Zimbabwe Trip report June / July 2013





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  1. #1
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    Default Zimbabwe Trip report June / July 2013

    This trip was part of a plan to visit Zim. AND see our second Wonder of the world as a family(Me , my wife + 2 teenage sons).
    I know the North and the West of Zim . pretty well , so venturing off to the East was also new and exciting for me. As you will probably note we toured in an anti clockwise direction.
    Our itinerary was as follows :
    Masvingo - 1 night
    Nyanga – 1 night
    Chirundu – 2 nights
    Mana Pools – 3 nights
    Kariba – 2 nights
    Victoria Falls - 2 nights
    Bulawayo – 1 night
    Plumtree
    We entered Zim. through Biet Bridge , the SA side taking us about 40 minutes purely because of the length of the queues.
    The Zim . side took us an hour an a half and this wasn't helped when the computer systems went down and there was a delay in printing the receipts.
    Don't use the “touts” and be reasonably careful about "booking" your place with a family member or friend because there was a ugly altercation in front of me because of this. Make sure you are in the right queue and your paperwork is complete . I was dealt with in a civil and professional manner with not a hint of pushing for a bribe etc. It does help to take out third party insurance from the AA BEFORE you get to the bridge and make sure to tell the Customs official.
    Finally don't be afraid to ask questions about where to go and what paperwork to fill in , you will be surprised at how helpful the locals are.
    Our destination after BB was Masvingo (288 km). The road was generally good but very busy with trucks en route to SA. Be careful of Abnormal load trucks with large loads(width) as they take up most of the road.They don't slow down and they expect you to get off the road . I had a couple of near misses until I figured them out !! Two hours into the trip I had the first of two encounters with the traffic police . I had picked up a local in a bakkie that seemed to know the speed limits but at Rutenga after overtaking a big really slow truck both of us were pulled over by Police. I was apparently going 111km/h in a 60 km/h zone. They attended to the local and then let them go however when they got to me it was a different scenario. Long story short - instead of a court appearance it was US$100 and everyone was happy except me. It is stated often in this forum that you must drive the speed limits , I would echo that !! The 60 km/h and 80 km/h zone are sometimes very long , so just be aware of them.
    This road had by far the most police activity (road blocks) and two toll gates ,so let me state the following up front and this would apply to the rest of our trip :
    * The police road blocks apart from being a delay were never a problem for us . If your vehicle has the correct reflectors , ZA sticker , fire extinguisher and reflector vests you should not have a problem. Every now and again they asked me for my TIP(temporary import permit) and my drivers license and once for my fire extinguisher. They were civil and in most cases friendly and were doing their job.
    We got to Masvingo in the late afternoon and stayed at Norma Jeans , which overlooks Lake Kyle ,in a family sized self catering chalet. Due to us having left Pretoria at 4am that morning we chose to eat at the hotel. The food and service was good and reasonably priced and I thought the place was adequate for a overnighter. We left NJ’s early the next morning so we could see the Great Zimbabwe National Monument and then pushed onto Nyanga. The ruins were reasonably priced , as was our guide who was informative and had a good sense of humour – we had a time limit so chose an abbreviated tour which was more than adequate. We agreed as a family that it was a worthwhile experience.
    The road to Nyanga branches off at Masvingo ,with our destination being the Blue Swallow lodges which are literally right next to Troutbeck Inn(400 km). It was my plan to overnight there and also for us to see the Pungwe and Matarazi Falls , as well as a drive through the National park. That didn’t happen , because a detour taken to try and see the Falls before we got to the BSL ended up lasting 3 hours and ,according to a Zim policeman, pretty close to the Mozambique border. Don’t follow any well intentioned advice from locals unless you are really sure of your source.
    In saying that and with the disappointment of eventually not seeing the Falls, we were impressed with the set up at Troutbeck Inn and Blue Swallow Lodges. 3 nights will be the minimum stay the next time we come.
    The next morning we were up(@ 4am) and left early for Chirundu( 630 km) , where I had booked us in at a self catering Chalet on the banks of the Zambezi for two nights with Tiger Safari’s. Apart from the road ,up until 60km from Rusape being terribly potholed , the first part of the day went without incident. The road to Harare is being resurfaced with no markings and lots of road works we made goodtime. Harare didn’t look so good , the grass was overgrown and most of the robots on the outer limits were not working , we also went through without a problem. We stopped at Karoi to stock up on groceries at the big TM on the right as you enter the town. It has everything you need ( including beer) but had run out of ice. When I was researching for this trip I read in one of the posts about a butcher in Karoi that had a red car outside and good meat. Well he’s still there and he’s got plenty big blocks of ice but there is no red car. His rump steak is also good. He is on the left hand side of the main road – Zimbabwe Star Butchery .
    After passing the Kariba turn off at Makuti ,I had to do the formalities with Zimparks at Marongora , because after Chirundu we were going into Mana pools for 3 nights .
    We eventually got to our Chalet by 14h00 and our real Zim holiday started. Later that evening while I was relaxing after our braai a pair of serval cats came sniffing around.Just before we retired for the night, the hippo came up out of the Zambezi to graze. Later on that night we were woken up by an elephant rubbing himself against the tree next to the cottage. Obviously Tiger fishing was one of our main objectives, so I had chartered a boat with a driver for the day. We left at 07h00 the next morning periodically returning to the chalet for brunch and a afternoon rest. Between the five of us (driver included) we got nothing – not even a run. Apparently the water is to cold and ,although through research I knew that this was not the best fishing time ,various articles and threads that I read indicated that the odd tiger could be caught. No one I spoke to in Chirundu , Mana Pools or Kariba had caught.
