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A proud WINNER of the Zimbabwe Achievers Tourism Award
WELCOME TO OUR NEW LOOK NEWSLETTER!
We promote travel opportunities to the wild areas of the Zambezi Valley
WILD ZAMBEZI invites you to a world of nature where the pace is slow, the sun is warm, the sky is huge and the people are friendly.  Our travel promotion focus is the Zambezi River and its iconic wildernesses, including the Victoria Falls & Zambezi National Park, Lake Kariba, Matusadona National Park and Mana Pools World Heritage Site.  We provide web-based, up-to-date information on operators, activities, accommodation choices, tours and services in this magnificent area, and offer a reliable, independent travel advisory service.

WILD ZAMBEZI NEWS - NOVEMBER 2015
Explore our travel listings & share your own experiences on our website Wild Zambezi.com

PLEASE FORWARD THIS E-NEWSLETTER!
NEW AIRPORT WILL CHANGE THE FACE OF VICTORIA FALLS 

The new international airport at Victoria Falls is now open (thanks to Love for Africa for the pictures), and set to bring huge changes to the resort town, positioning the area as a tourism hub for the SADC region.  Negotiations are already underway for several large international airlines to fly in directly.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism, The Hon Walter Mzembi told an Investment Tourism Summit in South Africa recently that  “The time has come to ‘modernise’ the Victoria Falls to attract a younger generation traveller to the World Heritage Site.”  

According to Mzembi the plans include an integrated tourism resort in Victoria Falls, and development of the world’s first ever ‘eco-Disneyland’.  On the cards are an international convention centre, hotels, shopping malls, presidential villas and a medical tourism park centre. 
We want to establish a big international convention centre, which must seat 10 000 delegates,” said Mzembi 
He stressed, however, that the development would not desecrate the World Heritage status of the Victoria Falls in any way and that the development would be outside the perimeter. 
The Victoria Falls will remain as virgin as when they were first discovered in the 1800s.”

The Zimbabwean government is also apparently looking into developing an international finance centre, allowing people to do their offshore banking in Victoria Falls, as opposed to Mauritius or Hong Kong, according to Mzembi.  He believes that these developments will also considerably increase the length of stay in the resort town from the current two to three nights to seven-night stays. 

Prime land near the Victoria Falls has been set aside and made available for the development of these projects.  But, the Zimbabwe government is still looking for private investors to make them a reality.  There is also some concern within the wider tourism industry as to whether or not these plans are appropriate for Victoria Falls.  Some believe it will detract from the Falls’ natural beauty, wildlife and scenery, which tourists come to Africa to experience.

Meantime, in a recent article in Tourism Update, Ross Kennedy, Chief Executive of Africa Albida Tourism and Chairman of the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA), muses on what happens when a quaint and charming little tourist town suddenly changes dramatically.    

Direct flights to Victoria Falls from many corners of the globe will be a total game changer. Victoria Falls will grow from a charming little tourism town into a major tourism hub for the region...

Look at a map of southern Africa and put a compass on Victoria Falls, and you will see clearly that it is right at the centre of the finest tourism and wildlife destinations and countries on the planet. Draw concentric circles from Victoria Falls out to 500km, 600km or 700km and note what amazing destinations and experiences, cultures and people, wildlife, flora and fauna abound! Victoria Falls is set to become a gateway from which to explore the entire region.


Some may believe Victoria Falls is better left as it is”, he says, “while others will embrace the counter argument that growth is necessary and good.  But what matters is that growth is inevitable, so both the public and the private sector must be responsible, accountable and caring in managing such expansion”.  

You can read the whole article by Ross Kennedy which is reproduced as a Blog on our website at this link:-  Vic Falls set to go from a charming town to major hub

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT DEVELOPMENT AT VICTORIA FALLS.  SUBMIT YOUR COMMENT HERE (scroll down the page). 
TRAVELLING TO SOUTH AFRICA WITH CHILDREN THESE HOLIDAYS?  
HERE’S A SUMMARY OF WHAT’S REQUIRED

Huge thanks to Briony Brown from The Savvy Traveller in Harare, for creating this clear and concise graphic summarising what documentation you need when travelling into South Africa with children under 18.  

Failure to present this documentation will result in denied boarding!  Note that this documentation is NOT necessary when transiting South Africa on one ticket HOWEVER, if you are holding two separate tickets these documents ARE required.  Useful advice for the up-coming holiday season.  

