We took time off for a quick visit to the Matopos National Park but had time only to check out some of the famous balancing rock formations and one of the waterholes. I covered this site more closely in my trip report, to be found also on this website under "Zimbabwe 2013", during the course of which we visited the Grave Site of Cecil Rhodes after whom Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was formerly known, was named.(24 - 25)
The following day we set out for one of the highlights of the tour which was to be the incredible Chilo Gorge and Gonarezhou Game Reserve some 250 miles to the East on the Mozambique border. We arrived after a fairly dusty drive due to the fact that we were on dirt roads for a considerable distance, but any discomfort was more than offset by the absolutely stunning views from this unexpectedly up-market Game Lodge overlooking the Save River. Again we were self catering and able to make the most of the day without having to conform to pre-set meal times.
As a "get away from it all" venue this Lodge takes some beating. There are enough lounges, libraries, bars, office space and swimming pool areas to be able to grab your own little bit of peace and quiet, even if there are other guests in residence. The view down the Gorge is incredible, together with its almost resident crocs, hippos and elephants, as well as a respectable range of other game species all coming down to drink from the Save river. Birders will feel they have been locked up in Heaven as the Gardens are heavily planted with a variety of Aloes which, when in flower, attract a never ending supply of nectar feeders such as Sunbirds, which seem happy to go about their business just a few feet away from the end of your lens. (26 - 31)
To access the Gonarezhou National Park you have to cross the Save either directly by vehicle in the dry season or by boat in the rainy season. For sheer "heart in the mouth" excitement this takes some beating. Once across, the park is laid out with rough tracks through a variety of different habitats including Palm Forests, savannah type landscapes, medium to thick Zimbabwe bush, scenic waterholes and some stunning cliffs. Scattered throughout are large numbers of very substantial Bao Bab trees. (32 - 34) At the time of our visit there was still a lot of water lying throughout the bush so the water holes were not as big a draw as they are in the dry season, but we nevertheless saw a creditable amount of Game. Perhaps the stars for me were the numbers of Nyala which, together with the somewhat similar Kudu, I consider to be one of the most attractive species of sub-Saharan Antelope. (35 - 36) Elephants were omni-present though heavy poaching over the border has left them somewhat more fractious than their more placid cousins further North in Reserves such as Hwange.