Our trip through Zimbabwe had multi-faceted intentions. We of course wanted to ignite our senses within the untamed and wild landscapes of its national parks, chase sunsets, experience life-changing animal encounters, as well as observe and reconnect to nature. We also aimed to enrich our understanding of the importance of community projects, and how local villages on the borders of national parks depend on tourism for revenue. Hideaways encouraged us to visit some of their local projects, and we came away with a deeper sense of value in how travel plays a part in communities lives, as well as some fabulous beaded jewellery! Waking up at Elephant’s Eye, Hwange, the sounds of dawn replacing sleep and the echoes of the African night, we were ready and excited for the next segment of our Zimbabwean adventure. Spending time in Hwange National Park had been a fulfilment of wildlife dreams, as well as community experiences, similarly fulfilling cultural curiosity while building awareness.
Departing after breakfast, our next destination also supported the community through employment, at both Masumu River Lodge and on the Sovereign Houseboat in Binga. We had chosen these properties for their empowerment ethos – while simultaneously enjoying the areas as tourists, now understanding that a portion of our holiday costs were benefitting local people. Our five hour transfer took us through an extremely remote and rural part of the southern Zambezi escarpment, true character of the country reflected in smiles as well as terrain.
Arriving at Masumu River Lodge, we took a moment to absorb the view overlooking Lake Kariba before heading down to the water’s edge – where our vessel awaited. Excited for our first safari upon water, we embarked on the Sovereign Houseboat, embarking on a wild adventure through Kariba waterways. Setting sail and settling down for a light lunch, excitement, refreshments and conversation flowed as we pulled away from Binga.
There is something thrilling about cruising upon a lake filled with some of the most dangerous creatures known to man. Floating past crocodiles spanning metres long, their reptilian bodies camouflaged into the landscape, an open mouth or a swish of their tail giving them away. Hippos yawn in territorial display, showing their dominance, however realising the size of the Sovereign is not a contestant worth pursuing, once again dipping their bodies beneath the water.
Late afternoon we moored at the Sengwe River Basin – an area known for its birding. We head out on a tender boat to chase the sunset and hopefully catch a sighting of some waterbirds, or a Pel’s fishing owl along the way. Armed with binoculars, curiosity and cocktails, we sip and seek into dusk, finally returning to the main vessel for dinner.
Morning had us rising with the sun after promises of a sunrise fishing expedition the night before. Some of our group chose to sleep in and do a pre-breakfast game cruise, where others joined the captain with coffee and resolve to catch some fish to add to our morning meal. Our small boat quietly moved through the glass like water, the morning still and calm, golden with the new sun. Tied to a tree, we cast our rods and anticipation into the lake. Much excitement came from small bites, growing to a pull on the fishing line and eventually resulting in our first fish – breakfast is served! We fished for the next hour, successful enough in our catch to feel we had contributed to the next meal, yet happy enough to have released some free to swim another day. Heading back to the Sovereign, we shared a certain satisfaction in sharing our catch with our group and staff, our experience providing excitement as well as sustenance.
The day was spent dipping in the pool, reading on the deck and watching the world go by as we sailed towards Elephant Bay. A siesta in your room, double doors open with the Kariba breeze coming off the water does wonders for one’s soul, drifting in and out of dreams and reality – difficult to distinguish which is which.
Rising for a sunset cruise on the smaller tender boats, exploring islands and sharing the lake with wildlife was the perfect way to end the day, the world covered in oranges and purples as dusk settled. Returning to the boat for a delicious dinner, we retired to the top deck to stargaze, breathing in our time on Lake Kariba beneath the African sky. Sunsets: Caught. Souls: Fulfilled. Tomorrow: Home.