Beautiful tent camps in Zimbabwe

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We had received an offer of “Take a Companion Free” on a photo safari, “Focus on Zimbabwe,” with David Anderson Safaris (30 W. Mission St., Ste. 7, Santa Barbara, CA 93101; phone 800/927-4647, fax 805/563-7953 or visit www.focusonafrica.com or www.onsafari.info). The only requirements were to submit the names of five prospective travelers and to send 20 photos of our safari for possible use in an upcoming “Focus On Africa” book. For two, the discounted cost was US$5,000 plus airfare of $3,960.

Before we took advantage of this generous offer, I went online to find information regarding Zimbabwe’s political situation, as the State Department had warnings on 26 destinations, Zimbabwe being one. I felt there was no reason for concern since it had been over two years since the situation occurred when President Robert Mugabe ousted the white farmers.* Actually, we found Zimbabwe beautiful, and the people were charming, peaceful and wonderful hosts. Our safari took place April 21-May 9, ’04.

Our first stop was Cape Town, South Africa, where we stayed three nights at the 4-star St. George Hotel (for reservations, call +27-021-421-3280) in the heart of town. It was very reasonable at $98 a night for two including a large buffet breakfast.

We were on the David Anderson tour the entire trip; however, as a result of time differences and misunderstandings, our Cape Town city tour, etc., was left off of our itinerary. As a result, we contacted Club Travel (phone 021-417-2100) in Cape Town to arrange local tours.

A half-day tour of the city included the cableway up Table Mountain, where varying flora and fauna were explained. We found the Malay quarter of town very colorful. We also toured the diamond works and the Cape of Good Hope. A full-day tour consisted of stops at Hout Bay, a nature reserve, Muizenberg, Simonstown and the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. Together, the two tours cost $209 per couple — a real value.

From Cape Town we flew to Victoria Falls where we transferred to Sefoane Air Charters. As part of our package, we took flights in a 6-passenger Cessna Station Air 206 four times to various camps and back to Victoria Falls. The views were spectactular.

At Hwange National Park we stayed three nights at a game-viewing camp called The Hide, with concealed hides for viewing game safely from close quarters. We really could get some great photos of animals and birds. We had very good food, great service, a luxury tent with facilities en suite and good game drives at this all-inclusive camp.

Next we flew by bush plane to Musango Safari Camp (e-mail steve@musango.com) for three nights on a lush island in Lake Kariba in Matusadona National Park. Our hosts, Steve and Wendy Edwards, gave us their personal attention. Steve is an extremely knowledgeable guide, photographer and ornithologist.

You board a motor raft to get to and from the camp, and we were awed at the site, with beautiful structures built by Steve with help from the local Omay community. Our luxury tent was very comfortable.

There was a swimming pool, and among activities available were walking; game drives; fly-fishing; fishing for catfish, tigerfish and bream; canoeing, and boat cruises. The boat trips we went on were beyond compare. Lake Kariba is the second-largest freshwater lake in Africa.

The food was outstanding and, it being an all-inclusive camp, the drinks were plentiful and the best brands were served. We can’t say enough about our island paradise — a “must visit”!

Our adventure next took us to Chikwenya Camp (contact owner/operators Wilderness Safaris, Johannesberg, South Africa; phone 011- 2711-807-1800 or fax 011-27-11-807-2110) on the bank of the Zambezi River in Mana Pools National Park. For four nights we enjoyed extra-large luxury tents where we had a beautiful full front view of the river from inside.

Each night we went to sleep with the soft murmurs of the elephants and the sounds of their eating (grinding their food with their huge molars) and their stomachs growling. When the elephants moved on, they were replaced by numerous hippos. We had animal life constantly around us. What a delight!

In camp, you traverse from one place to another on raised walkways, as the river may rise during the rainy season. The camp was beautiful and the food excellent. All meals were served under the trees and facing the Zambezi, with evening meals lit by candelabra. After dinner each evening we would sit by the fire conversing and drinking our favorite beverages.

Our game viewing was by open Land Rovers, as in each previous camp, as well as by canoe and motor rafts. One evening our guide, Kevin, spotted a beautiful genet. He drove to the tree it was on and parked a few feet away. It proceeded to get on the hood, go around the windshield and jump down on the floor, where it made itself at home and did some grooming. It seemed quite comfortable, ignoring the five of us. The genet went over to Kevin and sat between his legs, looking up. Kevin gently opened the door and eventually the genet left our vehicle. That was an African experience! You never know what is next on a safari.

We took several photos of giant red sunsets reflected on the Zambezi. We also took photos of the planet Venus as it was setting — so bright it also was reflected on the river. After dark the stars were so bright we could, and did, drive without lights.

Wilderness Safaris went out of their way to help us. Because of a mechanical problem on the bush plane, we were allowed to stay another night, without cost, at Chikwenya Camp, but this meant we couldn’t stay at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and so wouldn’t see Victoria Falls — one of the reasons for going to Zimbabwe. So Pam, the manager of Chikwenya Camp, contacted Wilderness Safaris, who instructed our pilot to circle the falls twice, and upon our landing they had a car and driver waiting to take us to the falls for a half hour, paying our entrance fees. We did get nice photos. Then they took us to the airport where we caught our SAA flight to Johannesburg.

Note: in Zimbabwe, all fees, extras or immigration fees are to be paid with U.S. currency. Also, if you exchange U.S. dollars for Zimbabwe currency and don’t spend it, you bought it! Zimbabwe will not exchange back to U.S. currency.

We had a long flight home. We brought with us great photos, wonderful experiences, new friendships and even a few souvenirs.

EDMOND WARD

Graham, WA

* A current State Department travel warning for Zimbabwe cites deteriorating economic conditions and a significant increase in crime, not to mention tourist facilities’ closing on short notice.

