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Go grab your safari hat and join this conservation and cultural safari in Zimbabwe. This safari offers you the chance to meet the Long Shield Guardians, explore Hwange National Park, join the rangers from the Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit, and many more. Come and discover the brilliance and serenity of Africa in the company of experts who can give you a closer look, a richer taste, a deeper understanding of an astonishing landscape.
Somalisa Camp is located on a waterhole frequented day and night, by elephants, antelopes, and big cats. Here, it is not unusual to be joined for sundowners by thirsty elephants who like to use the camp’s former swimming pool as their personal drinking fountain.
Bumi Hills Safari Lodge boasts one of Africa’s finest wilderness locations with an elevated position on a range of remote hills overlooking the vastness of Lake Kariba. This place is situated near the north-eastern border of Matusdona National Park and is easily accessible by light aircraft and boat, allowing you to be swiftly transported into paradise without the stress of a long journey.
Gonarezhou Bush Camp is an authentic wilderness camp, simple and comfortable, and no frills - just great food, cold drinks, good company, and a crackling fire.
Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge sits just across the river from Gonarezhou National Park and is perched atop a spectacular cliff overlooking the river. Here, you can take a well-earned rest after camping and bushwhacking through the wilds of Gonarezhou. This lodge allows you to take in the view overlooking the gorge from the numerous decks and balconies. There is a Chilo’s library which contains volumes of wildlife literature. Moreover, Gorge Safari Lodge also has a swimming pool. If the pool and view are just too tame, there is a waterfall just a short hike upstream.
Note: Deeper Africa uses best efforts to provide the lodging set out on this itinerary, but occasionally there are circumstances that occur in Africa that require lodging substitutions. Deeper Africa reserves the right to make comparable lodging substitutions whenever necessary.
Meet the Long Shields Lion Guardians, a group of courageous men and women who use drums, vuvuzela horns, and warning fires to chase lions away from schools and villages and back into protected areas. Go deep into the heart of the African wilderness alongside the dedicated conservationists, researchers, and anti-poaching patrols that are fighting daily to protect Zimbabwe’s endangered species and breathtaking natural landscapes from the threats posed by hunting, poaching, and human civilization.
Witness first-hand how these human-wildlife conflicts are being resolved by local community involvement with protected areas and sustainable tourism. Learn how to identify and track game in the remote Gonarezhou bush, accompany anti-poaching squads as they patrol protected areas, and spend time with local populations who are partnering with national parks and concessions to preserve habitats and bring prosperity to their communities. Every day, you will witness the spectacular wildlife. In conclusion, you will celebrate your day with food, song, and dance at Mahenye Cultural Festival.
Explorer Safaris is designed for curious, energetic safari travelers open to discovery. They are an adventure in contrast; one night will find you dining by candlelight in an exquisite lodge; on another evening, dinner will be served at the campfire of a well-staffed bush camp. On one day, you will explore safari places by Land Cruiser for thrilling, whisker-close encounters with the “Big Five”. Another day will find you hiking with local guides who explain the subtle meanings of tracks, bird songs, and the infinite other discoveries only an explorer can uncover.
Stage 1: Introduction to Zimbabwe’s wildlife
Deeper Africa has chosen to start this unique adventure at Hwange National Park, precisely because it boasts the highest diversity of mammals of any national park in the world with 108 species, not to mention 470 recorded bird species. At Hwange National Park, you will find everything from aardvark to zebra. With so much action, it’s impossible to predict everything we will encounter, but elephants, lions, buffalo and leopards are a good bet. Your guide will meet you at Victoria Falls International Airport (VFA).
From there, you will go to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest conservation area and home of its most famous wild residents. On the way to Hwange National Park, you will visit the Painted Dog Conservation Center and talk to researchers engaged in the protection of African Painted Dogs, one of the most beautiful and most endangered species on the African continent. You will arrive at Hwange’s Somalisa Camp by early evening just after the sun has descended over this beautiful landscape. After dinner, you will take a nighttime game drive, in search of nocturnal animals including leopards, bat-eared foxes, and hyenas.
Today, you will view and photograph wildlife from a 4 x 4 safari vehicle with opportunities to stop at various waterholes and get closer looks from a viewing hide (like a duck blind for elephants). Hwange National Park is unique among Africa’s wildlife parks because it allows for spontaneous walking safaris. Zimbabwe professional guides are considered some of the best in Africa because of the rigorous curriculum they study to become certified.
