Water For Hwange Safari
Get immersed into a symbiosis of incredible wildlife viewing, village life, community development, and hands-on conservation efforts working alongside rangers and scientists on the front lines of wildlife protection.
11 Days / 10 Nights
Activity Level Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.
Our Water for Hwange Safari is a special opportunity to be immersed into a symbiosis of incredible wildlife viewing, village life, community development, and hands-on conservation efforts working alongside rangers and scientists on the front lines of wildlife protection. Designed for travelers to venture beyond game drives and photo shoots of the big five, you’ll begin to understand the opportunities of safeguarding wildlife to secure better lives for local people who used to struggle with elephants that ate their crops and lions that killed their livestock.
In addition, we’ve added a commitment of giving back as part of this conservation safari. The price of this safari includes a $500 tax-deductible donation to our non-profit Travelers Conservation Trust Foundation that dedicates 100% of contributions directly to support the communities you visit. So, just by coming on this trip you are already supporting conservation of Hwange National Park and the surrounding communities.
Hwange National Park game drives
Village school visit
Water pump runs
Zambezi National Park
Victoria Falls Airport VFA
Victoria Falls Airport VFA
Arrive & Transfer To Gorges Lodge
Arrive at Victoria Falls Airport where your Zimbabwe safari experience begins. Meet your shuttle vehicle for your road transfer to Gorges Lodge on the edge of the Batoka Gorge, 200 meters above the mighty Zambezi River (30-40 mins).
Gorges Lodge has arguably the most spectacular views in Southern Africa and offers a unique Victoria Falls experience from a peaceful and idyllic base on the edge of the Batoka Gorge. Gorges is also a pioneering lodge in Zimbabwe, being the first built on community land in the country. The local community directly benefits from guests’ stay with contributions helping to improve schools, domestic water supplies, and health clinics in the local villages
Spend the afternoon sipping delicious refreshments by the pool and enjoying the amazing view. Head off to Dibu Dibu for sundowners and snacks while you watch the lodge’s resident pair of black eagles soar only meters away from you. Before dinner, enjoy a short presentation by Mark Butcher (head guide) on the lodge’s pioneering community and conservation work in the Victoria Falls area and Hwange National Park.
Take a leisurely stroll back to the main lodge reception area where you’ll be entertained by a team of talented traditional dancers and enjoy a tasty 3 course dinner in the main lodge area, overlooking the gorge. Tonight’s moon is nearly full which should lend itself to some great photography opportunities of the Batoka Gorge. After some moonlight views and photos of the Batoka, enjoy a peaceful sleep listening to the sound of the Zambezi river rushing below you.
About Gorges Lodge
Perched 200 meters above the roaring Zambezi River, Gorges Lodge offers spectacular views and a quiet respite from the busy activities near Victoria Falls. The lodge is about a 30-minute drive from the falls on community land that it shares in partnership with local villages. Ten stone and thatch chalets sit on wooden platforms, each one facing an impressive skyline with views out over the gorge and river below. Activities from the lodge include visits to the falls and nearby Chisuma Village to gain insights into some of the real life daily activities of a typical Zimbabwean rural community. Additional activities at Gorges include walks into the gorge and birding treks to see the pair of Verreaux’s Eagles that also call the lodge home or head into Victoria Falls to participate in any number of the adventure activities available such as white-water rafting, bungee jumping, and helicopter or microlight flights over the falls.
Victoria Falls Tour & Transfer To Hwange National Park
Today, we head into Victoria Falls town for a guided tour of Victoria Falls. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Victoria Falls is one of Africa’s greatest geographical features. At 5,600 feet wide and over 330 feet in height, you’ll be inspired and amazed by the sheer size, power, and beauty of the thundering curtain of water. When the Falls are at their fullest a dense plume of spray rises 1,500 feet into the air visible from many miles away, which is why the Falls are known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya – “the smoke that thunders.”
Transfer by road (2.5 hours) to Dete Siding and board the Elephant Express railcar for a relaxed ride down the railway line across Hwange, game viewing all the way into camp. Light lunch and drinks will be served on board. The Elephant Express is a one-of-its-kind 24 seat private rail car that traverses the historic colonial-era railway line which runs along the edge of Hwange National Park and onward to Victoria Falls. Arrive on the Ngamo plains and disembark for a game drive to the ‘Look Up Blind’ to enjoy outstanding close up elephant photography, literally at toe level, and enjoy sundowners over Stoffie’s Pan.
