Dr Kate examines Gonarezhou

GONAREZHOU – Place of the Elephants

By Dr Kate

An unforgettable excursion to a little-known wild and remote corner of Africa

The Gonarezhou National Park, meaning “Place of the elephants”, is one of 11 national parks in Zimbabwe and is situated in the south-eastern Lowveld of Zimbabwe. It covers an area of approximately 5 000 km2 and was proclaimed a national park in 1975, although some sections were already designated as a game reserve in 1934. The reserve forms part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

HOW DO I GET THERE? 2BWild Safaris will work closely with you to plan your personalised itinerary, providing you with routing, and undertaking all your reservations, including guided self-drive adventure trails in the area.

 

Our party of six adults, three children and three 4WD vehicles were advised to stay in Punda Maria, northern Kruger National Park, by 2BWild Safaris, for our first night in order to exit through the Pafuri border post the next morning – destination Mabalauta Camp, Gonarezhou, Zimbabwe!

This route took us along the north-western edge of Mozambique, across two major rivers – the Limpopo and the Nuanetsi – making two border crossings en route, to Chicualacuala. It took us MUCH longer than we’d anticipated and we were quite anxious as the border post closed at 6pm – but we made it! (Moral of the story: allow plenty of travel time leeway in your escapades). The Mozambique side was super easy and the Zimbabwe side very friendly, albeit somewhat longer to process.

It was getting dark as we headed into Zim. The park staff were so friendly and radioed ahead to Mabalauta to let them know we were on our way. We were shown to our campsite and they had kindly lit the “donkey-fire” for us so that we could have a warm shower. Our campsite was right on the banks of the Nuanetsi river under a huge canopy of trees. We heard very odd noises only to discover they were made by a massive fruit bat. Nyala were grazing just down the bank and we heard hyena which sounded very close.

The next morning we headed for the exclusive Hlaro Camp (exclusive camps cannot be used by any other visitors, nor may anyone enter the campsite). Again, darkness was falling as we drove into camp. We were getting quite adept at putting up camp in the dark. We could hear hippo nearby with one lying on the river bank about 200 metres from camp. The next morning we were greeted with the sound of lions roaring and the amazing sight of the sun rising over the Chilojo Cliffs. A little later we saw two young male lions on the riverbank downstream.

We headed down to Bhenji Weir, passing the one and only car we saw the ENTIRE time we were in the park! We saw two baby jackal frolicking in their den as well as a number of elephant. Bhenji Weir was a great viewing site comprising a double-decker viewing platform enabling visitors to see all the way down to the weir and up the valley. We were privileged to see a large herd of sable coming down the valley to drink. After a tasty brunch we set up our hammocks and had a snooze in the shade before heading back, crossing the Runde river at Bopomela then driving up to the Chilojo Cliffs viewpoints which provide a magnificent view of the entire Runde valley. The highlight here was our sighting of a pair of Verreaux’s eagles.

The next day we started a slow trek towards another exclusive camp, Chitove. We enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast at the west viewing point of Chilojo Cliffs and from our vantage point we saw plenty of game including buffalo, kudu and elephant. We carried on to the east viewpoint and saw about six different herds of elephants amongst the Mopane forests and on the plains. The Chitove campsite was breathtaking, right on the river, which was patrolled by resident crocs and hippo. Fishing is allowed in Gonarezhou and the guys decided to try their hand in one of the pools upstream, managing to land a fair sized Tiger fish.

The following day, we headed off towards Machaniwa Pan and saw a plethora of game – eland, warthog, zebra, baboons and a large elephant bull. The pan was stunning with plenty of birdlife – African jacana, white-faced ducks, herons and many more. Here we cooked up a delicious meal on the skottel before making our way across the Runde river towards Gayiseni campsite and the confluence of the Runde and Save rivers. The road to Gayiseni turned out to be little more than an elephant path, completely overgrown with palms, and without Tracks4Africa telling us we were there I’m not sure we would have known! From here we headed back via Tembwahata Pan and again saw loads of game with many rafts of hippo! The weather was quite cool, so many of the hippo were in the shallows which made for some great pics. The baobabs around here were stunning. We crossed back over at the Chitove water crossing after seeing more game.

