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After visiting Mana Pools and Vic. Falls in Zimbabwe during my trip to Zambia in September 2006 I went back for nearly 3 weeks in May/June 2007. This time with a small group of 5 Dutchies and a South African guide/driver, Andy, in a Land Rover. The country has been in the news lately and this ofcourse does not make it a logical holiday destination. As a tourist however we did not experience the real problems the people are facing, yes you do find that there is a shortage of fuel and that you have to exchange your money on the black market (the offical rate at the time was 17 times worse), but that is about all. Unfortunately the situation has deteriorated rapidly in the months following my return, with a rampant inflation rate and lots of Zimbabweans trying to leave the country. It is a beautifull country, which will hopefully in the future attract the large number of tourists it used to do. The infrastructure is still there, only unused at this time.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins Starting in Johannesburg we spent two days in Mapungubwe National Park located at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers, where three countries unite: Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, before crossing the South Africa/Zimbabwe border at Beit Bridge.

After a few police checkpoints, we crossed without any difficutly, the first camping spot was the Lake Kyle Boat Club at Lake Kyle, now known as Lake Muturikwe. The second largest lake in the country, created by a dam. This is close to one of the major attractions the country has to offer, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. These are the largest man made constructions found south of the Sahara. The great city existed here from the 11th century on, with over 10.000 inhabitants. In the 15th century the city was abandoned.

Next stop is Chirinda Forest, the southernmost area of tropical rainforest in Africa. It is situated on the slopes of Mount Selinda, close to the Mozambican border. A nice place to relax and home to some rare birds and monkeys.

From Chirinda Forest we headed north to the Vumba mountains where we stayed and the Ndundu Lodge. The scenary is absolutely beautiful here. We spent the day playing golf!!! at the Leopard Rock Hotel. This was the last activity I would imagine doing during my visit to this country. None of us ever played golf apart from Andy. Needles to say it took a while to complete the holes. The first hole alone nearly took an hour, the ball just loved to spent time in the sand bunkers. Luckily we improved on the next holes, but I would not like to be the grounds keeper ... left some challenges for him to repair the course. This was a great day. I know nothing about golf, but this has to be one of the most beatiful courses in the world.

Olifanten in Hwange National Park After a day in Harare we went to Mana Pools National Park, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. I visited this place last year as well, but this time we camped on a different spot along the Zambezi river. And just as last year this park is beatifull. There is a research project where lions are tracked, and as part of this a small number of people are allowed on the 'Lion walk'. We were taken to a place where the loins were lying under the trees. We could hear the growling of the lions from over 100 meters, but we walked up to them and got to about 10 to 15 meters. Suddenly the lioness jumped up and started what seemed to be an attack. Needles to say my hart jumped a few beats. When a lion attacks, you need to stand still, not an easy thing to do as my first instinct was to run as fast as I could. My fasted would however never be fast enough to outpace a lion. After a few minutes the lions got up and walked away from their original positions and after a second 'attack' looked like they were trying to walk around us ... time to leave! Apart from the tracker we also had a ranger with a Kalashnikov, but still I was glad to get out of there alive. Another close call was when we did a canoe trip over the Zambezi river, a Hippo came up out of the water at about 4 meters from our canoe. I was looking the other way at the time, but coming from the back of the canoe I heared a few yells ... Faster!!!

Now that we had travelled all the way up north through the eastern part of Zimbabwe, we wanted to go south via the western part. We crossed the border to Zambia to head west to Livingstone. This took us a lot longer then expected as the turbo of the Landy packed up. We arrived at 1 o'clock at night. In the morning I went for a Micro-Light flight above the Victoria Falls. I did this last year as well, but at that time the water level was very low. This time it was just half a meter under its maximum level of the year. It was at its highest level since 23 years. As you can imagine the change was formidable, even more impressive then last year.

Victoria Falls After a day in Zabia we crossed the border at Vic. Falls to head of to on of the best Parks I have seen, Hwangwe National Park. I have seen the biggest heards of Elephants, Zebra and Impala I ever saw. Also some of the rarer species of Antelope, Roan and Sable. On our second night we could hear lions chasing a buffalo about 50 meters outside our camp, the sound sent shivers up my spine. Having had the most beautiful weather up till now, on our last night in Hwange the heavens opened up.

The final destination was Matobos. Unfortunately the weather had not improved much, very cloudy and cold, but at least it was dry. We stayed at the Big Cave Lodge. The Matobos Hills are made up of granite rocks. In the National Park there is a large number of Black and White Rhino. After a briefing on the dangers we headed out on foot with a local guide to find them, but because of the cold weather we unfortunately did not succeed.

The last day we had to cover nearly 1000 km by car to get to Johannesburg airport to catch our flight back home. With 20 minutes to spare we checked in.

I made this trip with Outback Africa / Safari Brothers.
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