Arrive at Camelthorn Lodge, a community-based lodge situated in a beautiful indigenous forest on the edge of Hwange National Park and the Ngamo plains. Hwange is famed for its huge herds of elephants (they number upwards of 45,000 in the park!) but it also attracts a variety of other plains game including wildebeest, buffalo, kudu, waterbuck and sable. Predators are regularly spotted, especially lion, jackal and cheetah and leopards and wild dog are also known to frequent the area.
Community Visits And Pump Projects
Today you’ll explore and learn about the successes and challenges of community-based tourism and conservation from the front-line villages located directly on the border of Hwange National Park. Historically, indigenous rural communities received very little direct benefit from Zimbabwe’s booming tourism industry. For the rural villager living next to a national park, wildlife was by no means an attraction: elephants ate their crops and lions killed their livestock. The animals were problematic and something to neither encourage nor protect. Tourists were just people that traveled past in buses who sometimes waved but spent their money elsewhere.
Mark Butcher and his team of guides and lodges have worked for 20 years to change that paradigm. The goal and long-term vision is that by building safari lodges and camps within the communal lands and peripheral areas around parks and by bringing people closer to nature, a symbiotic relationship between conservation, responsible tourism and local communities can grow. This in turn promotes conservation of the local wildlife and natural resources and encourages sustainability for these village communities while at the same time adding significantly to the experience for the responsible safari enthusiast. You will visit several villages, both of which have benefited from tourism and those which are only beginning to.
Head to Ngamo School, in a nearby village, and walk to school with the local kids, arriving to attend school assembly. Meet with the local village headman, Johnson Ncube as well as the school headmasters to hear more about the what village life is like on the border of Hwange National Park. Embark on a game drive through the park to Mfagazana pan to christen the new solar/diesel hybrid pump, which provides water for thousands of elephants and other wildlife in southern Hwange. Visit the neighboring Vulushaba village and christen their new solar pump, providing water for the villagers. This village has played an important role in identifying two international poachers who were apprehended thanks to their help. The hybridization of both pumps will be funded by the participants on this safari. Return to camp with sundowners en route and then dinner under the stars at Bomani pan.
Pump Run, Meet The Cobras Unit And Fly Camping
Enjoy early morning tea or coffee and prepare for a full day trip into the park for a one of a kind ‘pump run.’ Hwange’s famous elephant herds and all wildlife in the park are sustained during the dry season on a pumped water program started in the 1930’s. These ‘pump runs’ combine game viewing in remote areas of the park with practical hands-on conservation.
Participate in supply and maintenance support to the wells and pump attendants that are the heartbeat of Hwange and its water-dependent wildlife. Your efforts today will directly support thousands of elephants and other wildlife. Game drive from pan to pan, weaving between the throngs of jostling elephants that come pouring in for the water, which makes for a fun, memorable, and extremely rewarding day.
A pop-up picnic lunch at Mandiseka pan will allow for a midday break and another hybrid pump visit funded by this safari. Leave the park and visit the neighboring Ndodana Village outside of Dodana gate to see their new village solar pump, also funded by this safari. You’ll then arrive at the base of the Cobras’ anti-poaching unit, where you’ll be fly-camping for the night. Share a meal with the members of this unit and learn more about the lives of these heroes of conservation on the front lines of Hwange National Park.
About Fly Camp
Our fly camp setup is a simple and authentic African experience, hearkening back to the early days of safari, when travelers slept surrounded only by the wide open expanses of the bush, and the night sky glittering overhead. We’ll sleep with comfortable bed rolls – a 2” foam mattress with sheets/blankets, a pillow and mosquito nets, around a crackling campfire. Fall asleep in the crisp night air to the sounds of the bush, as scouts ‘stand guard’ with a weapon and keep the fire stoked up through the night.
Hwange National Park: Jozibanini Camp
Wake up to an early breakfast over the campfire and depart on a patrol with the Cobras en route to the most remote part of the National Park and an exclusive adventure camp, Jozibanini. Located in the far south-west of Hwange National Park, a five-hour drive through sandy 4×4 country from the nearest civilization, Jozibanini ranger station had been abandoned and frequented by elephant poaching. After these incidents, Mark and his team decided to establish an outpost at Jozibanini which staff and a privileged few guests could use as a base for both management of water resources and a safari experience unlike any other. The camp’s presence in the area deters poachers and is even staffed by ex-poachers who have turned over a new leaf. Keeping the experience truly wild, the six tented rooms at Jozi sit on raised wooden decks, all fully en suite. Dine al fresco with nothing but the African sky above as befits the ambience.
