Category Archives: Zimbabwe

The 2019 wish-list: top five safari destinations to explore in 2019

Over the next few weeks we’ll focus on five different safari destinations worthy of making your 2019 wish-list. We’ll look at new camps, lodges and activities and give you ideas for amazing holidays in 2019. 

This week – it’s Zimbabwe.

1.ZIMBABWE

Kanga-Camp-Mana-Pools-Zimbabwe-African-Bush-Camps-Safari-Tented-Camp-Main-Area-2-1200x750Kanga Camp, Mana Pools

Zimbabwe is firmly back on the safari map with a more stable political climate, investment going into developing its tourism infrastructure and the Univisa making holidaying in both Zimbabwe and Zambia easier.

This land-locked country in Southern Africa offers magnificent wilderness , exceptional guiding and a fantastic array of activities. You can canoe the Zambezi, walk in Mana Pools, zipline over Victoria Falls and stake out a waterhole from a hide in Hwange in the space of a 10 day -two week trip.

Prime safari areas are easily accessed via the international gateways of Victoria Falls and Harare. The best time to go is between May and September although many of the camps are open from April to mid November.

Find out more about Zimbabwe and see sample safaris here.

Call us on 01603 964 730 or email enquiries@realafrica.co.uk to discuss a safari to Zimbabwe.

Mana Pools

Rukomechi287There’s a real buzz about Zimbabwe as we start 2019, and especially beautiful Mana Pools.

If you saw the BBC Dynasties episode on the Painted Wolves of Mana then you’ll have some idea why this World Heritage national park has attracted so much attention in recent months.

This wild and beautiful region is only accessible during the dry season (April to November) there are very few vehicle tracks and only a handful of safari camps.

Activities include walking, canoeing and 4WD safaris with wildlife viewing off-the-scale. The area is very well-known for its large bull elephants – encounters can be thrilling (especially on foot) – as well as a full cast of predators.

Well-established owner/run camps such as Vundu Camp where wild dog expert Nick Murray who appeared on the Dynasties episode is based, or Goliath Camp, home of Stretch Ferreira stand the test of time with emphasis firmly on quality guiding.

2017 saw the opening of John’s Camp,  and Zambezi Expeditions and Kanga Camp from African Bush Camps.

2018 sees further new camps with each one below having a strong focus on responsible travel and conservation.

1.Chikwenya

Chikwenya large_focal_g4310-chikwenyaChikwenya is part of the Wilderness Safaris portfolio of camps and lodges. The camp has always been in this magical position on the far eastern boundary of Mana overlooking the Zambezi but in autumn 2018 it opened with a completely new look. There are just seven glorious tented suites  complete with outdoor showers, with two family units to follow in Spring 2019. Activities range from walking and boating to day and night drives. A stay here would work well with one of its sister properties in Mana, Ruckomechi or Little Ruckomechi on the western boundary or with one of the excellent Wilderness camps in Hwange (Davisons. Linkwasha, Little Makalolo). The camps are all accessed by nearby airstrips and the services of Wilderness Air. Enjoy a 5% long-stay discount on 6 night+ safaris in any combination of their Zim camps/lodges for stays until 31 May and from 1 Nov 2019 (subject to availability – special dates apply).

2.Nyamatusi

Nyamatusi-Campmain-area-outside-Mana-Pools-National-Park-Zimbabwe-5Owner-run African Bush Camps is due to open six suite Nyamatusi Camp in April 2019 giving clients three wonderful but very different camps to choose from in Mana Pools. Nyamatusi is a luxury option in a private concession in the eastern area of Mana with all suites offering plunge pools and wonderful views.  We love ABCs new Wild Dogs of Zimbabwe itinerary which splits time in Mana between Kanga Camp and Mana Expedition Camp,  a characterful mobile camp on the banks of the Zambezi. The itinerary also visits Somalisa Expedition Camp in Hwange and Thorntree River Lodge on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.