ZIMBABWE'S 2016 SAFARI AWARDS WINNERS
Wild Zambezi is proud to report that a number of its network partners based within the Zambezi area were among the winners in this years prestigious  Safari Awards - the "Oscars of the safari industry" sponsored by The Good Safari Guide and announced in November.  

CONGRATULATIONS to the following:-
Best Value Safari Property:
2nd Place - Ruckomechi Camp (Wilderness Safaris) - Mana Pools
3rd Place - Goliath Safaris Luxury Tented Camp - Mana Pools  
Highly Commended
Kanga Camp (African Bush Camps) - Mana Pools
Best Safari Cuisine:
2nd Place - Ruckomechi Camp (Wilderness Safaris) - Mana Pools
Highly Commended - Bumi Hills Safari Lodge & Spa (Lake Kariba)
Highly Commended -  The Elephant Camp - Victoria Falls
Best New Safari Property:
Winner -  Zambezi Sands River Camp (Imvelo Safari Lodges) - Zambezi National Park upstream from Victoria Falls.
Best Design:  
2nd Place - Ruckomechi Camp (Wilderness Safaris) - Mana Pools
Highly CommendedKanga Camp (African Bush Camps) - Mana Pools
Highly Commended -  The Elephant Camp - Victoria Falls
Best Ecologically Responsible:

2nd Place - Kanga Camp (African Bush Camps) - Mana Pools
Best Family Safari Experience:

Highly Commended -  The Elephant Camp - Victoria Falls
Highly Commended - Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge - Zambezi National Park upstream from Victoria Falls
Best Walking Safari:
Winner - Goliath Safaris Luxury Tented Camp - Mana Pools 
2nd Place - Vundu Camp (Bushlife Safaris) - Mana Pools
Highly CommendedKanga Camp (African Bush Camps) - Mana Pools
Best Safari Spa/Retreat:
2nd Place -  Zambezi Sands River Camp (Imvelo Safari Lodges) - Zambezi National Park upstream from Victoria Falls.
Most Romantic Safari Property: 
2nd Place - Zambezi Sands River Camp (Imvelo Safari Lodges) - Zambezi National Park upstream from Victoria Falls.
Best Mobile Safari:      
2nd Place - Vundu Camp (Bushlife Safaris) - Mana Pools
3rd Place - Kanga Camp (African Bush Camps) - Mana Pools
Best Safari Guiding Team:
Winner - Goliath Safaris Luxury Tented Camp - Mana Pools
3rd Place - Kanga Camp (African Bush Camps) - Mana Pools
Best Location:

3rd Place - Ruckomechi Camp (Wilderness Safaris) - Mana Pools
Highly Commended - Bumi Hills Safari Lodge & Spa (Lake Kariba)
Highly Commended - Kanga Camp (African Bush Camps) - Mana Pools

The Safari Awards are announced annually to ensure that the best safari lodges and camps are recognised for their dedication and excellence.  The judges, are highly-respected, knowledgeable independent tour operators selling safaris, who vet the nominations of safari camps and lodges from over 450 worldwide travel agents and tour operators to choose the winners.   

The Safari Awards are 
more about excellence than just being 'very good' or 'better than most'. All lodges and operations nominated must adhere to the following criteria:-  
  • the property/operation must be located in a wildlife reserve (national or private), or within at most an hour's travel from extensive wildlife (game, bird or marine life), and must not be located in a city or a large town
  • the property/operation must offer wildlife viewing excursions e.g. big game or wildlife tourism viewing
  • the property/operation must feasibly be part of the 'safari circuit'- somewhere visitors will stay as part of their safari holiday
  • the property/operation must not offer guided hunting excursions.
If you have been lucky enough to visit one of these Safari Award Winners, please tell others about it by submitting a Travel Review on the relevant page on Wild Zambezi.com.
CHECK OUT THESE TRAVEL SPECIALS ON WILDZAMBEZI.COM 
Don’t forget the great SPECIALS on offer from some of Wild Zambezi’s network partners.  
Check them out on each of these page links (scroll down and to the right):-
Changa Safari Camp (Lake Kariba/Matusadona):  Various Specials for Internationals.  Special local residents rates until March 2016 
Chikwenya Safari Lodge (Mana Pools):  All inclusive Special for December 2015
Dunhu Ramambo - Umbozha Houseboats (Lake Kariba): Reduced rates on all the Lake Kariba houseboats in this luxury fleet (6 Jan – end March) 
Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge (Zambezi NP upstream from Victoria Falls):  Imbabala-Elephant Camp combo special.  3 nights Imbabala, 1 night The Elephant Camp. Includes tour of Vic Falls.
Musango Island Safari Camp (Lake Kariba):  Cool Waters Package (Vic Falls/Kariba/Mana Pools) and Get a Night on Us (Stay for 4 nights, pay for 3)
Premier Holidays:  Victoria Falls Carnival Packages for New Year 2015/2016  and Around Zimbabwe special deals
Rhino Safari Camp (Lake Kariba/Matusadona) – Green Season Specials for locals and internationals
Ruckomechi Camp (Wilderness Safaris) (Mana Pools/Hwange):  Special rates for local residents until end June 2016. 
Stanley & Livingstone Lodge & Game Reserve (Victoria Falls):  Zimbabwe Residents Special
TAKE A LOOK AT THESE GREAT NEW VIDEOS:-