The ecosystem here is semi-desert, akin to the Kalahari in neighboring Botswana. Ancient windblown fossil sand dunes are separated by shallow valleys where elephant paths have compacted the terrain, providing the opportunity for game viewing by mountain bike. The Jozi project has helped protect and conserve hundreds of acres of remote park, and regular traffic on the route has translated into reliable support for both the parks pump attendants and about 25% of Hwange’s thirsty wildlife in the dry season.
Arrive and attend a debriefing and settle into your tent before venturing out for a game drive and picnic lunch overlooking the Jozi waterhole. Join your professional naturalist guide for a walking safari, exploring the region around camp and track elephants and other game which frequent the waterhole. Dinner is under the stars before retiring to your tent for the evening. The beds can be rolled onto the deck of the tents, so you can drift off gazing skyward at millions of stars in the dark Hwange sky.
About Jozibanini Camp
Jozibanini Camp is situated in the remote and wild southwest of Hwange National Park in a wilderness unused for nearly 20 years. Only the wildlife and the Parks rangers who look after it frequent this area, once roamed by San people. This is a small, truly exclusive camp in a truly wild place, providing a unique, untamed wilderness experience.
Ideally we recommend this as a two day add-on for guests from Imvelo’s other Hwange properties; Bomani, Camelthorn or Nehimba. Emjoy bush breakfasts, mountain biking safaris and the look-up blind. Sleepouts are also available where you’ll fall asleep to the sounds of Africa and the endless starry sky.
Jozibanini Camp & Mountain Biking
Head out for a guided mountain bike ride through the elephant paths along the inter-dune troughs around Jozibanini (this is a slow, non-technical ride). Your guide will set up a lovely picnic lunch for you under a shady tree where you can have a siesta before riding back to camp in the afternoon.
Head into the underground blind for a few hours of spectacular ‘toe nail’ level photographic opportunities of wildlife at the waterhole. This unique perspective makes for amazing photos and videos. Once the sun has set, enjoy a drive back to camp for a tasty dinner under the glorious night sky.
Hwange National Park
Depart Jozi for a full day game drive through the remote southwestern Hwange to Nehimba Camp. Nehimba is situated right on the edge of the mopane woodlands of northern Hwange and the Kalahari sandveld of the west and offers a full spectrum and diversity of fauna. The topography here is entirely different from the south of the park, with kopjes, some rolling hills and thick mopane forests. In addition, the elephant hunting lions of this area are famous. The area is well watered so is host to large numbers of animals throughout the year but particularly during the dry season.
About Nehimba Lodge
Deep in a private concession tucked inside the remote northern region of Hwange National Park hides Nehimba Lodge. By combining luxury living with ultimate elegance and African charm, this lodge is designed to create the most exceptional safari experiences. The main guest area and seven spacious guest accommodations are thatched tents built on teak decks, overlooking the magnificent lodge pan – a favored spot frequented by a variety of wildlife and large numbers of elephants, particularly in the dry season. Each thatched tent has a private balcony, en-suite bathroom with an outdoor shower, hot running water and electricity provided by the camp’s generator. The main lodge includes a swimming pool and free wifi.
Hwange National Park
One of the unique features of the Nehimba area is the famed Nehimba seeps. The seep is an ancient source of water once used by the San Bushmen historically as well as being a place where elephant still dig for water and minerals. The sunset photography opportunities with elephants is second to none in this unique and peaceful spot.
For those who would like to view Hwange in a different ‘light’, you can accompany one of the guides on a night drive through the concession. Filtered spotlights are used to pick out the various nocturnal species that can be found such as hyena, porcupines, civets, genet cats, and if you’re lucky, perhaps even a leopard on hunt!
Zambezi Sands River Camp
Road transfer via a three-hour game drive to Mbala and four-hour transfer on tarmac to Zam Sands (last one-hour game drive in Zambezi NP). Zambezi Sands River Camp is set on the banks of the thundering wild waters of the Zambezi River, inside Zambezi National Park. Settle into your luxury tent and enjoy a tasty late afternoon snack on the main lodge deck while the mighty Zambezi rushes past. Head out on a game drive, stopping off at a scenic spot to watch the sun set with sundowners and mouthwatering canapés. Night drive back to the lodge and indulge in a superb three course meal under the stars before retiring to your tent.