    After two enjoyable nights in Chirundu we headed off to Mana pools for our 3 night camping adventure. As is common knowledge the corrugated roads were a challenge so before setting off after getting access we deflated the tyres to 1.5 bar. We reached Mana reception at about midday and Lovemore and his colleagues at reception were very accommodating and helpful. We stayed at Nyamepi , the communal camp , that has hot showers and toilets.
    The hyenas are a reality – within a minute of me completing our first braai and walking 4 metres to my tent to get something they had hit our braai pan and run off with chops (imported from SA) and knocked the rest of the meat into the dust. After that both my sons were on high alert every night with their “catties”.
    As has been said over and over , Mana Pools is a special place and the freedom of the animals coming through and next to the camp gives it the edge. However if you choose to use the communal camp , remember that the challenge is probably going to be your human neighbours and not the animals.
    A couple of things that weren’t made very clear either at the reception or on this forum which may help others :
    *The park has the rule relating to rubbish ,stating whatever you bring in , must leave with you. We were only told on the last morning ,by the guy that cleans the braai area’s that plastic ,cardboard and paper can be fed to the “donkey” that warms the shower water up . Cans and glass go out with you – this should make your stay a little more pleasant.
    *If you do regular game drives , which we did, you will often see roads that are sign boarded for permit holders only. We obviously thought that these were for someone “special” but apparently the reception issues 4 FREE permits a day on a first come first serve basis and these drives are supposed to have a higher concentration of animals. Maybe this can be confirmed by Forum members as I only found out about it when chatting to someone at Vic Falls.
    Finally this section on Mana Pools wouldn’t be complete without me telling you that a 4x4 , 4motion or even a 2 x4 Bakkie are NOT a requirement for Mana pools ,at least not at this time of the year. There was this crazy chick (Tracy) with her two delightful children that made the trip up from Cape Town in a Toyota TAZZ !! Some ,like myself ,would question the logic re game drives etc ,but because you can walk in the park, they would head off to the pools and climb a tree in close proximity and they would watch the game come to the water.
    After we reluctantly left Mana , we headed for Kariba for a 2 night stay to eventually catch the Ferry to Mlibizi . We stayed at Lomagundi Lakeside Association on the shores of Kariba where I had organised accommodation there through an old school friend , so I won’t write on that. What we did see is that the LLA has a very clean well maintained camp site with a big pool and facilities. I also got the feeling it was reasonably priced. At Kariba ,we obviously went to see the Dam wall and did some bream fishing (Tigers weren’t biting as previously stated).
    We boarded the Ferry with our vehicle between 08h00 and 09h00 in the morning and arrived at Mlibizi at 07h30 the next morning . It probably was 40 % full so we had space to move. It takes a about 22 hours and you are pretty well looked after .
    Our trip to Vic Falls was uneventful and we booked in at the AZambezi lodge late morning. We spent our first afternoon viewing the Wonder of the world but please note that if you are from SA it is better to bring your passport AND rands as the US Dollar entrance fee is considerably higher . Be sure to visit the Elephant hills shopping centre and have the local dish(sadza , meat and spinach) at the African cafe – it is really tasty , well priced and the service is good. Our 2nd day at the falls involved an Anti poaching Awareness safari by the Vic falls Anti poaching unit early in the morning . It is a walking safari and Charles Brightman (who runs it) is a knowledgeable guide. Because one of my children was underage for the white river rafting we decided on the Jet boating in Zambia in the afternoon. Getting through the border posts is quick and you don’t pay for a entrance or exit visa because we are part of SADC. The drive to the gorge was quite long (40 minutes)and bumpy due to road works but when you eventually get there you are transported down into the gorge by cablecar. The jet boat ride through the rapids and past the walls of the gorge is absolutely amazing and a must for anyone who’s got a bit of extra money and a free afternoon .
    On our final morning at the falls we did the “flight of angels “ helicopter flip over the falls. A slick operation that hits the wallet but that must be weighed up against experiencing the beauty of the Falls from above .
    Late morning we headed off to Bulawayo on the final leg of our trip. As ‘Bully’s’ was originally my hometown I spent a little time showing the family my stamping grounds. If you ever find yourself in Bulawayo , find the Eskimo hut (next to the tradefair) and have a Soft serve ice cream dipped in crunchie – nothing beats it !!.
    We spent our final night in Zim. at Matopas which is 25 minutes outside Bulawayo dominated with granite gomo’s. We stayed at Big Cave camp and were treated to personal service , good wholesome food and a stunning sunsets / sunrise . Our last morning in Zim. was supposed to be spent at Worlds view where CJR is buried but when we got to the Zimparks control point and the parks officer told me the fees , I couldn’t balance the cost with the amount of time we would be spending there.
    So we headed off to Plumtree border post and ultimately Botswana. Getting through the Zim . side was done with minimum fuss but we did encounter a slight problem on the Botswana side. The customs and immigration in the building was fine but the “Gate guard” and his support group was rude and aggressive. I am not sure if they are programmed to be like that because the person with the same position at the Martins drift Border post had a similar attitude.But at both border posts we didn’t exceed 30 minutes.
    Because of the inclusion of my family in this trip I couldn’t have done it as successfully , without the advice and other trip reports on this forum – for that I thank you.
    I haven’t gone into that much detail but I hope this can ultimately help someone else enjoy the magnificent country that Zimbabwe is.

