Zimbabwe always enchants as black and white rhinos elegantly move past your safari vehicle, hippos emerge upriver from Victoria Falls, and zebras wander past as you admire ancient San rock art. Home to far more than the Big Five, Zimbabwe is Africa’s often overlooked gem as the country is packed full of unique experiences and the ambiance of authentic Africa. Exploring the highlights on this 2-week safari and you will uncover one of the world’s most evocative travel destinations.
Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve – The Big Five and the Little Six
The wildlife of Malilangwe comes in all shapes and sizes. The Big Five are usually at the top of most safari wishlists and it does not take long to spot them in their realm, but there is so much more. Eagles and owls will soar overhead, a pack of wild dogs will provide one of Africa’s most elusive sights, and it will not be long before you can identify the park’s little six antelopes. On the northern boundary of The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, this compact private reserve will ease you into your safari experience. There is a lot to discover, yet you will not need long and bumpy journeys to find it all. After arriving on a light aircraft from Harare, you will check into your luxury lodge and find a procession of animals in the lake below. An afternoon game drive will then provides an idyllic introduction to the wild animals of Zimbabwe.
Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve – Private Safari in Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Corner
Malilangwe offers the exclusive atmosphere of a private reserve as just a handful of guests share the open savannah and ironwood trees, so most sights will be for your eyes only. You will never be lonely, however, as wildlife congregates close to a series of lakes and waterholes. Duiker and oribi skip across the plains, klipspringer gambol along scorched cliff faces, steenbok and roan antelope impress with their unusual markings and vibrant horns. Wildebeest charge at dawn and buffalos wade as elephants splash in the shallows with giraffe and zebra never far from view. Lions, rhinos, and leopard hide in the trees and few private reserves are home to such a diversity of animals. On today’s program of privately guided game drives and walks, you will quickly become acquainted with Africa’s famous sights and Zimbabwe’s endemic species. It all runs at a relaxed pace and will ease you into the wild after your long flight. Take your time, find dozens of different animals, and enjoy a forgotten corner of Africa.
Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve – Full Day Safari in Gonarezhou National Park
Malilangwe compresses an incredible biodiversity into a remarkably small area. Neighboring Gonarezhou National Park showcases the same biodiversity, but over a huge area. Today’s full-day adventure will be all about the scale of wild Africa. Millions of red quelea create dark clouds as they flock in the sky as secretive nyala hides amongst the marshes, joined by the aquatic sitatunga antelope. Encounters with the big cats will be uncovered by the expert guides as they follow the redolent prints in the sand. You may spend 20 minutes seeing nothing, but then turn a corner into an animal paradise with antelope herds waiting their turn at the waterhole followed by waiting patiently as 12 elephants arrive. Part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and bordering South Africa’s Kruger to the south, Gonarezhou reveals just how big and untouched Africa can be. You will take a picnic and then return to Malilangwe late in the afternoon, where your sumptuous dinner will be accompanied by wildlife drinking from the lake.
Matopos Hills – The Origins of a Nation
After a relaxed breakfast, you will driven across the south of Zimbabwe and travel past the dusty towns and remote villages. Arrive at Great Zimbabwe in the early afternoon and take a picnic to one of Africa’s oldest settlements. This was once the most prosperous settlements in Southern Africa, and you can see how everything was built around towering natural boulders. When Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, it was a natural choice as the name for a new nation. Vistas extend from the elevated vantage point, and a local guide will provide a detailed narrative on the rise and fall of Great Zimbabwe. Marvel at the innovation of design that existed over a thousand years ago. Popular narratives sometimes mistake Africa as a backward continent, yet these ruins reveal how the continent was being built from stone long before Columbus set sail. From Great Zimbabwe, it is a short journey to the Matopos Hills and more boulders with fabulous red facades.
