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Fisheagle Safaris & Camp Zambezi
Our safari actually started weeks before our arrival in Zimbabwe by communicating through numerous emails with Liz Ferreira in Kariba.
This was our first trip to Africa. We were on a major learning curve about the geography, climate, safari options, methods of ground and air transportation, distances required in travel between regions and many other aspects of planning a safari.
We are a retired couple in our 60s, and for us this was going to be a trip of a lifetime, therefore, we wanted to make the right trip choices and remain within our budget. We were presented several options through lengthy emails and each option was explained in complete detail and priced accordingly. We started making travel plans to Zimbabwe just 8 weeks before the trip, therefore, some of our first choice options were already booked. Liz was fantastic to work with. She never gave up on us as we asked many questions and cross referenced many safari itineraries over a period of about 4 weeks. She just kept working at it until a match was found for a trip that met our choices in a safari and had a price we could live with. Her kind and courteous approach, her prompt responses, the detailed planning and excellent service was very much appreciated. When we arrived in Zimbabwe, all of the trip arrangements that she had made for us, were perfectly in place. Therefore, without a doubt, we would recommend her to others.
The first portion of our safari was the 5 night – 6 Day Fish Eagle Canoe Safari on The Zambezi River from Kariba to Mana Pools. Our guides were absolutely fantastic. We did have a bit of apprehension prior to the trip regarding paddling a river loaded with hippos and crocks! The guides were incredibly skilled. They paid close attention at all times to safety and provided very specific instructions for us to follow. As we paddled through mild rapids and whirlpools within the Kariba gorge, then paddled the open river traversing hippo pods, and watched the crocks on the shoreline slip into the water next to our canoe and at times got tossed around a bit as we paddled through the whitecaps when the wind picked up, we never felt unsafe even for a minute. The guides knew how to handle each situation. If we did have any apprehensions, they were totally gone within the first few minutes of the 6 day trip. The guides were incredibly skilled at setting up and taking down camp, cooking delicious hot meals with fresh meats or fish and fresh vegetables, and setting a lovely table for us each evening. We camped on islands for safety as the guides always knew which islands were safe. They always walked on shore first thus checking out the island before allowing us to come on land. At the end of each day of paddling and after enjoying our delicious evening meal, we watched the sunset from our camp, sipping a glass of wine, listening to the grunting of the hippos in the river and thought to ourselves – this is really Africa!
On Day 6 after paddling 130 KM, we arrived at Camp Zambezi at Mana Pools National Park. This was the absolute highlight of our trip. Mana Pools is pristine in that it is not commercial and overwhelmed with tourists. Our accommodations were in walled tents with private toilet tent attached, comfortable beds, bucket showers, and delicious meals all prepared over an open fire served at a table along the banks of the Zambezi River. The staff was extremely efficient, kind, courteous, polite and just delightful to be around. They catered to all of our needs and always with a smile. The camp director, James Varden, was from Zimbabwe and is a skilled guide and thus provided us with a wealth of information about the African bush. He mingled daily with the clients, joined us at the dinner table and around the campfire each evening and monitored that the camp operated efficiently. We had lengthy and stimulating conversations with him which we very much enjoyed. Our walking guide, Andy, was also from Zimbabwe and was highly trained in walking in the bush. He provided us with a safety briefing prior to starting our walks of which we all paid heed. Each day he guided us on foot in complete safety for hours through the African bush searching for animals. At Camp Zambezi, you don’t have to look far. Elephants walk through the camp daily right behind our tents. We would watch them for hours eating leaves off the trees and off the ground. Hippos were in the river directly in front of our tent. We listened to their grunting throughout the day and night. When Andy took us walking throughout different regions of Mana Pools National Park, we saw warthogs, elephants, baboons, zebra, lions, elands, impalas, kudu, hippos, crocks, numerous species of birds, fish eagles, and many more. Andy kept us at a safe distance so the animals could function in their natural environment without being stressed and the clients could view them and take photos with complete confidence. We were in awe at his skill and knowledge as he described the habits, behaviors, and anatomy of each animal and explained about the plants and trees of the region. He was like a walking encyclopedia. Zimbabwe guides are described as being the most highly trained in all of Africa because of the strict requirements for obtaining a license and the numerous hours of training required. After a stimulating day of walking in the bush, a delicious meal served by lantern light along the banks of The Zambezi, good conversation around the campfire and sipping a glass of wine while watching the sunset, we retired to our tents to the sounds of the hyenas, lions and hippos throughout the night. This was truly the African bush in its most pristine state. What an experience. All of our expectations of a trip of a lifetime in Africa had come true.
Our recommendation to those reading this review: If you are thinking about taking a safari on The Zambezi River or at Camp Zambezi in Mana Pools National Park, stop thinking and JUST DO IT.
Dennis & Frances W
Tucson, Arizona USA