Hwange National Park has prided of lions, parades of elephants, gangs of buffalos, troops of baboons, dazzles of zebras, and towers of giraffes. Traditional safari-style game drives will allow you for whisker-close views of wildlife in their natural habitats. All the while, your guide will be explaining the finer points of wildlife tracking, identification, behavior, and other skills that will prove helpful further down the road.
Stage 2: Wildlife and humans - conflict and coexistence
Today, you will meet people who must coexist with some of the biggest and peskiest animals on Earth. As residents at Hwange National Park’s boundary, they must keep elephants out of the garden, lions away from the livestock, and baboons out of the pantry. They also do it in a way that protects both themselves and the animals. Your host will be African Bush Camps Foundation, a non-profit organization that is committed to empowering rural communities on the outskirts of wildlife areas and national parks.
You will visit the Vukani and Thandanani Community Projects which are microfinance groups that produce traditional beadwork and sewing crafts using recycled materials. Vukani also maintains a communal garden and will be happy to share methods for dealing with garden pests such as elephants and quelea birds. You will join a local family for a traditional Zimbabwean meal and visit Mambanje Primary School with time to greet teachers, attend a class, meet one on one with a few of the students, and enjoy some traditional song and dance.
The most unique meeting of the day will be with Polite Chipembere, Mambanje’s own Long Shields Lion Guardian. Led by Brent Staplekamp of the WildCRU project from Oxford University, Lion Guardians protects village livestock and the children who walk daily to school where predators roam. The Lion Guardian will give you a demonstration of how they track collared lions and show you their favorite tactics for moving lions away from populated areas.
Stage 3: Patrolling for poachers
Today, you will take a 12-seater Cessna Caravan to Bumi Hills to meet Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Patrol. These are front-line rangers who are trained and mentored by long-time Zimbabwe anti-poaching expert, Mark Brightman. The rangers patrol the wilds and confront armed and dangerous poachers. The illegal trade in ivory and rhino horns is ravaging Zimbabwe’s natural resources.
The rangers have removed over 4,000 wire and cable snares and arrested over 50 poachers. They’ve rescued some lionesses who had a snare around her ankle, a bull elephant with a snare on his front leg, and another lioness with a snare on her torso - just to name a few. They patrol at Bumi Hills Wildlife Area and provide support at Matusadona National Park.
You will stay at the Bumi Hills Safari Lodge on Lake Kariba. Tomorrow will be an action-packed adventure, so for today, you can enjoy the comforts and activities of the lodge including a spa, a pool, and decks overlooking the lake. You will embark on a boat cruise on Lake Kariba with a chance to go fishing for some bream fish. In this aquatic environment, you may also be able to spot hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and hundreds of birds. Enjoy drinks as the magical African sun sets over the lake. Legend has it that Lake Kariba is home to a Loch Ness-like lake monster called the Nyami Nyami.
Today will get your adrenaline pumping as you will join the rangers of Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit on an actual ground patrol. Not in a vehicle, you will be walking. The Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit protects Bumi Hills Wildlife Area from poachers by investigating poaching crime scenes, removing snares, and actively preventing poachers from entering the area and making illegal kills. Poachers are constantly surveilling this area because of the large concentration of elephants around Lake Kariba.
You will patrol with the rangers, disarming, and confiscating any snares or traps that are found. Along the way, you will look for signs of illegal activity, record the locations of animals encountered, and record another unusual activity. The rangers will collect this information to keep an ongoing record of poaching activity. Unfortunately, due to the rampant poaching that has taken place in recent years, it is common to come across carcasses of poached animals.
You may get a firsthand look at a forensic investigation as the rangers gather detailed information from the scene of the crime, including the cause of the death and ballistic evidence. Please, be advised that anti-poaching work is unpredictable. In a case of an emergency in which all rangers are required to be out in the field, you will have backup activities available that will ensure your safety.
Stage 4: The place of many elephants
Vast, remote, and untrodden, Gonarezhou National Park is a true African wilderness. In the Shona language, “Gonarezhou” means place of many elephants and the elephants here number in the thousands. The park’s remote location on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique makes it both a pristine wilderness and a magnate for ivory poachers.
A Cessna Caravan will take you from Bumi Hills Safari Lodge to Buffalo Range Airstrip, just a few miles from the border of Gonarezhou. Once you get to the park, you will move by a vehicle to your first remote campsite. There may be time for a walking safari to explore, meet wildlife, and discover edible and medicinal plants.