The following morning we struck camp and headed back along the river, the highlight of the drive being a sighting of three young lions! Lunch at Chilojo Cliffs picnic site with a sighting of large elephant bull and also a large herd of ellies with very small calves coming down to drink. As we neared the Chipinda Pools camp the amount of game increased and we saw herds of elephant, zebra, impala and kudu. The sun was again setting as we headed down the final hill to Chipinda, giving us a stunning view of the Runde valley with the broken bridge way off in the distance. The campsite at Chipinda Pools was very well appointed with newly-refurbished ablutions, hot water and a thatched lapa dining area. We were welcomed by a small Mozambique spitting cobra but he soon moved off. Great excitement – two of our party nearly walked smack bang into the resident leopard as they were leaving the bathroom!

Next day we were really sad to leave. Heading south across the Runde crossing to extend our adventure and following Tracks4Africa to try and keep off the main road as much as possible, we stopped for an obligatory “G&T” under a baobab along the way! We were welcomed at the Elephant and Lion Motel, although it felt very strange not to be putting up the tents!

This safari was a truly fantastic experience – a trip of lifetime. And the staff in the Park went out of their way to make our stay as enjoyable as possible.

Our huge thanks to Viv at 2BWild Safaris for all the bookings and advice – you really made our trip unforgettable and hassle free!

CHECKBOX

HOW DO I GET THERE? 2BWild Safaris will work closely with you to plan your personalised itinerary, providing you with routing, and undertaking all your reservations, including guided self-drive adventure trails in the area.

 

BEST TIME OF YEAR
The ideal time is June to August when the Limpopo is at its lowest and temperatures are mild to warm.

SELF-DRIVE
You will need to be completely self-sufficient. 2BWild will book a self-drive 4×4 for you if required, as well as provide you with a comprehensive Trail List with everything you will need, depending on where you choose to stay, and the time of year.

FLY-IN
For overseas or local visitors wishing to fly in to Chilo Gorge 2BWild will book your flights and accommodation and arrange transfers.

Mirages, rainbows, thunderstorms and dust: Kgalagadi, January 2017

Kgalgadi 01-2017 (Photo: 2BWild)
Kgalagadi 01-2017
(Photo: 2BWild)

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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) trip report – 2016/2017

This recce trip undertaken by 2BWild Safaris to the Kgalagadi Desert in South Africa in December 2016/January 2017 was a wonderful experience and great success.

Our route
Johannesburg > Vryburg > McCarthy’s Rust (Botswana border post) > KTP: Twee Rivieren > Nossob > Gharagab > Bitterpan > Kalahari Tented Camp > Urikaruus > Kielie Krankie > Augrabies Falls > Kuruman > Johannesburg

This is indeed a very special and unique African wilderness area where one can experience the nuances of the vast Kalahari Desert and the specialised flora and fauna which thrive there.

Access using 4×4 vehicles is essential and accommodation in the wilderness camps is an experience of a lifetime.

To book this tour and 4×4 vehicle click here.

 

Gharagab

Gharagab - captures the magic of the African Kalahari
Gharagab – captures the magic of the African Kalahari

 

Johannesburg > Vryburg > McCarthy’s Rust (Botswana border post) > KTP: Twee Rivieren > Nossob > Gharagab > Bitterpan > Kalahari Tented Camp > Urikaruus > Kielie Krankie > Augrabies Falls > Kuruman > Johannesburg
From Nossob rest camp, situated roughly in the middle of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP), it’s a relatively long 155km 5 hour interesting and enjoyable drive to the Gharagab wilderness camp. The “main” gravel road is in good condition, albeit with minor corrugations, with interesting waterholes and pans along the way.