Matopos Hills – Fabulous San Rock Art
Captivating granite boulders will provide your compass point in the Matopos Hills. They are perched dramatically, balanced at improbable angles and inhabited by wild baboon troops. Zebra and antelope roam around as you will take a walking trail across the boulders and enjoy what Cecil Rhodes called “World’s View.” Ancient San rock art tells stories on the stone, narrating of leopards living nearby, successful hunts, and challenges of tribal life. These paintings were a means of communication, informing the next nomadic San group of what had happened in the area. A local guide will provide insider’s knowledge as you explore what is arguably the finest rock art outside of the Drakensberg World Heritage Site.
All this is for the afternoon, and it’s a magical sight when wild animals are also in the vista. The morning will be spent at the park’s dedicated rhino enclosure. These are wild rhinos but fenced into a huge area to protect against poaching. Admire the bashful black rhinos, their shyness being unexpected after you have seen their size. And then spot the white rhinos, much bigger than their counterparts and majestic displays of Africa’s inimitability. They are impressive enough from a vehicle, but you will be journeying on foot on a safe and exhilarating experience with one of the world’s most endangered.
Day 6 - 8
Hwange National Park – Evocative Safari Adventure
Today you will drive west, passing Bulawayo and entering through the eastern gate of Hwange National Park. A savannah opens out in front of you, orange-tinged dust spiraling above nomadic elephant herds and languid lion prides. Rugged four-wheel drive trails head into Zimbabwe’s largest park and a redolent mix of Africa’s habitats. No two miles seem the same here, something that helps to attract over 100 mammal species. Many of these you will have seen in Malilangwe, and many you will never have heard of before. Lechwe fills the endless acres, thousands of them skipping over the plains. Wildebeest huddle in resplendent herds, their enthusiasm infectious to all. Vervet monkeys and baboons occupy the lowest branches, while colobus monkeys and leopards live high in the mopane woodland.
Your luxury lodge will be in the heart of the park and within easy reach of the distinctive habitats. There is a real flexibility to the adventure, and your private guide will explain the options. The classic journey involves spending each day in three different parts of the park, with a full-day game drive interspersed with short game walks and leisurely picnics at viewpoints. Head south or west and the landscape of the Kalahari takes over, providing a desert-style safari experience. You will cover considerable distances and visit the waterholes, where lions have the most splendid ochre manes. This part of Hwange is all about surprise, about the battles that occur between nomads. While game densities are lower here, the open plains provide a seemingly endless visibility, so the animals are easy to spot.
Drive north or east and the savannah becomes thicker, merging into mopane woodland, where trails wind mystically through the trees. There are more animals to uncover here, but you will need to use sounds and other clues as the wildlife hide effortlessly beneath the canopy. It will feel like an entirely different park, and that is what makes Hwange one of Africa’s best safari destinations. Your lodge is on the migratory routes, and the evenings are spent overlooking the waterhole to watch the nomadic wildlife journeying past. Some safaris are fixated on the Big Five, but when there are over 100 mammals, you will be enchanted by both the famous giants and the rare near-endemic animals that make Hwange so special.
Victoria Falls – Cruise Past the Hippos of the Zambezi
A short aerial transfer helps to showcase the size of Hwange National Park. You will soar above the mopane woodland and then touch down alongside the Zambezi River where your lodge will provide an ambiance of pure tranquility. The next two days are about relaxing amidst nature as your suite overlooks the river and the sound of hippos are never far away. Especially after three days of adventurous game drives, the salubrious Zambezi really helps to reenergize for the rest of the trip. After an afternoon at leisure, you will cruise down the Zambezi in your luxury boat to sip drinks and eat canapes as the burning orange sun dips into the water. It will be the time of day that the hippos begin to are emerge, so even though you are sitting back, the wildlife is never far away.
