Eagerly awaiting the Green Season in Zimbabwe

As the end of a very long and hot dry season, I am filled with anticipation at the thought of the upcoming rains and the abundance they will bring. This is my favourite time of the year- when the landscape is transformed and the animals drop their young when the skies darken with storm clouds and the ground turns green with new shoots.

The green season runs from November through to March and apart from being my favourite time of year the ‘Green Season’ as it is known is a fantastic time to visit Zimbabwe.

During the green season, most lodges offer lower prices- and travellers can have huge savings, especially on luxury lodges. Many also no longer charge a single supplement so if you are travelling solo the green season is the time to visit. For couples, there’s also the opportunity to spend the most romantic day of the year in one of the world’s most romantic locations. Take your loved one on a spectacular Zambezi cruise while the sun sets or cocoon yourself in the romantic suites at The Elephant Camp- with canopy beds, private plunge pools and large freestanding tubs with spectacular views the setting cannot be beaten.

Zimbabwe’s greatest attraction the Victoria Falls is at its Zenith around April but the waters start rising in February. At this time a breathtaking volume of water flows over them and clouds of spray rising hundreds of metres above. It is now that the reason behind its local name of ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ or the smoke that thunders becomes apparent. As you stand on the lip of the chasm the ground beneath your feet truly seems to tremble and it is impossible not to feel awed. The large amounts of spray driven up by the falling water also result in beautiful rainbows above the Victoria Falls.

The rainy season is typical of a tropical system with clouds building in the morning, usually resulting in an afternoon or evening downpour. These can clear up with the suddenness with which they begin- leaving you standing in dazzling sunshine moments after they end. The weather is still warm and the rains should not deter travellers. The dramatic cloud formations make the perfect backdrop for photography, adding drama to landscapes that are missing in southern Africa in the winter.

The green landscape, with its backdrop of clouds, is punctuated by riotous colour. These splashes of colour dart from tree to tree and are the vibrant plumages of the many bird species. Zimbabwe offers the best bird watching in the wet season from November to April. Migratory birds are present and all species are in full breeding plumage. For any serious birder this is a spectacular show and not to be missed.

I also find that the lower amount of travellers at this time of year adds to the experience- staff at hotels and restaurants are more attentive as they are quieter and you often get amazing experiences like being alone at a special game sighting. Try visiting Zimbabwe between February and March when you will truly discover the delights of the Green Season and the warmth of Zimbabwe’s hospitality.

For specials and rates in Victoria Falls, Chobe and Livingstone contact lodges@wildhorizons.co.zw

 

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The Wild Horizons Birding Report- September

We have recently had some great sightings of migratory species returning to the Zambezi Region for the summer. We are so lucky to get to see these beautiful birds and we thought the best way to share our luck with you was to compile an album of the birds we have seen this week alone! Thank you to Jeremiah Bondera, captain of The Zambezi Royal and keen birder for compiling this list! Without further ado:

Long Crested Eagle Long Crested EagleBlack Crowned Night Heron Black Crowned Night Heron

Hooded Vulture Hooded Vulture

Black Winged Stilt Black Winged Stilt

African Skimmer African Skimmer

Grey Headed Gull Grey Headed Gull

Yellow Billed Stork Yellow Billed Stork

Rock Pratincole Rock Pratincole

Yellow Billed Kite Yellow Billed Kite

The Zambezi Royal

An Amazing Afternoon on the Zambezi Royal

We arrive at The Wild Horizons jetty to the mesmerising sound of African voices harmonising over water. A group of men, dressed in traditional skins are singing and dancing. The sound is beautiful as we make our way up the path and onto the jetty and boat. We are greeted by name and helped aboard where we are offered a glass of bubbly. The boat is a study in understated luxury. A open plan single-story it is decorated in tasteful neutrals, and has plush seating at intimate tables of four. My dining partner and I take a seat and begin to take in our surrounds. The Zambezi is beautiful. It stretches glass like in the evening light, with palm islands adorning it and the sounds of the singer’s voices carrying over the water.

We take off, soon after being seated, and are given a short introduction and safety briefing by our captain, Jeremiah. It is immediately apparent we are in knowledgeable hands, as he orients us to our surrounds and points out many facts about the Zambezi. He is a calmly capable man, quietly answering all the guests’ queries with a smile.

Guests Photograph a Crocodile on the Banks of the Zambezi. Image Sarah Kerr.

The first of many well-portioned hors-d’oeuvres arrives as we bask in our surrounds and we are offered a drink from the cocktail menu. The food and beverages flow faultlessly throughout the cruise- the service is such that you never feel crowded yet also never find yourself wanting. Plate after plate of delicacies arrive- from crocodile croquettes to cheese selections, and you are free to order from the generous bar selection and cocktail menu.

Friendly Service aboard the Zambezi Royal. Image Sarah Kerr.

As we cruise upstream Jeremiah points out the many birds to be seen along the river and turns out be the outstanding feature of the cruise. As we glide along we see Open billed stork’s dextrously removing snails from their shell, White backed vultures swirling overhead, Cormorants and Darters preening, Egyptian Geese honking obnoxiously, the predatory swoop of the African Harrier-Hawk, the whistling of White-Faced Ducks and so much more. The boat is effortlessly steered for the best sightings and all of this adds to the background ambience and the feel of the river.

We see larger creatures too. Hippopotami surface and crocodiles bask like oversized lizards on small islands, making for great photo opportunities. Then there is the special time we spend watching a family of elephants quietly come down to quench their thirst. They are unperturbed and we feel lucky to witness their interactions. Yet it is still the birds that most stand out; their abundance and variety is truly exceptional. As we make our way homeward, content and with sated bellies, Jeremiah mentions in his characteristically understand manner that there is an African fin foot up ahead and to our right.

Watching a herd of Elephants from the Zambezi Royal. Image Sarah Kerr.

You can hear the intake of breath by the two South African birders who accompany us. For them this bird is a ‘lifer’. A goal they have been seeking for years and never attained. Because these birds are so highly secretive they are rarely seen by even experienced ornithologists and little is known about their habits or even their conservation status. We all peer unconvinced at the spot Jeremiah has pointed out to us. Where a tree’s branches reach the water in a confused tangle approximately 200 metres ahead. As he steers us closer we all squint and murmur ‘to the right’, ‘no, that’s not it’, ‘is that a log?’, ‘there’s nothing there!’… Until finally a gap in the foliage provides the glimpse we have been seeking. A small, pretty bird peers back at us before erupting from the tree and taking off downstream. This provides us with a beautiful view of the characteristic orange feet and bill and leaves us all with a sense of awe and gratitude.

Our fellow passengers are beside themselves with joy and we make our way back with smiles on our faces, knowing we have seen something that few people ever get to.

What we saw: Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Green-Backed Heron, Hamerkop, African Open- Billed Storks, Hadeda Ibises, White Faced ‘Whistling’ Ducks, Egyptian Geese, Spur Winged Geese, White backed Vultures, African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene), African Fin Foot, African Jacana, African Wattled Lapwing, Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Brown-Hooded Kingfisher, White fronted Bee-Eaters and African Pied Wagtail.

African Darter (Anhinga rufa). Image Jane Bettenay

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