Monday, 23 April 2007

Mare Dam Lodges

BY Costa Mano

Famed for its delicious trout fish, Nyanga is a haven for those escaping the hustle and bustle of the city life and in its serenity are the Mare Dame Lodges.

The lodges are found at the Nyanga National Park, 267 kilometres east of Harare.

Sixteen unique Lodges offer the perfect base to stay while discovering the wonders of Nyanga. Each of the lodge has two bedrooms, bathroom, spacious lounge with fire place and a brilliant view of the “queen” of Nyanga’s dams, Mare Dam.

These are self-catering lodges with basic amenities available offering that home away from home thrill.

The classic Dover stove gives the kitchen a nostalgic air of the days gone by. Electric stoves are available for those who do not fancy old style cooking.

The reservoir was formed after the damming of Mare River. Mare Dam is located within close proximity to two other dams, Purdon and Gulliver as well as Mount Inyangani - the highest point in Zimbabwe, Trout Hatchery, Old Forts and historic pit structures and the Rhodes Museum.

The most popular activity at Mare is trout fishing. The dam is filled with trout offering an easy challenge to all fishermen. Visitors can also catch easy prey at the Trout Hatchery ponds.

Boating is another popular activity at Mare with boats being hired at the tourist office. Holiday makers can either paddle themselves crazy at Mare or Gulliver.

Another way of discovering the therapeutic beauty of Nyanga is by hiking on the rather challenging terrain.

There are also historical visits to war time forts dotted around the area, pit structures and Rhodes Museum.

Visitors can go on game drives and see Nyanga’s wildlife which includes Waterbuck, Wildebeest (Gnu), Impala, Blue Duiker, Warthogs among a varied choice.

Even just relaxing in your lodge with a good book is quite a calming experience.

The lodges are owned by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and run by Guinewine Investments, a registered tour company.


wilderness gem

By Costa Mano

Far off the beaten track hidden in the rich wilderness of Save Valley Conservancy, is a gem that has not been that much explored.

Set on 23 000 acres of pristine and unspoilt wilderness, this is a reclusive bush camp exuding contemporary safari elegance with quality accommodation and fare.

Chishakwe Ranch is the bush retreat offering inspiring photographic safari.

Forming part of the world famed Save Valley Conservancy the business at Chishakwe is primarily one of conservation with programmes already running on conservation awareness to help the local community.

“We believe every animal is endangered and it is not about one particular animal that is why we are working on community education so as to build a reciprocal relationship, they help us we, help them,” said Lisa Jane Campbell, one of the directors.

Covering nearly one million acres, the Conservancy comprises a wide range of diverse habitat types, as well as harbouring an extraordinary variety of plant, mammal and bird species. Some of these species are indigenous to Zimbabwe's lowveld and some are among the most endangered animal species in the world.

The conservancy was formed after drought stricken farmers who had witnessed their cattle die due to famine decided to bring down their fences and bring in wildlife which was more suited to the environment. The Conservancy was also created to safeguard the unique ecosystem that surrounds the slow-flowing watercourse of Zimbabwe's second largest river, The Save.

Run by a man who is passionate about conservation, Nick Greeff and his wife Sarah, Chishakwe is steeped in fertile history dating to pre-colonial days with the impressive two houses from the first European settlement still standing bold as ever.

The area also boasts of Bushman paintings as well as remains of tribal villages and graves.

Chishakwe is a unique ranch in that its vegetation is more varied than some of the Ranches in the conservancy. The northeastern corner, where a game drive gave us the opportunity to see a shy yet curious group of cheetah, is mopani woodland. The south west has the open acacia with mountain acacia to the west.

This has made the ranch a popular haven with diverse wildlife which includes Giraffe, warthogs, elephant, lion, buffalo, impala, water buck and kudu among a host of other species.

Apart from game drives the ranch has a spectacular dam reminiscent of the evocative serenity of Lake Kariba’s tree stumps which still stand in relative peace. Canoeing, boating and fishing are some the activities to do on this dam and I was quite unfortunate to have missed out on crocodile night spotting due to rain.

The air at Chishakwe is quite laid back and relaxing with time for siestas even. To top it off is a special outing to Moon Rock were you can see the moon rise and sunset while chewing on flavourful biltong or a picnic at The Big Tree which is said to be between 2 000 to 3 000 years old.

The Ranch’s camp is located on the bank of and overlooking the Msaize River. The ascetic camp is a little oasis of tranquility where visitors can spend the day lounging at the bar area or cooling down in the pool under the heat of the lowveld.

The camp has 10 beds and full catering, Chishakwe still maintains a sophisticated ruggedness which is quite charming.

The five lodgings have two single beds with ensuite bathrooms crafted with reeds and ingenious light switches. The camp is themed around artistic, innovative d├ęcor and the Ranch’s souvenir shop gives the guest an opportunity to take home that which would have captured their imagination.

After a long day out and about the bush, relaxing around a bonfire and relating stories of the day is something to look forward to. The bonfire, sound of a flowing Msaize River below punctuated by the calls from the wild and the glistening stars above make such a setting thrilling.

“Beautiful and exclusive, Chishakwe offers a unique bush experience. The Big Five have their place here amongst an amazing variety of animal and plant life…whether you want an active and adventurous break from your routine or just a relaxing get away, Chishakwe offers it all,” said Nick.