Zambezi Valley 4x4 specialists Zim4x4, who have a strict conservation ethic, have provided Wild Zambezi with the following Code of Conduct for self-drive visitors to the Zambezi's wild areas.
It is not good practice to "play in the mud" - or sand, or in other ways - with vehicles when touring. These activities should be confined to those trails and facilities established for the purpose.
Should we need to traverse water, mud, sand, riverbeds or other hazards, we do so expeditiously and with as little disturbance as possible.
Off-track driving: There must be no driving whatsoever except on accepted track networks, which are easily recognizable. You may, on occasion, see one or more sets of vehicle tracks made by visitors who have disregarded this rule. Please do not, on any account, take this as an excuse to follow suit.
A similar restriction applies to riverbeds, other than at recognized crossings. Although it can be argued that vehicle tracks in riverbed sand will wash away in the next wet season, their presence detracts from the wilderness quality for subsequent visitors.
Camping is restricted to designated camp sites in all Park areas, and in many other areas as well. You will be heavily fined if you are caught "camping wild" outside of a designated campsite without permission. Should breakdowns or other emergencies require unscheduled overnighting in other areas, every effort must be made to contact the relevant authorities.
Wherever possible, fires should be confined to the braai or firepit provided at camping sites. If this is not feasible, fires must be made with due regard to fire hazards, extinguished before retiring, and all ash and other remains buried before departing the site.
Please note that firewood collection by visitors to Parks Authority areas is prohibited. Firewood must be bought from Park offices. Please try to limit your firewood use as it is a non-renewable resource. We also strongly urge you not to buy firewood or charcoal from roadside vendors, as it hastens the already severe deforestation taking place within Zimbabwe.
Respect wild animals
Do not drive, or do anything else, in a manner that may cause undue disturbance to wildlife. Never - ever! - feed wild animals. They will come to expect it from visitors, and are likely to be shot as nuisances or as threats to human life. Also note that fresh fruit is prohibited in Mana Pools in particular, and can be inadvisable elsewhere. This is because elephant can acquire a taste for them, to the extent of destroying your tent (and possibly your vehicle) to get at them. Then they, too, will have to be shot.
Littering & waste disposal
Any form of littering is of course strictly prohibited. ZIM4x4 operates a "truck in, truck out" approach to cans, bottles and other similar items. However, food wastes and other combustible items may be burnt on braai fires when appropriate. Please note, incidentally, that orange and lemon peel, among other things, are not biologically degradable within any reasonable time-span!
Few things are more revolting than the sight of human wastes and used toilet paper in wild areas. Sadly, this has become common in places such as the Matusadona and Mana Pools. We recognize the occasional necessity, but insist that ZIM4x4 clients bury human waste and burn ALL used toilet paper.
Track closures: Some Park tracks may be temporarily or permanently closed to visitors. These may be marked either by official signs, or by logs deliberately placed across the track concerned. If in any doubt, do not proceed!
Track restrictions: Some tracks are also reserved for permit holders or for residents of exclusive campsites or lodges. These may be marked "permit holders only" or "residents only". Please respect all such signs. Occupants of exclusive camps are paying for privacy.
"Catch and release" regulations are in force in many areas, especially in respect of tigerfish and vundu, and bag limits for all species must be strictly adhered to. Generally, ZIM4x4 advocates "catch and release" in all areas, whether official restrictions are in force or not, except in respect of bait fish and fish retained for consumption on site. Under no circumstances may any fish be removed from these areas.
Camp hygiene: This is always critical, but especially so in National Park areas, where food and waste bags are likely to be stolen by baboons and vervet monkeys by day, and by hyaenas and honeybadgers by night. Please keep all foodstuffs secure at all times.
Noise & disturbance: The use of generators, radios etc is specifically prohibited in Park areas. Please keep noise to a minimum at all times, whether in Parks or elsewhere, in order to maintain the "wilderness quality" of the area. Note also that the undisciplined use of powerful spotlights can be immensely intrusive to other visitors, and also disturbing to many wildlife species. Use spotlights sparingly, and with discretion and sensitivity.
Obviously, stipulated speed limits must be observed at all times. This is a matter of self-interest on tar, as Zimbabwe's traffic police seem to have an inexhaustible supply of radar guns; of self-preservation on many gravel and dirt roads; and consideration for both wildlife and people in wilderness areas. There are also occasions when drivers should exercise special care regardless of official limits. Dust is a particular problem in some campsites. Please reduce your speed sufficiently to eliminate any nuisance or offence to other visitors.
The first vehicle at a wildlife sighting has precedence! Do not, under any circumstances, "barge" in front of people already there. Stay well back, switch off, and do not move up behind or overtake unless signaled to do so. If the vehicle is stationary for a very long time, it is permissible to crawl slowly up behind it and either share the view, or pass it if signaled to do so. If you are "the first", signal others to move up or pass in reasonable time. NB: many species are habituated to the sight of vehicles, but will move off if you get out and become visible to them, thus spoiling the sighting for yourself and those who come after you.
Leave nothing but footprints
We will collectively ensure that all material traces of our presence, other than unavoidable tyre tracks and human footprints, are removed from the campsites we use.
General: We ask all our tour participants to be considerate to other Park and road users, and environmentally sensitive at all times. There are many adverse perceptions of so-called "4x4-ers" and although these are often not justified, we need to set an example to others. Having said which, we hope you will enjoy your visit to Zimbabwe, that you will take many happy memories home with you, and be inspired by our favourite motif: "drink from the Zambezi, and you will always return"!