At a Glance
Dates: September 21st - October 2nd, 2022
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £3,795 pp sharing (with no single supplement), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: One of Pictus Safaris' most popular itineraries, this trip takes in the amazing wildlife of Hwange NP as well as the unforgettable experience of traversing Mana Pools on foot, with a special focus on the iconic African Wild Dog.
Zimbabwe is a must-visit for any naturalist. Despite its political problems, the country has retained much of its incredible wildlife, offering the typical "Big Five" experience, and so much more. Recently, Zimbabwe has garnered global attention for its population of African Wild Dogs, made famous in the BBC's 'Dynasties' series. Tracking these charismatic predators on foot and by vehicle is an experience not to be missed.
This itinerary takes in two of Zimbabwe's flagship reserves; Hwange NP and Mana Pools NP. Hwange is famed for its population of Bush Elephants and our visit is timed to coincide with the driest time of the year, when these gentle giants congregate around the few remaining water sources. In exploring this vast reserve, we are likely to encounter Lion, Savanna Buffalo, Roan and Sable and, if lucky, we may encounter Leopard and Cheetah. Our key focus, though, will be the enigmatic and beautiful African Wild Dogs that roam Hwange, and we will dedicate many hours to tracking these apex predators down.
Mana Pools NP is in many ways the antithesis of Hwange - compact rather than sprawling, dominated by the Zambezi River rather than dusty savannah. Nonetheless, Mana has game to rival any reserve on the continent, with floodplains filled with prey. This, in turn, attracts a rich variety of predators, including Lion, Leopard and Spotted Hyena. Again, we will be able to focus on the numerous packs of African Wild Dogs that call this area home. Mana is full of highlights, including the Chitake Springs that attract huge herds of Buffalo, the 'Magic Forest' famed for its otherworldly light and the handful of bull Elephants who feed on high branches by standing on their hind legs. Mana's crowning glory though is that it is one of the few destinations where walking safaris are open to all visitors, and we will be sure to spend plenty of time exploring this park on foot. It is common to encounter African Wild Dogs up close and personal on our walking safaris, a real treat.
This tour is led by the inimitable Michael Scott who, along with tracker extraordinaire Bernard, has years of experience in guiding clients in Zimbabwe. This team, and this itinerary, are geared towards delivering exceptional sightings and memories that will last a lifetime.
On arrival into Victoria Falls, you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative and transferred to your hotel. For those arriving early enough, we will be happy to arrange a visit to the Falls themselves - the view from Zimbabwe is widely regarded as far superior to the view from Zambia and is definitely worth a visit. There may also be time to arrange an extra activity, such as a helicopter flight over the falls, or bungee jumping for the adventurous amongst the group.
Don't worry if you don't arrive in time for a visit to the Falls, as we'll be visiting them again tomorrow morning. Dinner will be available at your hotel. We will overnight at Shearwater Explorers or similar.
This morning we will make a beeline to the majestic Victoria Falls, aiming to arrive before the crowds descend on this spectacular natural wonder. Our visit will coincide with the driest time of the year, but even with low water levels this is a spectacular sight. The view from Zimbabwe is particularly special, as you can view the entirety of the gorge. Be sure to keep an eye out for birdlife, as the patches of forest around the falls are home to a number of species rarely encountered in Zimbabwe. Most groups choose to spend an hour or so taking in the falls, although we can spend longer as desired.
Once we have taken in Victoria Falls, we will meet up with Mike Scott and his team, and head south to Hwange NP. Mike is a guide renowned throughout Zimbabwe, with years of experience in tracking down this region's most highly-prized wildlife. His team, including tracker Bernard, are also sensational, and will ensure all clients get the most out of this trip. As you will find out, Bernard is so highly rated as a tracker that many operators choose to follow his vehicle rather than track independently. We may have to be cunning to throw some of these unscrupulous guides and trackers off of our scent!
After a 2-3 hour drive to our campsite inside Hwange NP, we will set up camp and enjoy lunch as we wait for the heat of the day to pass. Hwange is a huge reserve, so we recommend using our first afternoon to explore the area around our camp by vehicle. This will enable us to understand which animals have been using the area, and so where we should focus our efforts. Hwange is famed for its healthy population of Bush Elephant and Lion, and we may get lucky in encountering these iconic species this afternoon. We will also dedicate some time to tracking down three species that are particularly special in Hwange, as they are rarely encountered elsewhere in Zimbabwe; Cheetah, White Rhino and Black Rhino. These species are elusive, but we will make every effort to track them down in this fantastic park. As the evening draws in, some of Hwange's vanishingly rare residents may even make an appearance - Aardvark and even Caracal have been encountered by previous visitors.
