ZIMBABWE : TIME TO RETURN?

Saturday, 16 January 2016 14:24 afouting
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ZIMBABWE : TIME TO GO BACK?


Behind the grimly depressing news that has been pouring out of ZIMBABWE for the last 15 years lies one of southern Africa’s most beautiful, friendly countries. While the world’s media focused on the economic fall of Zimbabwe, visitors see a very different image of the country. From the absolute wilderness of the Hwange and Matobo National Parks, to the remarkable historic ruins of Great Zimbabwe, to the majestic power of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe offers something for everyone. With the economy stabilising and the political settlement seemingly holding, all is looking brighter than at any time in the past 15 years. The road system is still good, the supermarkets stocked, and the people crying out for the return of tourists. And - apart from the spellbinding natural beauty of the country - Zimbabwe has one of the world’s best climates…….not even the worst government can destroy that!


A suggested itinerary follows below :



DAY 1        JOHANNESBURG TO MARTIN’S DRIFT.

Arrive O. R. Tambo International Airport. From the airport, we head up the “Great North Road”, through classic African Bushveld terrain, to the town of Polokwane, then turn west towards the MARTIN’S DRIFT border with Botswana. After clearing customs, check into the KWA NOKENG LODGE – just inside Botswana, and overlooking the “great, grey, greasy-green Limpopo River”! (www.kwanokeng.com) Overnight in comfortable chalets.
Meals included : dinner

Day 2     MARTIN’S DRIFT TO BULAWAYO.

We travel through eastern Botswana, via the towns of Selebi Phikwe and Francistown, to the Ramokgwebana / Plumtree border between Botswana and Zimbabwe. After clearing customs, it’s “Hello Zimbabwe!” North-east we go to Zimbabwe’s second city, BULAWAYO. Check into accommodation at the BULAWAYO CLUB (www.bulawayoclub.com).
Bulawayo stands on a vast, flat plateau on the central watershed between the Zambezi River in the north and the Limpopo River to the south. Famous for its wide streets, planned in the grid pattern by Cecil John Rhodes, it is a commonly-held belief that they are wide enough to accommodate the turning circle of a full span of 16 oxen! Most of the streets, sidewalks and pavements of Bulawayo are shaded by graceful trees - Flamboyants, Bauhinias and Jacarandas.
The Bulawayo Club, situated in the heart of historic Bulawayo, is one of the most imposing buildings in the city.  Built in 1935, the foundation stone was laid by King George VI. Originally a Gentleman’s Club, in a tradition which flourished the world over in the Age of Empire, the Club has been restored as a boutique hotel.
This afternoon explore the city centre on foot.
Meals included : breakfast.

DAY 3        BULAWAYO TO GREAT ZIMBABWE

East, through Mopane woodland and via huge granite “gomos”, to the town of Masvingo. On to the GREAT ZIMBABWE HOTEL, on the edge of the GREAT ZIMBABWE World Heritage Site. (www.africansunhotels.com). Begun during the eleventh century A.D. by ancestors of the Shona, Great Zimbabwe was constructed and expanded for more than 300 years in a local architectural style characterised by unmortared stonework, flowing curves and chevron designs. Its most formidable edifice, commonly referred to as the Great Enclosure, has walls as high as 12 metres extending approximately 300 metres, making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert. The name "Zimbabwe" comes from the Shona term "dzimba dzamabwe", which means "stone buildings" and refers to the stone walls used to separate and surround houses and kraals in ancient Shona settlements, like Great Zimbabwe. Great Zimbabwe is a Zimbabwean National Monument as well as UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the modern state of Zimbabwe was named for it.
The adjacent Lake Mutirikwe was created in 1960 with the construction of the Kyle Dam on the Mutirikwe River. The dam was built to provide irrigation water to the sugar-farming estates in the lowveld to the south. Kyle Recreational Park lies on the dam’s northern shore, and is home to 25 mammal species, including Buffalo, Leopard, White Rhino, Giraffe, Hippo, Zebra and a range of different antelope.
Meals included : breakfast.

DAY 4     GREAT ZIMBABWE

We spend the morning doing a walking tour of these awe-inspiring ruins; then this afternoon take a leisurely game drive in the Kyle Recreational Resort.
Meals included : breakfast.

