On Tour in Zimbabwe with Zambezi Cruise Safaris

Sabine Gebele, ZimbabweTravel.de • 18 November 2017

On the agenda for our 11-day Zimbabwe safari with Zambezi Cruise Safaris, was a visit to the Victoria Falls, a full-day safari in Hwange National Park, crossing the 220 km –long Lake Kariba in the luxury cruise-boat Umbozha, visiting Mana Pools National Park and an entire day discovering Pamuzinda Safari Lodge and surroundings near Harare.  

Victoria Falls, where the mighty Zambezi River plummets 100 metres deep into a narrow gorge, is always special. This time, we had the chance to watch the sun rise over the Falls, a magical scene. Soft, orange light glinted on the waters of the river. As we reached Danger Point, the sun had climbed higher and a double rainbow shone brightly in the clouds of spray.

During our sunset cruise on the Zambezi River we watched cormorants fly low over the water, whilst glossy ibises flocked overhead. Hippos popped their heads above the water, only to disappear again, frustrating the photographers on board. 

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest protected area, was our next destination.   We were treated to spectacular sightings of Hwange's famous elephant herds, and a breathtaking sighting of a pride of lions with cubs of different ages and a zebra that they had killed earlier that morning. 

The following morning, we departed for Masumu River Lodge near Binga (pictured below left), on the shore of Lake Kariba. This lodge has been a favourite of mine since I first visited it in 2013. The views over the water are spectacular, as is the entire setting of the lodge high up on a spur of land that juts onto the lake.

Our crossing of the lake all the way to the roughly 220 km distant town of Kariba was to take three nights and days aboard the beautifully appointed cruise-boat Umbozha –“the classy one” that waited for us at Masumu River Lodge (above right). Our host explained that we would not spend all this time under way but would cruise through the first night in order to give us more time to explore the shores of Matusadona National Park with the tenderboat.

Once we had settled into our comfortable rooms, we relaxed on deck and enjoyed the views of the lake and its rugged southern shore. As the sunlight grew softer and shadows lengthened, we transferred to the tenderboat for sundowners.

We watched fishermen row out onto the lake for their evening’s work and African fish eagles soar overhead with their haunting cries. When the silhouettes of the drowned Mopane trees were stark against the afterglow of the sunset, we returned to The Umbozha for drinks and a campfire on the sandy beach of a small island.    

Excitement kept us awake and on deck later than usual after our scrumptious dinner. In the end, the gentle rumble of the engine and the cooler night air allowed us to sleep blissfully until we scrambled up to watch the sunrise from deck. 

We neared the western boundary of Matusadona National Park that afternoon in time for sundowners when we spent time on the tenderboat close to elephants and hippos that didn’t seem at all bothered by our presence.

Early, after a quick snack, we left Umbozha once again to try fishing for Zambezi bream. Our catch provided succulent snacks with the sundowners that evening.

We carried on to a nearby fishing village. The population had agreed that we could come to visit, meet the people and take some photos. Our initial awkwardness disappeared quickly when we were welcomed with broad smiles, laughter and playful children who took our hands to show us around. We learned how fish is sun-dried, what species of fish are caught in the lake, had a look at the village shop and the shebeen with two open-air billiard tables.

Back on the tenderboat, we spent a long time watching a couple of elephant bulls that wandered from island to island through the shallow water and grazed in the lake close to us. Later, we cruised on, ending up at the mouth of the Sanyati River for the night. A boat ride into the scenic river with its surrounding hills was our sundowner trip that evening.

Late the next morning, we arrived in the town of Kariba and carried straight on to our next destination, Mana Pools National Park, by vehicle.

It was a long drive, down the dramatic, steep escarpment road and onto the unpaved roads of the Park. Huge baobab trees welcomed us to Mana Pools, where we reached the road along the Zambezi River as the sun was setting. We stopped for a drink and to take in the stunning scenery just as dusk fell. While we watched, a hyena walked past us, unfazed, and went about its business.     

Our next day in the park gave us the opportunity to fully appreciate the unique landscape and the huge variety of birds and mammals in the Zambezi Valley.

Elephants reached up high to pick Acacia albida pods from the trees or hoovered them up from the ground with their trunks. Youngsters chased baboons and guinea fowl around the pools. African spoonbills (above centre) and storks waded through the water and herons surfed on hippo’s backs. Lions lay snoozing in the shade.

All too soon it was time to leave early the next day. A long drive to Pamuzinda lay ahead, with a stop to marvel at the cobalt-blue, immensely deep water of the Chinhoyi Caves (pictured left). 

Pamuzinda Safari Lodge, only an hour's drive outside Harare, was our very comfortable last stop on our safari through Zimbabwe. 

 

Sabine Gabele (pictured here feeding Jasmine the friendly, hand-reared giraffe at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge) was born in Germany in 1960 to travel-mad parents.  She spent every free moment as a child devouring books and TV documentaries about nature, wildlife and Africa.  She firmly believed that she belonged on the African Continent.  Having graduated with a doctorate in veterinary microbiology in 1987, she undertook her first trip to Africa in 1988 followed by a first visit to Zimbabwe in 1990. That was when she really fell in love and found the place where she felt that she “fitted”.   In 1996 she gave up her job in a veterinary laboratory for medical reasons and joined a friend, working in his travel agency that specialised in independent travel to Southern Africa. Ten years later, she founded her own travel business.   She now runs ZimbabweTravel.de which informs the public, German travellers, tour operators and travel agents about Zimbabwe and its diverse range of travel opportunities and offers select tourism businesses in Zimbabwe the possibility to showcase their safaris and accommodation options on the German market.  

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