3. Greater Mana Expedition Camp

Greater Mana great-plains-manaexpedition-gallery-13Great Plains Conservation also now offers an exciting itinerary option in Zimbabwe with the opening of Mpala Jena close to Victoria Falls. Mpala Jena has just four tented suites, and works brilliantly in combination with Greater Mana Expedition Camp in the private Sapi Reserve on the eastern boundary of Mana Pools. Mana Expedition hosts a maximum of six guests and the emphasis is very much on activity and adventure in this pristine and beautiful environment.

Here are some other new camps/lodges in Zimbabwe to look out for and consider for your holiday:

Matusadona/Lake Kariba

Bumi-Hills-Safariimbabwe_Luxury-Safari-Lodge_Lake-View_Viewing-Deck_-African-Bush-Camps-88-1200x662Bumi Hills reopened in 2018 after an extensive refurbishment. There are ten suites with spectacular lake views. Lake cruises, walking safaris and game drives are all on the agenda. This is a stunning spot to simply relax and admire the colours changing over Lake Kariba. One of the highlights of any visit to Matusadona is learning about rhino conservation here and the background and success of the Intensive Rhino Protection Zone.  Other well-established options in the Lake Kariba/Matusadona area include Changa Safari Camp and Rhino Safari Camp.

Hwange

Verneys MachabaSafaris-verneys-camp-gallery-13Verney’s Camp is a new opening in Hwange and sits in a private concession within the south-eastern zone of the national park – a low traffic area. This classic tented camp, part of Machaba Safaris is an exciting prospect and offers eight tented rooms plus a further two family rooms. All tented rooms look out to the waterhole in front of the camp. Verney’s further strengthens the excellent camp offering in Hwange which can be reached very easily by road from Victoria Falls – the main gate is around a 2 1/2 hour drive away. There is also an airstrip for fly-in safari access,  but road transfers, especially if travelling in a group or as a family, give flexibility and allow you to have more freedom with your baggage! Fly in safaris impose very strict baggage guidelines!  Road transfers also help to keep the cost down while  allowing you to see more of the country. The Hide Hwange remains a favourite option with the waterhole very close to camp  along with Camp Hwange and Davison’s. African Bush Camps offer three high quality options with Somalisa, family friendly Somalisa Acacia and Somalisa Expedition. Some camps offer the chance to get a behind-the-scenes conservation experience with visits to the Painted Dog Conservation Centre or by joining a Hwange Pump Run. Find out more about Hwange here.

Victoria Falls

ZimZam slider shutterstock_129335261There are dozens of places to stay in Victoria Falls – you can stay in an economical  guesthouse in town,  a colonial grand hotel with lawns rolling virtually down to the Falls, a safari lodge or a river lodge. Victoria Falls is a great place to arrive and relax following an international flight. It’s a good destination for families with many exciting activities on offer, for example the Flying Fox or canopy tours. Victoria Falls combines brilliantly with a safari to Hwange since you can transfer easily and affordably by road, or with Chobe in Botswana. In the last year several new properties have opened around Victoria Falls.  At the top end is spectacular Mpala Jena from Great Plains.  Old Drift Lodge is also new, around 7km upstream of Victoria Falls on the banks of the Zambezi. The lodge is owned by Wild Horizons who also offer The Elephant Camp at Victoria Falls. The tented lodge opened in May 2018 so has had a season to settle in. There are 10 suites here plus an additional four family suites. As well as being able to enjoy river cruises and game drives on the banks of the Zambezi, guests are close enough to visit the Falls themselves and enjoy some of the many activities. Masuwe Lodge is in a similar location and has re-opened after extensive refurbishment. You can also stay on the Zambian side of the Falls – known for its beautiful river lodges – great places to kick back pre or post safari and to get out on the water, but you’ll have to wait to read the blog on Zambia…

Next week: why a holiday to Tanzania should be on your wish-list.

 

Top 10 Wild Gifts for Christmas

There’re  just 10 days to go till Christmas Day. Are you stuck for gift ideas? Here’s our Top 10 Wild Christmas gifts for that ‘hard to buy for’ person in your life.

1.Spend time with the relations – Gorilla trekking permit, from US $600 (Uganda) to US $750 (Rwanda)

  • Find out more about gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda here.
  • See sample gorilla trekking safari holidays here.
  • Read Lily’s account of gorilla trekking here.

