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“We had a wonderful time on safari in Zimbabwe and Zambia”

Courtesy John Drakeley

Here’s a safari review by some of Liz’s guests travelling on safari to Zimbabwe and Zambia…

“How can I begin to write this review of our wonderful time on safari in Zimbabwe and Zambia without saying a big thank you to you and Char for all the time and effort you put in organising the accommodation and transport for me; everything was perfect.

Fortunately my own arrangements, taxi to Manchester and the flights to Victoria Falls via Cairo and Johannesburg also were problem free, apart from Irene’s hip setting off the alarms, with humiliating body searches both in Manchester and Cairo.

On arrival at Victoria Falls I paid $200- for Irene’s and my Zimbabwe visas but Philip was only asked for $275 for his family of five! However to my surprise the Immigration official then handed me $90. Apparently if you travel as a family the charge is $55 per person. There’s honesty for you!

Having retrieved our luggage (six bags at 89.7 Kg) and cleared Customs we were met by Pilani, our Driver and guide and taken to Ilala Lodge, some 28 hours after leaving home. Our first floor rooms giving a magnificent views of Mosi Oa Tunya with rainbow colours. I think that this stop over was a masterstroke, as everyone was able to relax by the pool rather than undertaking a long drive to Hwange, Main Gate and then to The Hide which would have added another 5 hours to our overall journey time.

The following morning Pilani drove us to Hwange Main Gate where Andrew Dazzell, our host and safari guide was waiting for us. Andrew, a freelance safari guide, proved to be an excellent host and a very knowledgeable guide who could anticipate the movement of the animals and place our van in the optimum positions for viewing and photography. In addition, although having no children of his own, Andrew was superb with the children especially with Alex who frequently sat in the front seat with him and on our last day even allowed him to hold his rifle.

The journey from Victoria Falls to Hwange took longer than anticipated. Andrew explained that the drive to The Hide could take anything between 1 1/2 to 2 Hrs. depending on what we saw; in fact it took 2 1/2 Hrs., such was the diversity of game and birds present around two waterholes, with Giraffe, Wildebeest, Impala, Puku and Black-backed Jackal, Yellow billed Hornbill, secretary birds and a monitor lizard.

On arrival we were greeted by Lianne and staff with the customary cold cloths and drinks. After a light lunch and sorting out our sleeping arrangements (Philip with his two boys, Paula with Jessica and Irene and I ) we set off on our first safari game drive during which we saw many Elephants and Buffalo, Lilac-breasted Roller Long-tailed Starling and Pied Babblers as well as Roan, Baboons ,Crowned and Blacksmith Plovers. After stopping for sun-downers we returned to Tom’s House tired but exhilarated by our fist day on Safari, ready for the excellent dinner that had been prepared for us.

An early breakfast at 06-00 and then out in the van at 06-30 with Alex curled up in a blanked beside Andrew. We had to admire Andrew’s knowledge of all the mammals that we saw and in particular that of the Elephants, knowing just where they were heading so that he could drive ahead to specific place, such as a waterhole, and wait for them to come to us. Two Elephants came within 15 yards of our van to drink and then spray themselves with mud to protect their skin from sun burn. Zebra and Sable also visited the waterhole, but were further away.

After lunch the children enjoyed playing in the splash pool then we were out for another drive at 4pm. Later, after dinner, we went on our first night drive with Alex, instructed by Andrew, soon spotting the shining eyes of Springer Hares caught in the beam of the searchlight but quickly averting the beam if he saw Impala. Puku or even the occasional elephant. He even captured a Bush Baby in his light. On returning to Camp we were able to sit by the fire and watch Buffalo, Elephant and Kudu passing by.

Alex the spotter by John Drakeley

The following morning we set off on what proved to be a rewarding day. Lilac-breasted Rollers, Yellow-billed and Bradfield’s Hornbills seemed to be everywhere. Black-backed Snake Eagle and a Tawny Eagle as well as a White-crowned Roller presented more photo opportunities. The highlight of the morning had to be a lioness with two cubs which passed some 50 yards from us but sadly for me we did not see the Racket-tailed Roller in the forest areas.

If that was not enough during our lunch break Matt, who wanted especially, to see a Cheetah spotted one no less than 50 yards from Tom’s House with a cub. Andrew on hearing of Matt’s discovery quickly herded us in to the van to look for her. Within 5 minutes I spotted her and Andrew positioned our van in such a way that we got a clear view of the Cheetah followed by not one but three cubs and who later led them to the base of a tree on the top of a Termite mound. We watched them for some 30 minutes before Andrew radioed other guides and three other vans appeared.

Eventually moving off the Cheetah was seen chasing a small antelope into a wooded area with its screams indicating a possible killing. Later, after returning to TSH for tea we found the mother and her cubs devouring the remains of a Steinbock which we watched for 20 minutes or so before moving to a water hole where we saw at least three groups of Elephant coming and going, some 60-70 in all. To crown it all we saw a Leopard just a few yards from the roadside but our views were obscured by vegetation so we were unable to get good pictures of it.

On our final morning before returning to Victoria Falls, leaving the Ladies behind to complete the packing where we saw the lioness with cubs. We did not see them again but Andrew did find the elusive Racket-Tailed Roller which I had never seen before. Returning to TSH for breakfast we were joined by Ian and Lianne. Andrew produced his rifle for Alex to hold because he wanted, as little boys do, to see a ranger with a gun. Even our drive back to Hwange Main Gate produced a Dickinson’s Kestrel and a large troupe of Baboons sitting on the road and eventually passing us by.

So ended our visit to Hwange NP. I could not have wished for a better start to our holiday. Next stop Victoria Falls. Our drive from TSH to Hwange main gate we continued to see different birds and mammals including a Grey Kestrel and a large gang of Chacmar, Baboons on the road. Unfortunately due to the bank holiday traffic Pilanic was held up on his journey to H M Gate so as a consequence we arrived too late to partake of the rack of sandwiches served on the Stanley terrace of the Victoria Falls Hotel that you had recommended we should sample.

I must admit that the food at the Jungle Junction Restaurant was not as good as that of the Ilala Lodge nor indeed at any of the three camps at which we stayed: never the less we enjoyed the luxury of this fine old colonial hotel.

The morning tour of the falls was spectacular and due to the sheer volume of water still flowing in the Zambezi we all got wet from the spray.

Back at the VFH we had time to relax by the pool and have a light lunch on The Stanley Terrace before our elephant-back safari that you had arranged for us. Even Irene, with her hip replacement managed to sit astride one of the smaller elephants for over an hour or more. Although we did not see many mammals it was a wonderful experience to get close to these rescued orphan elephants and to learn all about them.

Back to the VFH for dinner and to pack ready for our 7-30 departure to Zambia which was again trouble free. To my delight everyone thoroughly enjoyed their first Safari and as you can see from the images Alex, although reluctant to wake up at 6-00 am, soon entered into the spirit of things and did not want to leave.”

Courtesy John Drakeley


All images courtesy John Drakeley