3 kids and a coffee machine. Family of 5 doing over 6000km around Zimbabwe. 

Article and images – Cath Conradie

After years of covetously watching over-landers on YouTube, in November 2022 we suddenly found ourselves between jobs and with a couple of weeks spare to do some travelling of our own. It was the perfect chance to show our children, aged 8, 6 and 2, around our beautiful country of Zimbabwe. With 3 kids and over 6000km of driving to get through, you can understand that coffee played an important part of our daily routine. Thus our Instagram page @3kidsandacoffeemachine, was born, and we set off. 

We were on a tight budget, so had to go the self-catering route (and enjoy freebies with friends where we could). It was also the start of the rainy season, and we had a baby, we decided not to lug our camping equipment and rather do chalets – which as you’ll see was sometimes good and sometimes bad…

To start off our trip we dove straight into the magic of Mana Pools. It was the 20th of November, and at a crazy 42•c I think it would have been more logical to dive into an ice bath. But, nevertheless, Mana has our hearts with its stunning bush, abundant game, and of course breathtaking views of the mighty Zambezi. 

As we arrived and clambered out to inspect our lodge, we were welcomed by a troop of monkeys. One snuck under the car and put his hand up, felt around inside the car and grabbed a bunch of bananas. It all happened very quickly and right in front of the 2-year-old, who was distraught. But it was actually the best thing ever. She instantly became bush-wise, and heeded our warnings that we were in a wild place. She also became very protective of our remaining fruit. 

Unfortunately, the National Parks chalet we stayed in was very run down and very hot. Thankfully we’d brought a teeny splash pool and could set it up outside the lodge for us all to find a little respite from the heat. But not for long. We were strongly warned by some guides to watch the children closely, as 100m away 2 lioness had been sighted. The airconditioner seemed like a better option any way, and so we piled back into the car to go and find them. The lioness obviously felt as hot as we did, and we were able to stay and watch them laze about for ages. 

Mana was wild and beautiful and 3 days was not long enough. We loved fishing off the river bank, scouting for Boswell, the famous big tusker, lion sightings, and sunsets at the rivers edge. It’s always a bit worrying being in the wild with young children, but we love the way it connects us as a family, instills a love of nature in the children, and restores a weary soul. 

Our next stop was Lake Kariba. We were blessed to be able to stay at a Family house here for 10 days. The kids loved our time at Kariba. The Supa Tube at Caribbea Bay is still loads of fun and entertained them (and dad) for the full hour. We went to the Bream Farm three times, just because it was a really happy time for the kids. There’s loads of shade and picnic benches, and the fishing is fun for the kids because you are constantly catching. And of course, we showed them the dam wall. As a homeschooling family, we could squeeze in a bit of education here too, learning about hydroelectric power, the building of the wall, and Operation Noah. 

Sunsets in Kariba are second to none, and every day was finished off with a drive down past Wild Heritage lodges and along the water’s edge. We would clamber onto the roof rack, and sip our drinks as the sun set behind the iconic dead trees of Kariba, setting the sky ablaze with its brilliant fiery colours. 

After this we did a restock and refuel in Harare, put up our Christmas tree just for fun, did all our laundry, and got ready for the next phase of our trip: the Eastern Highlands. 

We had family to visit in the Vumba, so this was our first stop. We’ve done the Vumba and all it’s common attractions many times, but it’s the lesser explored rocky Mountains with rolling mist and indigenous forest that are truly beautiful and echo with the beckoning whispers of the ancients. 

This visit we got to explore some breathtakingly beautiful new spots along the Burma Valley Road. A guide is recommended as people do get lost in these mountains. Try and get hold of Peter,  (+263 7 79749336 ) if you’d like one. He’s also an excellent Birder. 

The giant fig trees and old granaries were an exciting find. They were nestled in amongst giant boulders that had rolled off the tops of the mountains hundreds of years ago. With ferns and dappled shade, streams and giant trees it really is a place for fairytales. 

We also explored 2 lesser-known waterfalls in the area, Marindi Falls and Excelsior Falls. Be prepared for some big hikes, and take a picnic so you can sit and enjoy the efforts of your labour. The slippery rocks at Excelsior make for a really fun slip-and-slide for the kids but watch out for leeches in the water! There were many, much to the dismay of the 8-year-old. 

Our next spot to explore was the Save Conservancy. On our way, we stopped in at the Hot Springs for a little dip. The one pool was clean but the bathrooms and surrounds were very run down. We then crossed the iconic Birchenough Bridge, as we headed towards one of the largest private game reserves in Africa. We stayed in Hunters House, a self-catering lodge in the Chishakwe Safari area (chishakwesafaries.com). It was a great place for a family, as it was large and spacious and had access to a pool and games area.

 We were encouraged to take a Park Scout out with us for our first few game drives to help us orientate ourselves with the roads. And what a blessing it was that we did. On our first game drive, we had a magnificent sighting of a pangolin curled up on the side of the road. Because we had the scout, we could get out and follow it into the bush as it scuttled away. It was such a cute creature, shy and cumbersome, but beautiful. We sadly didn’t catch a glimpse of the rhino, but saw lots of evidence of their existence. Another worthwhile trip is to the Chishakwe Big Tree, the tallest Baobab in Zimbabwe. So all in all, it’s a beautiful Conservancy, and we’d definitely go back and spend longer there next time. 

Don’t miss the rest of our adventures in the next edition where we’ll share the rest of our trip around Zimbabwe: Chipinge, Masvingo, Mteri Dam, Gonarezhou, 

Matopos, Hwange National Park and finally Victoria Falls. 

Instagram- @3kidsandacoffeemachine

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