2.Mistletoe moment – fall in love with Africa and give a subscription to Travel Africa, the world’s only magazine dedicated to exploring Africa, from £15. Check out their subscription offers here.

3.Cloud Nine Experience – take to the skies at sunrise with a hot air balloon safari, complete with champagne breakfast from £325  (available in the Masai Mara, Serengeti and Tarangire)

  • Read about Robert’s experience in Tarangire here.
  • Find out more about hot air balloon safaris and other unforgettable safari experiences here.

4.Christmas Cracker – traditional cool, colourful cotton Kenyan Kikoys (try saving that after a few sherries) from £25. We love these ones from Blue Summer.

5.Flight of Angels – fly high over Victoria Falls, from £100 – £180 per person. A fabulous way to take in the full drama of this natural spectacle.

  • See a video of the Flight of Angels here.
  • There are many excursions from Victoria Falls – you can get some ideas here.
  • See sample safari itineraries in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

6.Trumpet Fanfare – adopt an elephant, from US $50 per year. Enjoy monthly emails updating you on your elephant with pictures and videos.

  • Find out more about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust fostering programme here.
  • Read about Kithaka and Arruba, the elephants fostered by the Real Africa Trust here.

7.Give a Great White Christmas – adventurous cage diving in South Africa from £120 per person. It  might not be the most obvious thing to give your loved one, but cage diving with  a Great White in South Africa’s glorious Cape is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Cage diving can be easily added to any tailormade safari in the Cape. Find out more about our safaris and holidays in South Africa here.
8.A Night with the Stars – sleep out under the great African night sky from US $625 per person per night. Romantic, wonderful, unforgettable – this is a real Christmas cracker. There are many lodges offering a star bed experience including Loisaba and Serian in Kenya, Little Kulala in Namibia, Tswalu in South Africa, Baines and Jao Camp in Botswana. We love Nkwichi on Lake Malawi and the Dove’s Nest at The Hide in Hwange. 

Read our blog about the best star beds in Africa here.

9.Jumbo Bells – Real Africa silver elephant pendant, from £140 each. These beautiful hand-finished eles, as worn by Saba Douglas-Hamilton, are made by jeweller, Penny Price and were specially commissioned by Real Africa for our 15th anniversary. 30% from each and every one (all the profit) is donated to conservation charity Save the Elephants.

To find out more or to order online please click here. Please note: due to overwhelming demand we are now looking at New Year deliveries!

10. Gold, Frankincence, Myrrh …and travel show tickets of course – let Brian Jackman, Monty Halls and other travel experts inspire you in the travel theatres and spend your day consulting the specialists about your future travels plans. Compliments of Real Africa.

Request your complimentary tickets to the new Telegraph Travel Show or Destinations Manchester or London here.

 

 

 

VIDEO: The Flight of Angels, Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The massive Zambezi River falls over 108  metres (360 ft), with over 1,050 cubic metres of water per second racing over its lip when its in full flood. When visiting, from either the Zimbabwean or Zambian sites, its often hard to get a grasp on the scale of it. Vast clouds of spray rise up, soaking you in seconds and hiding areas of the Falls in mist.

With a total width of 1,706 metres (5,604 Ft) spread out in a large arc, its also impossible to get a vantage point from where it’s all visible. After the Falls, the river runs off in a deep cut canyon, racing away through a series of fast-moving rapids. From the ground you can only look from certain vantage points, like the iron bridge that links the two countries, completed in 1905, but get no idea of its course, how it twists and turns as it runs away.

A great way to see the Falls is on the Flight of Angels, a 10 minute helicopter. It gives a perspective of the vastness of the African landscape, the size of the Zambezi as it heads to the Falls, the amount of spray produced and a birds-eye perspective of the Zambezi gorges as they channel the water away.

Many of our clients who visit the Falls do the flight and love it. As well as great views its also exhilarating. This video was taken by Lily, one of our Senior African Consultants. We’ve left it unedited, running from lift-off to landing. You will see in the video that the helicopter circles the Falls twice, ensuring that whichever side of the helicopter you are on, you get a great view of the Falls in one direction, and views of the river, gorge, and Victoria Falls town on the other.