Please take time to enjoy two brand new videos from network partners of Wild Zambezi.  We have uploaded them online at these links (scroll a little down each page to view).
Changa Safari Camp (Matusadona National Park, Lake Kariba)  and
Goliath Safari Camp (Mana Pools National Park, Zambezi River)
ENJOY!
If you have been lucky enough to visit one of these Safari Camps, please tell others about it by submitting a Travel Review on the relevant page on Wild Zambezi.com.
KARIBA
MEDIA HYPE ABOUT KARIBA – THE DAM AND THE LAKE – A KARIBA RESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVE
Long-standing Kariba town resident, Keith Ballantyne, who owns the large, (26 pax) houseboat Osprey, is fed up with all the rumours and mis-information being spread by the media regarding the safety (or otherwise) of Kariba Dam and the low water levels in the Zambezi River and Lake Kariba.

He has written an amusing, tongue-in-cheek, article about the current situation which gives some useful and factual information about the real situation at Kariba, from the perspective of one who lives there. 

Wild Zambezi has reproduced his article as a Guest Blog on our website. Read it at this link:  Kariba Dam Wall Collapse – LATEST!

Another useful source of information about the levels of water in the Zambezi  River and Lake Kariba is the website of the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), the regional organisation responsible for management of the Zambezi’s shared water resources.  The ZRA provides fairly regular updates on the state of Kariba’s lake levels and a graph at this link:
MARINELAND: NEW LAUNCH FACILITIES, NEW SECURITY SHOP & NEW WEBSITE!

Marineland Harbour in Kariba town continues to report factually and responsibly on the dropping water levels of Lake Kariba.  They warn all boaters that, because of the low levels, great care must be taken to look out for stumps and trees as well as long-hidden shallows and islands which are appearing all over the lake.  “Take it slow on the low level lake”, they warn “or risk losing boat legs and propellers.”

The staff at Marineland are working flat out to keep the harbour accessible and safe as a mooring for houseboats and a launching base for fishing and leisure speedboats. 

In their November newsletter, they sent these pictures of the harbour entrance (left), the Marineland excavator working on increasing mooring space on the western side of harbour (centre), and the new launching area (right).  The latter, which is now located on the western side of the harbour, is operating well, they report.   “Jetties have been moved to either side of this launch area, and are to be used ONLY for embarking and disembarking of both transfer passengers as well as loading and unloading facilities for day trippers or fishermen before or after launching of boats. A temporary shelter has been placed near to this launching and departure area for the comfort of people leaving or arriving whilst waiting for their boats to be ready.  Cars can approach close to these jetties at the launching area for unloading or loading onto the jetties and into boats for departure or arrival. Safe parking is also available under the trees in this area. Security is good with guards patrolling the entire area 24 hours per day.

Marineland now has a new Security and Solar Shop with stock available for immediate purchase and collection or for order.  Batteries of all sizes are always available, including various sizes of deep cycle batteries used for solar and inverter applications.

Marineland are also happy to receive any improvement suggestions for their newly improved website.  
For more information and contact details, see this link: Marineland 
HOUSEBOATING – THE PERFECT SUN-AND-FUN-FILLED SUMMER HOLIDAY 

The end of year holidays are always a very popular time for family houseboat holidays on Lake Kariba.  
There is really no better way to keep every member of a large family happy than to hire a houseboat and set off onto the lake for a few days of relaxing, fishing, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, eating, drinking and just..... chilling.

The weather is hot, and it may well rain – but it usually doesn’t last long and mostly provides welcome relief.  The brilliant summer colours and cloudscapes are spectacularly beautiful for photography and the air is clear and crisp, especially after rain.  Sometimes there are spectacular thunderstorms, but don’t worry.... houseboat skippers are well tuned to the weather patterns of the lake and will ensure that your boat is safely tucked up in a safe mooring if there is any sign of a large storm brewing.  Just enjoy the awesome power of nature, knowing you are quite safe on your boat.  Watch the animals and birds emerge from the woodlands onto the shorelines after the life-giving rain, to crop the fresh, green grass.  This is the season of wildlife babies - enjoy the tiny, delicate new-born impala lambs... and catch LOTS of delicious fish, which can be fresh-cooked onboard by your competent chef!