Days Three to Five
Each of these three days will be dedicated to the exploration of Hwange and the search for wildlife including Leopard, Cheetah and African Wild Dog. Due to the size of the park, game drives may be the best choice of activity, although we can arrange walking safaris if we identify a particularly promising area. A key focus for us will be the packs of African Wild Dogs that roam Hwange. Hwange has long been a stronghold for these charismatic predators, and an NGO called Painted Dog Conservation operates from within the park - if time permits, we will be sure to pay PDC a visit so that we can learn more about their efforts.
A final morning game drive in Hwange will give us one last chance for Cheetah, White Rhino and Black Rhino before we begin the drive to Mlibizi at the western end of Lake Kariba. We will arrive at Mlibizi in the early evening, camping overnight near the town to ensure we are within striking distance of the ferry tomorrow morning.
Lake Kariba is one of Africa's most iconic bodies of water and today we have the chance to traverse it in its entirety! Setting off from Mlibizi in the early morning, this ferry crossing is the quickest way of accessing Mana Pools, given the dire road network in Zimbabwe's interior. Whilst the ferry is not luxurious, watching the world go by from the ferry's deck is truly a wonderful experience. The sunset, in particular, is often one of the highlights of the entire trip. We will overnight onboard the ferry.
Our ferry journey will end at around 7am, followed by a three-hour drive to Mana Pools. This special national park has become the stuff of legend amongst safari enthusiasts for its ample walking opportunities and is one of the few locations where clients can encounter African Wild Dog, Bush Elephant, Lion and more on foot.
We will set up camp at Chitake Springs and settle in for lunch. These springs are one of the few water sources in the interior of the park and attract a diversity of wildlife. Lions and African Wild Dogs are particularly active in the area, as are large herds of Savanna Buffalo and numerous scattered herds of Bush Elephant. On our last visit, we even had Wild Dogs and Lion competing for a kill in camp!
Our evening activity will be a game walk to the springs themselves. This area is exceptional for Lion in particular, and our focus will be on spending time with these incredible animals on foot. If we don't strike lucky, Bernard's incredible tracking skills may reveal the presence of other wildlife, including Leopard and African Wild Dog.
Days Nine to Eleven
We now have three full days to experience Mana Pools from the vehicle and on foot. Our first morning will be spent exploring Chitake on foot, before we relocate to the famed floodplains of Mana Pools. It is in this area that BBC's 'Dynasties' was filmed, and the greatest wildlife concentrations in Mana are found here. Setting up camp on the banks of the Zambezi River, we are fortunate to have exceptional birdlife and wildlife directly on the doorstep of our tents.
Our time here will be primarily spent on foot. The African Wild Dogs here are used to being tracked on foot and, if we are lucky, we will have the opportunity to spend time with a pack as they socialise and play. Another undoubted highlight are the few Elephant bulls who feed on the highest branches of trees by standing on their hind legs, a truly impressive sight that makes for incredible photographs. On at least one evening we will visit Mana's 'Magic Forest', woodland permeated by ethereal light giving it an otherworldly quality.
Mana truly has so much to offer, both in terms of wildlife and natural beauty. It is a must-see for any visitor to Africa.
Today we sadly have to break camp and head directly to Harare where the tour ends. We strongly recommend flights leaving Harare no earlier than 17.00.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in September 2022, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when wildlife populations congregate around water sources. The tour will run from September 21st to October 2nd.
The cost of this trip is £3,795 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals (excl. Victoria Falls), accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. All drinks are included. We are pleased to confirm that there is no single supplement for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £1,200 must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Harare at the end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Harare after 17.00 on your return to avoid disruption to your plans.
British nationals do require a visa to enter the Zimbabwe. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Zimbabwe will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Zimbabwe entry visa for UK citizens is $55 - this must be obtained on arrival into Victoria Falls airport. We recommend bringing exact Dollar amounts as change is unlikely to be available.
Please also note that you may opt for a KAZA Univisa on arrival into Victoria Falls airport. This allows for access to Zambia (as well as day trips into Botswana) and is available for $50.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Zimbabwe in September is hot and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 32 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 15 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.
Safety and Security
We understand that for some potential visitors, the security situation in the Zimbabwe is a concern. Pictus Safaris take the safety of clients extremely seriously and we are in constant communication with our ground operators to monitor the security situation in all of our destinations.
Zimbabwe is generally very stable, and any unrest is usually confined to Harare. Importantly, this usually relates to domestic discontent and there is never any threat to tourists.
All Pictus Safaris clients must have travel insurance to travel with us.
To secure a booking on this fantastic holiday, please fill out the details below.