Effortless Victoria Falls, Hwange and Matopos
Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Matobo National Park
Are you ready for a genuine African safari adventure? The 13-day Zimbabwe Wildlife Safari Adventure goes mobile and deep into the wildest and most amazing game reserves in Zimbabwe: Hwange, Chizarira, Matusadona and Mana Pools; plus we throw in Victoria Falls for good measure.
Starting (or ending if you reverse it) with a scenic tour of Victoria Falls , this is a safari adventure where every stop is a wonder of diversity and singular beauty. The four National Park game reserves you visit - Hwange National Park , Chizarira National Park , Lake Kariba and Matusadona and Mana Pools National Park - are quite different from each other with great bio-diversity and varied topography and features.
Hwange National Park has vast savannah plains, gentle hills and thickets of miombo and hardwood trees punctuated with waterholes. And elephants. Wild dogs, lions, leopard, rhino, cheetah and many other species of plains game you will see here too.
Chizarira National Park is a wild, scenic and impenetrable game reserve above the Zambezi escarpment. The densely wooded peaks and spring-fed valleys make walking safaris the order of the day and leopard the king of the land.
Matusadona National Park is a mini-Ngorongoro without the Land Rovers. Bound on three sides by water and backing onto the 600m Zambezi Escarpment, Matusadona is a vast pen of wildlife and great beauty. The park measures 1,500sq km and is said to have the highest concentration of lion in Africa. Access is mostly on foot, making Matusadona a true wilderness experience. Rhino and the full gamut of plains game along with some great birding add to the Matusadona thrill as does the proximity of Lake Kariba and all its promise of fun and relaxation.
Mana Pools is a vast floodplain along the Zambezi River and yet another experience altogether. The plains support a diversity of wildlife, the massive mahogany and acacia trees provide great cover for all the plains species and the 2,000sq km of seasonally flooded plains provide water for a great diversity and high concentrations of all species. Mana Pools offers walking safaris, canoeing safaris, night and day game drives and you're in big game country with no shortage of elephants, lions, buffalos, cheetahs, leopards, hippos, crocs, fish eagles and tiger fish.
With the exception of Victoria Falls and Lake Kariba (Matusadona), all your accommodation is in private, fully serviced mobile camps featuring large en suite tents with eco-friendly showers and toilets. On a full board basis, the camping is as much a part of this exciting safari as is the game viewing, spectacular scenery and complete tranquillity.
Your Zimbabwe wildlife safari adventure ends with a half-day drive back to Harare and your connecting flight home.
Arrive at Victoria Falls International Airport - usually from Johannesburg - and we will transfer you to your hotel for a refreshing swim, lunch and a doze. In the afternoon we'll take you on a guided walking tour of Victoria Falls .
In medium to high water months you will need a raincoat and a bag to keep your camera dry. Raincoats are available for hire and we recommend a zip-lock sealable bag for your camera.
In the late afternoon you'll board the Zambezi Queen or similar boat for a gentle sunset river cruise on the Zambezi River above the falls. The mile-wide river is shouldered by dense woodland through which elephants and buffalo often come for an evening tipple; hippos wallow in the shallow discussing politics; crocodiles brood in the disappearing sun and everywhere birds sing their songs; the sun dips behind the spray from Victoria Falls: in short, all will be good in this world on your Zambezi River sunset cruise.
Dinner can be at your hotel or one of the many excellent restaurants in Victoria Falls.
On your second day in Victoria Falls you have the whole of Victoria Falls at your fingertips and we have an exciting dinner booking for you at the Boma Restaurant including transfer to and from the restaurant.
Having spent the previous day on the two mandatory activities - viewing the falls and a sunset river cruise - you now have the opportunity to explore at your leisure.
Activities in Victoria Falls are boundless and at times mind-boggling. Adventure and thrill-seekers will find no shortage of crazy acts to impress your friends with.
Nature and wildlife lovers will be pleasantly surprised by the safari activities on offer (of course these come with the adventure features as well, like walking with lions or an elephant-back safari).
There are many ways to view the falls: from the air in a (highly recommended) flight of angels; from below in a (yet again, adventurous) jet-boat that skims about as close as you can get (or want to get for that matter); from the Zambian side and from above, on the precipice, where at certain times of the year, you can swim in a pool metres from the edge (it looks scary in pictures but is completely safe).
Craft markets abound and there are many great bargains on excellent Shona sculptures to be had. Take some spare shirts and clothes to trade with as they are most welcome in this area.
And then of course there are the genuine adventure activities: white-water rafting, bungee jumping, gorge swinging, skydiving, river-boarding, jet-boating… the envelope-pushing dare-devil madness is always evolving here. For us, it's fun enough just watching thanks very much.
Talk to your Travel Expert about the activities on offer, all of which can booked in advance or on arrival at your hotel's booking centre.
Accommodation: Ilala Lodge or similar
From Victoria Falls you have a pleasant drive through Hwange National Park to your private camp, which has been set up by the advance crew.
The private camps are mobile-style in exclusive settings picked for their proximity to the wildlife and scenery. We use large stand-up canvas tents with proper beds, an en suite bathroom (with bush loo and eco-friendly shower) and a private porch.
The camp is serviced by your attentive camp crew who will whip up amazing meals on the fire, keep your tents neat and tidy, top up your shower with hot water and of course look out for your safety at all times. Your professional guide is also on hand to entertain and interpret the sounds, smells and tail-swishing sights of the great African bush.
At 14,600sq km, Hwange is a large, pristine and scenic game reserve - mid-way in size between Chobe National Park and Kruger National Park and vying with the greats for "Best Game Reserve in Africa" status.