The only problem you will encounter during the holiday season is that houseboating is so popular that often it is difficult to book the one you want for your preferred dates.  So plan a long way ahead if possible.

However, there are often last-minute cancellations, so it’s always worth contacting a good houseboat agent who can find out what’s available.  They can also advise you on all manner of detail such as:-
•    how many people will a boat comfortably take? (it’s usually wise not to rely on the “Max Pax” number or you will be too crowded); 
•    is a full-catering option available and if so, how can it be arranged? (or you may prefer to self-cater); 
•    how many cabins are there? How many on-deck beds?  (not everyone likes to sleep indoors, some prefer to be on deck)
•    are sufficient quantities of good quality mosquito nets and bedding provided for every guest?
•    are there enough bathrooms for the number of guests on board? (nothing worse than having to wait hours for your refreshing shower) 
•    does the boat have a splash pool/swimming pool/swimming cage or none?  
•    is any fishing gear supplied with the boat?
•    how many blocks of ice should be ordered and placed on board to keep the freezers functioning for the duration of your journey? 
and so on....

Here is a list of Wild Zambezi network partners who charter houseboats directly or who will organise houseboat holidays and bookings:-   

HOUSEBOAT CHARTERS
Blue Water Charters: Kariba-based for houseboat bookings & suppliers of ice, drinks, bait  etc
Chawara Harbour Houseboats: Kariba-based for houseboat charters, fuel, ice, drinks, etc
Freestate Houseboat: Kariba-based houseboat charters
Marineland: Kariba based marina, houseboat bookings, speedboat hire, ice, drinks, catering etc.  
Umbozha Houseboats: Kariba-based fleet of luxury houseboats for charter  

HOUSEBOAT AGENTS
Africa Spectacular: Bulawayo-based specialists in houseboats in Binga/Mlibizi/Msuna as well as Kariba  
African Fusion Travel: Zambian & South-African-based agent specializing in Zimbabwe holidays, including houseboats
Baobab Bookings: Kariba-based agent for houseboat holidays anywhere on Lake Kariba
Experience Africa Safaris: Harare-based specialist operator will include houseboat holidays 
Falcon Safaris: Vic Falls-based DMC-operator will organise houseboat holidays in Binga/Mlibizi and elsewhere on Lake Kariba
Pesha Safaris: Kariba-based houseboat bookings
Premier Holidays: Harare-based houseboat holiday booking agent  
Sengwa Safaris: Harare-based agency for houseboat charters and holidays 
Wild Dog Tours: Kariba-based houseboat holiday agent

Have you experienced the services offered by any of the above?  Want to share it?  If so, submit a Travel Review on Wild Zambezi.com at one of the above links (scroll down the page to the Travel Review section).
MUSANGO - GUIDING EXCELLENCE, FUN FISHING AND FASCINATING FOSSILS 

Musango Safari Camp, nestled into the woodland of its own island at the mouth of the Ume River estuary on Lake Kariba, is renowned for the guiding excellence of its owner/pro-guide, Steve Edwards.
 
Steve has been in the business a long time.   A former National Parks Warden, he built and developed this lovely little 16-bed camp in the early 1990s and, together with his wife, Wendy, has run it, through bad times and good, never losing his passion for the place.  

There is something for everyone of every age-group at Musango.  Children are welcome, as the island offers a safe environment – the only wildlife residents being some extremely tame bushbuck.  But in the waters of the Lake and on the nearby shores of the Matusadona National Park and surrounds there is abundant wildlife, and wonderful fishing for both tigerfish and bream (tilapia).

