Our trip started when we flew into Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we picked up one of Jenman Safaris custom built Land Cruisers called ‘Tshomi’.
Being the brother of Garth, the Managing Director of Jenman Safaris, made this trip very easy as we not only had a fully kitted out Land Cruiser waiting for us on arrival in Victoria Falls we also had some great information provided to us which helped us immensely with planning our trip.
Unfortunately it started with one of our bags disappearing on arrival in Zimbabwe, we did not bank on having it back and we ended up right about that. Luckily it was a bag of goodies we did not desperately need.
After a very pleasant evening at Ilala Lodge at the Falls we heading straight towards Mana Pools, a wilderness area in the north of Zimbabwe along the banks of the Zambezi. The Zimbabwen police force is ever present which we could witness at the numerous road blocks during our journey to Mana Pools. Our first highlight of our journey was Mana Pools – the most amazing wilderness area one could imagine. Here we stayed at the main camp. Within half an hour we bumped into a herd of elephants in a dry river bed. This was Joni-Leigh’s first trip to the bush so spotting a large bull elephant a few yards away from us in the car was an awesome welcome.
We spent a week in Mana Pools and had an incredible experience. Anyone who has the chance to travel to Zimbabwe should definitely put Mana Pools down as a ‘must see’ in their itinerary. It is quite a trek to the area and if you’re travelling in the rainy season, when we did, a good 4&4 is essential. Some of the ‘ponds’ we struggled through were more like my pool at home (in terms only of depth – I know what you’re thinking!). However, being the rainy season there were no other tourists in the area, and with it being so incredibly lush, green and idyllic, we felt like this could be a Garden of Eden.
This place is unspoilt and a very special area at that. The amount of wildlife in and around the area provides an exceptional experience, not for the nervous, as one’s adrenalin seems to run for the whole period you are there, never knowing what’s around the next corner, behind that tree or in the shower block – with going to bed possibly being the most nerve-wracking of all, in a
ground-floor 4 man tent, as every evening we had visitors, either elephant, hyenas or lion.
Leaving Mana Pools was sad as it was the highlight of our trip and was an incredible adventure. We spent a night in Lake Kariba, and the effects of Zimbabwe’s economic downturn are sadly apparent here. It is, however still an exceptionally beautiful area, and the service and welcome we received was quite possibly the best of our entire trip. We then spent a bit of time in the Motopos at Big Cave Lodge – beautifully tucked away between massive granite boulders. Our chalet was perched on top of a gigantic granite out-crop with sensational views, very relaxing and picturesque.
The next two weeks we spent in Botswana. After reversing into a local official’s partner in crime at the Zimbabwean border, and my wallet $170 lighter after the negotiating, I have no doubt that car was parked there for a reason. Happy to leave the politics of Zim and head toward a good friend of mine living in Maun. My previous experience of Maun is that of a dust bowl and still the place feels the same ten years on. We spent a week in the delta staying at Chiefs Camp in the lower Delta and Nxamaseri Island Lodge in the pan handle. Both offer very different Delta experiences in terms of luxury, wildlife and cost (you would need to pull out the wallet at Chiefs).
After the delta we headed into the Kalahari, another wilderness area that is a much harsher environment than most in Africa, with vast, rugged terrain and a hot, dry climate. We took in our water and all supplies and spent our days lazing in the shade and evenings sitting out on the pans, a wonderful experience. This place is stark, the night sky is possibly the clearest you will ever see, and we were even lucky enough to spot a comet. I have pictures as evidence.
By now we had had enough of roughing it and headed to Windhoek in Namibia where we spent the night at Roof of Africa and had a (fantastic!) meal at Joe’s Beerhouse restaurant. We then went on to Sossusvlei with the rest of the tourists and climbed Dune 54 at sunrise, then onto Luderitz. What a strange little town in the middle of nowhere. We spent a morning at the ghost town of Kolmanskop which happened to be the answer really, to how far people are prepared to go for money; an interesting place, and were even lucky enough to spot the Wild Horses of Namibia (another of Joni-Leigh’s highlights).
The rest of our trip was spent travelling back home to Cape Town through the back roads of South Africa with our last night star gazing in Sutherland where Africa’s biggest telescope is. We managed to see Jupiter with all its moons, quite eerie but truly amazing. The next day we arrived back in Cape Town. With an unbelievable and seemingly endless adventure sadly over, we couldn’t help but feel grateful for such an fantastic experience. How lucky we were, and our sincerest thanks go out to Garth and the Jenman Safaris Team. We would be happy to test drive your vehicles for you any time!
If you would like to explore Zimbabwe we have a great Intimate Zimbabwe Lodge Safari for you. Explore this Southern African hidden safari treasure! Dive into lush vegetation and enjoy the incredible kindness of the Zimbabwean people. A true intimate experience awaits you here in the heart of Africa. Venture through Zimbabwe’s most famous national parks suchs as; Hwange, Nyanga, Mana Pools and Chizarira during the day, and be spoilt be the truly African hospitality at night! For more information on this safari please click here.