Gonorezhou Wild at Heart, Free in Spirit

Article | Lucy Baker
Visiting Gonarezhou is like taking a step into the unknown, it gives you a taste of the raw Zimbabwean bush with diverse scenery, from the famous Chilojo cliffs to the winding Save river; from crocodile ridden sandbanks to waterholes with an exorbitant number of animals. Every scene is a sensory experience, filled with flushed fauna, stimulating sunsets, magnificent mountains, and raging rapids. Gonarezhou provides an opportunity for you to adventure and relax under African skies through a range of camping and lodge facilities, an enjoyable experience for both the happy camper and the metropolitan.


During our stay, we camped at the Chipinda pools basic camp which overlooked the lazy Rundi river. At this campsite you are provided with a wide space to set up your tent, running water, and clean bathrooms that are equipped with solar geysers, a table on the riverbank and kitchen surface, and a braai area. The campsite was clean and is swept daily. The birdlife at camp was spectacular: each morning, we awoke to a choir of calls from the treetops and we spotted hundreds of species in the few days that we were there. Sundowners were by the river and hearing the trumpeting of elephants in the distance was magnificent. There were ancient trees on the riverbank that stooped over swallows darting through the waving grass, while the hippos honked at each other on a nearby sandbank. There was so much activity in camp daily,  a tea time a visit from a group of nyalas was always assured, and during the night the elephants would graze on a fallen-down fever tree just metres from where we slept. Apart from the campsite, there are tented camps that allow you to experience the bush in luxury. The tented camps are comfortable, furnished lodges that overlook an open part of the Rundi river that almost always has interesting wildlife ambling through. These affordable camps have a double bed each, with the option of stretcher beds for the kids, a verandah, an equipped kitchen, a renovated bathroom, and are fenced for your safety. If you consider yourself to be a sophisticate: these camps are perfect for you. There is no longer an excuse for you to avoid the Zimbabwean bush anymore!


There are so many exciting stories of encounters with the animals from our short stay in this beautiful national park. On our first day, as I was walking out of the bathroom after a hot shower, I startled a pair of impalas, who were inquisitively poking their heads through the door! Later on, my mum and I went to photograph an elephant grazing on a fever tree by the tented camps, I decided to risk getting closer to the gracious giant for a better shot when I heard the warning call from another elephant behind me! I calmly gave the pair some space and they went about their business, having their lunch. As we walked back to the camp, we found a beautiful pool embellished with a carpet of delicate white flowers under the overhanging branches- a lovely scene for a romantic getaway. We visited the broken bridge which made for a beautiful photographic destination. On the road to the bridge, we drove through the river where hippos poked their noses above the water, spraying water at one another. Stalks gracefully skimmed the water by the rock pools for a snack and crocodiles languidly sunned their textured hides in the sun. At the broken bridge, the scenery was a vibrant mix of the natural and architectural beauty of Gonerezhou. An array of prints were left in the sand: from lions and eland to delicate jacanas and jackals, all coming for a drink at the river, which, at that time of year, lazily slithered over the glittering beach. The skies in the area were dramatic and surreal: a piece of art in itself, an ever-changing heavenly display.


The journey to these colossal cliffs was worth it. On the way, we went through riverbeds, drove under shady tree-top acacias that made a perfect resting spot for elephants, under a ceiling of green, sunlight trickling through the leaves. The picnic spots under the cliffs are harmonious: we sat on camp chairs just soaking in our surroundings. The Chilojo cliffs tickled the sky and had layered bright colours where they had been eroded. A single island cliff had separated from the mother cliff and stood monumentally, proudly in the African sun. The beach next to the river was perfect for photographs and interesting rocks and pieces of dried wood littered its surface. In the distance I could see crocodiles in the river, lazily swimming in the blazing heat. We later drove up to the top of the cliffs, where you could see for hundreds and hundreds of kilometres. It felt like flying high up in the air, but we made sure to keep away from the edge! The savannah faded and blued towards the horizon, combinations of forests, plains, and winding rivers shone in the sun. Our visit to the Chilojo Cliffs had lasted much longer than anticipated, it was now dark and a hair-raising experience driving back in the nighttime. We did have an adventure, we saw a black rhino up close when it attempted to charge the car! The combination of us rushing and not being as observant of our surroundings startled the poor animal but it was a story I will tell in the future. The sky was brightly lit up with a full, blood moon and a galaxy of stars that can never be truly experienced living in a city stretched out above us. I would not recommend night driving unless you are a professional guide or in the presence of one.


It is important to give our children these encounters with endangered animals and promote conversations on conservation. Through this, we can hope that their children will be able to see them in the wild. The wildlife of Zimbabwe is a part of our heritage and history and has moulded the Zimbabwean culture into what it is today. It will be a tragedy if we raise a generation that has the choice to appreciate the beauty of Africa, but does not. Thousands of people would do anything to see a black rhino or an African elephant up close and I am now so grateful to have had such an adventure at Gonerezhou National Park.

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