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Zimbabwe's best kept secret for bush lovers

by Traveller24
07 Jul 2015 at 10:45hrs | Views
Nature-lovers have been venturing back up to Zimbabwe for several years now. Many of them head for well-known attractions like Victoria Falls and Mana Pools, both more than eight hours' drive from Beitbridge, Traveller24 reported.

Unspoilt Gonarezhou National Park is less than four hours from the border post. If you visit outside of the main holiday season, you'll likely end up having this 5 000 kilometre-square park very nearly to yourself.

Gonarezhou means place of many elephants in Zimbabwe's Shona language.

It is home to more than 10 000 elephants. We saw a bull minutes after arriving, a few hundred metres from the Chipinda Pools tented campsite, which is run as part of a thriving partnership between the Frankfurt Zoological Society and Zimbabwe's state National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

The bull watched us steadily as our bakkie idled by the viewing point over the magnificent Runde River, which laces through the park. He had absolutely no desire to budge so we reversed and left him.

"We haven't had any incidents with our elephants," a parks official had told me at the gate. "But they can be lively."

Lively was the right choice of word. A day later, we were driving through rugged shrub-studded countryside on our way to visit the Chilojo Cliffs, a magnificent formation of red clay cliffs overlooking the Runde. My husband was hoping to see another Carmine Bee-Eater, a blue and red bird that looks exactly like an avian Superman. (He'd spotted several on a previous trip).

There was not another vehicle in sight.

Rounding a bend, we came suddenly on a natural waterhole. surrounded by zebras, impalas and a group of about six elephants, including calves. One of the elephants started suddenly towards us: not a full-on charge, just a warning. This place very clearly belongs to the elephants, and they know that.

But there's much more than just elephants at Gonarezhou. The next evening, we bumped four kilometres along the  road from Chipinda Pools to the Massasanya Dam, carrying a bag of chips and a bottle of juice for sundowners. The dam's surface was as shiny and flat as a mirror, apart from the grey ink-bubbles where the hippos were treading water.

There were at least 15 of them. They were very interested in us, bumbling determinedly pod by pod across the dam to the side we were standing near. As three hippos cavorted in the water less than 20 metres away, I caught even my bush-loving husband glancing across to check our bakkie doors were open in case a quick retreat was needed.

Pre-booking is essential. You can book one of the four already-erected tents at the Chipinda Pools campsite, or -in the dry season - one of the "wild" or exclusive campsites, for which you'll need to be fully equipped.

Email: bookings@zimparks.co.zw or centralreservations3@zimparks.co.zw. There is also a DIY campsite at Chipinda Pools which has ablution facilities and braai spots.

Prices for South African passport-holders:

Tented camp costs US$115 (about R1 415 at R12.31/$) per tent per night (2 people), US$136 per tent per night (4 people) plus conservation fee of US$6 per person per day. US$10 per vehicle entry fee (valid for 5 days). "Wild" or "exclusive" National Parks campsites cost less.

How safe is it?

This is a national park and there are potentially dangerous animals. At night you will hear lions (we also heard hyenas). Friends of ours met a leopard as they ambled unsuspectingly down to the Chipinda Pools at 4 in the afternoon. You are not allowed to take a weapon into the park with you. A word on breakdowns: try to avoid them. If your car gives up the ghost 34 kilometres into the park, there will quite likely to be no-one around for 34 kilometres. So make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape. Another word of caution, there is no 'phone signal inside the park.

Source - News24

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