Chirundu Escapades - Zambezi Valley Safaris Famil Trip
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Being a winter morning everyone was dressed warmly. However, once we were on the road it turned out to be warm; by the time we reached Makuti, everyone had tossed their jackets, coats and scarves. We had a short recess at Lion’s Den around midday. Some 300 kilometres later we took a turn from the main road, into the last stretch of the journey; a bumpy dust stretch which fortunately was just about 5kilometres. We finally arrived at Chirundu Safari lodge after 3 pm; the lodge looked like a little oasis, with green lawns, and onsite dam.
We were so pleased with the royal welcome as the staff turned out to greet us. When we made our way to the patio two elephants ambled to the manmade waterhole in front of the lodge for a drink, as if on cue for when the guests arrived. We were so pleased and we quickly took out our cameras and phones to take a couple of pictures. The lodge is in a nice shaded spot, with huge Palm trees; our late lunch was a colourful spread of cold meats, crisp salads as well as tasty homemade bread and a cheeseboard. The ice-cold refreshments were well received all round!
After the registration, we were transferred to our lodgings, Tamarind Tented Camp which is about 9kms from the lodge. The transfer turned out to be a scenic ride as we came across some game and we stopped briefly to admire the sunset. We arrived to yet another welcoming party with drums and traditional dancing, a true Zimbabwean Mauya. Weary after the long journey, we settled in and had a chance to refresh. The Tents are very roomy and well equipped; the décor is simple, cleverly using locally sourced materials. My colleague and I fell in love with the exquisite reed work in the bathroom.
Afterwards, we reconvened on the deck for some sundowners and canapés.
The main camp is nestled under a grove of tamarind trees that overlooks the Zambezi River. This strategic location gives guests a chance to see the beauty of the river. Our dinner was a 3-course treat comprising creamy butternut soup, roast chicken and vegetables. To seal off a great meal and long day, satisfying Banoffee pie was served.
On Day 2, we got up at the crack of dawn as we set out for our activities. We were split into two groups as two activities ran concurrently, Canoeing and flying. I opted for the flight patrol. This is a twenty-minute flight over the concession, in a Cessna 182 plane. Zambezi Valley Safaris works closely with National Parks and the local Anti-poaching – Rhino Force unit for a daily aerial patrol. The pilot, Doug told us that they are unlikely to see poachers during the day but the flights help them to identify evidence of poachers in the area and to see any animals in distress.
The first group were fortunate to see the sunrise but when our turn came it was light enough to see the lodge, the full extent of the estate, the river, its various features, and sadly parts that are heavily silted. We even managed to spot some big game; buffalo, elephant and hippos. Afterwards, we returned to the lodge for breakfast. There was a lot of camaraderies as group members swapped the high points of their experiences.
After breakfast, we drove out for a short Survival training exercise. The guides, Blake and Lionel demonstrated how to make a fire without matches if one is ever stranded in the bush. Something which looked easy but proved difficult as a few volunteers struggled to get it right. He also gave some pointers on how to set a trap to catch a small animal for food.
We were taken on a tour of the lodge, the Zambeasy Campsite as well as the Pumphouse. A light lunch was served afterwards, which we enjoyed from the pump house balcony. In the cool of the day, we went for a Game drive. We concluded the day with some Sundowners and tasty snacks at the Beach with myriads of buffalos that came for a good night sleep.
Back at camp dinner was a Boma night, with African cuisine, afro themed entertainment (drum & dance show) and a well-placed dinner setting under a lofty baobab tree. The alfresco dinner menu included mopani worms, a local delicacy. Drinks flowed throughout the evening and there was much merriment. I really enjoyed sitting by the warm fire and reminisced about similar good times when we vacationed in the rural areas. We retired late, after a long and eventful day.
Early the next morning it was really tough getting up as I was exhausted. I was so grateful for the coffee laid out for us as we waited for everyone to get ready for the morning activity. Some of the guys chose to sleep in and only 6 of us headed for canoeing. The last group of ladies went for the flight. Our experienced guide Tich had a wealth of information. He pointed out birds, animals and various river processes and patiently directed the group as we progressed down the river towards the lodge.
I was a bit anxious about bumping into the hippos, but we carefully manoeuvred around them. The river was absolutely beautiful and peaceful, I found it so therapeutic. The abundance of birdlife made for an interesting change of scenery as their unique cries pierced the sky and some darted from place to place. We came across the Trumpeted Hornbill, cattle egret, Cormorant, Egyptian Goose, and the Great White Egret.
Back at the lodge we had breakfast and began our road trip back to Harare.