Mavuradonha is a wilderness area in Northern Zimbabwe. The name is Shona, roughly translating as 'Land of Falling Water' or simply 'water falls'.
The Mavuradonha Wilderness Area is situated in northern Zimbabwe covering some 600 sq km of the eastern part of the Zambezi Escarpment. In January 2017, it was declared a National Monument by the Government of Zimbabwe, because of its historical and cultural importance.
The area is also one of Zimbabwe's true wildernesses - seldom visited, even by the locals. Here, the mountain mass of the escarpment meets the mountain mass of Zimbabwe's mineral-rich Great Dyke Range. The result is a complex geological mix, rising over 1,000m and peaking at Mount Banirembizi in the east.
The name "Mavuradonha" is Shona and roughly translates as 'Land of Falling Water' or simply 'water falls'. It's not hard to understand why. The terrain is extremely wild and rugged, with heavily-wooded granite outcrops contrasting with the bare, grass-covered slopes of the highly mineralised Great Dyke Range.
Numerous streams and rivers rise in the mountains, flowing north to the Zambezi, sometimes cutting steep waterfalls in the rock as they make their way off the escarpment. The ground is steep and rocky interspersed with winding elephant trails. In the east, the Musengezi River has cut a steep gorge through the mountains creating attractive scenery and magnificent hiking country.
The area was given protected status as a game reserve and Wilderness Area in 1987 - the first such designation within Communal Land. It is administered by the community which leases out tourism concessions within its boundaries.
Elephant, eland, sable, kudu and zebra are amongst the species which make this scenic area home. Leopard are common (although rarely seen) and lion very occasionally pass through the area.
The Mavuradonha is an Important Bird Area (IBA), with some 290 species of birds including several large eagles, Dickinson's kestrel, racket-tailed roller, miombo tit, miombo wren-warbler, Meave's starling, kurrichane thrush, white-headed black chat, boulder chat, miombo rock thrush, white breasted sunbird, miombo double collared sunbird, broad tailed paradise whydah and black eared seedeater.
There is a great deal of well-developed miombo woodland, with most of the representative species of Brachystegia and Julbernardia. There are also gully, ravine or 'kloof' woodlands, with higher soil moisture and nutrients, providing a greater range of microhabitats. Large forest trees such as Khaya anthotheca occur, but are scattered and in small numbers. There are also several endemic aloes and other plant species unique to the Great Dyke soils.
Numerous cultural and historical sites are located in or near the area, included San rock art and the ruins of Mutota's Kraal. A museum of cultural history is being planned for the area, in order to underline and record the significance of the Mavuradonha. Funding is being sought for its creation.
The Wilderness Area's rugged terrain has largely prevented access and exploitation, although in recent years encroaching mining activities have sadly resulted in the felling of some large trees and some wildlife poaching. The area is in desperate need of a revival in tourism interest which will underline its value to the community and build awareness of the need to protect its magnificent wilderness. Its newly-designated status as a National Monument will hopefully provide it with some legal protection.
Where to stay
There are accommodation options within the Mavuradona Wilderness Area:
At Kopje Tops in the rugged western part of the Wilderness Area, a tourism operation is being developed, which will offer a superb "wilderness-in-the-raw" experience for true adventure seekers.
The Mavuradona Wilderness Eco-Lodge offers basic chalets and camping in an attractive woodland setting just off the main tarred road from Centenary as it winds its way through the Zambezi escarpment mountains. There is excellent scenic walking and hiking along trails leading from the campsite with magnificent views into the nearby Musengezi Gorge and the Zambezi Valley.
This is an area for walking, hiking and birdwatching. Game viewing is fairly limited because of the ruggedness of the terrain. Undoubtedly the best way to do this is from the back of a horse on a riding safari. There are some wonderful examples of San rock-paintings in overhanging caves within the mountains and a great deal of archaeological evidence which, once properly researched, will undoubtedly provide some fascinating insights into the historical significance of this area.
Community visits and participation in traditional ceremonies can be arranged