Epic Zimbabwe Walking Safari
"The best wilderness and walking safari experience possible, Oct 2019"
"The best wilderness and walking safari experience possible, Oct 2019"
This is one serious walking safari! Designed to keep your boots on the ground in some of Southern Africa’s best wilderness areas, that are just begging to be explored on foot! For the real Africa addicts, this adventure is far from the normal tourist route and definitely not for first timers or those seeking luxury. This is the real deal – raw safari experiences as it should be!
Zimbabwe is famous for it incredible guiding standards and this safari affords you the opportunity to walk with two of the nations BEST walking safari guides in two of the BEST wilderness areas in the country.
Gonarezhou NP – Wild, rugged and off the tourist trail this park sits in the south-eastern corner of Zimbabwe and forms the frontier between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Known as “the place of many elephants” and here you’ll find over 11 thousand of them. More on Gonarezhou.
Mana Pools NP and Chitake Springs – Chitake can be an extremely intense experience for the true naturalist and someone who likes to feel the challenge of nature. When walking you have to concentrate particularly carefully on your surroundings, often remaining silent for hours to let the game close in. Sounds are amplified at night in the narrow riverbed; the bushes around one threatening to release some bundle of tooth and claw! More on Mana Pools.
This Safari is designed to be one of the most immersive safari experiences possible and is aimed at the seasoned safari traveller seeking for the real WILD Africa away from the crowds. A truly EPIC adventure and one of our most highly recommended itineraries!
1 Night in Highlands house, Harare
2 Nights in Gonarezhou Bush Camp
3 Nights in Gonarezhou Walking Safaris
3 Nights in Camp Chitake
3 Nights in Johns Camp
Andrew was born and raised in Zimbabwe, passionate about the bush and all things wild!
During this training, Andrew built a strong foundational knowledge in Environmental Ethics, Flora and Fauna, tracking of big game on foot and even some Mechanics for the moments when things go wrong in camp. Andrew also contributed to various communities – assisting farmers by chasing crop-raiding elephants out of maze fields; scientists, in the dead of night, with the darting of lions for research; and conservationists with the removal of wire snares.
Andrew obtained his full Zimbabwean Guides Licence in 2004 and has since worked for Wilderness Safaris in their Chikwenya; Ruckomechi and Mana Canoe Trail Camps managing and guiding guests for a number of years. Andrew’s safaris are focused on ‘photographic stalking’ – tracking animals and teaching guests how to make the most of the available light, scenery and wildlife for the perfect photograph; with a specialty in tracking lions.
Andrew’s guiding has taken him through various wildlife sanctuaries in the sub-region, but his passion lies in Mana Pools – his ‘home away from home’! There, he continues to expand his horizons and knowledge of Africa. Andrew’s understanding of the diverse habitats and species, and their day-to-day interactions, will ensure that your safari in the African bush will be one that you will never forget – the experience stays with you through your photographs – memories and moments that will last a lifetime.
In 1993, whilst Ant was in his early teens he visited Gonarezhou for the first time on a natural history school trip. Part of the trip involved lugging heavy backpacks through the bush and camping out under the stars as they explored this vast wilderness.
Having come through one of the most devastating droughts in living memory, Gonarezhou was a Ghost Town. They saw very few animals, but their presence, especially that of elephant, was impossible to ignore. Major elephant trails, wide enough to ride a motorbike down and thickly carpeted with dung criss-crossed the landscape. Many of the Ironwoods surrounding the last remaining water sources had been ripped out by the roots and Baobab’s trunks bore testimony to the many hungry pachyderms who had gouged massive chunks of fibre out of their boles.
The few elephants they did see were very aggressive making their occasional encounters quite terrifying. Despite numerous childhood trips to the Zambezi Valley and other wild places, it was the harsh, raw beauty of the landscape which captured Ant and Gonarezhou has since this time had a very strong pull on him.
It would be four years before he next visited Gonarezhou after which his visits became more frequent with each visit discovering a little more and making him hungrier to see more.