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We had received an offer of “Take a Companion Free” on a photo safari, “Focus on Zimbabwe,” with David Anderson Safaris (30 W. Mission St., Ste. 7, Santa Barbara, CA 93101; phone 800/927-4647, fax 805/563-7953 or visit www.focusonafrica.com or www.onsafari.info). The only requirements were to submit the names of five prospective travelers and to send 20 photos of our safari for possible use in an upcoming “Focus On Africa” book. For two, the discounted cost was US$5,000 plus airfare of $3,960.

Before we took advantage of this generous offer, I went online to find information regarding Zimbabwe’s political situation, as the State Department had warnings on 26 destinations, Zimbabwe being one. I felt there was no reason for concern since it had been over two years since the situation occurred when President Robert Mugabe ousted the white farmers.* Actually, we found Zimbabwe beautiful, and the people were charming, peaceful and wonderful hosts. Our safari took place April 21-May 9, ’04.

Our first stop was Cape Town, South Africa, where we stayed three nights at the 4-star St. George Hotel (for reservations, call +27-021-421-3280) in the heart of town. It was very reasonable at $98 a night for two including a large buffet breakfast.

We were on the David Anderson tour the entire trip; however, as a result of time differences and misunderstandings, our Cape Town city tour, etc., was left off of our itinerary. As a result, we contacted Club Travel (phone 021-417-2100) in Cape Town to arrange local tours.

A half-day tour of the city included the cableway up Table Mountain, where varying flora and fauna were explained. We found the Malay quarter of town very colorful. We also toured the diamond works and the Cape of Good Hope. A full-day tour consisted of stops at Hout Bay, a nature reserve, Muizenberg, Simonstown and the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. Together, the two tours cost $209 per couple — a real value.

From Cape Town we flew to Victoria Falls where we transferred to Sefoane Air Charters. As part of our package, we took flights in a 6-passenger Cessna Station Air 206 four times to various camps and back to Victoria Falls. The views were spectactular.

At Hwange National Park we stayed three nights at a game-viewing camp called The Hide, with concealed hides for viewing game safely from close quarters. We really could get some great photos of animals and birds. We had very good food, great service, a luxury tent with facilities en suite and good game drives at this all-inclusive camp.

Next we flew by bush plane to Musango Safari Camp (e-mail steve@musango.com) for three nights on a lush island in Lake Kariba in Matusadona National Park. Our hosts, Steve and Wendy Edwards, gave us their personal attention. Steve is an extremely knowledgeable guide, photographer and ornithologist.

You board a motor raft to get to and from the camp, and we were awed at the site, with beautiful structures built by Steve with help from the local Omay community. Our luxury tent was very comfortable.

There was a swimming pool, and among activities available were walking; game drives; fly-fishing; fishing for catfish, tigerfish and bream; canoeing, and boat cruises. The boat trips we went on were beyond compare. Lake Kariba is the second-largest freshwater lake in Africa.

The food was outstanding and, it being an all-inclusive camp, the drinks were plentiful and the best brands were served. We can’t say enough about our island paradise — a “must visit”!

Our adventure next took us to Chikwenya Camp (contact owner/operators Wilderness Safaris, Johannesberg, South Africa; phone 011- 2711-807-1800 or fax 011-27-11-807-2110) on the bank of the Zambezi River in Mana Pools National Park. For four nights we enjoyed extra-large luxury tents where we had a beautiful full front view of the river from inside.

Each night we went to sleep with the soft murmurs of the elephants and the sounds of their eating (grinding their food with their huge molars) and their stomachs growling. When the elephants moved on, they were replaced by numerous hippos. We had animal life constantly around us. What a delight!

In camp, you traverse from one place to another on raised walkways, as the river may rise during the rainy season. The camp was beautiful and the food excellent. All meals were served under the trees and facing the Zambezi, with evening meals lit by candelabra. After dinner each evening we would sit by the fire conversing and drinking our favorite beverages.

Our game viewing was by open Land Rovers, as in each previous camp, as well as by canoe and motor rafts. One evening our guide, Kevin, spotted a beautiful genet. He drove to the tree it was on and parked a few feet away. It proceeded to get on the hood, go around the windshield and jump down on the floor, where it made itself at home and did some grooming. It seemed quite comfortable, ignoring the five of us. The genet went over to Kevin and sat between his legs, looking up. Kevin gently opened the door and eventually the genet left our vehicle. That was an African experience! You never know what is next on a safari.

We took several photos of giant red sunsets reflected on the Zambezi. We also took photos of the planet Venus as it was setting — so bright it also was reflected on the river. After dark the stars were so bright we could, and did, drive without lights.

Wilderness Safaris went out of their way to help us. Because of a mechanical problem on the bush plane, we were allowed to stay another night, without cost, at Chikwenya Camp, but this meant we couldn’t stay at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and so wouldn’t see Victoria Falls — one of the reasons for going to Zimbabwe. So Pam, the manager of Chikwenya Camp, contacted Wilderness Safaris, who instructed our pilot to circle the falls twice, and upon our landing they had a car and driver waiting to take us to the falls for a half hour, paying our entrance fees. We did get nice photos. Then they took us to the airport where we caught our SAA flight to Johannesburg.

Note: in Zimbabwe, all fees, extras or immigration fees are to be paid with U.S. currency. Also, if you exchange U.S. dollars for Zimbabwe currency and don’t spend it, you bought it! Zimbabwe will not exchange back to U.S. currency.

We had a long flight home. We brought with us great photos, wonderful experiences, new friendships and even a few souvenirs.

EDMOND WARD

Graham, WA

* A current State Department travel warning for Zimbabwe cites deteriorating economic conditions and a significant increase in crime, not to mention tourist facilities’ closing on short notice.