Zinave National Park
We have tried to make the most of these enforced holidays and weird times, and, over the past few months (that just keep on stretching), have done some amazing trips with family & friends. As children of the sea and all things piscatorial, those have mostly been up and down the coast. Bartolomeo Dias, San Sebastian, Morrongulo, Zavora and most of all Pomene, have been some of the exquisite Mozambican culprits and, have all, in one way or another, been very special.
But, recently, as opposed to driving north or south, we did something completely different. We headed west, driving 5-hours inland, into the bush and the Zinave National Park. Extending along the south shores of the Save river, the park covers 400 000-ha of the NW of Mozambique´s Inhambane province. And, what was initially planned as a 3-day exploratory visit, turned into a unique, week-long full filling experience for everyone.
As far away from the sea as we were, besides generally checking the place out, one of our main purpose was to experience its tiger fishing potential. We had seen pictures and had heard stories of those who had previously been there and, told us it can be World class. Unfortunately, presently the area is experiencing one of its driest periods in recent times and thus the river is extremely shallow. When, one night round the fire, Trevor, who’s not a youngster anymore and as seen his fair share of the bush over the years, said that he has NEVER, in his life, seen the bush so dry, it put it in perspective.
But, that did not detract us from, with Justin´s help and guidance, spending the first three days exploring all of the park´s deep water pools. The experience of walking the dry river beds, looking at tracks, swimming in the river and always feeling the tingle anticipation of some buffalo or hippo come out of the reeds was exhilarating. At a stage, we were so close to some Hippos chilling on one of the pools, we were literally casting over them!
Mozambican Wildlife aplenty
Having lived before and through a Civil war that ravished the country and its wildlife, it´s so special and blissful to see such an abundance of game in Mozambique.
Impala, reedbuck, waterbuck, zebra, wildebeest, ostrich, wild pigs, hippos, crocodiles, warthogs, kudu, nyala, sable, Elephant and others roam the Zinave´s Sanctuary area. We also saw the 4 hyenas’ in captivity, presently still being introduced to the park and, which the guys (and we got involved) had to feed every second day. Lions, leopards and Rhino, that where once abundant will be introduced shortly. True that one might see more game in the Kruger, but this is a completely different experience. We did not see any tar roads, other cars, people, signs and many of our sightings where on foot, which provides a very different familiarity.
And, some serious heart pounding moments.
A herd of Buffalo
Most afternoon´s we would drive and sit, quietly and with the wind from behind, on one of the many waterholes. On such a sunset, we had been sitting for some time, seeing some Impala, Kudu, waterbuck and Nyala casually and peacefully drinking. Then, out of the bush, comes an unbelievable thundering sound, as a herd of over a hundred-buffalo come charging to the water. None of us will forget the sound and sight as, completely oblivious to us, they drank and bathed in the pool a mere 20 meters away from us. What happen next, as they suddenly become aware of our presence and side lined over a considerable area, facing us, big black bulls menacing in front, as we, very slowly backed away, is hard to explain.
A few nights before Trevor had told us the story of how he narrowly escaped a Zinave buffalo charge a couple years back. That night he explains these animals where reallocated from the Morrumbene plains, once the biggest concentration of buffalo in the World. And how, being heavily hunted by poachers then, they had learned how to charge as a herd, as they do when attacked by lions.
We had gotten ourselves in a very tricky situation and for the first time, despite having seen so many before, I really understood how big they are.
Perspective shifts drastically when you not on top of a game viewing vehicle!
Not only did the wildlife greatly exceed our expectations, but the varied habitat the park offers was absolutely spectacular even in these dry times. It actually gives it an almost surreal, spectral feeling. Albeit been pretty unknowledgeable about trees, I absolutely love them and the park is home to over 200 different species and many more grass and shrub genera to complement it. Waking up way before sunrise and walking or driving, in the mist, between mopane or miombo forests, and with those, ancestral Baobabs as some sort of ancient silent guardians, is, pure magic.
The bird life is equally enthralling and although, in no sense are we experts in the field, it was great to see Dave, with his app´s and enthusiasm record over 80 different species. The many birds of prey that, constantly ride the wind, above the dry river bed, are a sight to behold.
The week held many other simple but truly magical moments.
Enjoying a drink over the fire while, listening to Trevor talk about the park´s vision and stories of (as he put it) tourists with no common sense or, Justin in his unruffled and dry manner, complaining about how many meters of water pipe or punches through the fence the elephants had damaged on that specific day. Something he would complain of every night.
Seeing your kids eyes as they silently sit by and watch the fire, wonder in their eyes and minds, at the dancing flames and the reminiscent of the day.
Cooking while chatting to the local helpers, simple, humble people, that shared so many stories and dreams – like meeting and dancing with Enrique Iglesias!
All the braii´s and delicious meals we cooked, the cackling swims in the river, the river vistas over the camp area, the improbable sunrises, the Uno games with the kids and the many stories, 2M´s and laughter’s we shared.
The silent nights, except when we had unexpected visitors like Elephants, as we slept in our tents in the middle of the bush.
The area was first proclaimed as a hunting area in 1962 and was then run by the then well-known Safariland. Ten years later it was declared a protected area and the Zinave National Park was established a year later, in 1973.
But, the civil war that ravaged the country throughout the 80´s almost depleted the area and country of its wildlife. Then, only in 1998, well after the end of the war, was the park´s camp established. Only a year later that initial camp was destroyed, during the heavy floods that occurred in southern Mozambique in 1999 and 2000. New camps where built in higher grounds, where they remain to the present day.
New winds and a brighter future….
The future of the park drastically changed in 2015 when, a co-management agreement was signed with Peace Parks Foundation, to jointly develop the park as an integral component of the Great Limpopo Trans frontier Conservation area.
This includes the Banhine National Park, the Massingir and Corumana areas as well as other linked regions in Mozambique along with a number of private and state-owned conservation areas bordering Mozambique in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Since then over 2000 animals have been translocated to the park´s 18 600-ha fenced sanctuary. The plan being to only release animals into the larger expanse of the 400 000-ha area once sufficient security measures have been implemented.
A very special thank you to Justin and Trevor, who were not only great hosts but went out of their way to show us the park and share their stories. It’s amazing what they and their team are doing in bringing this special place into being once again. But also, all the community work and education, the anti-poaching efforts and as well as illegal logging…and so much more…well done.
Thanks’ to Volker and Thulane for the Buffalo and Elephant pictures and to Gareth Simms for the fishing one´s.
Very foolishly we did not take our camera and only had our phones for pics…
…and to everyone else for the great company.
Not everyone´s cup of tea
If you want fancy resorts, high end service, guided drives and bright lights, think again.
Accommodation is in small tents in the middle of the bush, amenities are simple, small and limited. Getting there is not easy and navigating in the park as well. You have to take all your food and drinks and all else. The closest place to anything that resembles a shop is over an hour away. No cellphone signal or internet connection.
And then there´s the spiders as you going about your business in the loo, or the mambas that like the warmth of the camp sofas, the scorpions, and all other crawly cripplers.
And the dust…ohhh the dust!
Like Trevor puts it, this is no place for people with bullshit or lack of common sense…
So much that makes it unique and special and so different from the usual destinations. Sincerely hope it stays that way and happy to hear the vision is as such….
Keep it simple and keep it real…
Zinave National Park.
Duarte A. M. Rato
Sportfishing Charters @ Vilankulos & Bazaruto Archipelago
FB: fishbazaruto.com & MarlinMoz Sportfishing
Phone: 00 258 84 639 0466