Fishing Holidays in Africa

Did you know that fishing not football is the most popular pastime in the UK? No I didn’t either although my brother in law is a keen angler. Fishing holidays are also growing in popularity and Africa is one of the best places to go. You get the chance to catch some really huge and exciting fish and relax in some beautiful scenery. You can also combine it with a safari and get the best of both worlds. Also the safari or beach option might please a non-fishing partner! With so much to choose from we have narrowed it down with some ideas below.

Botswana

One of the best places for a fishing holiday is Botswana and in particular the Okavango Delta. This huge inland river delta covers hundreds of miles and surprisingly doesn’t run into the sea but evaporates and disappears into the land. There are permanent lagoons and rivers but during the rains the area covered by water increases enormously. Fishing is available at most of the lodges on the Delta. We have several lovely luxury safari lodges and camps where all the game viewing is done by motorboat or mokoro (a dug-out canoe) and fishing is also widely available.  A day spent drifting through the reed beds passing big game and stunning birds whilst you fish is pretty unbeatable!

In the crystal clear waters of the Okavango River you can fish for tigerfish, tilapia, bream, nembwe and African pike. The tigerfish is an indigenous with an enormous appetite and they can grow up to 9 kilos in weight! The best time to fish for tiger fish is during the annual catfish or barbel runs. This is usually in our autumn from late August to the beginning of November. Bream fishing is usually best during our summer months, from April until August. We recommend staying at Camp Okavango  for excellent fishing. The lodges and camps can provide all the fishing equipment you need but you can take your own kit if you prefer.

Mozambique

Mozambique is a huge country stretching along the east coast of Africa from Tanzania to the north down to South Africa in the south. It offers a massive variety of habitats from the Zambezi River to the shores of Lake Malawi, from national parks filled with the Big Five to lush mangrove swamps and islands dotted off the stunning coastline.  However the main type of fishing done in Mozambique is  sea or sport fishing and the island archipelagos and coral reefs are outstanding here. Marine life includes whales, dolphins, manta rays, turtles and sharks. The Mozambique coastline, particularly the Bazaruto and the Quirimbas Archipelagos, offers some of the most spectacular sport fishing in the world.  This part of the Indian Ocean is a protected marine reserve meaning it is unspoiled and pretty undiscovered which makes it ideal for a luxury fishing holiday.  Combine this with some truly stunning hotel and beach resorts and some of the world’s finest beaches and Mozambique is a dream destination.

The deep Mozambique Channel has a very strong current and it provides a home to some of the world’s most exciting sport fish.  Species such as black, blue and striped marlin, sailfish, shortbill spearfish, wahoo, dorado, various tuna species, king and queen mackerel, kingfish (jack’s), queenfish, barracuda and snappers are all  to be found here. Again there is plenty to do if you are travelling with a partner or friend who isn’t into fishing as there are plenty of fabulous beaches, scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing, boat trips and luxury lodges to relax in such as Ibo Island Lodge . The boat operators provide all the gear you will need for sport fishing and we can pre-book it for you or you can do it when you are there through the hotel concierge.

Malawi

Lake Malawi is another fabulous fishing destination for the keen angler and it is also popular for those who want to go diving and see the endemic fish species that live in this enormous inland sea.  Again like all our destinations the scenery as well as the wildlife is fantastic and we have some fabulous lodges and beach resorts dotted along the shores of the Lake. The water here is crystal clear, unpolluted and wonderfully warm and there are many sandy beach, islands and rocky coves providing plenty of different habitats.

The majority of the 400+ species in Lake Malawi are small tropical aquarium fish, mbuna. However you can also find sungwa (perch), ngumbo (lake yellow-fish), mpasa (lake salmon), sanjika (smaller relative of lake salmon), ncheni (lake tiger), kampango (catfish) and vundu (catfish). Fishing is year round but probably the best time to go is between September and April.  One of the best places to stay on the lake is Pumulani Lodge.  although there are more rustic options available too.

