on the park boundary all the way around but certainly on our most problematic boundaries, particularly the southern boundary, we do. MD Does that mean other operators would have to adopt a model similar to yours or is that something that National Parks would have to get behind? MB It think it is a combination and I strongly think it is something driven by the tourism dollar. If you are a responsible tourist you should make sure that at least one of stops on your itinerary is one of those peripheral lodges – at any of the parks in Africa – that are supporting local communities and are involved with the local communities. I think we need the tourism dollar to be behind it, I think we need operators to be behind it and I think we need National Parks and government to be behind it. I know from our own experience at Bomani, Camelthorn and Gorges that we can make it work when everybody gets behind it and we can push it forward. MD Given that they are badly underfunded, is there much initiative coming from the Parks Department to try and involve communities and deter them from working with poachers? MB On the ground, the guys I work with give me a lot of support and I think that given more resources they would give us more support. I know that the responsible rangers and managers on the ground within the park here are more than happy to help us out wherever they can but their hands are pretty full just looking after their park. I think there's a lot of synergy needed; where they've got their hands full responsible operators should be picking up the ball where our parks department can't. I obviously would like more support from parks department but there is a limit to the support they can give us. MD Your prediction for the next five years for Hwange? MB I think Hwange is under the biggest threat it has ever been under. Firstly from our massive elephant population. Secondly from the massive threat of elephant poaching that is looming. But I really am a glass half full guy; I really am quietly confident that this is a fight we can win. We've got a lot of good responsible operators on the ground here, we've got a lot of communities that are coming onside and we've got tourism dollars. Responsible tourism is really beginning to understand this kind of thing and responsible tourism is getting behind Hwange again. I really am quietly confident. I think we'll take some knocks, it's going to be hard and there will a lot of ups and downs but I'm quietly confident that Hwange is still going to be a place that you'll want to come to 5 or 10 years from now. MD Presumably with tourism to Zimbabwe regaining popularity that position should strengthen? MB Yes. I think as people understand more and more what is going on in Zimbabwe and understand more and more what is going on in Hwange they understand how abandoning Zimbabwe is not the answer. Particularly if you are concerned about the wildlife, because if you abandon Zimbabwe you are abandoning the wildlife. The amount of resources I can throw at looking after elephant and looking after communities and looking after poaching problems become less and less if I have less tourism dollars to work with, it's very simple mathematics. As more people look to visit Zimbabwe it gives us more clout. It gives us more clout with government too. Suddenly if we are a bigger industry than we were five years ago we can go to government and say “Hey guys you need to listen to us, this is how we need to do it.” And they do listen. They don't always listen to everything we say but they do listen, which gives us more confidence for the future. Our interview with Mark Butcher was conducted in Hwange in September 2015. At that time the park had experienced 2 successive years of lower than average rainfall and needed the 2016 rains to be good. Sadly, at the time of going to print (Feb 2016) those much needed rains have not yet materialised and Hwange's wildlife is facing tough times ahead. Want to know more about Hwange National Park? Check out these links: Friends of Hwange Trust Imvelo Elephant Trust Hwange's Dilemma
  19. Curse you, Safaritalk! Without you I would never even have heard of these funny places down there South of the equator. Would have had no idea that these places would be a total gamechanger for me. That I would never be able to look at Safari the same way again. That walking with a Zim pro guide is the best! thing! ever! That nothing is as wonderful, as satisfying, and as awesome as getting close to wildlife, small and big, peaceful and trusting, or menacing and dangerous, on foot. That Zimbabwe is just wonderful beyond words. And the place where all safari dreams come true. Artistic Elephants Life begins gently here: Only to come to a harsh and brutal end. Well, little predators need food, too - but sometimes they go a bit over the top: Others just wanna have fun: Others have less fun - this cat´s bath was very involuntary indeed. No Safari would be complete without the ghost in the darkness: This was the Safari of gettin´ down and dirty - rewarded withsome more unusual angles: Birds come in radiating red here: A dry country: But every trickle of water means life: And every drop of water arrives here - in the mighty Zambezi: And nourish the Mana Pools flood plains: And yes - finally! My two "wishlist" antelopes: A new kind of Safari bug has got me now - the ZimManawalkingDoug-bug. How to get this out of my system now?
