elephant express, hwange national park, zimbabwe safaris, wildlife safaris

“The only problem was that we had to leave!”

Tony and Kerrie Smith wanted another adventure to Southern Africa, taking in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and a Big Five region to maximise their opportunity for photography.

 

What a ball we had. All flights were on time, no issues with baggage it was great. Getting through Zimbabwe customs was a bit stressful, but the same for everyone. If two planes come in at the same time, then expect delays, but it works.

From  Victoria Falls we drove to Dete Station to catch the elephant express tram. The Elephant Express to Bomani, in Hwange National Park, was tremendous fun. Very strong G&Ts were poured and consumed!  We were given a chance to drive the tram and pull the whistle cord. We both really enjoyed the journey, some animals on the way too. Bomani was excellent, tents spacious and well appointed. The only issue was the camp was out of Amarula, our favourite South African drink. More G&Ts were had. We met some good guests, as well as people who work in the camp. Good guide, food, can’t complain about anything.

The visit to the school was a special highlight, picking the kids up in the trucks, singing on the way to school, the assembly, more singing, visiting Year Five and they sang for us in the classroom. Priceless, really. The visit to the head man in the village was also fascinating, great to talk to as well as ask us lots. A lot different to the Maasai visits in the Mara where you pay for a dance.

 

“On our last morning, Norris the angry lion, buffalo and elephant were in the camp – can’t get much better than that.”

 

We absolutely loved Nehimba camp. Would go back there during the dry season anytime! The drive from Dete to Nehimba was interesting, about three hours, going through the different terrains. We had two guides there, Blessed and then Brendan. Blessed had to go back to the Vic Falls camp after our first day, then Brendan took over. Great fun with both. We saw Cheetah, Ostrich and chicks, lions galore, including Chuck and Norris, three lion prides in one day including the oldest lioness that had a collar – she was 18 years old. Large gatherings of bulls at the seep, but the best was around camp really. So many elephants during the afternoon and night drinking from the pool, madness, you could reach out and touch them if so inclined. Lions killed a juvenile elephant just outside tent four during the night. The key lioness is called “The Horse” because she is so big, and has become specialising in killing elephant. Were were in tent nine, one of the major elephants paths and that was great. On our last morning, Norris the angry lion, buffalo and elephant were in the camp, can’t get much better than that.

Nehimba staff were planning on setting up a bush dinner for us, but we said we’d rather eat at the lodge and watch the elephants, so after retiring back to our tent, they’d left a bottle of Amarula for us to remember Nehimba. That was unexpected and a great surprise! Pleased to report the bottle has made it back to Australia!

 

“Imvelo should be proud of what they do for the community, in both Bomani and Nehimba. We are very impressed.”

 

We wanted to see a honey badger, and there was one that tries to raid the kitchen at Nehimba, so we brought our cameras to dinner and chef called us when the badger arrived. We were only 10 feet from it on foot, trying to take photos and watch it going about it’s business. This was a priceless experience.

As welcoming as our last visit, it was good to be back at The Hide in Hwange. Luckily we had our guide from last year again, Theo. Great to be back in the truck with him again. The Hide was great for wildlife and we spotted lions, elephant, wildebeest and some impressive Sable antelope.  Theo took us to a couple of our favourite spots from last time. There were not the large concentrations of elephant at the pan in front of camp, they were moving around and we still saw plenty.  The food, accommodation, fellow travellers, and staff where all very good.

We took two suitcases full of goods for the Hide Community Trust to enable them to make reusable sanitary pads for the school girls and ladies of the area. This enables the girls to stay at school full time, rather than losing a week’s schooling per month. Christabel, from the Hide, arranged for us to deliver the goods to the Sewing group head. It was a great morning at Dete. Dorkas, the lead, showed us her plot of land where she is building a community centre for the women of the area, as well as a workshop where they will create items for sale to the visitors. They are currently melting all the alcohol bottles from surrounding camps and making them into necklaces and bracelets. A person came from Ghana to show them how. Really interesting and should be fantastic for the community.

We stayed at Cape Heritage in Cape Town and really loved this hotel, it felt like family. The staff, the ambience, the setting, our room, and breakfast are all hard to fault.  A 15-minute walk to the waterfront, a couple of minutes’ walk to Long street and surrounds; it suited us perfectly. There are lots of steps up to the rooms, so anyone who is mobility challenged may not find it suitable, there might be easier options. The only real tourist thing we did was the Cape Point Tour on the Red Bus. That was excellent, two staff from the Red Bus giving commentary all along the route, would recommend this trip. Drinks at the Silo Hotel, 6th Floor, Inverroche G&Ts, visited the new museum contained in the Silos, not my type of art but architecture is fabulous. Across the road is Donald Greig’s Bronze foundry, we love that place and you should put it on a list of things to do in Cape Town. Bronzes are expensive, but a lifelong memento. Great staff there as well.

 

“Thanks for another great southern Africa safari holiday.”

 

We were again very impressed with Tanda Tula in the Timbavati. Everything about it, the camp set up, its tents, and the bar (sat there a few times!) with different gins. The bartending staff were very accommodating. We saw leopard each day, including a leopard and her cub, a leopard kill a scrub hare, male leopard with two impala in a tree, along with very large herds of buffalo, rhino, and lions harassing buffalo. Our guide Civilised was great company, allowing us group selfies at morning stops and sundowners.  We met the owners, they were there for one night which was a treat. The chef, Alan, was very interesting to talk to, lots of people on their first safari and all loved the place, sightings, food and the people. Alan surprised us for my birthday and wedding anniversary, with a lunch around their waterhole and a surprise cake with everyone singing happy birthday, tremendous. The camp staff also do an evening dance/singing, where they thank the guests for choosing Tanda Tula, we thought that was from the heart and loved it. The only problem was that we had to leave!

At Johannesburg airport, we loaded up with five bottles of Inverroche gin to take home!

Over all, a great trip, with only two really hot days, which surprised us, and a couple of misty showers at Tanda Tula, so we were very lucky. Thanks again for everything. As always, we loved it.

 

Jono from Encompass Africa says:

“I remember the very first time we worked with Tony and Kerrie to create a dream holiday to Africa. I thought it was going to be a one-off and now I’m up to designing their tenth trip with us! Africa is soul food-style travel. It gets under your skin, and the Smith couple are testament to that.”

View their itinerary

 

Jono’s suggestion for Tony and Kerrie’s next Africa adventure:

“The Smiths are well-travelled, lovers of adventure and willing to try new things. Because of this, and because I know they love photography, I would recommend Kafue National Park in Zambia. It will certainly impress.”

Next stop Kafue
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Images courtesy of the Smiths