After high school and towards the end of Ant’s apprenticeship as a professional guide, Zimbabwe tippled into a political & economic abyss which resulted in an almost total collapse in the photographic tourism industry.
In the meantime, Ant applied to and was accepted to read a Bachelor of Science at the University of Cape Town. During this time, with Zimbabwe no longer being a credible holiday destination, he had no option but to look at what business opportunities lay outside of Zimbabwe so used his long university vacations to explore as much of Southern Africa as possible.
In 2002, whilst in his final year of university, Ant started his own safari company, Private Guided Safaris, which focussed on taking small groups of adventurous travellers on safari through Namibia, South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. In several cases repeat guests booked safaris with him to countries he had not yet visited which allowed him to expand his horizons and learn new areas. Those first years were tough as persuading guests to trust a twenty something year-old to plan and guide their safari to wherever he felt fit certainly had its challenges. Sincere thanks to Nan and Tricia who trusted Ant’s judgement and by booking several safaris with him in those early days gave him the confidence to pursue his dreams.
With no end in sight to the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, having completed his Masters Degree in July 2004, Ant had the fortune to be offered a position to help set up a safari and sailing venture in Zanzibar. One part of this exciting venture involved driving from Gruyère in Switzerland through Italy, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya to Zanzibar. The other involved time spent exploring the East African coastline from Lamu to Zanzibar on a fairytale sailing yacht, ‘Midsummer’.
During the Sail Africa project Ant met a Kenyan girl called Rawana in England where Ant was helping with the launch of the Sailing safari company and where Rawana was working for Travel Africa magazine. Rawana’s background was similar to Ant’s having grown up in the safari industry in Kenya. Rawana’s mother Trish started a safari company with her brother Richard Bonham in the early 1980’s, calling it Richard Bonham Safaris, they later also built a lodge called Ol Donyo Wuas in the Chyulu Hills. Rawana was sent to school in South Africa and later university in England to complete a Law and Sociology degree which she soon realised was not for her when it would mean working in a city, at a desk when really, she wanted to be out in the bush.
Still on different continents a year after meeting, Rawana persuaded Ant to put his own safari business on one side in order to spend two years together managing Borana, an upmarket safari lodge located on the eastern edge of the Laikipia Plateau in Kenya. Ant got his private pilot’s license and after Borana, they based themselves in Nairobi where Rawana worked for her mother’s safari company, that later became Bush and Beyond and Ant continued to grow Private Guided Safaris. As often as possible, they returned to and put together safaris in Zimbabwe and in 2007 they applied for tour operator’s permits for Gonarezhou and conducted their first safari – an eight day portered walking safari.
By 2010 having visited twenty African countries and guided photographic, fishing and walking safaris through many of the best wildlife areas on the continent, Ant had come across very few areas that were as beautiful or wild as Gonarezhou. With the formation of a new power sharing government in early 2010 coupled to the scrapping of the Zimbabwe Dollar in February 2009 for a stable international currency (US$), it was time to go home.
It was obvious that Gonarezhou would become the centre of their attention and not for a second have they looked back…
On arrival into Harare International Airport, clear immigration and collect your luggage before proceeding through customs.
In the arrival hall, meet a driver and transfer to your accommodation.
On arrival at Highlands House, check in and spend one night.
After breakfast, check out and meet and driver at the agreed time. Transfer to the airport.
Board a chartered flight to Chipinda Pools Airstrip.
On arrival into the airstrip, you will be warmly greeted by Anthony Kaschula who will be guiding you for the next five days.
Your first two nights will be at Bushcamp before heading out on a walking safari for three nights.
Our aim is not to provide a luxury hotel in the bush, but a comfortable, private retreat from which to appreciate the true wilderness qualities of Gonarezhou which is one of the park’s greatest attractions.
Owing to the camp being booked on an exclusive basis means you will have the entire camp to your group, allowing for all activities, meals and day-to-day plans to be dictated by yourselves rather than fitting into a rigid routine. Being lightweight and mobile in nature means one has to forgo some of the luxuries of a permanent safari camp, however, that said this does not mean that our camping style is basic by any means.