  20. Last Chance Safaris has put some different itineraries together for 2016. Our emphasis is as much on conservation as it is on getting that unique picture in a phenomenal setting. All our trips do more than just search out the big game. Our participants also get to meet and interact with the conservationists who are actively involved in saving many of Africa's most endangered animals. Our Painted Wolves Expedition explores Zimbabwe's best wild dog destinations, including Hwange, and culminates in the magical Chitake Springs of Mana Pools. Remote and unique the chance of footing it with wild dog (and other predators) is high. The Great Apes Expedition is more than just gorillas & chimps. We take a tour of beautiful Uganda off the tourists' beaten track. Starting with Kidepo Valley National Park (voted by CNN as in the top 3 of Africa's national parks!) and ending with a bang high up in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for two gorilla treks. Chimps, forest elephant, shoebill and a variety of primates are all to be seen - not to mention some of Africa's best birding. Want to walk with Rhino? Our Rhino Expedition takes participants on a walking safari that focuses on these critically endangered animals. Hwange, Matusadona, Matopos or Pamushana - all fantastic wildlife locations in their own right, but also the strongholds for Zimbabwe's rhino population. Big cats and elephants your thing? Try out the Africa's Giants Expedition. From the Chobe to the Okavango, we visit the best Botswana destinations to get a fill of lion, leopard, cheetah, and of course elephants. A mix of national park and private concession ensures that the best areas are covered. You can contact us directly through Safaritalk, by emailing, or via our contact form.
  21. Hi all, my wife and I are planning a 3 weeks trip to Zimbabwe around april/may 2016. Usually we just book a flight and 1 or 2 nights on arrival and plan as we go. Like in Zambia/TZ/Kenya we contacted tour operators, asked about the options for depart the next day and of we go. Our experience is these kind of last minute safaris are a better deal compared to booking by a tour operator from home. But as I've learnt Zim can get quite expensive, I'm doing some proper research on affordable accommodations without taking out to much of the out in the wild experience. First the basics: we're are probably flying to Jo'burg and take a bus to Bulawayo. Flying in to Harare is more expensive. From Bulawayo we want to see Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Matopos, VicFalls and Hwange, using public transport & tours. Some probably will advice to go to Mana Pools as I've read some great stories about it on here. It probably is out of our budget. In Hwange we wanna stay 4 nights. I've received some proposals. On one hand the amazing camps like Bomani/Ivory lodge etc. These are too expensive for our budget. Also a proposal for a camp with >100 rooms, but that feels too little like a safari camp for us. The best combination of a wilderness experience and our budget, seems to be at Gwango or Sable Sands. I didn't find a recent trip report about these camps and concessions. Has anyone experience with these camps? And does anyone know if the gamedrives in these concessions are just like in Hwange or is it a bit less in quality? Then about public transport. Has anyone experience with public transport between the places I've mentioned? I've found out there's a Pathfinder busline between Harare and VicFalls with several stops along the way, under which Bulawayo. Apart from my questions, any advice is welcome. We've been to several countries for safaris, but planning for Zim feels a bit more neccassary/difficult compared to other destinations. Would you advice to book in advance or do you think we can just go there and plan along we go for the best prices? Thanks in advance for all your help!
  22. Three days into my stay at Ngamo and I still haven't seen any cats. I've heard them during the night and a couple of the guides reported seeing fresh tracks but no actual sightings yet. Perhaps it was down to the cold wind blowing across the Ngamo plains but we were lacking a bit of urgency this morning; still dawdling over breakfast when we should have been out and about. Sibs had left with his clients an hour earlier, but here we were still enjoying the warmth of Camelthorn's dining room and excellent coffee. That all changed when Butch burst into the room. “Come on, Come on, Sibs has found some lions on a kill. Don't worry about your bags (we were moving to a different lodge today) I'll get them loaded and catch you up.” We didn't need much persuading and were all on our feet and out of the door within about 30 seconds. Poor Helen had only just sat down and barely had time to grab a sausage from her plate as she joined the exodus. Vusa, who was waiting outside with the engine running, told us it would take about 20 minutes to get to where Sibs had seen the lions. It actually took us 25 minutes because we had to stop at the gate and sign in. With a cold wind scouring the plains, the sun struggling to break through the clouds and Vusa driving a bit faster than normal game drive speed, it was a chilly ride. As always seems to happen, when I am in a hurry to get somewhere there is game everywhere. Intent on getting to the lions we passed herds of wildebeest and eland without slowing down. A few hundred metres ahead we saw a small group of zebras staring intently at something. Almost simultaneously I spotted two lionesses lying out in the open; but it was not the lionesses that held the zebras attention. They were far more interested in the two male lions lying just by the tree line; with the remains of a wildebeest carcass. Vusa edged closer and turned off the engine. No sooner had he done so than the smaller/younger of the two males got up and walked in amongst the trees and flopped down. The remaining male was not doing much, just lying beside the kill. If things stayed like this it was not going to be a particularly exciting sighting. Just as we were about to resign ourselves to watching lions doing nothing something attracted the attention of the remaining male. It was one of the females coming to feed on the carcass. The male lion was clearly unhappy about this and started growling ominously. No sooner had the female stuck her head into the carcass than the male got up and tried to pull the carcass towards him. The volume of the growling from both lions had risen when the male suddenly lunged at the lioness. Surprisingly she did not back off and we watched them wrestling over the carcass. This attracted the attention of the other male who came back to watch. This was no play fight, they were really going at each other. The lioness seemed to be holding her ground when the second male joined the fray, attacking her from behind. This drew in the second female who tried to help her sister. It didn't last long. The arrival of he second lioness spurred the two males to greater aggression and it was only moments before both females retreated, chastened and unhappy. For the male lions to be completely unwilling to share the kill was unusual, particularly as they were no longer feeding and it would almost certainly have been the lionesses that had made the kill. Having asserted their superiority, and with the lionesses licking their wounds (literally) the younger of the males lay down and fixed his unblinking gaze upon us. One or two people in the vehicle found this quite unnerving – it was only a few days earlier that a guide in Hwange had been charged and killed by a lion. To further assert his ownership of the carcass, the other male decided that now would be a good time to drag it off into the trees. It had been a pretty intense few minutes. What had seemed like ages had lasted just 13 minutes – according to the time stamps on my photographs. As we drove away there was a good deal of sympathy expressed for the lionesses. To give you an idea of how close we were, I was using a 70-200mm lens and most shots were taken between 70-90mm It was a pretty gloomy morning with no direct sunlight and ISO was around 1000. F8 and 1/640s
  23. I'm starting far too late for this to resemble a big year but I did manage to at least photograph some species on my recent trip to Zimbabwe and Zambia.
