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Chipembere Safaris has exclusive rights to a photographic safari area of 6000 hectares bordering on the south boundary of Mana Pools. This land belongs to the Hurungwe District Council and, providentially, lying between the game fence to the south and the unfenced southern boundary of the game reserve, is uninhabited and therefore designated to be used in the CAMPFIRE Programme. We lease the land and pay a concession fee (15% of gross) to the community. The local population also benefit by employment, sale of produce and hand crafts and education in environmental conservation awareness, whereby they learn the value of protected wildlife.
The people of this area have one of the most interesting tribal histories in Zimbabwe. Stories and evidence of their origins from Zaire abound. Several hundred years ago they arrived in the Zambezi Valley and, because of tribal warfare and droughts, moved either south or north of the Zambezi River and eventually settled along the Chewore, a major tributary of the Zambezi flowing from the Zimbabwe escarpment to the east of Mana Pools. It was at this time that the well-known history of Chimombe originated.
Chief Chimombe was betrayed and murdered by a woman from a rival tribe. On leaving his body, his spirit entered a metal artefact and to this day is the centre of the tribe's customs and beliefs. Chief Chundu is Chief Chimombe's guardian and communicates with him through spirit mediums. On selecting the site where we intend to build one of the camps, a very moving ceremony involving Chief Chundu and two spirit mediums was conducted to ask Chief Chimombe's permission. It was with great relief that Chimombe indicated in favour of our presence and showed that he would allow us to build with his blessing. The details and emotive forces of this ceremony are difficult to comprehend and impossible to convey in writing but a visitor will soon become immersed in the atmosphere of this unique setting. The camp is surrounded by shady African Ebony, Sausage Trees, and Rain Trees and is sited 40km down wind from a permanent rock pool of water, 3km further down stream are some more rock pools and embankments with minerals which attract elephant and buffalo. About 2.5km to the west are two springs to visit, one of which appears to flow all year round the other becomes a series of pools.
This private safari concession lies to the south of Mana Pools. It is near the edge of the escarpment, directly above Chitake Springs. The broken terrain, hills, mountains and valleys, which start 10km south of the game fence are a barrier between civilisation. We learned that another potential applicant for this concession was impressed with what he saw, but said that it was too remote! This region is remote; except for some pottery shards near permanent sources of water there is no sign of man's recent presence. Polished tree roots across ancient, deeply worn elephant trails give the aura of a timeless undisturbed environment; on passing through the gate (bent and twisted by elephant) in the game fence you become an intruder. You have the feeling that you are intruding on one of Africa's last untouched realms; in fact you will walk on paths untrodden by man. Because of our exclusive rights you will soon notice that for the duration of your stay the only obtrusive sound you will hear is the occasional airliner passing high overhead. An extra bonus is that the higher altitude gives a cooler, more comfortable climate than the oppressive heat of the valley.
Chipembere Safaris run backpack trails through the area between the lodge to the west and the tent camp to the east, and also down to Chitake Springs in the Zambezi Valley. There will be hides and viewing platforms at some of which we can overnight during a walking trail or from the lodge or camp. Another activity which we are sure will be of interest is visits to Chief Chundu and his people; a tribe who are most hospitable and who are known to have saved the life of at least one hunter in the past.
Chief Chundu is a slightly built, 79-year-old man who can out walk most of us half his age. When asked if he would like to stop and rest during the 160m climb out of the Chitiva River valley, he impatiently hurried us on as we were late! He can be brusque and even appear offhand, (he is held in very high esteem by his people and local authorities), but when at ease is very polite with a sense of humour. It is pleasing to see that the community is progressing steadily from subsistence farming to commercial status without losing their traditions and customs.
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