About Zambezi Sands River Camp
Located on the sun-drenched shores of the mighty Zambezi River inside Zambezi National Park, Zambezi Sands is 10 luxuriously spacious canvas tents set on wooden platforms, each one with a private view of the river, all connected to the main lodge by elevated walkways. Each tent is opulently furnished in an Arabic-Bedouin-type ambiance featuring double or twin beds with a lounge area, en suite bath as well as outside toilet and shower. Outside each tent a massive deck has a private splash pool to cool off and relax with drink in hand in complete privacy. Transfers in and out of camp can be by boat. Located 40 minutes from Victoria Falls, Zambezi Sands has the advantages of being in a more isolated, pristine wildlife habitat, and on a more calm section of river allowing for many activities including canoeing, fishing, game walks and wildlife safaris, sunset cruise in private boat, and excursion to Victoria Falls. Experience real ecotourism visiting a Zimbabwean village and school supported by the camp.
Zambezi River & Canoeing
Start the morning on foot, exploring the shoreline and enjoying its wildlife. Park rangers and staff routinely patrol this section of Zambezi National Park for illegal snaring or signs of poaching by Zambians from the north bank – your group will provide extra eyes to these teams and get some hands-on experience in detecting cross border poaching activity in support of Park Rangers.
Return to camp for a light lunch, a dip in your private plunge pool or take a short siesta. After a safety briefing, float the Zambesi in stable inflatable canoes through gentle rapids and lazy channels past small islands. The trip will culminate in a last sunset on one of the sand bars to enjoy a cool drink and tasty snacks. Return to the lodge via a ‘night eyes’ game drive before enjoying a farewell dinner around the boma fire.
Enjoy your last morning sipping tea or coffee on your private deck as the sun rises over the river and the mist settles and then breakfast on the main lodge deck, taking in the sights and sounds of your Zimbabwean safari one last time. Transfer to Victoria Falls Airport to catch your departing flight.
Arrival & Departure
Your trip begins with your arrival into Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where you will be met by an Austin Adventures representative. They will transfer you to Gorges Lodge for check-in and an eagle viewing activity. On Day 11, you will be transferred to Victoria Falls Airport for your flight home, approximately three hours prior to your flight departure time.
- Tour of Victoria Falls, Elephant Express, look-up blind at Stofie’s Pan, conservation presentation after dinner.
- Community visit and meeting with village headman, pump visit, game drives.
- Visit with anti-poaching teams, full day pump-run game drive, village visit, fly camp.
- Mountain biking along elephant paths, underground blind, game drives.
You will be immersed into a symbiosis of incredible wildlife viewing, village life, community development, and hands-on conservation efforts working alongside rangers and scientists on the front lines of wildlife protection.
The hallmark of an Austin Adventures vacation is our exceptional dining. All meals: breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners, refreshments and receptions are included as indicated by itinerary. (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner). Alcoholic beverages and related gratuities are sometimes included in the trip price on this particular adventure.
After receiving your reservation and deposit, we’ll send you a pre-trip planner with general information about the area you’ll be visiting, a packing list, exercise guidelines, a guest information questionnaire and a liability release agreement for you to sign and return within 10 days.
Included in the Price:
- All guided tours and excursions
- National Park entrance fee
- English-speaking naturalist guides
- Airport-hotel transfers, land and sea transportation
- Flight from Victoria Falls to Hwange, transfer to Camelthorn
- 10 nights hotel/lodge/camp accommodation as indicated
- Meals as indicated [B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner]
- Soft drinks, beer, wine and local spirits
- Laundry service
Wildland Adventures travel consultation and pre-departure services
Not Included in Trip Price
- International or internal airfare (Johannesburg – Victoria Falls- Johannesburg)
- Tips and gratuities ($360 estimate)
- Airport departure taxes
- Personal expenses for extra services, optional activities, or changes in your itinerary for reasons
beyond our control
- Travel insurance for trip cancellation, medical services, or evacuation
- Any other items not mentioned above
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.1 Easy (1)
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.2 Moderately Easy (2)
Want to know how to fully experience the depth of beauty and culture in a place? Ask Carol Austin. A Montana native who treasures the land and people in her own backyard—be it Yellowstone, the Beartooths, or the family around her dinner table—Carol knows how to embrace any destination she explores, a feat at 40+ countries and counting. And with more than 20 years in the travel industry, she’s really good at helping guests plan—and fully enjoy—their adventure vacation, too. She co-founded Austin Adventures with her husband, Dan Austin.