  24. Beks Ndlovu of writes the following in relation to the recent trophy hunt of Cecil, a well known and popular Hwange National Park lion: (Text and image courtesy and copyright Beks Ndlovu / African Bush Camps.) Youtube user Jayne Leach who uploaded the above video writes: Youtube user Bryan Orford who uploaded the videos writes: Here's what I've leant about Cecil through talking with various people: Cecil was a pride male of the Linkwasha area of Hwange National Park for about 5 years before he was finally chased out by 2 large male lions, (Bush and Bubezi), about 3 and a half years ago. Cecil fled and then managed to join up with another ousted male lion called Jericho and together formed a new coalition. They had 2 prides. The one pride consisted of 3 lioness with seven, 7 month old cubs. The second pride consisted of 3 females, one of which has young cubs and the other 2 are all expected to be pregnant. These two small prides are about to be subject to the wrath of a new male soon. Cecil was about 12 years old when he was shot and Jerico is about 11 years old. About a month ago Bush was shot and 2 new males have already arrived and chased Bubezi out. Most of their pride have fled from the two new males as they now know that their cubs are vulnerable to infanticide. Some have left the park and entered a communual land area where they could be hunted. A statement from the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association, (Facebook page here), reads: It's believed at the time Cecil was hunted he was wearing a collar. Having followed this story, I've spoken with various sources in Zimbabwe and at present, with the ongoing investigation, due to legal implications I feel it's best not to speculate to the facts, legality of the hunt, who the hunter and hunting operator was etc., but suffice to say as and when these details are reported as fact I'll follow up on this topic. Some of the questions that this incident raises for me, (and has done in prior similar occasions), are those such as: what is the purpose of collaring a specific animal? should a collared animal be exempted from a trophy hunt if it crosses into a hunting concession? can and should collaring be used to protect specific animals? how ethical is it to trophy hunt a collared animal? what is the level of interaction between between photographic and trophy hunting sectors - should there be a greater co-ordination between both in regards to specific animals? Just how will this affect pride dynamics now in the National Park area from which the lion came? How will this incident alone, (or when taken into consideration with the spotlight on trophy hunting and declining lion populations), affect the future of trophy hunting in Zimbabwe? What do the hunting concessions of the Gwai Valley area contribute, financially or otherwise to conservation aims, other than acting as a buffer zone, if their quotas can include wildlife which crosses into them from Hwange National Park.
  25. For those of you who are already thinking about where visit in 2016 ... If you haven't been to Zimbabwe then this is a great introduction at a terrific price Victoria Falls, Hwange NP and the mighty Zambezi Fabulous lodges, amazing wildlife, incredible value Combining the awe inspiring Victoria Falls with Zimbabwe’s largest game park, Hwange NP, and ending with 2 nights on the banks of the Zambezi river, this diverse 10 (or 12) day itinerary travels at a leisurely pace and allows you plenty of time to enjoy Hwange’s fabulous wildlife. Outline itinerary: 9 nights / 10 days Day 1 Arrive Victoria Falls, transfer to Gorges Lodge. Day 2 Morning to visit the falls before transferring to Bomani Tented Lodge in Hwange NP. Day 3 Bomani Tented Lodge. Day 4 Bomani Tented Lodge. Day 5 Game drive through the park to Nehimba Lodge, located in the centre of the park. Day 6 Nehimba Lodge. Day 7 Nehimba Lodge. Day 8 Leave Hwange NP and transfer to Zambezi Sands Lodge on the banks of the Zambezi river where you can enjoy canoeing on the river, games drives or game walks. Day 9 Zambezi Sands. Day 10 A leisurely start before transferring to Victoria Falls airport for your onward connection. US$£3,320 GB£2,215

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