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.

2017 Personalised safaris

2BWild Safaris is well advanced with the planning of a number of personalised safaris for 2017 for a range of clients.

Destinations, amongst others, include Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Self-drive self-catering; fully guided and catered; and fly-in luxury are just a few of the travel styles being incorporated in the briefs.

These unparalleled wilderness areas of Africa offer endless unique bush and desert  landscapes, many with Big Five game sightings, all with outstanding photographic opportunities.

Click here to find out more about these personalised safaris.

Botswana:

Khumaga
Khumaga

Khumaga, Khwai, Linyanti

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Namibia

Ai-Ais National Park

Richtersveld/Ai-Ais; Namib Nauklift;

 

 

 

 

Northern Namibia:

Kunene River, N Namibia
Kunene

Kunene, Kaokoveld, Skeleton Coast, Etosha, Cape Fria, Hartmann’s Valley, Marienfluss

 

 

 

 

4-Chilojo Cliffs
Chilojo Cliffs, Gonarezhou

Zimbabwe:

Gonarezhou

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

Itchy feet – and a taste of Africa – Hakuna matata!

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29 June 2016

IMG_1912Here’s a snippet of just some of our 2BWild Safaris recently completed, some in progress, and some in the future that we’re all still looking forward to: Zimbabwe-Gonarezhou; South Africa-Pilanesberg; Namibia and Botswana; South Africa-Welgevonden Game Reserve; Zimbabwe- Mana Pools; Botswana-Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP)… Read on…
To discuss with us and plan your next personalised safari in Africa diving trip click here.
Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou:
Terry & Party

Late afternoon sun catches the timeless Chilojo Cliffs
Late afternoon sun catches the timeless Chilojo Cliffs

Terry and friends (a group of twelve in total) returned a week ago from their annual safari together, this time to Gonarezhou. Instead of Beit Bridge, they opted to go through the Kruger and enter Mozambique at Pafuri border post and then through the Sango border post into Zimbabwe. They stayed in the south, travelled straight up the middle and stayed at a number of camps in the northern section, including two nights at the luxurious Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge. They returned along the same route, staying at a different camp in the south before crossing through Moz and back into SA.

South Africa, Pilanesberg – an international family reunion and 80th birthday celebration:
Colin and Family
3-IMG_6427Colin and his family (16 in total, some having travelled from the USA) are spending four days in Pilanesberg National Park this week, staying in chalets at Bakgatla Camp, where they will be celebrating his Dad’s 80th Birthday. They will have a sumptuous Champagne Bush Breakfast at the private Boma in the Park on his Dad’s special day. There will be many self-drive game drives as well as a Bush Walk for some members of the group.

Namibia and Botswana – Caprivi and the Okavango Delta:
Felix & Party

Chobe River waterfront (photo: JeT, 2Bwild)
Chobe River waterfront (photo: JeT, 2Bwild)

Felix and his party of nine will be on the road heading north from early tomorrow (30/6). They will be travelling through Botswana up to the Chobe waterfront, through the Caprivi to Mamili and Mudumu, and then around to the Okavango Panhandle for a few days’ fishing before heading back home via Maun, Gweta (to visit Nxai Pan) and Francistown.

 

 

South Africa, Welgevonden Game Reserve:
Graeme and Rowan
While in SA from the UK, Graeme and Rowan will spend three days next week in the malaria-free Big 5 Welgevonden Game Reserve at one of Rare Earth’s luxurious 5-star lodges, Ekhutuleni.

 

 

Zimbabwe, Mana Pools:
Frank and Party

The main destination for Frank and his group of six is Mana Pools (Nyamepi camp). They’ll be leaving SA in July and travelling via Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Elephant Sands and Kasane, with a visit to Vic Falls, before crossing into Zambia for an overnight stop and then entering Zimbabwe. Their return journey takes them through Livingstone, Zambia and Nata in Botswana before re-entering SA.

Mark and Party
Another group is headed for Mana Pools, this time in September, Mark and his group of six will be doing a very quick trip from SA via Elephant Sands to begin their safari in the Zambezi National Park. From there they will overnight in Zambia before entering Zimbabwe early the next day for their five-night stay at Nyamepi in Mana. Once again, they’ll do a lightning return from Mana, overnighting in Antelope Park and then back into SA the following day.

Bitterpan camp

 

Botswana, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP)
JJ & Susan – KTP
JJ and Susan are off to Kgalagadi in July. Initially they were going to do the Nossob 4×4 Trail but unfortunately their friends couldn’t make the trip and more than one vehicle is required for the Trail. They will be camping at Polentswa and Rooiputs on the Botswana side as well as camps on the South African side.

The 2BWild Team

Urikaruus Camp

Last but not least – we too/two, Viv and John, head off to KTP in December for a 10 day visit. A number of months ago our excellent personalised travel agency specialist, Viv of 2Bwild Safaris did a fantastic job in securing the best sites for us as booking opened for the year! On our return we’ll also visit the renowned and beautiful Augrabies falls. Can’t wait! Yeeehaaa!

 

To discuss and plan your next personalised African safari  trip click here.

 

Zimbabwe: Limpopo crossing at Pafuri – conditions 27-06-2016

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Zimbabwe: Limpopo crossing at Pafuri
2BWild’s recommended safari route from South Africa to Gonarezhou

2BWild crossing the mighty Limpopo Near Pafuri. 08-2015
2BWild crossing the mighty Limpopo Near Pafuri. 08-2015. Photo:2BWild

News from the Pafuri region today is that the Limpopo River water level is less than tyre height.

This route, via Punda Maria camp in the Kruger National Park, is highly recommend in the winter months (May to August) as the water level is low. 2BWild Safaris has first-hand experience having travelled this route twice in recent years (see our trip report here).

Not only is this route a true African adventure with two significant river/sand crossings, mildly testing roads, tribal villages along the way, interesting border posts and related indabas, and a test of driving skills along sections of the route – all with the goal of Gonarezhou beckoning – and Kruger beckoning on the way back – but it also avoids the notoriously busy Beit Bridge border post to Zimbabwe.

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The Nuanetsi River crossing, only a few kilos from the Limpopo. Here local are preparing a crossing section for high water in the rainy season. Photo: 2BWild

Even though you need to allow for 3-4 hours for border crossings on this route – at Pafuri and Chiqualaquala/Sango – it is certainly well worth the adventure.