Although Lake Malawi is the main draw you can also do plenty of fantastic river fishing. The Bua River, running through the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, is excellent for salmon with the Luweya, Lufira and North Rukuru not far behind. In the Lower Shire River, below the Kapichira Falls on the southern boundary of the Majete Wildlife Reserve, tigerfish are abundant, joined further down by vundu and barbel as the river broadens. Heavier tackle and a boat are needed here. Dry season fishing between May and November is possible in the Lower Shire river and requires no licence. The streams and dams of Zomba Plateau, Mount Mulanje and Nyika Plateau are well stocked with rainbow trout. You are only allowed to do fly fishing in this area with flies tied on single hooks. The season runs from September to April. Please note you will have to take your own kit with you in most places although some lodges do provide good tackle. Please check with us first before travel.

Zimbabwe and Zambia

Lake Kariba and the Zambezi River are the main highlights for a fisherman. The Zambezi River is the fourth largest river in Africa and is home to one of the continent’s most sought-after fresh water game fish such as the tiger fish. The tigerfish is an aggressive predator and  one of the fastest freshwater game fish in Africa which makes it a challenging species to catch and a great challenge for fly fisherman. Trying to lure the fierce tiger fish can be a real batlle as it usually puts on a dramatic display of fight when captured. Both the Upper Zambezi – the section of river above the Victoria Falls – and the Lower Zambezi – the section below the Kariba Dam wall – offer excellent opportunities to fish for tigerfish.

There are a number of excellent fishing lodges on the banks of both the upper and lower sections of the Zambezi and also there is a  huge range of wonderful safari lodges that offer fishing as well as game drives looking for the Big Five. Many of these lodges provide a range of fishing activities, all the way from a novice angler to the professional fly fisherman.  As fishing can be combined with game activities  and wonderful safaris this is a great holiday if you have a partner or friend who does not wish to fish as there is plenty to do and the lodge are all great places for relax with swimming pools and sundecks. For the visiting angler most can provide a full range of equipment is provided but you can take your own tackle if you prefer (please check before you travel!). We can recommend staying at various different lodges such as Mana Pools Camp many of which offer fishing along with safari activities and canoeing.

Some itineraries which feature our favourite fishing destinations include:

Desert and Delta Safari in Botswana

Tailormade Mozambique

Malawi – Valley and Lake Holiday

Best of Zimbabwe

But please note that we tailor-make all our holidays to suit you so if you want a purely fishing holiday then please give us a call and we can create one specially for you!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

Ancient Africa And Where To Find It

Most people go to Southern and Eastern Africa for the wildlife and scenery but actually it is a fantastic destination for those looking for a bit of history. After all Africa is the cradle of civilisation and the place were mankind was first discovered. There are many fantastic sites where you can see evidence of ancient times; from rock art to ruined cities, from fossilised remains to ancient living tribes there is something for everyone even remotely interested in Africa’s epic and important history.

Ethiopia – Axum, Lalibela and Gondar

Ethiopia is one of the most historically and religiously significant places in the world with an exciting past that is still very much evident today. Those who visit Ethiopia are stunned by the vast number of holy sites which have amazingly survived pretty much intact. If you wish to visit the most important historic sites of Ethiopia then you should definitely include Lalibela, perhaps the most famous of them all. This site is home to 12 monolithic or rock-hewn churches including the Church of St George. How they managed to carve these churches from underground and the rock face itself back in the 13th century is just mind boggling.

In Axum (Aksum), an ancient capital of Ethiopia and home to the Kings, you can find the basilic Church of our Lady Mary of Zion. This is believed to be the home of the Ark of the Covenant that Moses carried with him during the Great Exodus. No one is allowed access to it for fear of the dire biblical warnings associated with the Ark so many religious scholars doubt that the Ark is really there. There is plenty more to explore in Axum as there are many stelae or obelisks dating back 1700 years and historic royal palaces; a relic of the time when Axum was the capital of Ethiopia (from 400BC – 1000AD).

Also worth a visit is Gondar which was once the ancient capital city of both the Ethiopian Empire and the later Begemder Province. Gondar is home to many important remains including several royal castles, including Fasilides’ castle, Iyasu’s palace, Dawit’s Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Empress Mentewab’s castle, a chancellery, library and three churches. Near the city lie Fasilides’ Bath, home to an annual ceremony where it is blessed and then opened for bathing; the Qusquam complex, built by Empress Mentewab; the eighteenth century Ras Mikael Sehul’s Palace and the Debre Berhan Selassie Church.