Attention to detail ensures your comforts are adequately taken care of and none of the important necessities have been overlooked – comfortable beds, hot showers and clean ablution facilities, freshly prepared wholesome meals and a good selection of hot and cold beverages are all provided.
The camp can sleep a maximum of ten guests, in five specially customized en-suite Meru style tents. Each tent is fully carpeted and has two regular size single beds fitted with cotton linen, a bedside table and a wardrobe. Outside the front veranda are two chairs and a small table whilst immediately behind the tent are en-suite loo & shower facilities and a vanity table with twin hand basins.
Solar lighting is provided in the tents and at night Consol solar lamps illuminate the pathways between the tents and the main mess area.
The main mess area is a large open sided tent where most meals are served unless you are having a bush-breakfast or picnic. In the early evening, after drinks and snacks have been enjoyed around the fire, dinner is taken by candlelight in the mess or out under the stars.
Days spent in Gonarezhou Bush Camp typically involve an early wake up call followed by a light breakfast after which we depart camp by vehicle or on foot. Our mornings are almost always spent exploring this wonderful wilderness area on foot whilst the afternoons are best spent driving a little further afield and finding somewhere scenic to watch the world go by.
A day with us may include tracking lions, painted dogs, a herd of buffalo or a giant tusker; or quiety watching and old bull stripping a Baobab tree or catching a tiger fish at sunset.
Owing to park regulations requiring us to be back in camp half an hour after sunset, we are not permitted to night drive and are therefore in camp shortly before nightfall.
This leaves sufficient time to freshen up with a hot shower under the stars before meeting around the campfire for pre dinner drinks and time to reflect on the day’s events before being seated for dinner.
We tend to tailor this to the guests level of fitness and interests so this can vary from as little as 3-4 kms or up to 12 kilometres in a morning. Most of our walks are on relatively flat ground but if we want to summit the Chilojo Cliffs then there’s a bit of uphill but nothing too serious and anyone with a moderate level of walking fitness can easily handle.
With the camp being located in such a scenic part of the park with some really interesting walking routes right on our doorstep.
We will be doing plenty of walking up and down the Runde River and some of it’s smaller tributaries and typically for the fly camp we depart after lunch by vehicle to explore the Save-Runde junction area of the park and have the next morning to explore the area a little more before returning to camp in time for a late lunch.
Today another adventure begins as we pack up and leave the Bushcamp and start the fly-camping adventure.
A walking safari which is an active adventure and takes you through some of the wildest, most rugged and scenically beautiful corners of Gonarezhou National Park.
The style of our operation is such that that we keep a low profile and our “leave no trace” philosophy ensures a minimal environmental footprint.
Owing to the nature of our walking safaris typically moving to a new location on a daily basis, we utilise a lightweight ‘fly camp’ that is cached ahead of us each day.
Note that fly camping has nothing to do with flying but rather takes its name from sleeping in the bush under nothing more than a flysheet, as was the camping tradition of a bygone era and before the advent of luxury ‘glamping’ became the norm of most safari experiences…
In our case, our fly camp uses tight mesh netted dome tents whose primary purpose is to provide a sealed cocoon which keeps out any creepy crawlies which might otherwise prevent a restful night. The green mesh makes them virtually transparent at night so once you’re snugly in your bed you’re given a front row view into the centre of the universe.
Our beds consist of comfortable bedrolls with 100% cotton linen, duvets and feather pillows. Ablution facilities are a simple affair and either consist of bathing in a river or having a bucket shower whilst toilets are shared short drops.
Breakfasts and dinners are usually had on camp stools whilst lunch almost always consists of a picnic out in the bush.
Today we pack up and head back to Chipinda Pools Airstrip, bid Ant and the crew good-bye.
Fly by air-charter into Mana Pools National Park where you will be met by your guide with ice cold drinks. You will then embark on a 1.5 hour drive through bush and mopane scrub to Camp Chitake arriving in time for lunch. You may, by then, already have met a few of your new neighbours – elephant, kudu, zebra, impala and many birds!