DAY 5           GREAT ZIMBABWE TO VICTORIA FALLS.

Today we travel due west – via villages with wonderful names like Zvishavane and Mbalabala – to Bulawayo. We travel through magnificently wooded terrain – via small villages surrounded by Baobabs and ancient granite hills – to one of the scenic wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls. Arrive late-afternoon in the town of VICTORIA FALLS, and check in to accommodation at the AMADEUS GARDEN GUESTHOUSE (www.amadeusgarden.com)
Also called “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (the smoke that thunders) by the local Kololo people, Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall - based on width (1.7km), height (108m) and volume of water - and is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The massive sheet of falling water and the spray it produces is mesmerising at any time of the year. These ancient and spectacular Falls were first made known to the outside world in 1855 by Scottish explorer, David Livingstone. He renamed the Falls in honour of his monarch, Queen Victoria.
This evening enjoy a boat cruise on the Zambezi River above the Falls – a great opportunity to observe game (Elephant, Hippo and Crocodile, among others) while sipping a cocktail and watching the spectacular African sunset.
Dinner tonight to own account at the lodge / or at one of the restaurants nearby.
Meals included : breakfast.


DAY 6 / 7    VICTORIA FALLS.

Two full days in Victoria Falls. Enjoy a guided tour of the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls – unquestionably the best vantage points for viewing the mighty cataract and chasm below. The falls are 1,7 kilometres wide, and 550 million litres of water cascade 70 to 108 metres into the chasm below - every minute - during the Zambezi River's peak flow. Victoria Falls actually consists of five different "falls : The Devil's Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls, Horseshoe Falls and The Eastern Cataract. One can also view the statue of David Livingstone - who wrote in 1855 in his journal that "...scenes so lovely must have been gazed on by angels in their flight;" and wander through the adjacent rain forest. 
Also visit the Big Tree – a massive Baobab 16 metres in diameter and 20 metres tall – and take a game drive in the Zambezi National Park. The Zambezi National Park, together with Victoria Falls National Park, covers an area of 56,000 hectares. The northern border of the Park is formed by the great Zambezi River, which also forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia for much of its length. A wide variety of larger mammals may be found within the Zambezi National Park including “the Big Five” : Elephant, Lion, Buffalo, Leopard and Rhinoceros. In addition, herds of Sable Antelope, Eland, Zebra, Giraffe, Kudu, Waterbuck and Impala, as well as many of the smaller species of game can be viewed. The main game-viewing section is the River Drive, with an extensive network of roads along the river accessed through the main gate of the Park.
Optional activities aplenty - white water rafting, river boarding, jet boat trip above the falls, horse riding, a walk with lions, golf, bush walk, game drive, village tour, bungi jumping, gorge swinging, elephant back safari, helicopter and fixed-wing scenic flight over the falls, microlight flight and more... All can be booked through Ilala Lodge’s in-house operator, Zambezi Wildlife Safaris, on the day.
Dinners to own account at the lodge / or at one of the restaurants nearby.
Meals included : breakfast.

DAY 8             VICTORIA FALLS TO HWANGE NATIONAL PARK.

We retrace our route as far as the coal-mining centre of Hwange, then enter the Dete annex to the  HWANGE NATIONAL PARK – and travel a short distance to MIOMBO SAFARI CAMP (www.miombosafaricamp.com), arriving in time for lunch. After settling in and relaxing, enjoy your first open-vehicle game drive later this afternoon.
Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest National Park, accounting for an area of 14 650 square km. Once the royal hunting ground of Matabele king, Mzilikazi, it was proclaimed a wildlife conservation area in 1928. A haven for over 100 mammal and 400 bird species, the park protects populations of all of Zimbabwe’s endangered species. Elephants number in excess of 20 000, and the park contains what is thought to be one of the largest populations of African Wild Dog left in the world. Large prides of Lion and Buffalo are frequently seen, as well as Leopard, Rhino, Cheetah, and Spotted Hyena. The landscape of the park is diverse, ranging from dense teak forest in the north to Kalahari Sandveld in the south, with open grassy plains lined with Acacia and Mopane woodland between.
Miombo Safari Camp is a luxury tented camp located in the Dete annex, on a private concession adjoining the eastern border of the Hwange National Park.
Meals included : breakfast, lunch, dinner.