  2. #2
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    Pierre, thanks for the feedback, but you missed a very important forum rule.................... No pics, it did not happen
    "If you don't care where you are, you ain't lost"

  3. #3
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    Default Man pools

    Thanks POTTS ftr the info and trip report - I am sure the pics will come later - we head off fro Capetown Monday and will be in Mana Pools early Sept so the advice on "exclusive " drives is really useful
    VW AMAROK 2,0L TDI 4MOTION DC

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    Good report.

    Another tip for Mana...you will see more and have an amazing experience if you actually muster up the courage to walk a bit. It's quite safe and even the lions are approachable if you have the stones . Most of the game drive roads lead through nice sections but it pays to explore a bit on foot, even if you just stick to a 50m radius around your vehicle. It's daunting for people who've only known places like Kruger but I can assure you it's worth it. It makes visiting other SA game reserves seem like going to the kindergarten.

    Most of the stretch between Vundu and Nyampi has a bit of dense thicket on the northern side (river side) of the road, and if you park off and just head 20-50m through there you get onto the most amazing floodplains with huge trees and you can often see elephant bulls feeding on the plains. You can approach them cautiously and they are normally very relaxed. Avoid cows with calves though (as always).
    2008 Nissan Pathfinder 4.0L 4x4 A/T (sold 2019/03)
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  5. #5
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    Thanks for the nice report, now it just need some pics......
    Can't wait, we are leaving for Zim on Saturday.

    Henry

    2010 Navara 2.5 D/C 4x4
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  6. #6
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    Did you have to book the "Flight of Angels" prior to your visit to Vic Falls?

  7. #7
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    Sounds like awesome trip.
    We incorporated Mana Pools and Kariba into a trip to Zambia a couple of years back.
    Mana and Kariba two of our favourite places.
    Photos??

  8. #8
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  9. #9
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    Default Zim Trip Report

    Hi,

    Thanks for an informative report. Every time we get a report in we get a little more information. Well done. I hope you managed to take more photos than you attached.

    Regards
    [SIGPIC]MikevR Be determined to live the unlived life within you.

  10. #10
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    Nice Doof

    Guess my turn is next with A&MB

  11. #11
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    Yes , I booked quite far in advance but I am sure they are pretty flexible.

  12. #12
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    Sounds like a great holiday. Thanks for the report. You have whetted my appetite even more to experience Mana - on the bucket list for sure. And crunchy soft serve at the Eskimo Hut!!!!! That really brings back the memories - yes, Bullies was also my hometown. I'm amazed to hear that the Eskimo Hut is still operating all these years later. What an institution.
    “Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” -
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  13. #13
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    Default Rsa-bots-zam-zim-rsa

    Great report. Would like feedback on what we are doing. Travelling out of UK, arriving JNB and collecting a 4x4. Aim was to go to HRE via Beitbridge but cant find a single positive feed saying to do that. So looking at heading up to Vic Falls via Martins Drift, then Livingstone over northern Kariba to Kariba, then down to HRE via Chinhoyi.
    Does that make sense? It seems a much easier route, and whilst JNB-HRE is quicker via Beitbridge and north, it looks dodgy.
    This is our first time doing 4x4 in SADC, and will hopefully be a yearly event, but the main Zim routes, to HRE, with 300 trucks a day looks too much like hard work.
    Any advice much appreciated.
    FYI from HRE will be travelling top Durban for the last week so know have no choice on the bad routes, just dont want to do it both ways!!!

  14. #14
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    Default Kzn

    Would also like to say what an amazing part of the world KZN is, and the areas around. Have been visiting for the last 5 years, and nothing to touch it. Hoping to move down there soon! Amazing!

  15. #15
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    Great trip report and some good points.
    Ansiev, in my opinion you can book your "Flight of Angels" flight when you arrive there by helicopter or fixed wing
    Rotorblade100, Martins Drift to Kazungula is also a major trucking route.. just take care on the roads and pick your trip carefully

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    Default Nasty critters in April/May?

    Thank you for the informative post!
    Planning a trip to Zim around the West towards Mana Pools in April/May ourselves. Does anyone have some input regarding mozzie, Tse Tse and other nasty critter situation, especially in Kariba and Mana Pools at that time of year? Is this maybe not a good time to go there? How did you guys address the Malaria situation? Any input would help. Thanks!

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