A Game Drive at The Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve

The muggy afternoon heat was beginning to dissipate as Mike, our incredibly knowledgeable and charming guide, arrived to collect us from The Stanley and Livingstone. Almost immediately we saw a herd of zebra. This fairly common sighting suddenly became an interesting study in how zebra stripes act as a private air conditioning system, allowing them to stay blissfully cool in the heat of a Zimbabwean afternoon. Equally fascinating, although less romantic, we learnt that within the first few days of being born, baby zebras eat their mother’s dung. This provides them with roughage and ample bacteria to fight off infection during their vulnerable first days.

S&L game drive DSuddenly we were startled by a warthog whose impressive size and demeanor was somewhat diminished by the very obvious lack of his tail. Mike explained to us that it is common to see warthogs with no tails on the 6000-acre reserve, as there is fierce competition between warthogs and hyenas for the limited number of burrows. About 70% of the warthogs have lost their tails from reversing into a burrow and finding it occupied by sharp fanged rivals!

Alerted by the smell, we were thrilled to see a pile of rhino faeces on the road. Mike explained to us how rhino have a unique system of detecting the presence of other rhino in the area. Male rhino ensure that after defecating they leave traces of urine and faeces on their back legs. These ‘calling cards’  drop off as he walks, clearly demarcating his area for other would-be trespassers! Female rhino dung can indicate an increase in oestrogen for potential suitors in the area.

Much like we humans will sniff a glass of wine trying to discern different scents and notes, so a rhino employs a similar, albeit rudimentary method to glean information. So the next time you raise a glass of wine to your nose and inhale deeply, think of the rhinos, one of which could be doing exactly the same thing at the same time. Cheers to you both!

Our glorious afternoon was complete when suddenly we came across not one, but five Black Rhino! Unperturbed by our presence and obvious excitement, these magnificent creatures strolled leisurely up to our vehicle, sniffing (of course) the air inquisitively and coolly regarding their star struck visitors. We realized how supremely privileged we were to see these 5 rhino (the herd comprises 7 in total) when Mike pointed out that the total black rhino population in the world stands now at a mere 1500. Depressing news indeed! For this reason the rhino on the reserve are regularly de-horned to deter poachers.

After the privilege of watching these incredible creatures, we made our way to the dam. Progress was delayed firstly by a herd of elephants waiting patiently for the babies to stop gambolling on the road and then by an enormous herd of buffalo whose progress indicated that they too were feeling the lethargy and peacefulness of the early evening. After a  glorious sunset, accompanied by perfectly made gin and tonics, delicious nibbles and a myriad of bird activity, we reluctantly left this stunning display of nature to make our way home, all of us enriched by an incredible afternoon in the capable hands of Mike.

Stanley_and_Livingstone_by_Sarah_Kerr-8957

TIPS:

  • Wear neutral coloured clothing, a hat and sunglasses.
  • Take cameras and binoculars- there’s plenty to see!
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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

 

Abraham Mhlanga Zimbabwean Safari Guide

Meet our People: spotlight on Abraham

I first met Abraham Mhlanga, affectionately known as ‘AB’ to those close to him when he guided me at Imbabala Zambezi Lodge. From the moment we left the lodge with him he bought to life the wilderness around us. Although he first appears quiet Abraham is a small package that keeps surprising. Most apparent is his very keen eye. As he steered a pontoon boat along the glassy Zambezi river he would call out creatures on the side far before any of the rest of us could see them, and then steer us closer for a look.

And whilst on game-drives Abraham ensured we were always interested even if we weren’t seeing big game. An excellent tracker Abraham showed me how you could tell an elephants speed through the distance between it’s front and back spoor, (this distance grows closer as an elephant picks up speed and the back foot may even overlap the front track if it’s running) and led us on a fascinating follow of a group of lions. Although we never saw the lions the thrill of the chase had us all as excited as if we had.

I asked Abraham a few questions about his life and career as a guide. He was born in 1971,  in Hwange town outside the largest National Park in Zimbabwe. His love of nature and great tracking skills were first born here.

 …spent most of my life in this beautiful area with amazing ecotone on the edge of the seasonal Matetsi River. While herding cattle we fished, swam, and camped out- although sometimes we could do a lot of tracking of our lost cattle!

After many years of hard work studying and gaining experience Abraham had passed his Learner Guides License; Spent years doing voluntary work in wildlife conservation with several companies; ran mobile safaris for 5 years; learnt to cook at Bulawayo Polytechnic college and worked as an assistant mechanic. I think it’s fair to say that Abraham is now a very handy man in the bush!

In 2006 he started full time guiding at Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge and hasn’t looked back since. It is a sign of his commitment to his passion that when I ask him if he has had any funny questions from guests he replies seriously ‘There are no silly questions to a guide.’

 I always enjoy showing and teaching people about nature…To young people considering guiding as a career… this is a very rewarding career, you need passion about wildlife and the environment in general. Be prepared to work in the bush for a long stretch of time and in all weather conditions. To guests it is best to come with open minds and be appreciative of all the Flora and Fauna of Africa.

Have you been guided by Abraham? You can leave your experiences in the comments. To be guided by Abraham Mhlanga make a booking at Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge or contact lodges@wildhorizons.co.zw