At last a continuation of Part 1! After a wonderful time in Livingstone, Choma and on the upper Zambezi River we headed into Victoria Falls to meet our group at the delightful Ilala Lodge, conveniently situated in town and within walking distance of the Falls themselves, for the start of 'The Great Elephant Experience and more...'.
Ilala Lodge Many of the group joined us from exciting pre-trip excursions to Lower Zambezi and South Luangwa national parks in Zambia, the Chobe River just across the border in Botswana and some from extended time in the Falls.

The next morning saw us heading off to Somalisa Expeditions deep in the wilderness area of Hwange National Park - our base for exploration over the next 4 days.

Recently refurbished, Somalisa Expeditions is a stunning camp, small and intimate with beautiful stylish finishes and attention to the finer details. The staff compliment are welcoming, friendly and accommodating.

Our first elephants were there to greet us on arrival at camp with one young male blocking the way into the main lounge/dining complex for a while. The elephants have taken over the plunge pool in front of the deck as a drinking trough providing many great photo opportunities during our stay as they wandered back and forth between feeding areas and the water.

Somalisa tent Somalisa tent
Somalisa tented room
Tent interior

Lewis Senior guide Lewis Mangaba introduced everyone to the concession and the many activities that African Bush Camps is involved in, including the conversion of several vitally important waterholes from diesel pumping to solar; as well as their not-for-profit foundation that is doing amazing work with the local community just outside the park.

A pair of Secretary birds displaying on a nest a short distance from the camp was the highlight of our first afternoon drive.

We had a cool start to each day with breakfast around the fire before heading into the bush. One of our main destinations was the raised platform overlooking one of the waterholes a short distance from camp. From then on it was elephants, elephants and more elephants. We simply couldn’t go wrong. Wherever we went it was herd after herd making their way to one of the waterholes, often impeding our progress!
elephant roadblock

elepahnt waterhole elephant waterhole
Elephant mud bath

listening post We tried on several visits to the platform to set up the sound system hoping to listen to the communication going on below us but unfortunately the wind was against us each time and amplified by the microphones it howled through everyone’s headset!

In a way it was only a minor setback as there was so much amazing behaviour to enjoy with phenomenal photo opportunities as well. On several evenings the platform was the popular choice for sundowners too.

In between elephant watching one group enthusiastically tackled the birds of the concession building up a list of 119 species in a very short time. Coffee breaks at one of the waterholes brought on yet more elephants plus great sightings of Roan and Sable antelope as well as Greater Kudu and Plains Zebra. At another waterhole a Black-backed Jackal proved that jackals really do feed on the fruits of the Jackalberry tree while Lewis discussed the merits of elephant dung!

Despite regular roaring around camp the lions proved to be quite elusive, but we eventually tracked them down on our final afternoon to wrap up a wonderful Hwange wildlife experience.
Secretary Bird
Displaying Secretary Birds

Black-backed Jackal eating Jackalberry fruits
ostrichMale Ostrich in breeding plumage

lions lewis


We then travelled by road to the amazing Camp Amalinda in the incredibly scenic Matobo Hills outside the city of Bulawayo. This exclusive and unique lodge is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Matobo Hills, the oldest National Park in Zimbabwe, and is tucked away amongst the granite domes in an ancient Bushman’s shelter.

Our first activity was a late afternoon walk up the hill above the camp for sundowners while enjoying the spectacular view of the hills and the lodge below us. The spectacular Long-pod cassia trees were in full bloom providing a blaze of bright yellow colour to the surrounding granite outcrops.


mocking cliff chats
Male and female Mocking Cliff Chats displaying
The keen birders were up well before sunrise recording over 90 species during our stay in between the many other activities. A pair of Mocking Cliff Chats live next to one of the rooms built into the rocks and provided a delightful dawn chorus for the early risers.

After a hearty breakfast our group split into 2 with a focus on rhino tracking in the National Park for the one group. We were lucky enough to find and walk in on a small rhino group quite easily - an amazing experience! The rhinos are watched continuously and protected by armed scouts out on foot patrol.

rhino The two groups met up at a waterhole for coffee and by chance a female White Rhino with young calf came down to drink!

Not only are Matobo Hills scenically stunning with many photogenic rock formations they are also rich in cultural history - both colonial and tribal and there are also many wonderful rock art sites to discover. We were extremely well looked after in these fields by the Amalinda guides. Howard Mlizane is a wonderful story teller and our visit to Rhodes's Grave site was entertaining and informative, with the added bonus of numerous Zimbabwe Flat
Lizards and an inquisitive Elephant Rock Shrew joining our sundowners on the granite dome. Kevin Dewa's enthusiasm for rock art - their meanings and origin - was infectious and very much enjoyed.

Mother and Child rock formation
The Chinaman rock formation
flat lizard
Zimbabwe Flat Lizard

rock art rock art
howard monument
Amalinda lounge
Amalinda bedroom
All too soon the safari was over - with a final sunset from the granite dome overlooking Camp Amalinda.

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