There is so much history to explore in Ethiopia that you need a good couple of weeks to get the most from your tour. We have several different tours in Ethiopia that include the most important sites.

South Africa – Rock Art in the Drakensburg

South Africa is an incredibly rich source of cave paintings and one of the best areas to see many of them in in Kwazulu Natal in the stunningly beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. The area is now protected as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The San people (also known as Bushman) created beautiful rock paintings and engravings which you can see all around this area. There are over 40,000 of them in this area alone so they were pretty prolific! There are various walking tours that take you to sites that are close together and these trails usually have an information centre where you can learn more about them or hire a guide to show you around. We have a great range of beautiful accommodation in the Drakensberg Mountains including Cathedral  Peak and Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse and some great South Africa self drive tours that pass through the Drakensberg.

The Kamberg San Rock Art Trail is incredible and includes such sites as the Game Pass Shelter.  The San paintings are now national monuments protected by law but were first discovered back in the early 1900s.  At first they were thought to be simple depictions of daily life such as hunting but nowadays experts believe that the artwork is actually made up of mystical images that were seen by shamans whilst in a trance.  Among the most accessible of the many Drakensberg rock art sites is the open-air Bushman Cave Museum in the Giant’s Castle Reserve, established in 1903 and run by KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation. A short walk takes you to the cave, which features 500 rock paintings, some of which are estimated to be around 800 years old. However if you are a fit and adventurous hiker you can take yourself off to more remote trails where you will be able to discover caves on your own!

Tanzania – Olduvai (Oldupai) Gorge

Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania is actually one of the most important paleo-anthropological sites in the whole world and you can visit it on one of our Tanzania safari holidays.  You can visit en route to the Ngorongoro Crater. This site was part of a scientific discovery that rocked the scientific world.  It allowed scientists to date early mankind for the first time as it was here that remains were found from millions of years ago. Olduvai turned out to have been occupied by Homo Habilis 1.9 million years ago,  Paranthropus Boisei 1.8 million years ago, and Homo Erectus 1.2 million years ago.  Modern mankind known as Homo Sapiens is dated to have occupied the site 17,000 years ago.

Louis and Mary Leakey were the paleo-archaeologists responsible for most of the excavations and discoveries of fossils in Olduvai Gorge and their family have since continued their work and even today scientists are still continuing to discover important finds in the area. The Leakeys were firm believers in Darwin’s theory of evolution and were sure that early man had lived in the area. They followed other scientists finds but it was their discovery of a homonid skull that meant Tanzania was truly the origin of mankind. In 1959, Mary found remains of the robust australopithecine Zinjanthropus boisei (now known as Paranthropus boisei) which has been one of the major scientific discoveries of all time. This is because the age of the skeleton was put at  1.75 million years and this dramatically changed what had been the previously estimated time scale of human evolution.

Zimbabwe – Great Zimbabwe

The Great Zimbabwe ruins are the largest collection of ruins in Africa south of the Sahara such as Libya, Egypt and Morocco. Located in Zimbabwe between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, the ruins are remains of an ancient culture of great wealth and impressive architectural skills. Built between the 11th and 15th centuries, Great Zimbabwe was home to a cattle-herding people who also became adept at metal-working. The ruins are the largest of their kind on the Zimbabwe Plateau, but they are by no means unique. There are lots of much smaller sites across Zimbabwe and as far as Mozambique. Great Zimbabwe is impressive as it was once home to up to 20, 000 people in its heyday. The remains are made up of granite walls – embellished with turrets, towers, platforms and elegantly sculpted stairways which show a huge amount of skill and expertise in architecture and engineering for such an early civilisation. Although the site was ransacked by European explorers and treasure hunters it is still an incredible place to visit and well worth a visit. It can be combined with a tour of Southern Africa or a safari in Zimbabwe. So important are the ruins to the nation that the country actually took its name from the Shona word for ruins, ” Zimbabwe”.

Posted by Ruth Bolton