Victoria Falls – Relaxed Day at Victoria Falls
Through the tranquility of morning, you can hear the falls. It will be a distant rumble and a low monotonous growl coming from downriver. Get closer, and you can see the mist that rises to reveal the second part of what the locals call Mosi Au Tunya, “the smoke that thunders.” Get even closer, and you will be blown away by the scale of Victoria Falls. This is the world’s most powerful waterfall as it sends 1.5 million liters of water over the edge every second. Rainbows will dance in the mist as you take a self-guided walking trail to different viewpoints and soak up the enormity of the spectacle. Transfers to Victoria Falls are provided, and you can visit at any time of day. There are also a number of optional extras today, such as a micro-flight above Victoria Falls and you will complete the day with another sunset river cruise.
Mana Pools National Park – Follow the Curves of the Ancient Zambezi
The Zambezi will twinkle beneath the wingtips of your plane as you fly east and follow its curves to Mana Pools National Park. Few national parks in Africa have such a high density of big game with so few people. The Lower Zambezi River is the natural focus, and you will watch the wildebeest and the buffalo swim across the water to Zambia, where this wetland ecosystem is known as the Lower Zambezi National Park. The land is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it is one that reflects the rhythm of the continent’s ancient world. Kudu and eland dot the plains, impala skips past waterbuck, and high in the ebony trees you will find leopards draped across branches. After the flight, you will check into a luxury camp along the water for a sumptuous lunch that will be followed by an afternoon game drive and sunset canoe safari.
Day 12 - 13
Mana Pools National Park – Iconic Safari Under Canvas
Mana Pools opens all your senses as the camp is luxurious, but has canvas walls, so you can hear the lions roar and listen to grazers moving between the spacious en-suite tents. In a small boat, you will be paddled gently down the river and get very close to all of the animals as they take their drink. Walking safaris are also nearly silent, which provides an intimacy with the ungulates of the plains. You may even encounter elephants and giraffe as trackers lead thrilling journeys on foot. Game drives cross the marshlands and floodplains to follow the trail of the park’s noisy lions. Much as in Hwange, there is always a surprise when you explore distant corners of the park.
The safari itinerary is privately guided and celebrates why Zimbabwe is such a great big game destination. There are few restrictions, which allows you to customize a day with all the different activities. Or, you can choose to spend the whole day enjoying just one of the activities with a full-day boat safari or game drive. Especially at the end of a 2-week vacation, this customization ensures that you can really follow your mood while still being immersed in the wonders of big cats, huge herds, and dramatic wildlife scenes. When you return to the camp, there will be no interruption to the charm of wild Africa as you can just sit back and watch the animals as they make their daily journey to the river.
Harare – Departure
From the Mana Pools airstrip, you will fly back to Harare and connect with your international departure. Wave farewell to the hippos outside of the lodge and leave Africa’s forgotten gem with two weeks of remarkable memories.
- Safari through Zimbabwe’s forgotten corner with several nights in the private Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, where the Big Five are joined by the Little Six and many more
- Spend a day exploring the enormity of Gonarezhou National Park, where the mystique of the wild is at its finest
- Uncover the secrets of Southern Africa’s history as you visit the ancient rocks of Great Zimbabwe, and are guided through the San rock art of Matopos Hills
- Enjoy time in Hwange National Park, one of the continent’s finest safari destinations and an evocative haven that celebrates the best of big game Africa
- Take numerous cruises along the Zambezi River and pass hundreds of hippos as a burning orange sun sets into the water
- Explore the wonder of Victoria Falls and open all your senses to the “smoke that thunders”
- Lose yourself in the wilderness atmosphere of Mana Pools National Park, a remarkable big game destination that offers an iconic safari under canvas experience
- Meet the friendly locals that make Zimbabwe such an inspiring travel destination and enjoy privately guided safari activities throughout
- Discover that a safari in Zimbabwe provides a fully immersive journey through the raw authenticity of Africa
- Combine flexible game drives with walking safaris and excursions into nocturnal worlds for a very diverse safari experience
$13,575 per person (excluding international flights)
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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