Highlights of Zimbabwe

In late January 2023 after spending 2 months in South Africa, Nick, Ashley & Savanna traveled to Zimbabwe for a 10 day trip across 2 different regions, experiencing 3 safari lodges. They were once again amazed at the immersive safari experiences that the country has to offer, outstanding standard of the guides, and stunning lodges complete with warm and exceptional staff.

Exploring the Southeast

We flew from Johannesburg on a scheduled flight in a Beechcraft B200 (aka a King Air) via the private Fireblade Aviation terminal.

The 90-minute flight was smooth and comfortable and we landed on schedule at Buffalo Range airport in Chiredzi, Zimbabwe and immediately felt like we had stepped into a different world. 

The little airport terminal had just a handful of other travelers and two friendly, smiling immigration officers who quickly processed our passport visas. We were met by our expert guide Tyme, a local legend in Zimbabwe and his tracker assistant Memezani and off we went on a 45-minute drive to the massive 130,000 acre Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve with wildlife visible almost immediately. This reserve has the highest density of rhinos anywhere in Africa. 

We made our way past herds of giraffe, buffalo, zebra and then up and up we went to the very top of a rocky hill to Singita Pamushana Lodge overlooking a massive lake filled with hippos and crocodiles. The lodge’s interior spaces are elegant and warm and filled with traditional elements of the local Shona culture. There are 8 stunning suites and a private 5 bedroom house all of which boast floor to ceiling glass walls and incredible views for miles in every direction.

The lodge is comfortable, stylish and over the top and yet down to earth. The team who run the lodge and operations are amazingly kind and thoughtful, anticipating every need.

We loved our 4 nights and days exploring Malilangwe Reserve where we were some of the only guests in the middle of the African wilderness. We tracked rhinos on foot on a walking safari with one of the most experienced safari guides in Zimbabwe, to get an up close perspective on these highly endangered creatures.

We were taken to meet the anti-poaching team called the “Scouts” which has 95 local people trained and employed full time to protect the reserve and its wildlife. 

We visited one of the 12 primary schools in the areas surrounding the reserve which Malilangwe Trust directly supports. They also employ hundreds of local people and so the community around the reserve takes an active interest in protecting against poaching. This is why there is so little poaching here compared to other parts of Africa and it’s clearly working and a conservation success story.

In addition to game drives and guided walks in search of the Big Five (lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo and elephant), one of the experiences we loved most was the boat cruising on the lake surrounding the lodge where we sipped sundowners and watched a pod of hippos splash and grunt. This feels like wildest, remotest Africa but it’s only a 90-minute flight from Johannesburg.

Walking the paths next to the ‘Smoke that Thunders’

Our journey continued on to Victoria Falls and to Matetsi Game Reserve, a private 135,000 acre conservancy adjoining Zambezi National Park about an hour’s drive upriver from Victoria Falls. Hosted by our guide Jonathan and tracker Givemore we learned a lot about this incredible destination.

We checked into our massive family suite situated along the banks of the Zambezi River. The lodge is frequented daily by elephants and hippos and there is a resident pride of lions in the area which are also seen regularly. 

The stunningly beautiful, modern styled property has two camps with 9 suites each and a 4 bedroom villa called “River House”. Each suite has floor to ceiling views out over the river, a pool, indoor and outdoor showers, air-conditioning and a fully stocked minibar. Every amenity has been thoughtfully considered.

The food at Matetsi is some of the best in the region; simple ingredients elevated to international standards and tastes. Delicious breakfast, lunches with salads and dinners with a la carte desserts. The wine cellar is a comfy lounge with with plush chairs, and vertical flights of top African estates.

The area is protected by 50 anti-poaching “Scouts” who patrol the area to make sure the wildlife is safe. It has the “Big Four”: leopards, lions, buffalo and elephant. Excitingly, the plan is to reintroduce rhinos in 2024 which will be a conservation triumph.

At Matetsi we went canoeing with expert canoeing guide Magezi and it’s always a blast to be at water level cruising past animals and birds where you can see them eye to eye.

A Dream-worthy Riverside Hideaway

Finally we spent a night at the always fun and exciting Mpala Jena Camp situated downriver from Matetsi Reserve inside the national park. We arrived by motorboat as we sped through the rapids past hippos and crocodiles. Our guide Blessed is another master level expert Zimbabwe guide and he took us under his wing, rolling out the red carpet for some truly memorable experiences.

This lovely 5 room tented camp has a warm and energetic team that knows how to have a good time. The lodge bar is styled as a ‘beach bar’ on the sand with hanging chairs for seating. The rooms are comfortable ensuite tents with spectacular views out over the river. 

We enjoyed game drives in Zambezi National Park and a surprise bush lunch under a beautiful baobab tree, a guided walking tour of the Falls, and got a bit wet during an afternoon downpour that quickly turned into a sunset with a double rainbow, which of course we toasted with gin & tonics to celebrate another good day in Africa!

To ask us more about incorporating any of this dreamy destination into your African itinerary, email us at travel@yourprivateafrica.com

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