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Trip Report ! Visit to Hwange NP and Matobos NP - June 2006

Posted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 9:41 pm
by Hennie
Hi there,

Pierre Radley invited me along on a visit to Hwange and Matobos National Parks in Zimbabwe. The trip was run over the first week of the Gauteng School Holidays (June 2006). I haven't been to any of these two parks and have read a lot of positive feedback on Hwange so was keen to check things out for myself. Here is my (personal) impressions and some vital data.


Pierre, Charmaine and Alanda Radley - Land Rover Defender 110 td5
Hennie, Ronel, Rikus and Armand Rautenbach - Land Rover County 110 V8

- We made no bookings. This was a problem. We had our sights on Mandavu Dam or Masuma Dam Campsites. Both were occupied and we had to stick to the main camps. There were no problems in the large camps. Ample camping space. The number for Zim Parks for bookings: +26 39 65592

- We left Pretoria the Friday at 15H00 for Ellisras. We rented a 4 bed cottage at Molalatau Holiday Resort near Ellisras (Lephalale). Cost R 350 per night. The mattresses are shot. Other than that at that price at beats camping. Particularly so with the late arrival and cool winter weather.

- Next stop was Nata Lodge. Arrived at Stockpoort Border Post at 09H30. Long queue of waiting vehicles. Gauteng overlanders were heading for Botswana "en masse". Bumped into Gideon Roets briefly who was also part of a party heading for Botswana. A new delay was a requirment to complete a SARS TIP (temporary export permit) which we never had to complete before. Both sides of the border took approx 100 mins in total. From there it was a long boring drive to Nata via Francistown. No checks for meat & dairy products at any of the Vet Checkpoints.

- Nata was busier than I have ever seen it before. The campsite was jam-packed and vehicles kept trickling in well into the night. No warm water in the showers the next morning. It was a very cold night for which we weren't adequatly prepared. I expected some cold but not this bad <brrrrr>. Had to make a plan (extra padding) for the following nights.

- Filled all Jerry Cans with Petrol in Pandamatenga at Pula 4.65 per liter. Saw the most elephants ever (and a beautful puffadder) on the Nata Pandamatenga stretch. Crossed from Botswana to Zim without any hassle whatsoever. Encountered two SA convoys headed for Hwange. Friendly and very efficient officials on the Zim side. Cost was as follow:

= Carbon Tax (3500 cc) & Road Accident Fund USD 30
= Fuel Import Levy (4 Jerry's = 80 liters) USD 10

Filled in a TIP (Temp Import Permit).

No 3rd Party Insurance availabe. We were instructed to buy in Hwange Town (which weren't part of our route & itinerary)

Vehicles were given a brief inspection and we passed through. The road to Robins Camp (gate) is badly corrugated and some areas next to the road were burnt. Saw a herd of Sable Antelope some distance away. At Robins we discovered that both Mandavu and Masuma Dam Campsites were occupied for the duration of our visit. Same with Deteema Dam. It wasn't too big a dissapointment and we decided to stay at Robins the first evening. Costs:

Hwange Park entry:

12 USD p/p (once off) Kids 12 and under half price,
5 USD Vehicle Entry (once off)
Camping 10 USD p/p/per night

There are no lights in the ablutions but they are clean and a fire was lit in the boiler and toiler paper was provided in the toilets. It was another cold evening. We were the only two vehicles in the campsite. Another vehicle arrived later and they booked a chalet. We later discovered that the cost for the chalet was 40 USD (same as for 4 people camping). The Parks staff are all very friendly. Saw quite a few expensive parks vehicles in the workshop yard without wheels (Merc Unimog etc.). Heard Hyena and Lion through the night. Awoke to the most amazing chorus of birds the next morning. Robins has the highest concentration of birdlife. A twitchers dream.

We decided to spend the two next nights at Sinamatella Camp. We drove past Mandavu Dam. A nice site for a future visit. Mandava Dam can take a large group (8 vehicles). Nice setting. The dam is perhaps a bit big which will make game viewing difficult on the opposite banks.

Sinamatella has the best setting. Perched on top of a hill with a magnificent view over the valley. The campsite is terrible though. The worst ablutions we have seen in a long while. We booked two chalets for the two days. Cost R 350 per night fully serviced (attendent doing dishes and beds). Woodfire boiler but electricity for the lights, stove and refrigerator. Our stay was very pleasant. We had a wortwhile gamedrive to Masuma Dam. All in all the game viewing was very dissapointing. The vegetation is very dense and there is still plenty of water everywhere. Hyenas come into the camp at night and create havoc with the dustbins which they lift out of their enclosures and tip out. Huge mess. There was a water pressure problem at times so we couldn't shower the day we left. The attendant removed all the refuse from the bag we put in the bin and took the bag for himself. We take a lot for granted. The first evening at Sinamatella was very cold and windy. The next night was quite pleasant.