Right up near the top of the Park near Unions End, one leaves the “main” gravel road on a one way route around and back down to Gharagab. It’s one-way for good reason – the “tweespoor” (twin track) is a sandy bumpy twisty road with a few mild dune rises to negotiate. A good 4 wheel drive vehicle is essential.

After the exciting dune driving we see the camp from a distance, considerably raising our anticipation. The camp attendant Andries was there to meet us, well presented, smartly dressed in his uniform, friendly and courteous as they all are. We were shown to our log cabin, one of four, and what a cosy “home-from-home”.

Overlooking a floodlit waterhole down in the arid valley below, this beautiful private cabin was well appointed with all the basic requirements for a comfortable stay. Ours was Unit #1 – worth noting as it’s the only one with a 220V electricity plug behind the fridge – I won’t tell if you don’t! Perfect for charging car batteries, laptops and cell phones – whilst you download all those terrific photos and videos from your cameras).

Twin beds, spacious bathroom (again with good water pressure and piping hot water), a complete kitchenette with full range of cutlery, crockery and dish-wash basin. Not to mention the magnificent balcony with a fixed braai (barbecue) and most incredible view of the expansive bush, dunes, and waterhole below. Pure bliss.

During our stay we saw an unprecedented 14 jackal during the afternoon and evening, visiting to drink before moving briskly on. Gemsbok, springbok, common duiker and more. Unfortunately no lion during our stay, although Gharagab is renowned for its strong and vociferous lion population.

One of the best features of Gharagab is the lookout point on the rise behind the camp. This well constructed wooden deck, above the water tanks and solar arrays, offers a magnificent view across the African Kalahari dunes. A perfect spot for sundowners. Just beware of wild animals when walking there and back – and be sure to leave before nightfall.

Gharagab can be extremely hot in summer – over 44C – and extremely cold in winter. So choose your visiting time with care. The hottest period is October/November. Our trip took place in December – and was quite bearable, being a dry heat (as opposed to a humid coastal heat).

Urikaruus

Urikaruus wilderness camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Urikaruus wilderness camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Johannesburg > Vryburg > McCarthy’s Rust (Botswana border post) > KTP: Twee Rivieren > Nossob > Gharagab > Bitterpan > Kalahari Tented Camp > Urikaruus > Kielie Krankie > Augrabies Falls > Kuruman > Johannesburg

These beautifully designed riverside cabins stole our hearts from the minute we arrived.

Set high up on stilts overlooking the Auob “river” (usually dry), these five units are all interconnected with a wooden boardwalk, making them suitable for large family groups, or private individual bookings.

The elevated structure not only offers an excellent view of the river bed and floodlit waterhole – but it also enables the free movement of wildlife – including lion – below the cabins.

During our one night stay we experienced the most magnificent thunderstorm which introduced a brief but important flow in the river. We were also treated to a dusk view of the resident lioness escorting her three tiny cubs to the waterhole.

The bedroom and kitchen/dining room are on separate levels, each with own balcony.

Exceptionally clean, well kept, with all cutlery and crockery, efficient fridge, and piping hot water with good pressure in the shower.

Of all the KTP wilderness camps I would rate Urikaruus as the best – and not to be missed – with a minimum of two night’s stay.

Our camp attendant Erick was most helpful and efficient.

 

KTP gallery

All photos: 2BWild Safaris

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Graeme & Rowan’s luxury surf n turf trip

The brief from this charming UK couple, (he a captain on British Airways) :

“Plan and book a trip for our family of four in the best luxury accommodation: 1. in a reserve with the Big Five guaranteed; 2. followed  by a few days of diving in Mozambique (we’re all PADI qualified); 3. finishing off in another reserve on the way back to Johannesburg. We’ll self-drive in a 4×4 – if you could please source and book that too.”

graeme-route

 

The result:

September 2016

We had an absolutely wonderful time thank you Viv.

What I particularly enjoyed was several times in Moz and then in Tembe we had South Africans saying “how did you know to come here?”. Each time I would say I used a local agent and they would nod in understanding and appear only slightly miffed that we might be the vanguard of “foreigners” about to spoil their more hidden (and more cost effective) tourist gems. In that regard it was fascinating to have the comparison between Shonga and Tembe.

