I am really interested in going to Zimbabwe for 2010 but am really worried about the conditions there. Did anyone on here go in 2009? Is it safe to land in Harare or Bulawayo and travel to the hunting area? If you read the US state department website it sounds like a war zone.
No offense to the outfitters who are working there but you guys have endured so much so far that I am afraid your sense of what is normal is different than mine. I want to support hunting in Zimbabwe but I have a wife and kids to think about and I would sure hate to get killed in the middle of someone else's political struggle.
Any input on the current conditions is appreciated.
I was in Zim in October of 2009. Flew in to Bulawayo. Traveled with the PH to Omay (8 hours). Hunted, chartered back to Harare. stayed there for a couple of days, visiting a friend from the states.
Food on the shelves, fuel was available. Attitudes were good.
I am going back to Zim this year with my wife.
I was in Zimbabwe last year on a 21 day DG hunt. When I landed at Harare I had less firearms hassle at the airport than I would expect at Jo'Burg. As I sat outside the airport waiting for my PH to arrive and I felt I had gone back in time: there was none of the usual airport noise and bustle: I just sat in the sun and watched the occasional car pulling up.
As we drove through Harare and I felt it was cleaner and much smarter looking and had a better feel than Lusaka, capital of Zambia, which I visited the previous year.
We drove north for about 8 hours, through various small towns. Traffic was generally sparse on the roads and there were quite a lot of signs of general administrative deterioration: potholes, traffic lights that had stopped working etc.
The food in the camp was fair. I was there early in the season, April, and the food supply was fine. Even when food was really scarce the previous year, most outfitters were shipping it in from South Africa.
I never felt the slightest threatened during my stay, apart from by Elephant and Buffalo. I think the reality is that most of Africa can be pretty dicey and it's important to keep your wits about you wherever you are. South Africa remains blighted by violent crime, Mozambique is carpeted with unmapped minefields etc.
Zimbabwe is a good place and, from a hunting perpective, great value for money. In the field,the PH's are probably the most professional in the world. The biggest problem when going to Zimbabwe is the danger of going with a poor outfitter who gives you unreal expectations as to the amount of game you will encounter. The wildlife in Zimbabwe has undoubtedly suffered over the past 10 years and a lot of people spend a lot of time wandering the bush and not finding what they expect. It's therefore important to pick your area carefully and take references from people who have been there recently.
In summary though - it's a great place to go on safari. I think it will almost certainly get a lot more expensive in the years ahead. I am arranging to go again.
I wish I could have seen Harare 25 years ago or even 10 years ago. It must have been a beautiful place.
The friend I visited is from my hometown. In college she married a farmer from Zim and has lived there since the mid-80s. She still thinks it is the best place on earth to live.
I did my first hunt in Zimbabwe in 2008, in the Matetsi area. You arrived at Victoria Falls and were met by your PH, and whisked away to the concession, a couple of hours by truck. At the end of the hunt I spent two days in Vic Falls, sightseeing and fishing. At no time did I feel in any danger. The people were friendly and welcoming.
This was just after the aborted presidential election, and inflation was more than one million per cent per month (I'm not kidding). There was no Zimbabwean cash to be found, because it was all worthless, and there was nothing to buy in the stores.
I went back in 2009, and hunted Matetsi again for part of the hunt, then drove 6 hours by road to Shangani (near Bulawayo) for the balance of the hunt. You went through about 6 police/army roadblocks in that distance, but they were always polite and we were on our way within minutes, even though we were carrying firearms. (We were polite as well). I spent a day in Bulawayo, and left from the airport there.
In 2009 the economy seemed to be even worse than in 2008 - power outages everywhere, and Zimbabwe had abolished its currency. Only Rand, Pula and Dollars circulated. The stores seemed to be better stocked, but people didn't seem to have any money to buy anything.
Even with that, again I never felt in any danger.
I would point out that in both cases I was with my PH at all times. I'm not sure I'd recommend that you travel alone other than in urban areas. Not enough people speak English and it might be easy to get into trouble, but I'd say that's likely the case in most African countries (and lots of other countries as well). I will say this: I think you're a lot safer from crime in Zimbabwe than you are in many parts of South Africa.
So many people are staying away from Zimbabwe because of the troubles and media reports that the local people are very happy to see you. Last year in mid-July I was the second person that season to have stayed in a hunting camp that can host three hunters at a time, and I was alone for most of the 10 days I was there. The locals were very glad to see me and I received the best of care and attention. I also found it easy to get quota on anything I wanted to shoot, since no one else was shooting anything!
I'm comfortable enough that I'm taking my own advice and heading back for a third straight year (I'm lucky, I know) to hunt elephant this July.
I would say don't stay away. If you take reasonable precautions - the same as you'd take in any less developed country, and refrain from expressing views on the local political situation, you will have a great hunt. Zimbabwe PH's are likely the best trained in Africa, and the shooting is as close as you're likely to get to the old safari days. Very few fences - in Matetsi only a dirt road (and the Botswana Defence Forces on the other side!) lets you know that you're on an international border. The wildlife is abundant, and the money you spend will help local communities or the Parks Service, both of which desperately need support.
Not too many places you can enjoy yourself as much as Zimbabwe while doing good at the same time!