Our last night was spent at Main Camp. I was suprised with the tarmac from Shumba camp to Main Camp. In places it is badly potholed and in places it dissapears altogether. All sites en-route to Main Camp was occupied. We stopped briefly at Nyamandhlovu Pan. We were unable to get any chalets at Main Camp. By now & with the cold weather we were looking forward to the prospect of a warm & comfortable chalet :-) <becoming soft>. Too bad. A local school group had taken all the chalets. The ablutions here are very clean and have electric lights. Hot water comes from a woodfire boiler. Only some of the showers work and the next morning there was no water at all. Here the campsites were charged at 5 USD p/p/per night (unlike the 10 USD at Robins & Sinamatella). We had lunch in their Restaurant. They had no bread or breadrolls so no hamburgers. Steak Egg and Chips cost 1 200 000 Zim D.
Omelette Chips & Coleslaw 1 Million Zim D. Bollingers (sp?) Beer costs 300 000 Zim D. (BlackMarket Exchange was 40 000 Zim D for 1 ZAR). Heard Lions and Hyena very close to camp that evening.

We left Hwange and drove the beautiful tree lined stretch to Bulawayo. We expected problems without the 3rd Party Insurance but encountered no roadblocks. Fuel was available in Bulawayo at 550 000 Zim D per liter <dammit>. At the official exchange rate it is *very* expensive.

The cost to enter at Matabos was charged in ZAR 65 p/p. I had no change and neither did they. So I sacrificed 40 Rand. We got chalets again. Better than the ones at Hwange. Cost 56 USD per chalet (or ZAR 400) per night. Also serviced. These have geysers (no wood boiler). Matabos is very beautiful. Our stay there were marred only by the fact that they tried to extort another 10 USD p/p to walk to World View (Rhodes Grave) :-( There are some very nice Lodges (rock chalets) overlooking Maleme Dam. At the reasonable price for accomdation these should be considered. Firewood is a problem. The stuff that is provided aren't of the hardwood variety and only a small bundle is provided per family. We took a scenic circular drive through the rock formations. The route went out of the park and came back in at a different point. All these entrances are unmanned and open. Wonder how they control access. Had a nice cold "Golden Pilsener" beer at one of the villages. Price of a two day old bread 150 000 Zim D.

After our two days at Matabos we headed back for Botswana. We entered back into Botswana at Plumtree borderpost. The (assh0le) Zim immigration official refreshed my memory as to why I detest the "border official" species so vehemently. The crossing went quick and without any hassle. We drove through Francsitown to Martinsdrift. We had hoped to stay at Kwa Nokeng Lodge but it was fully booked. I ran into Felix Slier at Kwa Nokeng. Nice to see a familiar face. They are on their way to Chobe, Savute & Moremi. We deciced to cross into SA and drive to Ellisras (Lephalale). We booked into an upmarket lodge and spent our last evening together having a proper sit-down dinner in the Restaurant. All and all a very rewarding trip. The only downside was the cold evenings, but, it is winter after all :-) Thanks Pierre. If it weren't for your invite I doubt I would ever have set a foot in Matabos. Much appreciated.

Logistics worked reasonably well ! I misjudged the quantity of a few things and as per usual had left a few things at home :-) Our family has outgrowned the limited packing space of the Land Rover. Packing is becoming a problem. A plan needs to be made. <decisions decisions>

Images at: ... temId=2310


Hennie [at]

Posted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 8:30 pm
by hilton
Hi Hennie

Nice quick trip report. Very glad to see Suffricans visiting the Matopos. It's where I spent most weekends of my youth. Awesome spot really and filled with Rhodesian history. Your pics brought back some wonderful memories.

Thank you.

Re: Trip Report ! Visit to Hwange NP and Matobos NP - June 2

Posted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:04 pm
by emanuel
I have a some pictures of Zimbabwe, the ones from the Matopos where also taken in 2006


Re: Trip Report ! Visit to Hwange NP and Matobos NP - June 2

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 5:28 pm
by johnlynne29
:?: have you had any 2014 reports on the condition of the camping sites in Hwange. We have heard some worrying reports on both the ablutions and the staff attitude.

Re: Trip Report ! Visit to Hwange NP and Matobos NP - June 2

Posted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 7:03 pm
by emanuel
No but I plan to go there next year.