Always with a wicked twinkle in his eye, Steve is an entertaining raconteur, but, more importantly, is a professional guide par excellence, and an inspiring paleontological enthusiast (collector of pre-historic fossils).  He will tell you all you want to know about the birds, the beasts, the trees and the plants of the area around Musango, and explain the complex “artificial” ecology of the lake.  But if you show the slightest bit of interest in examining the lakeshore for stones and other natural items of interest, Steve will embark on his favourite topic - the pre-history of the Kariba region.  If you ask, he will show you his glass cases full of Stone Age and Iron Age artefacts, the jaws of a prehistoric lungfish, the lower jaw of a 250-million-year-old relation to our modern crocodile, dinosaur teeth, dinosaur bones, fossilized dinosaur dung and all manner of other paleontological treasures. He will tell you how fossil experts from London have been to visit his area and showed astonishment and excitement at his discoveries... and, if you have the time, he will take you out on the lake in a boat and show you forests of fossilized wood, including some enormous specimens which look just like fallen logs, but are actually composed of rock.   These were once “tree-fern”-like plants growing during the Jurassic era (200 – 150 million years ago).  Tectonic shifts in the surface of the Earth around that time, changed the landscape, diverting rivers and creating lakes where previously there were none.  The “tree-fern” plants were covered with silt and sand, deprived of oxygen and slowly underwent the fossilization process (turning to stone).  What we see today, is these fossils, exposed after millions of years, as the silt and sand covering them have gradually been eroded away.

In a recent article in The Telegraph in the UK, Lisa Grainger highlights Steve’s discoveries at Musango, and also describes a visit to the Eastern end of the Zambezi Valley, in the Chewore Safari Area, where dinosaur footprints and bones have been discovered.  You can read the full article as a Guest Blog on the Wild Zambezi website at this link:  Big Game:  hunting for dinosaurs in Zimbabwe’s wilderness

For more information and contact details, see Musango Island Safari Camp.

If you have visited this camp and would like to tell us about your experience, submit a Travel Review on Wild Zambezi.com at  this link (scroll down the page).
ZAMBEZI VALLEY
A SPECIAL BIRDING “FIND” AT TAFIKA ZAMBEZI 
Paul Fouché posted this recent photograph of a beautiful African Pitta (Pitta angolensis) spotted at Tafika Zambezi fishing camp on the Zambezi River downstream from Mana Pools National Park. 

This bird is a very uncommon and localised breeding migrant to the eastern section of Southern Africa and is a sought-after “lifer” for many enthusiastic birders.  They come from all over the world to see this elusive bird which breeds in the dense, leafy undergrowth of riverine thickets in the Zambezi Valley (and other lowland areas of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa).   

The African Pitta is an intra-African migrant, moving between Equatorial and Southern Africa and arriving just before the start of the rains (in late October, November and into early December).  A breeding bird has a peculiar display in which it springs vertically to a height of about half a metre, spreading its wings and landing back on its perch again, while uttering a far-carrying and explosive frog-like "quoip" from mid-canopy to attract a mate.  The nest is an untidy ball with a side entrance, composed of small sticks and grass and placed 2 to 4 metres above the ground in the fork of a sapling, or among the thorny and leafy branches of a thicket.  Three to four eggs are laid.  The adult birds fall silent once incubation starts.  The young, once hatched, remain in the nest and are fed by the adults for some time.   The birds depart again in February, though occasionally as late as April.  

The breeding habitat of these lovely birds in the Zambezi valley has been heavily impacted by elephants and agricultural expansion.  Habitat loss is ongoing, and so their arrival in certain locations as the rains begin causes huge excitement and has spawned a number of specialist, guided birding safaris.  (Check out Masoka Camp on the Angwa River in the Dande Safari Area east of the Mana Pools/Sapi/Chewore World Heritage Site where Mackenzie Zirota runs community-based guided birding safaris during the rainy season months.) 

It is exciting that this bird has now been newly photographed at Tafika, Zambezi a luxury fishing camp on the banks of the Zambezi River in the Sapi Safari Area.  

Tafika accommodates up to 14 guests in 7 luxury brick-under-thatch chalets with twin beds, overhead fans, and a stylish en-suite bathroom.  The main lodge incorporates a dining room, bar, lounge and patio area with an open fire pit and a small plunge pool which provides welcome relief during the heat of the day.  Fully catered facilities are on offer, inclusive of refreshments, boats and equipment, and 50 litres of fuel per day.   The lodge’s main business is fishing, and a team of professional river guides is on hand to assist with every requirement.

