Watch out Hwange, Gonarezhou is going to be my next favourite Zim Park! Gonarezhou is spectacular. We have wanted to visit this park for years and when the opportunity presented itself to join respected editor Mark Samuel of Caravan and Outdoor magazine, we jumped at the chance and we were not disapointed.
To break up the journey we stayed at an old self drive favourite The Lion and Elephant. The rooms were comfortable and the staff were very welcoming.
On arrival at Gonarezhou we were greeted at the main gate with an efficient and friendly ZimNatParks person. The facilities at Chapinda Pools camspite are 5 star compared the the miserable facilities we experienced on our Kenya trip last year. We got well positioned campsites along the river with its own boma, clean ablutions with solar heated water and flush toilet seats!
On the game viewing side, the park is a bit of a challenge; we saw game but not in huge numbers. We did not see any predators and only heard hyena once during our 7 day stay. Our sightings included hippo, elephant and a variety of plains game - kudu, klipspringer, impala. There is an opportunity for this park to be secured and stocked with many more animals/species than there are currently.
This is a park that is BIG on scenery and boy is it spectacular, the rivers, waterfalls, and of course the Chilojo Cliffs will remain etched in our memories for many years to come. We walked, we drove, we fished (and caught) and most of all we relaxed. The feeling of isolation, of being far away from big bad Joburg was rejuvenating.
On the day before our departure we were greeted by a lady from Zim Parks called Chipo. She introduced herself as a marketing person and informed us about other offerings in Zimbabwe. I was completely blown away by her enthusiasm and passion for her portfolio. SAN Parks watch out!
The Beit Bridge experience
1) Paperwork - One of our party was sent back to SA at Beit Bridge as the car he was driving is registered to his own company and he did not have a letter stating that he could take his own vehicle into Zimbabwe. This was a disapointment for him and he was too angry to go back to Musina and make a letter to appease the officials so sadly he did not join us. The bottom line is that the average tourist needs to do some serious homework to avoid such pitfalls
2) Beit Bridge – The border was quiet but it still took us approx one and a half hours to get through, I would hate to see it in busy times. They have erected outside immigration tents on the SA side to deal with (I presume) an expected outflow of Zimbabweans in the next few weeks? SA side was reasonably quick and painless. On the Zimside I see that ZIMRA have done a “three in one” payment:
• Carbon Foreign Tax R100
• Road Access Fee R70
• Third Party Insurance R210
Plus we paid a Toll Fee of R70
Grand Total for my Land Rover Defender with three passengers: R450
The three in one payment is a great start but there is still a huge amount of confusion at the border, it is just not clear where one must go for the police clearance, TIP’s ZIMRA etc etc. This is what takes the time and I see that the border area still has a large amount of undesirable people trying to take advantage of the average tourist. The border area must be contained and become a secure and safe environment. We did encounter a private security company who briefed us on arrival, not to accept any help and to be aware of the criminal element that exists. My argument is that there should be no criminal elements in this kind of environment period, imagine similar persons in the immigration/custom areas of an airport…
Anyway as I sit back here in my Johannesburg office I have only wonderful memories of Gonarezhou and Zimbabwe. It was good to get out of the Gauteng winter for a while and I look forward to my BIG Zimbabwe trip planned for December.
Look out for the September edition of Caravan and Outdoor magazine which will feature this trip.
Special thanks to our fellow travellers for making this trip memorable including Mark from Outdoor and Caravan magazine, Zim Parks Board for being easy to deal with and Stiv Samuel for letting us use some of his amazing photos.