Zimbabwe

Hwange

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Hwange Never fails to deliver

Hwange Never fails to deliver

Hwange Never fails to deliver

My children made it very clear that they sincerely hoped that their mother could drag herself away from the computer for at least a couple of days for a bit of an April break.  Not very subtle hints about Hwange were being sent my way.

I squashed them all into a friends land rover, no vehicle is ever bigger enough for four children, and we headed for a  three day jolly to Hwange and a stay in the newly  refurbished Miombo Camp just 9kms from Hwange National Park Main Camp.  Teenagers abandoned Mum for their own little nest with a prime waterhole frontage. The twins and Mum happily settled into the very comfortable honey moon suite (there was definite mutterings when the teenagers saw our lovely bath and even better view!)  However they cheered up as it was action stations outside their rooms every night with elephants munching and  leopards calling.  Kate and Anna spent hours chasing the plethora of butterflies in the garden and happily took photos of themselves with butterfly adornments.

Our first outing was to the very well organized and informative Painted Dog Conservation centre.  I have to say this is an absolute must for any visitor to Hwange.  We have had a number of articles on the Painted Dog Centre in the Zambezi Traveller, and my son Harley has had three day school trip there (‘the best school trip ever done Mum”), however for the rest of the Jackson gang and me, this was our first visit.    Special mention must be made of Maria Njambwa, Painted Dog Conservation tour guide, her passion and dedication to the Painted Dog cause is palpable, she oozes enthusiasm and the children were drawn to her like a magnet.  An informative clear presentation kept them enthralled for at least a half an hour.  Questions were answered; it was just such a pleasure to be there.  I took time out to chat to Dr. Greg Ramussen and he told me about the ongoing plans to count Zimbabwe’s painted dog and we hope to do some work with him in the future to get sighting forms out and records of Painted Dog sightings.

I needed to call upon the services of a local game driving company to take us into the park as my vehicle was open and not suitable for me to drive into the park with.  Frogs Safaris were economical and the guide Marco excellent.  He picked us up at 15.00 hours daily and with his excellent local knowledge h had us totally engaged in the game viewing experience.  Every afternoon brought us something special; and different.  Within 5 minutes Marco had established a rapport with the children.  The twenty minutes or so that it took us to get to the Main Camp entrance of Hwange National park was spent chatting to the children, telling them where he planned to go and what he hoped to see.  A gentle reminder not to set your heart on ‘the big 5’, but to keep eyes, ears and noses out for all the natural wonders of Hwange.   The beautiful graceful giraffe started the afternoon off, followed quickly by Zebra, we immediately noticed that one of the Zebra was collared, with that Marco informed me about  the CIRAD/CNRS  a French organization that conducts research in the park. (I subsequently popped into their headquarters and had a very interesting hour with Herve the project Director; Zambezi Traveller will definitely be telling you more about this organization).

Harley the lone male in the ‘petticoat government ‘of the Jackson family had claimed the front seat, and he was taking his ‘hawk eye duties’ very seriously.  This paid off, because as we were about to leave the Ngwenya pan, Harley spotted to very lazy young male lions.    What a treat, we were the only vehicle in the area and we snuck in a bit closer and soaked up the experience.  We then headed off to Nyamandhlovu Platform, which never failed to deliver a stunning game viewing experience, an abundance of wildlife from the exquisite Crowned Crane to the herds of thirsty elephants. Very pleased with our first day out, we were all snuggled up in our blankets and heading for home when suddenly another wonderful surprise, a cheetah ran in front of the vehicle for at least 500 metres.

Home to Miombo where a delicious meal awaited, convivial company with other guests and staff and a mesmerizing sit around the fire.  We opted out for the early morning game drives, rather slept in late, enjoyed a hearty breakfast and when three o’clock came we were set for more Hwange delights.  As we headed into the park we encountered Brent Staplekamp  poised to take the perfect shot of the elusive Yellow Breasted Shrike another afternoon of Zebra, Giraffe, Kudu, Buffalo, Impala, Wildebeest  and then Nyamandhlovu Platform where well over a hundred elephants were drinking.  Three afternoons in a row we visited Nyamandhlovu platform and were astounded how different every afternoon’s experience was.

Time to go home came just too fast.  Precious family time together, and once again Hwange never failed to deliver.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 09, June 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Hwange