This camp is, unfortunately, closed from about the end of November each year, as it becomes inaccessible during the rains.  However, it seems that there is now a chance of catching the African Pitta there late October, beginning November.  So... all you birders.....get planning now, for 2016! 
For more information and contact details, see this link:  Tafika, Zambezi     

If you have visited this lodge and would like to tell us about your experience, submit a Travel Review on Wild Zambezi.com at  this link (scroll down the page).
NEW PONTOONS & A PLEA AGAINST POACHING FROM JECHA POINT
Jecha Point Fishing Lodge and Camp on the banks of the Zambezi River just downstream from Chirundu, has just taken delivery of two new fishing pontoons (pictured).   
Hopefully these pontoons will be exactly what our guests need and save them having to drag their boats all the way to the river. They are wonderful for fishing groups, families and the less agile. The chairs fold away to make more room if needed, and the retractable canopies are perfect for fishermen. They are also ideal for sundowner cruises

The lodge’s owners report that in November, a herd of about 200-300 buffalo swam across to eat the reeds on Kanyemba island a little downstream from the camp.  However, some of the herd members started dying on the island.  Vets were called and rushed down there with representatives of the National Parks Authorities of Zimbabwe & Zambia.  They determined that the buffalo had died of Heartwater, a tick-borne disease. “Thankfully it wasn't cyanide poisoning as originally suspected....”  they reported.  “The cyanide poisoning of our wildlife in Zimbabwe is a serious crisis at the moment.... So many elephants have succumbed to this atrocious death and the poachers seem to be operating in every corner of our country. The ringleaders need to be caught and brought to book as our wildlife can't withstand this kind of assault much longer. Just this month we've lost over 60 elephants in Hwange National Park alone...in one month!!! This doesn't even scratch the surface for the rest of the country.  Even Mana Pools has fallen victim to this ,with several elephant and painted hunting dogs dying among other animals. This has to be stopped.  If you feel you can help please contact The Zambezi Elephant Fund or The Zambezi Society. Every dollar donated can help save our magnificent wildlife heritage.

For more information and contact details, see this link:  Jecha Point Fishing Lodge and Camp

If you have visited this lodge and camp and would like to tell us about your experience, submit a Travel Review on Wild Zambezi.com at this link (scroll down the page).
WILDERNESS SAFARIS – PROUDLY “DISCONNECTING” IN ORDER TO “RECONNECT” WITH NATURE 
Wilderness Safaris recently announced that it has divided its network of camps into two distinctive groups:  those that offer guests a Wi-Fi connection and those that are ‘off the grid’ and unequivocally disconnected. This will allow guests the opportunity to genuinely “get away from it all” and truly enjoy their holiday and the natural space around them.

Ruckomechi Camp in Mana Pools (pictured by Vayeni), and its new, proposed, satellite camp “Little Ruckomechi” (currently under EIA review) are among the completely disconnected/‘black hole’ camps.  

Chris Roche, Chief Marketing Officer for Wilderness says:  “The idea of disconnecting in order to reconnect has always been a part of Wilderness Safaris’ promise to its guests – offering them space, intact ecosystems and the opportunity to connect with nature and oneself...  We regard this as an important part of what we stand for and encourage … in other words, a world where natural ecosystems are valued and appreciated, with some resistance applied to the inexorable advance of man and technology. It is our strong belief that we simply have to contribute to keeping some areas of the planet wild and remote.” 

In  announcing this new policy division, Wilderness Safaris note that in the modern world, two simultaneous trends have emerged: “on the one hand, people have come to rely on being able to connect wherever they go. On the other, more and more guests are enjoying being able to disconnect from being constantly “online” and relishing the opportunity to re-establish real relationships with their spouse or children, and indeed themselves. In the media, several publications have identified ‘disconnectedness’ as a travel trend for the coming years, with “black hole” resorts becoming sought after. The Oxford Internet Institute sees disconnecting as increasingly important in escaping the noise of modern technological life and even helping improve creativity and decision making.”

However, for those who would like to connect, in certain camps (primarily those recently reached by cell phone signal) Wi-Fi will be available. Guests will likely use both connected and disconnected camps on a Wilderness Safaris itinerary. Icons placed on each camp page on the Wilderness website will distinguish between “Wi-Fi Free” and “Free Wi-Fi” across the company’s regions. “We will also do our best to communicate this to all guests who choose to travel to our remote wilderness areas so that they are then empowered to choose the camps best suited to their needs and to make the decision to disconnect (or not) on their own”, Roche added.

Wilderness Safaris’ completely disconnected/‘black hole’ camps include:
Zimbabwe: Linkwasha & Little Makalolo (Hwange National Park); Ruckomechi & Little Ruckomechi (Mana Pools National Park)
Botswana: Savuti; Mombo and Little Mombo; Pelo; Jacana; Xigera; Banoka
Namibia: Desert Rhino Camp; Hoanib Skeleton Coast; Serra Cafema
Zambia: Busanga Bush Camp and Shumba
ON THE RIVER AT RUCKOMECHI  

In the latest Wilderness Safaris Blog, Marian Myers ponders the magical moments a Zambezi River cruise unfailingly produces...