A mobile tented camp will have been set up by the camp staff – walk-in mosquito-proofed tents with en-suite chemical toilet, external long-drop toilets, hot showers and a dining area next to the fire where iced drinks and sumptuous bush-prepared meals will be served. Our chef will have prepared a delicious lunch to give you strength for the first afternoon’s walk – a familiarisation walk to see the lay of the land. Then back to camp for sundowners, a hot (or cold if you prefer) shower, and a fine dinner.
An early wake up, just as dawn breaks. Hot water for freshening up will be placed in raised basins outside each tent, while tea, freshly brewed coffee and muffins or home-made biscuits are already waiting by the campfire.
The day’s itinerary depends on what guests have agreed to with the guide – perhaps an early morning walk to watch the sunrise. These walks are customised to each group with regards to preferences, fitness level and interests.
Walking options may include exploring the course of the Chitake River as it flows to the Ruckomechi river, hiking upstream towards the escarpment or visiting other waterholes in the woodlands. Alternatively, you may visit the dinosaur fossils or discover the inside of a hollow baobab that is the old lair of a leopard (and still has bones inside it). Guests will return to camp for lunch and may set off on another walk afterwards or simply sit back and enjoy the African bush. Then back to camp for the night where, once again, a great meal, hot shower, cold drinks and friendly staff are awaiting.
After early rising, there is the option of heading out immediately or of having breakfast before setting out on a whole day of hiking. Alternatively, stay near the spring to sit and watch for game. In the cooler parts of the year – May to end August – we suggest doing longer walks from camp. As it gets drier and hotter – September to November – it is preferable to stay near the spring area through the heat of the day. Early and late walks are then more advisable. Long viewing “sits” can be extremely rewarding as one gets to observe wildlife behaviours not possible when walking. Witnessing the natural daily cycle of activity gives one a greater understanding and appreciation of nature. Some of the mammals you may possibly encounter are impala, baboon, vervet monkey, kudu, Sharp’s grysbok, elephant, buffalo, zebra and waterbuck. This third night will again be spent at the Chitake campsite – with all the trimmings
Wake up early and head out on another walk or have a lie in! After breakfast, there will be a game drive to your next camp.
On arrival at John’s Camp, settle into your camp.
Head out in the afternoon for a game drive and sundowners, return to camp by 18h30 for hearty meal.
A typical day on safari
It’s all about the early mornings when you’re on safari, and taking full advantage of the cool, crisp sunrises. This is the best time to see game, as they start their days activities or, in the case of the cats (especially lion), they return from a night of hunting to siesta under a shady Natal Mahogany for the rest of the day! John refers to it as “reading the morning news,” being first on the scene with no disturbances. Guests are woken up as early as 5am (guest dependent/willing) and are met in the dining/mess area with freshly brewed tea and coffee, and a light breakfast of wholesome oat meal/porridge, freshly baked rusks, and muffins (Sarah’s specialty). It’s no secret that the early birds catches the worm!
There is usually a mid to late morning return depending on the show. Brunch is served either back at camp or at a pre-arranged spot in the bush – prepared with beautiful, fresh ingredients put together right in the heart of the wild. Depending on whether you have left camp on foot or in the vehicle a packed lunch option is available. Refreshments for the morning’s activity are tailor made and packed for the group. The guide will communicate at all times how long a walk or a drive is to be expected – but nothing is set in stone as we cannot control the actors on the African wildlife stage.
An afternoon siesta is highly recommended – in the tranquillity of your private tent or on the star deck, which is nestled in the Albida tree-tops overlooking the flood plain on the banks of the Zambezi River. One could also relax in the comfort of the mess area with a good book or a casual game cards, chess, or backgammon.
High tea – literally, if it’s on the Star deck or in the camp mess/dining area – is typically served around the 3:30 with some freshly baked sweet delights from the camp kitchen. Directly after tea, the afternoon activity usually takes the form of a drive due to the vast amounts of elephants making their way down to the Zambezi River at this time. The vehicle has a freshly packed cooler box with ice-cold refreshments and a well-stocked bar selection for amazing sunsets in sublime locations both on and off the river.