Along with its size comes great diversity of habitats and Hwange is known for its high wildlife and bird populations. With 420 bird species and 105 mammals recorded it is one of the most diverse game reserves in Africa.
For many, the camping is almost the highlight of their Hwange safari but the thrill of tracking a rhino or watching a herd of elephants drink at sunset cannot be matched.
Hwange National Park has many waterholes that ensure varied and reliable game viewing. Hwange is famous for its predators and its great herds of elephant and buffalo. Hwange has the world's largest population of the extremely rare African dog and you've a good chance of seeing cheetah; the birdlife, like most places along the Zambezi and in northern Zimbabwe, is prolific.
On your daily guided game drives, night drives and walking safaris, you will look for rhino, lion, leopard, wild dogs, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, roan, sable, zebra and many more African plains game species. The park is a great birding spot with 19 specials to look out for.
Accommodation: Fully serviced mobile-style safari camp
From Hwange National Park, which is Zimbabwe's most-visited game reserve, you travel a few hours further into the middle of nowhere to one of Zimbabwe's least-visited game reserves: Chizarira National Park.
Chizarira is a scenic game reserve in a rugged and remote location its terrain and inaccessibility making it difficult to explore. And thus this park remains wild and exclusive.
With its gullies and jagged undulating topography, Chizarira overlooks the Zambezi Valley 600m below. Mopane and miombo woodlands dominate the south-facing slopes and spring-fed valleys are lush with indigenous fern-looking plants. Wildlife is not overly concentrated in this park, making walking safaris and enjoying the birdlife, the plants and the scenery the focus.
That doesn't mean there are no animals to be seen in Chizarira. The hilly broken terrain with open plains and thickets of growth is prime leopard country; elephant, lion, hyena and buffalo sightings are also good as are the chances of seeing shyer and rarer plains species like roan, sable, waterbuck, tsessebe, reedbuck and kudu.
Birdlife is also excellent in Chizarira with about 400 birds recorded including taita falcon, Livingstone flycatcher, black eagle, carmine bee eater and the Angola pitta.
Spend two days exploring this beautiful wilderness area on foot and in your safari vehicle at the hands of your experienced safari guide.
Accommodation: Fully serviced mobile-style safari camp
Descend the escarpment from Chizarira National Park along a slow-going African road into the Zambezi floodplain, now occupied by a small ocean called Lake Kariba.
Bound be rivers, the sheer escarpment and a large shoreline frontage, Matusadona National Park is an exceptional game reserve with high concentrations of all species and very little visitor traffic.
Your two days at Matusadona will be spent on Rhino Island, where you will enjoy sunset cruises on the lake, fishing outings, game drives and walking safaris. The relaxation factor is also rather high.
Rhino Island, as the name suggests, is a good place to see rhino up close and elephants are almost ubiquitous. It is not, as the name suggests, actually an island, rather a peninsular jutting out into the lake and the 45-minute boat transfer does nothing to dispel the myth. Being attached to the mainland gives Rhino Island an excellent safari vantage point as well as stunning views of the lake from your elevated chalet. Matusadona has one of the highest concentrations of lion per square kilometre anywhere in Africa.
While you don't exactly camp, Rhino Island is off the grid in every respect and the rustic charm, while every bit as comfortable as you need, adds to the magic of this serene and remote location.
Accommodation: Rhino Island Safari Camp or similar
Most would agree, we're saving the best till last. A gentle boat transfer across Lake Kariba takes you to your pick-up point for the up and over drive into Mana Pools National Park, World Heritage Site reserved exclusively for the serious safari-seeker.
Your drive climbs the steep escarpment out of the Kariba basin and then descends towards the Lower Zambezi floodplain occupied by most of Mana Pools National Park.
Mana Pools is so named for the multitude of pools, that remain in the valley after the seasonal flooding of the Zambezi River. These pools are the lifeblood of an incredibly diverse and large population of African wildlife.
Access is difficult, keeping this wilderness area in pristine condition, and the game viewing options include canoeing safaris, walking safaris, day and night drives.
Still different from the preceding three game reserves, Mana Pools is instantly recognisable for its massive mahogany and acacia trees, that have conspired to make Mana Pools one of the best game-viewing destinations in the region.
The acacia pods are firm favourite with elephants and the cover these trees provide allows for gentle undergrowth that supports a great variety of plains species including lion, leopard, wild dog, cheetah, buffalo and many antelope including rare species like nyala and the enormous eland. Visibility is generally good thanks to the trees making walking safaris in this predator and big game area a rare and exhilarating safari experience.
Guided canoeing safaris are another unique feature of Mana Pools where you explore the shores and safely observe the big game drinking along the river's edge. In silence you can observe the birds, hippos, crocodiles, wildlife and the magnificent scenery.
Bridlife is mixed and populous with the riparian forests, open acacia woodland and dense escarpment miombo and mopane offering a variety of habitats supporting over 300 species.
Accommodation: Fully serviced mobile-style safari camp
It's a half-day drive to Harare for your flight home and the end of an incredible safari where you camped in the wild and, in all likelihood, had close-up experiences with the big five, saw one of the seven natural wonders of the world, paddled the Zambezi with elephants and hippos, walked in leopard country and experienced the magic of Africa's wilderness.
See you same time next year then.
Customers who enquire about this tour end up making many changes to the standard itinerary. Below are the most recent variations of this base tour booked by us for our clients. Have a look at their itineraries, see what changes they requested, what the final cost was and read what they have to say about their holidays.
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