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Close Encounters in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has often been overlooked as a safari destination in recent years, yet exceptional guiding and an abundance of incredible wildlife places it firmly back on the map. Travel expert Annie shares her experience getting up close with Africa’s finest wildlife on a safari adventure completely off the beaten track.

When planning a safari, many people choose to go in search of the Big Five in South Africa or the wildebeest migration of the Serengeti, whilst the more adventurous might look to Rwanda to track the endangered mountain gorilla. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, may not be top of their list. However, if you have a desire to get off the beaten track and enjoy some incredibly close wildlife encounters, it might just be the safari destination you’ve been waiting for.

Guiding in Zimbabwe is considered the best on the continent thanks to the rigorous training and high standards required to achieve Zim- Pro accreditation. Guides offer a level expertise to guarantee the most memorable of safari experiences. On one occasion on safari in Mana Pools, we were lucky enough to be able to walk up to and observe a pack of wild dogs complete with a litter of puppies and enjoy getting far closer to them than we could have done in a noisy Land Rover.  An exceptional guide has the gift of being able to read the bush to ensure that you can enjoy such incredibly close encounters without compromising on safety – a truly amazing experience, even for the most seasoned safari-goer.

The diversity of Zimbabwe and the wide range of activities it has to offer further allows for such close encounters. Hwange National Park is a dry, desert environment which would be unable to support such high concentrations of wildlife if it wasn’t for the network of waterholes which are dotted throughout the park. These watering holes are a magnet for game, and no more so than the vast herds of elephants that can be observed at close quarters either during a game drive or from a specially constructed hide. A number of camps in the park have built their own hides to allow guests the opportunity to while away an afternoon watching and photographing elephants from the comfort of the camp. Not only is this likely to be an experience that will stay with you for a long time, but it is also a chance to really practice your photography skills and go home with a memento of your trip.

Perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy a close encounter with Zimbabwe’s wildlife is by taking to the water on either a canoe or boat safari. Mana Pools offers a whole host of canoeing activities, from one- off day trips to multi- day activities with specialist guides. Peacefully cruising past elephants swimming in the Zambezi and crocodiles basking in the sun on the riverbanks is another close encounter I will never forget. A boat cruise of Lake Kariba is a low-key, relaxing safari experience to observe the abundant wildlife on the shoreline. On board the only boat in sight, we carefully approached and observed a sole elephant bull on an islet, with him barely noticing our presence. We considered ourselves lucky to enjoy such a private viewing, but it certainly wasn’t a one-off.

Thanks to expert guiding, relatively low visitor numbers and healthy wildlife populations, Zimbabwe is able to offer a remote and untouched safari experience which is characterized by close encounters. So, if you want to break away from the pack and experience a diverse, off the beaten track safari, then head to Zimbabwe. I can guarantee that you will be welcomed with open arms and come away with some unforgettable wildlife sightings.

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