Evening safari drive, Tree Lodge at Sikumi, Hwange, Zimbabwe

In Africa, En-Route, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel, Zimbabweby JanisLeave a Comment

Lions, elephants and a puncture

We squeezed in three evening game drives while staying at Sikumi Tree Lodge on the border of Hwange National Park. And to be perfectly honest if I jumped in the back of an open safari truck every day it would never be enough.

The safari truck parked up with its door open just at the edge of a track as the sun goes down.

Parked up at sunset

Close your eyes and imagine the early evening wind blowing by and fluttering your safari hat as you bounce across the bushland terrain. Holding on tight to the truck as the aroma of the hot, dusty African trails whisk past your face.

All combined with the adrenaline of what incredible wildlife you’ll see emerge from the trees…. take me back there.

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On all three occasions, it was just Gary and me, and our safari guide Danny. 

McLaren would have been proud 

It didn’t take long, and Gary was putting his mechanics skills to the test. He was becoming a dab-hand at changing tyres; this was the second in two days. In hindsight I should have had my stopwatch on him, a career in Formula 1 was beckoning.  

A dirt track on the edge of the grass filled ancient river bed.

Feeling brave from the side of the track

These sorts of incidents are all part of the fun, why else would you carry a spare tyre?

Give Danny and Gary their due it wasn’t the easiest of punctures to deal with, but anyway I gave them my moral support from the sidelines and kept a watch out for a hungry looking Zimbabwean wildlife. 

Good to know!

Make sure you take a hat and sun cream, as the morning sun shines through you’ll be needing them.

Ok, so the largest creature I saw was a termite.

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I’d been waiting for this moment

Now I think it was fate if we hadn’t had the puncture my everlasting memory of sitting amongst a herd of graceful elephants would never have happened. 

It was one of those magical moments when you had to pinch yourself. Danny had spotted the silhouette of a matriarch elephant just emerging from the bush, it was incredible. 

A group of five elephants entering a clearing made up of four juveniles plus an older female at the rear.

Elephants arriving 

I was excited and sat there quietly smiling. We were adjacent to an area that once had towering Acacia trees; however, the elephants are quite partial to the fruit on these trees so with a bit of brute force and determination they are pushed over. That’s as long as the giraffes hadn’t snaffled them first. 

A young elephant, with one broken tusk walking towards us.  Its ears are standing out, and it's observing us.

We've been spotted

The surroundings now almost make the landscape look prehistoric. 

We pulled in amongst the fallen forest and sat and watched, slowly more and more elephants large and small, male and female stride out from the woodland edge.  

The smaller ones didn’t care about us they wanted to play with each other, but the elders we a little more cautious. 

An elephant walking through the bush with its ears flared and a broken tusk.

Walking through 

Elephants apparently don’t have great eyesight so as they wandered in our direction, rubbing themselves up against the tree trunks as they came, they sensed that we were something unusual. 

A close up of an elephant, with a baby elephant in the background, framed by tree trunks.

Sneaking a peak

Gary and I were in awe as they wandered in front of us, by the side and around the back of the truck, it truly was breath-taking.  Once again one of those few occasions whereby I’m lost for words and I can’t wipe the smile off of my face. 

A close up of a young elephant.  Its head fills the frame, and you can see the texture of its skin.

A young one 

These incredibly powerful animals came so close at times, that if they stretched out their trunks, they could have almost touched us.

After a while Danny asked if we wanted to move on, I wasn’t ready this was a beautiful experience and one I tried to hold on to. 

Two young elephants playing within the herd with their trunks are wrapped around each other as they play.

Playtime

Nonetheless, we couldn’t sit there all evening we were hoping to see other wonderful creatures. 

Preparing for your safari

Did you see our post 'Preparing for your African Safari'? It'll have some handy hints 'n' tips for your next safari.

Graceful giraffe

On our safari drive the previous evening around the same spot, we had the pleasure of a lone giraffe for company. Danny negotiated his way through the dead Acacia trees so that we have a magnificent view of the elegant animal.

A lone giraffe in an acacia glade with dead wood in the foreground.

A lone giraffe

The head an nexk of a giraffe stretching up to feed of acacia

A giraffe feeding

We were so close to the giraffe it was incredible, and it just chomps away on the seed pods of the trees not caring at all about us. 

Not to be taken for granted

Weaving and bumping our way through the woodland, we then cross the vlei. Thousands of years ago this was once a river, now flat and open you can envisage how it once meandered its way through the middle of a shallow valley. 

A piece of dead wood in the centre of grass clearing that used to be a river bed.

The grassland of the vlei

It creates such a marvellous area for wildlife to graze upon and one which they try to cunningly disguise themselves amongst the many termite hills.

