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Safe to travel?

Lincoln, California
4 posts
2 reviews
Safe to travel?

I am booking a trip to Africa through Africa Adventure Company for June 2012. The 12 day itinerary to Zimbabwe sounds like the best fit of adventure and seeing wildlife. I am a first time visitor Africa, will I feel safe?

Wayzata, Minnesota
Level Contributor
2,929 posts
31 reviews
1. Re: Safe to travel?

You will feel very safe in Zimbabwe. I took my wife and teenage daughters there this summer in July and August. We flew into Harare and out of Vic Falls. We were in Mana Pools and Hwange National Park for six days then Victoria Falls. When I say safe, I am speaking relative to other countries you could visit on safari. In my opinion, the greatest dangers lie in the major cities and especially at night.

We have sent hundreds of clients to Zimbabwe this year already. Nobody has reported any crime committed against them at all. My wife and daughters went shopping on their own in Victoria Falls while I lay at the pool reading (and being annoyed by helicopters). I have been traveling to Zimbabwe since 1984 and it is the same as it has always been with regards to safety.

You will also be in good hands with AAC. They are one of our biggest competitors and huge supporters of Zimbabwe. Alison and Mark, the owners, know the area very well.

For first time safari goers in Zimbabwe here are my thoughts:

In Hwange, I suggest you stay at Davisons, Little Makalolo, Somalisa or the Hide. Davisons and Little Makalolo are on private concessions inside the park in the most productive SE corner. No other lodge guests can drive on their land (except for guests at Makalolo or Linkwasha). The Hide’s lodge area is the closest to the waterhole and the waterhole is lit. The waterhole at Somalisa is also lit. Somalisa has beautiful luxury tents. The Hide is a permanent lodge experience. At Somalisa and the Hide the lodges are private concessions but you will also game drive in the National Park. You could also go to a tented camp and I believe Dave Carson is setting one up for next season.

In Mana Pools, Ruckomechi is in my opinion best for a first time safari. Compared to other options, the experience there is much more geared for the first time American visitor that is just getting used to wildlife areas. They offer land rover game drives, walking safaris, canoe trips, and motor boating on pontoons. Vundu is also a permanent camp and they are very focused on the canoe experience although they have land rovers and hikes as well. In my opinion, Vundu is best for a seasoned safari goer that really wants to spend time paddling on the water. Vundu is definitely a place I want to go back to soon! Of all the choice in Mana Pools, only Ruckomechi has indoor showers and toilets in your “tent”.

Goliath and Mana Pools Safari Company focus on hiking safaris and Stretch Ferriera at Goliath is arguably one of the best known hiking guides in Africa. These two camps are seasonal tented camps which means there is no permanent structure. Kanga is a sister lodge to Somalisa. Right now, their main operation is 25km inland from the River but they are developing a camping program down on the flood plains.

In my experience at Ruckomechi it had the highest animal density of anywhere I have ever been in Africa. I saw more total animals per day than anywhere except MalaMala, Mombo, and Chief’s Camp. Ruckomechi is the only lodge of the four I mentioned that does all their driving on a private concession so no other guests can be here nor can self-drive campers. If you game drive at Vundu, Goliath, or Mana Pools it will be in the National Park on shared land. The good thing is you will have full access to the nutrient rich flood plains which are not where Ruckomechi is located.

I hope this helps. You will love Zimbabwe! The only thing you will likely miss is Rhino. They do not exist in Mana Pools and are rarely spotted in Hwange. We saw and guests regularly see the rest of the big five in these places. Don’t expect to get as up close and personal with the animals as all game drivers must stay on the roads in Zimbabwe. A great compliment at the beginning or end of a Zim safari is three days in the Sabi Sands at a place like MalaMala or Lion Sands. Going to Sabi Sands first or last is fine. This will round out the big five experience.

If you have any flexibility, I suggest traveling in August or September. The animal viewing will still (historically) be improving in June in Mana Pools and peak season will be July-October. June and July can be COLD at night. August and September warm up nicely.

In my opinion, and I have said this many times on various forums, Zimbabwe at its current pricing offers the best overall value in Southern Africa (safari/money ratio).

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

Sussex
Destination Expert
for Mana Pools National Park, Marco Island
Level Contributor
1,068 posts
58 reviews
2. Re: Safe to travel?

Whilst Craig's post above it extremely helpful, detailed & authoritative I would take issue with the point he makes regarding not to expecting to get 'up close & personal' with animals whilst on safari in Zim.

It is certainly true that vehicles have to remain on established tracks in Zimbabwean National Parks (and this is a very good rule), However, in Mana Pools (uniquely for a National Park in Africa I believe) you are free to walk anywhere you want in the park, guided or unguided (at your own risk, of course).

With a good guide (they don't come much better than Stretch, but I am sure there are great guides at Ruckomechi as well) it is possible to get incredibly close to some of the animals - there are well known old male elephants in the Mana area (sadly, one of the best known 'Slot' died late last year) who are very tolerant of people. The extremely rare (but often sighted in Mana) Painted Dog are also little phased by people much of the time - for example, we have shared the shade of the same tree as a pack of dog's.

Whilst not for the feint hearted (and possibly not the 1st time safari go-er) once you have viewed wild African animals on foot, viewing animals from the back of a safari vehicle, no mater how close the guides get you (and I have problems with vehicles driving up close to animals anyway - especially predators on kills) the experience to me is anything but 'personal'.

Wayzata, Minnesota
Level Contributor
2,929 posts
31 reviews
3. Re: Safe to travel?

Good point whyone,

I was talking with a client last weekend that had gone on safari with Stretch in 1994. He said they walked under a bull elephant!

As far as getting close to predators, I do think that is a bit easier on a private concession in Botswana or a private reserve in the Sabi Sands.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond

London, United...
10 posts
4. Re: Safe to travel?

Next time when you plan to travel to Zimbabwe try booking with http://airzimbabwe-flights.co.uk

5. Re: Safe to travel?

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