Mostly a great place
I'm simply going to echo most of the earlier responses. Vic Falls and Harare were both easy for firearms transit compared to Jo-burg. Mostly everyone was very nice. Expect some nuisance $5 tips along the way and travel with your PH if possible. There was a police check post at most every cross-roads and they almost always found a reason to fine you or write a ticket unless something could be worked out informally. But it wasn't ever threatening, only a pain a##. Do also be careful about your camera. They don't care for the press and it is pretty easy to get mistaken for a photo journalist if you aren't careful. I buried my camera deep in my backpack during travel. Personally, I felt far more threatened in South Africa then Zim. It's a beautiful place and if you keep your head the trip should go fine.
I hunted in 2009 and spent 12 days in Zim. I flew into Bulawayo and the service at the airport was miles ahead of Jo'burg - they should send the South Africans from the firearms office to Zim for training!
I stayed at a guesthouse in town called the "Southern Comfort Lodge" for a couple of days and the locals didn't have a lot of great things to say - the gate was kept locked and when opened you were met by the gardener with 12-guage and the owner with 9mm! He had been shot by a car-full of locals a couple of months earlier, apparently he put bullets into 3 out of 5 of them.
One particular concession holder (whose wife is a minister in Mugabe's government) was not very pleasant; he carried a loaded single barrel shotgun all the time and his boys walked around with AK47's which wasn't great.
Having said that, once out of town and hunting it's beautiful. We tracked buffalo across a number of concessions along the Gwayi and Kana Rivers, Matetsi Unit 5 and Malindi Station. We had to negotiate with a new concession holder everytime the buffalo travelled across a boundary!
We bumped into lions once and came across elephant every day. I took a big old dagga boy and an ancient chobe bushbuck and I was fortunate enough to take a magnificent sable antelope and an excellent warthog.
The buffalo hunting was very challenging in mopani and thorn bush where we could hear and smell the animals but not see them!
I'd go back in a heartbeat and am planning an elephant and lion hunt in the same area. It's a true adventure in Zim, nothing like the organised ranch hunting in the other southern countries.
Get to it my friend!!
I hunted in Zimbabwe in 2008 in Chewore South with Chifuti Safaris on a lion and buffalo hunt. I landed in Harare and an hour later I was on a flight to the Zambezi Valley. It was a no brainer with no problems. It was a truly wild area with no people and great wild african hunting.
In 2009 I hunted right outside Gonarezou national park with Zambezi Hunters for elephant which was in a Campfire area, so we had the local village around. Once again I flew in and out of Harare without any problems.
I am scheduled to go back in 2011 to the Save Valley with Zambezi hunters for a full bag dangerous game safari. Go with a reputable outfit and you won't have problems. This I think is key no matter where you go in the world. I think if you catch a charter flight right out of Harare, skip the roads, towns etc and get to your hunting area there won't be any problems. Good luck.
I hunted in Zim in 2009. I landed in Harare and we drove the 7 hrs to Chirisa and hunted buff and elephant. At no time did I feel in trouble or threatened. I feel Zim is 1000000X safer than SA.
I'll be back this year. Landing in Bulawayo this trip.
Mike, 3 of us have a July hunt in the Omay coming up. My biggest question is air travel and checking guns through. We are flying on SAA from JFK to JoBurg then on to Bulawayo with no stayover in JoBurg. I am assuming that we can check guns and bags through to BUQ at JFK and avoid any RSA temporary import permits in OTA. This is why we picked JFK but without muddling through it; I'm not sure what could or will go wrong.
After 2 prior trips through JoBurg; I am expecting it not to be as easy as hoped! Any information on your trip into BUQ with the airlines would be appreciated. Thanks! Joe
I would use Henry Durheim or someone else to get the rifles through. Not sure if the weapons are transferred automatically. did you book the flight straight through?
Zim is very safe . The alerts put out by various Embassies etc are simply to warn people of worst case scenarios. I am friendly with the head of one diplomatic mission who put it in a nutshell when she said "we warn everyone of the worst because that way we cant be blamed if they get themselves into trouble"
Nothing to worry about, was a great country (was there hunting Cape Buffalo and other species this April), and felt more comfortable in Zim than RSA. I'm looking at taking my wife and youngster over next time.
This is an update to my earlier post on this thread.
I returned from a three week safari to Zimbabwe in mid-August. I landed in Victoria Falls and drove 3 hours to the hunting concession. As expected, I felt perfectly safe at all times. People were friendly as usual. Perhaps less expected was what I perceived to be a significant improvement in living standards since my last trip a year ago. I was told that while the political problems are far from settled, there has been sufficient progress that people are feeling more confident. As a consequence, certain costs seem to be higher - for example, what would have been a generous tip two years ago would be only adequate today! Electricity, which last year was provided by generator, was now provided by the power lines, and while it's best to check fuel supplies if you're heading out on a long journey, fuel seemed more generally available.
Overall, I would say that if you follow a few simple rules - applicable to any less-developed country (and more than a few devveloped ones) - you will be prefectly safe. Stay away from large crowds and political demonstrations, avoid getting involved in political discussions or expressing views against the government, etc.
And by the way, after having heard that poaching was rampant, I had a very successful safari (5 impala, kudu, waterbuck, bushbuck, baboon, hyena, eland, leopard and elephant!), and game was generally abundant.
Returned August 24th after 10 day safari with Charlton McCallum Safaris in the Makuti area. No safety concerns at all. Did notice substantial change from 2007 as far as economy is concerned. Food in stores, gasoline at service stations. People are doing better thanks to the good old US dollar.