A lone zebra walking in the long grass in front of a termite mound in the old riverbed.

A lone zebra

Zimbabwe has quite a growing population of impala, so you see them fairly regularly; however, don’t take these beautiful animals for granted, they are stunning and so perfectly coiffured.

An Impala keeping track of us, Zimbabwe, Africa

a pair of Impalas

Something to make your travels easier?

Is Zimbabwe for you?

Take a peek at our Sundowner Cruise and our Morning safari posts on Lake Kariba and start creating your own adventure.

We chose to visit Zimbabwe via British Airways, and it was all done with a few clicks, a brief stopover in Johannesburg, and our luggage was there waiting for us on arrival at our end destination in Harare.

Savour the moments

We were so lucky on all three of our game drives, Danny regularly stooped for us to enjoy the moments. 

There are some beautiful birds in this part of the world, you have to be quick to catch them on camera though, they don’t sit around for long.

A hornbill perched on top of a stump illuminated by the evening sun.

A hornbill 

Ohh yes and always keep an eye out for the smaller guys as well, so often we’re looking far ahead into the bushland and not looking down. Danny spotted a leopard tortoise pacing it out along the side of the track.

A close-up of a leopard tortoise, with it's spotted shell.

A leopard tortoise

Baboons also appear to be less popular with the locals around these parts.

I suppose perhaps it is because they are relatively common in Zimbabwe; nonetheless, we are visitors here after all.

A young baboon with its young sitting in its lap.

Mother & Child

In the distance, Danny also pointed out to us four Tsessebe antelope, which are apparently one of the rarer antelopes in Zimbabwe and not very often seen.

A group of 3 Tesebee antelope grazing in front of a small termite mound.

 Tesebee antelope

A little knowledge I found out since was that they are also the fastest antelope in Africa and can run up to speeds of 90 kmph.

Sunset in Hwange

Pastel shades of a sunset over the bush in north west Zimbabwe.

A beautiful sunset in Zimbabwe

I have so many striking memories of the sun setting in Zimbabwe, the landscape provides such an incredible backdrop. We were able to savour this experience on each of the three evening safari drives.

Danny, our guide, smiling with Janis at sunset.

Danny, our guide and Janis at sunset

We found some beautiful spots to watch the sunset, and as the sky was slightly cloudy on this occasion, the pastel shades cast a delightful glow across the evening.

A sunset of blues to golden hues against a silhouette of a lone tree.

A sunset shot 

Let us know!

Have you visited Zimbabwe or any of its neighbouring countries, share with us your memories? 

Homeward bound, ohh and that lion I mentioned

It was a bit of a distance back to the lodge and by which time the sun had set entirely. In the eerie shadows, we could make out some dark movements across the dry river bed. As our eyes tried to adjust a vast herd of buffalo were moving in great numbers along the vlei. This was surreal.

However, the best was yet to come, as we were nearing the lodge Danny spots some bright eyes watching us just off of the side of the track. I kid you not, they belonged to a lion. 

A lioness laying on the ground, illuminated by the headlights of the safari truck

A lone lioness

This experience has just peaked beyond all. Danny is so used to seeing these beautiful creatures that he once again manoeuvres the truck so that his headlights are facing her, and we have a full of view of the female lion and her male cub. 

A lion cub playing wit it's moth in the grass, lit by the safari trucks headlights.

Platyime

We were speechless, the lion was obviously tired as she kept lifting her head to watch us, then her head would just drop, and she’d lollop to the ground. After about five minutes, she decided to stretch and wander over to her cub, and they just played gently together. Well as gently as you could with claws. I think the cub was more up for it than her mother.

A lioness and her cub laying in the grass.  They watching us watching them.

A lioness and her cub 

Danny had seen this lion regularly, and she used to have a female cub, who has since died. The male cub with her was around 6 months old. Apparently, this lioness usually travels with two males, but they were nowhere to be seen. Or perhaps they were watching us.

Another lifelong memory from Zimbabwe.

Getting to Hwange

Prior to arriving at Hwange, we’d visited Victoria Falls town for a couple of nights, after flying in from Harare. It goes without saying that a visit to the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site of Victoria Falls is a must; however, I urge you to venture further afield. Hwange National Park is only around a 2-hour drive from Victoria Falls town, and there’s such incredible wildlife at your fingertips. Another location I highly recommend is Lake Kariba, this is truly an experience you’ll treasure for life.

Flight options from Harare to Victoria Falls are with either Air Zimbabwe or Fastjet airlines.

Inspired to visit Hwange National Park?

Stay at the Tree Lodge at Sikumi, you’ll be able to enjoy your own personal tree house.

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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