Mana Pools is a NO night-drive park, so guides return guests to camp no later than 6:30pm to a pre-arranged bucket shower and delicious savoury snacks around the camp fire. To top the evening off is a delectable three-course feast, setting guests up for another day in paradise.
The John’s Camp team ensure that each guest receives a personalized experience in every detail and in every step of the way, making this a truly unique and bespoke adventure safari.
Sadly today is the last day, after breakfast it will be time to pack up and head to Mana Pools Airstrip.
Bid your guide farewell and board a chartered flight back to Harare.
Eight beautifully decorated bedroom suites. Luxurious, private and secure accommodation within 5 minutes drive from Borrowdale village and Balantyne shops.
A calm and tasteful choice for accommodation and conference facilities.
Gonarezhou Bush Camp is a mobile tented camp, which is operated on an exclusive booking basis and requires a minimum group of four adults for a minimum stay of four nights. Our aim isn’t to provide a luxury hotel in the bush, but a comfortable, private retreat from which to appreciate the true wilderness qualities Gonarezhou which is one of the park’s greatest attractions.
The camp can sleep a maximum of ten guests, accommodated in beautifully airy, tailor-made, Meru-style walk in tents. Each tent has two regular size single beds fitted with cotton sheets, duvets and throw pillows, a bedside table and outside a little front veranda. Each tent has its own en suite private bucket shower and composting toilet tent located at the back of the tent.
Solar lighting is provided in the tents and hurricane lamps illuminate the elephant paths that are our pathways between the tents and the main mess area which consists of a large open sided tent and is where most meals are served.
Our fly camp uses high-tech gauze netted dome tents, which can accommodate two people. The tight mesh is green which means at night they’re virtually transparent giving one front row seats into the very centre of the cosmos. Rather than being weighed down by heavy backpacks, to maximise guests’ enjoyment we arrange for the camp to be taken ahead and geocached at a pre-arranged gps locstat whilst we walk between camps with a day pack containing a picnic lunch and water.
A mobile tented camp will have been set up by the camp staff – walk-in mosquito-proofed tents with en-suite chemical toilet, external long-drop toilets, hot showers and a dining area next to the fire where iced drinks and sumptuous bush-prepared meals will be served. This is not a “lodge”. This is not a game drive. Chitake is for people who understand the Africa apart from the one found in a standard travel brochure. It is for the “Africaphile” who likes their wildlife wild!
The camp comprises of 10 beds, made up of 5 twins or double en-suite Meru-style tents, a common dining area and a star gazing sleep-out platform for the more adventurous safari traveller.
Price per person twin share US$8,970pp
Minimum 4 Guests / Maximum 8 Guests
Price subject to the US$ exchange rate at the time of payment.
The cost of the three charter flights are not included in the tour price. It is estimated to be around USD 1500 pp in total, but is subject to the final number of guests flying and costing at the time of booking.
Services subject to availability at the time of booking.
Times of activities, meals, transfers is subject to change.
Given the nature of this safari, the age restriction is a minimum of 16 years paying full fare.
Maximum age is 65. Anyone older than this is required to produce a medical certificate proving that they are physically able to participate in the activities and terrain in which the safari tour will be conducted in.
PLEASE NOTE that whilst we endeavour to accommodate guests at the above stipulated lodges/camps, safariFRANK reserves the right to replace such with one of a similar standard and location.
Terms and conditions apply.
Rates are quoted as per person sharing. Although we try to accommodate the same sex per room (unless travelling together) this is not always possible. If we cannot find a suitable partner to share the room with, single supplement will be charged.
You shall receive a 2,5% discount on the overall tour price, if paying in total upfront. In case of a non-favorable exchange rate, you will be charged the difference 60 days before departure in case of a favorable exchange rate, we will grant a credit of the same kind.
Contact safariFRANK to get started on your safari of a lifetime!