“The African sunset is a celebrity that captivates every visitor to the continent. There is nothing more romantic than an aperitif aboard a pontoon on the Zambezi River while you photograph the brilliant pounding sun sink into the horizon. As the sun dips, it throws golden light in a linear blaze on the water. It sparkles and dances and shimmers. It is pure magic. Between sips of wine and camera clicks, you simply cannot help but feel pure joy.

What is so totally wonderful about being at Ruckomechi Camp is the fact that you can view wildlife from both land and the water. Strangely, elephants appear very comfortable when approached from the water. We found the most magnificent bull elephant drinking on the fringes of the Zambezi River one evening. The pontoon with guests was able to drift in quietly to him, and he allowed them to get quite close – a remarkable experience.

As the boat floats peacefully along the waterway of the Zambezi River, meandering through the channels between sandbanks, hippo eyes watch from their water-level vantage. Their ears twitch and flick, and when you catch them watching you, they sink down into the water out of sight. Some show off and display their powerful tusks by throwing their heads back and yawning wide to display their massive pink mouths and stumpy ivory teeth. They grunt and groan in deep ah-ha-ha-ha tones that sound more disapproving than amused.

The carmine bee-eaters are a tradition at Ruckomechi. From the boat, they are an addictive fascination. A continual gro-rik-rik-rik-gro-gro sound floats in the air as they hang motionless in the breeze and then dive back again to their nest-holes in the river bank. They dart in and out and then, unannounced, the entire flock jettisons out in one blast and it is always too fast for fingers to react on the camera’s capture button. Next time, you tell yourself, you’re gonna be ready and capture the escape dramatically. But, as an observer, my experience is that, even though many hands are faster than the photographers’ eyes, if you are a carmine bee-eater, you are faster than the hand and the eye! Massive lenses wave and arc to try and capture the essence of this remarkable sight. You have to get into the ‘swing’ of it, try and find a pattern or a rhythm to master the madness – and then you can capture the perfect shot!”

For more information and contact details, see this link:  Wilderness Safaris - Ruckomechi Camp

If you have visited this camp and would like to tell us about your experience, submit a Travel Review on Wild Zambezi.com at  this link (scroll down the page).
VICTORIA FALLS
VIC FALLS ACTIVITIES STILL OPERATIONAL, DESPITE LATE RAINS

This picture of the recent low water levels at Victoria Falls (taken by Wild Horizons) shows that the river is still flowing over the Falls in Zimbabwe (to the left of the image), but that the water has all but dried up on the Zambian side (to the right).

The low water levels are not out of the ordinary”, says Shane White, Chief Marketing Officer at Wild Horizons. “The rainy season normally begins in mid-November and the river this year is tracking the same levels as 1998”.  Neither Wild Horizons, nor any other operator, has had to cancel activities at the Falls due to the water levels. “It is normal for the river to be at its lowest at this time of the year, just prior to the arrival of the rains. Normally the river starts to rise again in late November, this is obviously dependant on rain in the catchment areas...  All activities are continuing as normal, including white water rafting” he confirmed.
Wild Horizons is currently offering canoeing safaris, helicopter flights, elephant interactions and high-wire activities, including the gorge swing and zip-lining.

Ross Kennedy, Chairman of the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA) and Chief Executive of Africa Albida Tourism says that it is normal for the Zambian side to come close to drying up, with just a small amount of water flowing over in some places, just before the rainy season. He says this is a result of the Falls being slightly lower on the Zimbabwean side.

It takes approximately 30 minutes to cross over the Victoria Falls border bridge, from Livingstone, in Zambia to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.  The newly introduced KAZA Univisa allows visitors to travel to both countries for a one-off payment of US$50.  
EAGERLY AWAITED..... THE GREEN SEASON 

Wild Horizons has sent us these reminders (pictured above) of the lush beauty of the “Green Season” at Victoria Falls.  Because of the late rains this year, and it will take the Zambezi River some time before its flow increases to normal, green season levels.  But it will.......
In the meantime, Sarah Kerr writes:

As the end of a very long and hot dry season nears I am filled with anticipation at the thought of the upcoming rains and the abundance they will bring. This is my favourite time of the year- when the landscape is transformed and the animals drop their young, when the skies darken with storm clouds and the ground turns green with new shoots.  The green season runs from November through to March and apart from being my favourite time of year the 'Green Season' as it is known is a fantastic time to visit Zimbabwe.

