Magazine Articles

CONSERVATION: The Return of the Black Rhino

Hemmersbach Rhino Force has been operating in Zimbabwe for just over a year. Founder Ralph Koczwara came to Zimbabwe in December 2016, after hearing about Chirundu Safari Lodge’s Carl van der Riet’s dream of stopping poaching in the Hurungwe area of the Zambezi Valley. Hemmersbach Rhino Force is already established as the most effective conservation army in South Africa, operating on game reserves and farms around the Kruger National Park. With the use of military-style tactics and modern technology their teams work to prevent the slaughter of rhinos by taking action against poaching and poachers as well as exposing and confronting other illegal activities in the bush.

TIPTOES: Nswatugi Cave

According to local mythology Mwari/Mwali (God) leapt over the top of Nswatugi Hill from his home at Njelele Mountain, before landing on Khalanyoni Hill – the name Nswatugi translates to “the place of jumping”. The cave’s entrance is six metres wide, with the cavern extending fourteen metres into the hill. Nswatugi Cave is famed for its colourful rock art, featuring elephant, giraffe, kudu, zebra and even humans in sleeping and hunting positions. The paintings were created by the hunter-gather ancestors of Botswana’s San people. Various antelope, a sable head and two ovoids can be seen at the front.

TIPTOES: Kazuma Pan National Park

Access is via 4 WD vehicles only, and the park is only open between March and December. Covering over 30,000 hectares, this is a remote and very wild part of Zimbabwe. Campers need to be completely self-sufficent as only water is available. There are two basic campsites – Katsetheti and Insiza – with bush toilets and braai areas. Each camp can accommodate up to ten people. Insiza overlooks the Kamuza Depression, and Kasetsheti is near natural springs.

TIPTOES: Mumurgwe Hill, Lion’s Head Dam

Lion's Head Dam is approximately 55km from the Enterprise Road/Harare Drive intersection. Turn left after the toll gate on the Enterprise Road and continue on past Bally Vaughan. The road is in excellent condition. The dam is on the right and is visible for a few kilometres before the entrance which is signposted on the right. 
There is a nominal gate entry fee per person and a few lovely little picnic spots around the edge of the dam near the dam wall. The dam was constructed by a syndicate and completed in 1995, and offers decent fishing for anglers.
Visitors can explore the area around the dam walls and see a series of colourful rock paintings a short hike across the road. Four fish and a yellow kudu cow with faded legs feature on the southernmost boulder near a group of faded hunters. Further along is metre-long buffalo with two yellow ochre kudu cows superimposed on its torso. On the right is a melee of human and animal images including sable and kudu.
Norman the caretaker is very friendly and knowledgeable about the area and very excited to have visitors. 

ZAMBEZI VALLEY: The Carmine Bee-Eater Rescue

One of my favourite birds is the southern carmine bee-eaters. They migrate to Zimbabwe from August to November. When they flock to the trees on the river bank one could be forgiven for thinking Christmas has arrived early; they decorate the trees with their brilliant colours. I was delighted to see their distinctive entrance holes to the tunnels leading to their nests in one of the cliffs on the river’s edge. Incredibly, these beautiful little birds excavate tunnels that extend between one and two metres into the cliff. The nest at the end of each tunnel contains up to five eggs. The colony was busy and noisy, with the red and green birds flying back and forth chirping and twittering – chaos!

BEHIND THE LENS: A Journey of Photographic Opportunity

The next day I rise early to try and beat the traffic heading east towards Mutare. I have another farm to visit in Virginia. Edging slowly down a farm road, I come across a late-blooming Sickle Bush (Dichrostachys cinerea). It has been a long morning; over two hours since Harare and my thermos still contains a cup or so of coffee. Winding down the window I kill the engine, cutting off Freddie Mercury’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in mid-stride, leaving just the sound of the bush.

FEVER DREAMS: Malarial Memories

On the other side of the piazza a group of musicians play a melancholy melody, very similar to the trumpeting of the hornbills amongst the fever trees down by the river near my camp. I love these scenes; whether in Africa or Europe, they’re busy with excitement yet tranquil in their own way. I can’t help but smile at the thought of one of these cute, plump angels frolicking in the waterhole at Hwange’s Nyamandlovu Platform. The kingfishers and darters would look so out of place perching on their plump shoulders! But I don’t think it would be motivation enough for visitors to toss coins into the water. Besides, it would take a long time to find all the coins in the mud, especially after the elephants and buffalo have frolicked in the cool, black sludge…