Expert Reviews – Gonarezhou NP
Sue is an award-winning writer who specializes in African travel and conservation. She writes for national newspapers, magazines, Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.
Gonarezhou: wild and wonderful…
Gonarezhou is a special place, exuding a sense of true, wild Africa. I’d been meaning to visit for years and when at last I did, I was kicking myself for not having gone sooner. I spent a week there but still wasn’t ready to leave. Our camp was the new mananga at Massasanya Dam, made of mud bricks and thatch, and built by local women in the style of their own homes. We had views over the dam and a stellar cast of wildlife coming to drink, including huge herds of elephants for which the park is famous. The women were our camp attendants and were a joy to spend time with. Then we headed north to the brilliant Chilo Gorge Lodge, with its striking views over Chilo Gorge and long history of working with the local Mahenya community.
The wildlife was good and varied, albeit a bit skittish at times. Elephants weren’t as moody as I’d been led to believe, however, and there were plenty of them. There were plenty of antelopes too – including a hermaphrodite nyala! One thing we didn’t see was other tourists – just one vehicle in seven days.
The recently formed Gonarezhou Conservation Trust is doing a brilliant job in engaging with local people and building on the huge conservation successes of the Frankfurt Zoological Society. The park is about to emerge from its secret shadows with the arrival of rhinos next year making it a Big Five destination. This will undoubtedly attract more visitors, but careful planning is afoot to make sure Gonarezhou doesn’t sacrifice its special wilderness vibe.