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Amazing time in Zimbabwe

Took the Solenta flight from VFA to Bumi Hills. When we booked the flight it was 14:30 and then we were notified of a change to 13:30 – the other couple on the flight were not informed of this and we nearly went without them. They walked into the airport just after 14:00 as the pilot was applying for a refund of their departure taxes. So if you fly Solenta I strongly recommend reconfirming your flight the day beforehand!

On landing at Bumi Hills airstrip we were met by Steve Edwards of Musango Camp along with a cool box of cold drinks including beer – well that’s a nice way to start the luxury part of the trip!

Musango was just AMAZING. The drive from the airstrip was a game drive in itself and we saw buffaloes and many kinds of birds, we stopped a couple of times to set fire to some grass to keep it under control, and even saw three poachers who had been caught by the anti-poaching team that Steve helped organise! Musango is located on a small island a short pontoon-boat ride from the shore. The rooms are luxurious chalets with tents suspended inside so can be sealed off from the mozzies, but there were none at the time of year we were there. We were lucky to be given the honeymoon suite which had a lovely stone walled, open topped en-suite area, and a small veranda with a private plunge pool and a view onto the beach (not much beach as the lake was very full, and you wouldn’t want to swim here anyway due to the wildlife). All well protected from the wildlife by electric fence but we saw a buck or two who were allowed to wander inside. The communal areas were beautifully designed and very well kept, the staff were very friendly and the dinners were communal, under the stars, and of a very high quality including quite drinkable wine.

Steve and Conrad were both excellent guides and full of stories which made the atmosphere just delightful. The activities we took part in were:
• game cruise on a motorised pontoon where we saw amazing birdlife and lots of crocs, hippos, buffaloes, waterbuck etc, followed by the most glorious sunset with bush fires in the distance
• canoeing up some local streams where the lead canoe caught a glimpse of a leopard but we missed it
• game drive, highlight being a baby elephant very close up
• visit to a nearby fishing village

Not bad for a three night stay! The other family staying there did some fishing too, and caught quite a few bream.

We departed by motorboat transfer to Kariba, and we were quite disappointed that the captain insisted on leaving at 8am on our day of departure even though we’d been promised we’d have time to do an activity that morning. Not Steve’s fault, he was very embarrassed about it, and he was going to have it out with the boat company. Steve kindly took us up to the Kariba dam viewpoint and from there to our hotel and we said our goodbyes.

The Cutty Sark hotel was very impressive in the communal areas and the views were wonderful but the rooms were a bit tired and needing renovation, though clean. This seems to be often the case in Zim – waiting for tourism to pick up before the investment can be justified. It was a comfortable place to stay though.

Cutty Sark had not heard of internet so we took a car to Warthogs Bush Camp as we’d heard they had it. They did, but not working. Beer and a burger were pretty good, and got entertained by 3 elephants wandering through the camp and stealing dog biscuits from the kitchen. Warthogs is a bit of a locals bar more than a bush camp, but friendly enough and one of the locals gave us a lift back to the hotel.

Next day started our canoe safari with Natureways as the final part of our itinerary booked through Zambezi Safari & Travel. Were picked up from the hotel and met the guides – one senior and one junior. We were the only clients on the trip so we had a canoe for the two of us and the guides one each. After a quick supermarket stop for beer and snacks we were transferred to Chirundu to put in. The canoeing was excellent. Current quite strong so paddling fairly easy apart from when avoiding submerged trees, hippos etc. Overnight camping on sandbank islands so no lions but hippos, buffalo etc. and very noisy Egyptian geese. Very cold overnight in June and sleeping bags provided were not really up to the job. Our junior guide was also chef, and the food was good and plentiful. The pace was right for us and the wildlife was amazing. The guides were knowledgeable and friendly but not engaging and fascinating as other guides we’ve had in Africa. Overall we were satisfied but not delighted with the trip. Best part was the navigation of some of the side channels created by the water level having risen then dropped due to opening and closing of gates in the Kariba dam. Here there were narrow channels where everything felt so serene and we got very close to a very large amount and variety of wildlife.

I hope this helps you update your guide to help people with their plans in Zimbabwe. I would strongly recommend visiting the country to anyone wanting to see something of Africa, as aside from one or two things that didn’t go very well we had an amazing time, and on the whole we felt totally safe and welcome. Much more so than we’ve ever felt in South Africa. We appreciated your guide’s encouragement to go.

Martin and Lara P