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Zimbabwe Update August 2012
By Paul Murray©
More Good News For Zim
Further to the news in my last update regarding hotels and lodges reporting bumper bookings for the coming season and adding more capacity to cope, airlines too are now showing increasing confidence in Zimbabwe. After many years of major international carriers shunning the country, Emirates recently introduced services direct to the capital city with flights five times a week from Dubai via Lusaka to Harare; and KLM has just announced its own three times weekly services to Harare starting end October from Amsterdam Schipol, also routed via Lusaka. And if that’s not enough, South Africa’s airline 1time looks set for a licence to fly from Johannesburg to Harare and Victoria Falls joining the big boys, British Airways and South African Airways.
It’s not all plain sailing yet though because the grounding of national carrier Air Zimbabwe has left a big hole in the domestic air service network connecting Harare with tourism hotspots such as Victoria Falls, Bulawayo, Kariba and Hwange. Tourism operators in all these areas are using a number of small independent airlines operating light aircraft to specific routes to cater for the trickle of transfer tourists using Harare as an arrival point, but my guess is that before too long they’ll have to find a way to resurrect a robust domestic network.
In the meantime work has begun on expanding the facilities at Victoria Falls airport to cater for large jets, allowing this airport to act as a main tourism hub.
Sikumi Tree Lodge p270 Sadly this beautiful lodge that has given so many of its clients such wonderful memories over the years, has been closed down over a lease issue.
Camp Hwange [tel] 013 45028; [email] email@example.com; www.camphwange.com (website under construction) This is a newly opened camp on a new private concession in the heart of Hwange National Park close to Shumba Pan. It’s been set up and run by top Professional Guide David Carson renowned for his mobile safaris (which he is still operating). Those who know Dave won’t be surprised to learn this is not a luxury camp, instead he’s created a very comfortable classic bush camp for people who want to connect with nature and the wildlife in this very game rich area of the park. (This is territory of lion and elephant who so far seem not to have latched on to the fact that humans have arrived; on the other hand the honey badgers have apparently taken full advantage of the new catering stores). There are 8, 2 bed thatched, ensuite chalets with canvas and gauze walls, arranged in a wide semicircle all facing a pumped pan that has its own hide, very close to the animal action. Their electricity is solar powered. A central boma forms the restaurant, bar and lounge area overlooking the busy waterhole and the evenings around the fire have provided the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. Camp managers are Pro Guide Julian and partner Ashley. $$$$$
Wildlife in Hwange
The game viewing this year has already been spectacular with lucky visitors enjoying game concentrations normally only seen in the later months of the dry season. Unfortunately this all comes at a very high price. The summer rainfall was poor and animals were already showing signs of stress as early as May and June as elephant began to dominate the rapidly dwindling natural water sources. National Parks do their best to pump as many pans as they can afford to but struggle with scant resources, while organisations such as Friends of Hwange do a superb job in funding pumps and fuel as well as introducing solar power. Some people are not happy with the increase in private concessions within the park but you can’t deny the excellent work carried out by privately run camps. They all fit new or renovate existing water pumps on their concessions and spend time and money supporting National Parks through ongoing infrastructure, maintenance and anti poaching projects. By staying at these camps you are making a positive contribution to the welfare of the wildlife.
Hwange Campsite and Caravan Park
In an earlier update I mentioned that the campsite on the main road midway between the entrances to Ivory and Sikumi Tree Lodges seemed to have opened up for business again after many years of closure. I took a look around the place a few weeks ago and although the gates are now open, the site, obviously once a very spacious and pleasantly wooded facility, was deserted – no campers, no staff and it was all very unkempt and overgrown. There was however running cold water in the scruffy ablution block. Desperate campers may decide to give it a try but with no obvious staffing and its isolated position I would be concerned about the security situation.
Come Back to Zimbabwe!
I was sent an excellent article that appeared in UK’s Telegraph on 14 July, written by Zimbabwean Graham Boynton. Not only does he visit and describe some of the wonderful attractions that Zimbabwe offers but, more importantly for Brits and South Africans, he points out the hidden, unpalatable effects of the tourism boycott that so many have embraced over the last decade.
Here’s the link to the online version: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/africaandindianocean/zimbabwe/9387258/Zimbabwe-is-it-time-for-British-tourists-to-return.html
Buckle up at Martins Drift/Groblers Brug
Drivers to and from South Africa who use this border post and drive the Botswana route to Zimbabwe avoiding Beitbridge should be aware of yet another method the police have devised of extracting cash from hapless or careless travellers. Last month as my wife and I slowly drove through the border post car park to the Botswana exit gate we were apprehended by a policewoman who told us we would each be fined 100 Pula for failing to wear our seatbelts. Officer Radithankgana was a credit to her uniform; she was polite but unswerving in her duty to maintain road safety in her car park and fully committed to enforcing the letter of the law. She was equally unresponsive to voices of reason. The money issue was bad enough but it got worse. She has very neat handwriting but each line on the paperwork took an age for her to complete.That meant that with the two Admission of Guilt forms (one for driver, one for passenger) and then the two lengthy receipt forms, the whole process took nearly an hour. This resulted in me, after recommending in my book to stay calm in these circumstances, shamefully ignoring my own advice. Police Officer Radithankgana on the other hand maintained her cool throughout.
Here’s a plug for an excellent quarterly publication that is chock full of news items covering five countries bordering the length of the Zambezi River. It’s a 48 page, full colour, free newspaper with regular features on Chobe, Okavango, Hwange, Victoria Falls, Kariba and Middle Zambezi Valley, Lusaka, Livingstone, Kafue, Luangwa, Harare, Cahora Bassa and Tete. As well as tourism, wildlife and conservation articles, the newspaper also gives an insight on local cultural activities, charities, sporting events and educational initiatives. It’s free because advertising pays for it but don’t be put off by this – on the contrary, the ads are virtually all tourism related and provide a fantastic resource for people preparing to visit this region. You can pick up a copy of Zambezi Traveller at key tourism outlets in the region or you can view it online at www.zambezitraveller.com
(The next item is taken from the current issue of Zambezi Traveller, with their kind permission)
When travelling from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to Kasane, Botswana, through the Kazangula border, allow plenty of time, especially if travelling in the morning, and you have a scheduled flight to catch. A new computerised immigration system has been introduced on the Botswana side. If buses filled with day-trippers are being processed, the wait can be up to an hour in the queue.
© Copyright 2012, Paul Murray