Spotted in Kruger. Photo: Rowan
Spotted in Kruger.
Photo: Rowan
A mid morning 'Tail back' Photo: Rowan
A mid morning ‘Tail back’
Photo: Rowan

 

I was very impressed with the hired Toyota, loved the profusion of wildlife in Kruger but hope they get decent rain soon, would do more walking safari’s, and pleased we were not in Ponta de Ouro as that would not have been us. We enjoyed Malongane Tented Camp 6km north and the dive centre was excellent with launching and recovery through the surf an added bonus. Looked like it would be very crowded Dec/Jan from the number of camp sites among the milk wood trees. I really enjoyed the Tembe experience with its atmosphere and said to Ro I could easily just relax in the camp for a week without needing to do the game drives. And I do like the thought of the $ helping the local community directly so look forward to more of the same.

Returning from our family dive. Photo: Rowan
Returning from our family dive.
Photo: Rowan
The dive was awesome! Photo: Rowan
The dive was awesome!
Photo: Rowan

 

 

Armed guides taking our bush walk in Kruger. Photo: Rowan
Armed guides taking our bush walk in Kruger.
Photo: Rowan
Dawn in Mozambique. Photo: Rowan
Dawn in Mozambique.
Photo: Rowan

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beautiful Malongane bay where the beach stretches for kilometres.

Thanks once again for being the instrument of such a lovely family holiday Viv and it has certainly given us the confidence and desire for more and longer.

All The Best, Graeme

North meets South – Andrés comes to Africa – Olé!

Andrés from Spain had this to say about his recent 2BWild Safari:  (June 2016)

Route: BOTSWANA: Okavango Delta; ZIMBABWE and ZAMBIA: Vic falls; BOTSWANA: Senyati and Kubu Island.

Me so excited in the Vic falls!
Me so excited in the Vic falls!

Hi Viv!

The trip was greeeeeeeat, absolutely amazing. We really enjoyed all different places where we stayed. I am sending you here some pics. Are the ones from my iphone but still I really love them! I have plenty but i am sending you a small selection of some of my favourites!

We did the flight over the Okavango Delta. You can even see the elephant from there in the pic!
We did the flight over the Okavango Delta. You can even see the elephant from there in the pic!
Our Mokoro boat that we did while staying in Ngepi, Caprivi.
Our Mokoro boat that we did while staying in Ngepi, Caprivi.
A breathtaking sunset at Senyati, Botswana.
A breathtaking sunset at Senyati, Botswana.

Regarding the car everything was PERFECT as well! We had NO problem with it so I really really appreciate your kind assistance with that!

Thanks Viv,

Andrés

This is one of my favourite places of the trip... Kubu Island. It is very very special...
This is one of my favourite places of the trip… Kubu Island. It is very very special…
Devil's pool in Zambia's side. We had a bath up there, the first day they were opened, was incredible!
Devil’s pool in Zambia’s side. We had a bath up there, the first day they were opened, was incredible!

 

The Dirty Dozen visits Gonarezhou! – 06-2016

The Dirty Dozen visits Gonarezhou!

Crossing the Limpopo
Crossing the Limpopo

Thank you, Terry, for your wonderful review of this very special part of Zimbabwe!! :

“Thanks for putting this trip together for us, Viv and John – we had a fantastic time! Just perfect for a large bunch of guys undertaking our annual foray into the wild! We loved Gonarezhou, its remoteness, great campsites – and Hlaro camp was especially good.” Just be wary of “Arnie”, the huge resident baboon who can break into a locked trommel, which is what happened to Terry and party! “Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge was an excellent interlude for a touch of luxury and a good clean-up before heading back!”

4-Chilojo Cliffs 3-Sunset silhouette 2-Jackal and vultures 6-GRZ Waterhole 10-View from Hlaro 9-River from Chilo Safari Lodge 8-River crossing 2 7-Kudu ewe 5-Central road GRZ