After dinner around the campfire, your guest will be Hugo van der Westhuizen who is a project leader with the Frankfurt Zoological Society. Hugo will introduce you to the high-tech tools of the trade for policing the park and detecting incursions from ivory poachers and illegal hunters. The Zoological Society has agreed to co-manage Gonarezhou with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority. It is proving to be a successful model for sustainable conservation in collaboration with communities.
Gonarezhou National Park is Zimbabwe’s wildest park and home to Africa’s wildest elephants. Wild elephants can be tricky to get close to. Fortunately, you will be led by skilled Shangaan trackers, descendants of the hunter-gatherer bands who have lived on this land for millennia. You will also be led by a master safari guide, Anthony “Ant” Kaschula. With two degrees in Environmental Science, Ant is both a wildlife tracker and environmental scholar.
As one of Zimbabwe’s most well-known and respected guides, he will share his encyclopedic knowledge of flora, fauna, and terrain as you explore what is virtually a lost world. As Ant would say, “Touching, smelling, feeling, listening, and breathing in the sights, sounds, and smells,” Ant has extensive experiences at the park and he will be showing you some of his favorite spots.
As you travel deeper into Gonarezhou’s poaching hotspots, you will follow tracks, search out signs, and hone in on subtle clues. A full day of reading tracks, interpreting sounds, and approaching animals while observing their behavior keeps up all the senses. These activities will be a day of constant surprises, making it disarm a game snare or discover a new pack of wild dogs.
Having explored a fraction of this wild land of over 13,000 square miles (33,670 kilometers), you will have encountered many of the park's wild inhabitants such as elephants, lions, wild dogs, leopards, cheetahs (including the rare king cheetah), hyenas, buffalo, giraffes, zebras, many species of antelope, and hundreds of birds. The landscape lends another dimension of wildness.
Three rivers course through the park, the Mwenzi, the Runde, and the Savé (pronounced Sa-vey) with canyons, waterfalls, and pools. The rivers are year-round magnets for birds and animals. Towering cliffs, open pans, and forests make infinite perspectives. The place is alive, constantly changing, and beautiful. This will be a full day of exploration of this unique landscape. With so many possibilities, anything should be expected.
Today, you will cross Sane River and drive to Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge in time for lunch. Game drives or hiking safaris are available options. If you are lucky, you will be joined by Clive Stockil, one of the founders of Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge. Clive is one of Africa’s greatest conservation pioneers and the winner of the Prince William Award for a Lifetime Contribution to Conservation in Africa. Clive’s been working with both the park and the local Shangaan people since 1980. Together, they have built one of the best community conservation programs in Africa.
Stage 5: Celebration and festival
The close working relationship between the lodge and the local Shangaan community in Mahenye Village is exemplary. Every year in September, the Mahenye Festival takes place. This is a celebratory festival which includes traditional textiles, bead-ware, food, beer, music, dance, poetry, and storytelling. In September 2017, you will join the celebration. As the Zimbabwean proverb says, “If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing!”
Today, you will depart by a Cessna Caravan for Harare where you will be able to board your international flight home.
Brent Staplekamp is a Lion Guardians who protects village livestock and the children who walk daily to school where predators roam.
Hugo van der Westhuizen
Hugo van der Westhuizen is a project leader of Frankfurt Zoological Society.
Anthony “Ant” Kaschula is a master safari guide with two degrees in Environmental Science. Ant is both a wildlife tracker and environmental scholar and known as one of Zimbabwe’s most well-known and respected guides.
This safari will cover Hwange National Park, Lake Kariba, and Gonarezhou National Park.
During this safari, you will be served daily breakfast, lunch, dinner, alcohol drinks, sundowners, and other beverages. Bottled water will also be available all the time. On day 2, you will join a local family for a traditional Zimbabwean meal at Vukani and Thandanani Community Projects. Deeper Africa inspects the camps, lodges, and hotels where their guests stay on safari.
Particular attention is paid to the cleanliness of the kitchens, to hygiene practices of the kitchen staff, and to the expertise of the food service staff. The accommodations they chose to work with make these things a priority. Deeper Africa's safari vehicles are always well-stocked with bottled or filtered water. Your accommodations will also provide bottled or filtered water in your room for tooth brushing.
During your stay at Bumi Hills Safari Lodge, spa treatments are available at an additional cost.
Please arrive at Victoria Falls International Airport (VFA). Deeper Africa will pick you up there and it is included in the price.