DAYS 9 / 10        HWANGE.

Two full days of safari activities at Miombo! Twice-daily morning and afternoon professionally guided safari game drives in Hwange National Park, morning tea in the bush, and during the afternoon game drive, traditional bush-setting ´sundowner` drinks.
Meals included : breakfast, lunch, dinner.

DAY 11    HWANGE TO THE MATOBO HILLS.

We continue east to the city of Bulawayo, then south to the magnificent MATOBO HILLS area – and check into accommodation at THE FARM HOUSE, within the Granite Ridge Wildlife Reserve on the edge of the Matobo National Park (www.graniteridgezim.com).
The Matobo Hills - huge granite hills, seamed, split, and shaped by time and the elements - form an array of giant whalebacks and castellated koppies that cover 3 000 square km of the Matabeleland South Province, just south of Bulawayo. The Matobo National Park, established in 1953, was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2003. “Matobo”, meaning 'bald heads', was the name chosen for the area by the great Ndebele King, Mzilikazi. He is buried in the Matobo Hills, as is Cecil John Rhodes. The Park is home to a wide variety of animal species, including Black and White Rhinoceros, Zebra, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Leopard, Hyena, Cheetah and Hippo. The park is also famous for its large concentration of Black Eagles, which can be seen perched atop the rock formations or soaring along the cliffs in search of prey. Bird species that can be found include Fish Eagle, Martial Eagle and Secretary Bird. Many caves within the park contain superb galleries of San / Bushman paintings.
Granite Ridge Wildlife Reserve is situated 48 Kilometers south of Bulawayo, on the boundary of the Matobo National Park. Accommodation at The Farm House is in 12 thatched, Cape Dutch-style cottages, which are built on the fringe of a majestic granite outcrop, and around the original “farm house”, containing the reception and restaurant.
Meals included : breakfast, dinner.

DAY 12 / 13        MATOBO HILLS.

Two full days of activities at The Farm House. Activities include walks and open-vehicle drives within the Park and on the private reserve.
Meals included : breakfast, lunch, dinner.


DAY 14    MATOBOS TO SEROWE.

Back to the border with Botswana, then we head south via Francistown and Palapye to SEROWE, the largest traditional village in Botswana. Visit the Khama III Memorial Museum (dedicated to the most famous family in the country, the Khamas – the first post-independence President of Botswana was Sir Seretse Khama, and the current president his son, Ian), and the Serowe Woodcarvers. Overnight at the SEROWE HOTEL. (www.serowehotel.com)
Meals included : breakfast, dinner.

DAY 15    SEROWE TO JOHANNESBURG.

Back to the Martin’s Drift border, then on to Johannesburg. Last night at THE SLEEPY GECKO GUESTHOUSE (www.sleepygecko.co.za) in MELVILLE.
Meals included : breakfast.


DAY 16    HOMETIME!
This morning do a tour of the city, including a visit to Golf Reef City, situated on a 10Ha site which surrounds the historically significant no 14 shaft at Crown Mines. This 19th century gold mine produced 1.4 million kilograms of gold before closing in the 1970's. Travel down the Gold Mine shaft to level 5 - 226 meters -  for a guided tour. Walk down tunnels with a hard hat and a torch in hand and experience the conditions that the miners had to endure. Once back on the surface, you experience a demonstration of pouring molten gold into gleaming bars of bullion. The adjoining mining town has been reconstructed to capture the gold rush era times of Johannesburg.
Transfer to O. R. Tambo International Airport for return flights.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 January 2016 14:54

Travel Quotes

Travel Quotes
Thursday, 12 August 2010

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

"The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa - for he has so much to look forward to."
Richard Mullin.

"Tourists don't know where they've been; travellers don't know where they're going."
Paul Theroux.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey.


“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land.”
G.K. Chesterton.


“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”
James Michener.


“The journey not the arrival matters.”
T. S. Eliot.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”
Mark Twain.


“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding – The Four Quartets.


“Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all.”
Brian Jackman.

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