Gonarezhou and Malilangwe Wildlife Reserves
Gonarezhou and Malilangwe Wildlife Reserves Reviews
Best kept secret in Zimbabwe Aug 10, 2008
On Friday we left the scenic sea-side village of Vilankulo in Mozambique for a weekend of wildlife adventure in the Gonarezhou and Malilangwe Reserves in the southeastern corner of Zimbabwe. Our lodging for Friday and Saturday nights was at the Singita Pamushana Lodge in the Malilangwe Private Reserve. We spent all of Saturday in the Malilangwe Park, and part of Sunday in Gonarezhou. In my opinion, Malilangwe is by far the better of the two because they have so many more animals to see. But Gonarezhou boasts some beautiful landscapes.
Gonarezhou is Zimbabwe's second largest game reserve, after the Hwange National Park. It forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which links Gonarezhou with the Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. Animals move freely between the three preserves. The Chilojo Cliffs are one of the most prominent natural features of the park. These magnificent red sandstone cliffs can be seen from 50 km away. Rock art can be found on the sandstone cliffs. The Baobabs trees are also a prominent feature. You can’t mistake these trees, best described as an 'upside down tree'. With its root-like branches it seems, like the ostrich, to have its head in the sand.
The Mwenezi, Save and Runde rivers wind through the hot, semi-arid lowland and support the rare suni antelope and striped king cheetah as well as some of the biggest and meanest elephants in the country. Aptly, Gonarezhou means "place of elephants".
During the bush war, along with much of the eastern border, this was a no-go area and elephants were hunted by guerrillas and poachers as well as being devastated by drought. However, when the park was opened again in 1994, elephant numbers had not declined. Rather, an excess of 750 had to be relocated that same year. These great beasts are understandably shyer here than anywhere else in the country and are not fond of humans. The famous line when entering the park is, “The elephants charge first, and ask questions later”.
The park is divided into two regions: The Save/Runde area in the north and Mwenezi in the south and is open from May to October. The game densities are not high in Gonarezhou due to the extremely dry conditions combined with a history of poaching.
In contrast, the neighboring Malilangwe Private Wildlife Reserve to the north of the Park is big five territory. The Reserve comprises 105,000 acres of private fenced land, with scouts patrolling the area day and night. Malilangwe is one of the few remaining places in Africa where black and white rhino are still plentiful. It also hosts an extensive collection of Africa's great game animals including elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, giraffe, painted hunting dog, zebra, cheetah, hyena, sable, wildebeest, hippopotamus, eland, kudu, impala, and roan antelope. Rich in game and bird life, the Reserve is able to boast not only the big five but also the small six: klipspringer, Sharpe’s grysbok, grey duiker, steenbok, Livingstone’s suni and oribi.
This combination of small antelope is unique and has not been recorded together anywhere else in Africa. Over 400 species of bird have been recorded at Malilangwe, with the highest concentration of raptors in the world.
The Malilangwe Private Wildlife Reserve is completely non-profit making. It is funded by the Malilangwe Trust, founded by the donations of concerned conservationists around the world. All of the revenues from tourism are channeled back into the Reserve to further the conservation, research and ecotourism efforts and to provide a source of livelihood and development for the surrounding communities. Malilangwe is probably one of Africa’s best kept secrets, as far as safaris go. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone who is interested in doing a safari. I rank this one even higher than the Masai Mara in Kenya. There is a limit of ten pictures per review, so I will be adding many more photos to my Africa blog.
Just a note here, Zimbabwe is currently in political unrest and there are still reports of violence happening. Some safari escort businesses have closed shop, and depending on who you talk to, recommend not traveling to Zimbabwe. I think the U.S. Dept. of State even recommends not to travel here. But as with all travel, there is always a certain degree of risk. We did not encounter any problems while here for the weekend, but this is also probably the safest part of the country.
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