During the green season most lodges offer lower prices- and travellers can have huge savings, especially on luxury lodges. Many also no longer charge a single supplement so if you are travelling solo the green season is the time to visit. For couples there’s also the opportunity to spend the most romantic day of the year in one of the world’s most romantic locations. Take your loved-one on a spectacular Zambezi cruise while the sun sets or cocoon yourself in the romantic suites at The Elephant Camp - with canopy beds, private plunge pools and large freestanding tubs with spectacular views the setting cannot be beaten.

Zimbabwe’s greatest attraction the Victoria Falls is at its Zenith around April but the waters start rising in February. At this time a breathtaking volume of water flows over them and clouds of spray rising hundreds of metres above. It is now that the reason behind its local name of 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ becomes apparent.  As you stand on the lip of the chasm, the ground beneath your feet truly seems to tremble, and it is impossible not to feel awed. The large amounts of spray driven up by the falling water also result in beautiful rainbows above the Victoria Falls.

The rainy season is typical of a tropical system with clouds building in the morning, usually resulting in an afternoon or evening downpour. These can clear up with the suddenness with which they begin- leaving you standing in dazzling sunshine moments after they end. The weather is still warm and the rains should not deter travellers. The dramatic cloud formations make the perfect backdrop for photography, adding drama to landscapes that is missing in southern Africa in the winter. 

The green landscape, with its backdrop of clouds is punctuated by riotous colour. These splashes of colour dart from tree to tree and are the vibrant plumage of the many bird species. Zimbabwe offers the best bird-watching in the wet season from November to April.  Migratory birds are present and all species are in full breeding plumage. For any serious birder this is a spectacular show and not to be missed.

I also find that the decreased amount of travellers at this time of year adds to the experience- staff are more attentive as hotels and restaurants are quieter and you often get amazing experiences like being alone at a special game sighting. Try visiting Zimbabwe between February and March when you will truly discover the delights of the Green Season and the warmth of Zimbabwe’s hospitality.


SPECIAL WILD HORIZONS IMBABALA/ELEPHANT CAMP COMBO
Don’t forget the wonderful new Imbabala and Elephant Camp Combo Special available for 2016.   Spend 3 Nights in the African bush at Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge and 1 Night in pure luxury at The Elephant Camp. This includes all meals, local brand drinks, transfers, game-drives and river safaris while at Imbabala only, a tour of Victoria Falls and more... only US$1280 per person

If you have stayed at these lodges or experienced any of Wild Horizons activities, tell us about your experience.  Submit a Travel Review on Wild Zambezi.com at one of the above links.
TAIL ENDER....
This beautiful little male African Paradise-Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis) and his female (whose tail is somewhat less spectacular) are regular residents at Rhino Safari Camp in the Matusadona National Park during the summer months.  These lovely little birds usually return to the same breeding spots (sometimes even in the same tree) year after year.  

They arrive in Southern Africa in September/October, shortly after which the male grows this most showy of tails as new “breeding plumage”.  He then begins to entice a mate by showing off his new appendage, flitting about excitedly in the air and calling in a delightful series of liquid-sounding notes.  The birds are fiercely competitive as the breeding season gets underway and will see off other males aggressively.  

The problem with this breeding strategy is that it is hugely energy-intensive and somewhat risky.  The weight of such elaborate tail-feathers is a considerable handicap to the bird when flying, dragging him downwards.  He is forced to fly with jerky movements in order to gain height and momentum – a manoeuvre which may be successful in attracting the attentions of a female, but can also attract unwanted attention from predators.    The extended tail feathers make it easy for him to be pulled out of the air in mid-flight.  For this reason, the male birds retain this extravagant plumage only for as long as is absolutely necessary to acquire a mate, before they replace it with a shorter, drabber version of the tail, similar to that of the female.  

However, in evolutionary terms, the risks must outweigh the disadvantages, because Paradise Flycatchers mostly manage to breed successfully.  Both sexes collaborate on building a tiny little cup-shaped nest bound together with cobwebs and disguised with lichen in a densely-leaved shade tree.  The pair share incubation, with the female being responsible for night duty. The nest is so tiny that the adult bird’s head and tail overlap at either end when sitting on the eggs!  Feeding duties are also shared, with insects (the preferred food) being delivered whole to the chicks after being broken up bill to bill between the adults.  

A number of brood-parastic cuckoo species target the African Paradise-Flycatcher, pushing out newly-laid eggs and replacing them with their own.  The poor Flycatchers appear to be none the wiser!
   
After breeding, the birds depart in March/April to other parts of the African continent. 

For more information and contact details, see Rhino Safari Camp (who kindly supplied this image).
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