Some of my favourite things to do are to travel and explore Zimbabwe which has so many beautiful treasures some of which are hidden and others well… are quite well known. My older sister, Saranna was lucky enough to be given 2 nights away at the successful and popular Antelope Park. I love holidays better yet if they are free getaways nothing is better that a freebie yet alone a holiday. Having recently graduated, spending new years in Siavonga it seems that I have an interesting year planned for me and I am so blessed to have travelled twice in one month. Antelope Park is located just 10 km outside Zimbabwe’s 3rd biggest city, Gweru and provided to be the perfect location for our weekend away.
I was excited for our weekend away especially after the private game park featured on CNN’s, Inside Africa. The feature was one of the first western media to portray Zimbabwe in a good light in recent years. Often we make news for politics which are never represented in a good light. The network dedicated a whole 30 minute episode on this big house of stone that is Zimbabwe. I loved the presentation because not only did it show another side to Zim but also acknowledged our economic issues which has been quite a buzz on many peoples’ lips in the new year..Many of us are feeling the pinch. It was a fair and accurate portrayal of Zimbabwe’s beauty, great destinations and activities but also economic impacts. Alas, let me get back to Antelope Park. The game Park was praised by Inside Africa for its amazing work on lion research and the amazing activities they have on offer for tourists. So I was more than excited to visit the internationally renowned game park that is, Antelope Park.
Although I was not footing the bill, I must say it is reasonably priced especially for locals and for the experience you get. My sister and I set off for the weekend. Playlists, ice teas, snacks, water and a perfect weekend spirit were all ticked on our weekend must haves.
New Toll Gates in Zimbabwe
The fun part about the drive was seeing all the beautiful road work happening on the route to Gweru. New toll gates, new roads and no potholes on the highway which were a blessing. However it seems our cities are being neglected as the potholes appear once you enter most urban areas. So while the highways look beautiful, I really want our city councils to maintain our beautiful cities. I really enjoyed the trip and sang Beyonce and Drake for most of the journey much to the annoyance of my sister, Saranna…lol. I am still singing Yonce’s famous line, “I WALK UP LIKE THIS”. Funny enough in Siavonga my girls and I played “Drunk in Love” so much, I could not listen to the song for a month…I can bear it now…just barely.
With all the road travelling I have done in the past month, I think it is time I do an “All the things you need to know about travelling in Zim” list. The downside of our road trip was the road block in Chegutu. Now, Chegutu has some of the most random and confusing speed limits some of which don’t make sense. Speed signs appear and disappear all over the place. We received a speeding ticket for apparently going 80km in a 60 km zone and the policeman was not at all the most friendly or respectful. Sometimes I feel cops could be a lot nicer and not so rude especially to women. A bit of respect would be nice. Oh well not even Zim cops could stop my happy parade and Drake singing fest. It was back on the road after a 15 dollar fine for supposedly speeding in a 60km zone. Something you should include on your trip budget is fine money and “traffic stops”.
So on the drive we only got lost once , that was in Kwekwe whenwe took the wrong turn off. It was quite hilarious we spent 10 minutes on this rather shady looking road, when we encountered potholes we knew we were on the wrong road and thanks to the friendly locals who helped redirect us to the correct route. One of the amazing buildings I encountered on our trip, is in Kwekwe . The MOSQUE is just such a breath-taking monument.. Wow one of the best mosques I have ever seen in this country ..IT IS JUST MAGINIFICENT. We stopped and my sister did one of the 5 prayers called, ASR in the Arabic language ( by the way I feel terrible that I have not made my prayers lately ..Something I need to spiritually look into ). So we finally found our way back on to the right route and by this time it was already getting dark.
We got to Gweru around 7 in the evening and my concerned father was not impressed by our late travels. To be honest, luckily we had been on a day visit to Antelope Park a year ago so we were familiar with the route. It is definitely not advisable to travel late in the afternoon or at night especially if you are females and going to a place you have never travelled too. Either way we found the turn to Antelope Park on a well labelled sign just as we remembered it. Now this is the part, which left me a little nervous driving on a dirt road at night in a game park.
My sister seemed to have a jowl laughing at my nerves, screams and gasps. Those around me often refer to me as a diva at times, and in true fashion I lived up to my given name during the night drive. 2 owls stood in the middle of the road quite cheekily, stared at us and eventually flew off. Now in African culture, owls at night are a bad omen ; well I’m not one to always believe old tales or superstitions but I don’t always believe in ignoring them . My sister laughed at me the whole time while I was literally on the edge of my seat. At this point no Drake or Beyonce was going to calm me . My vivid imagination envisioned some Blair Witch project Zimbabwe Edition happening. Luckily no animals devoured us nor did some mystical superstitious creature attack us. We arrived and were welcomed by a guard at the gate who welcomed us to our home for the weekend.
We were greeted at reception, where we were provided with all the necessary information ranging from internet to meal times. We were staying in the River lodge which you guessed is near the river. Much to our surprise we were introduced to our guide, Ngaa who was to assist us throughout the weekend with our activities and adventures around the game park. A wide range of activities are available at Antelope Park. Activities ranging from cub feeding, walking with lions, elephant interactions, elephant riding, horse riding, massages and sunset cruises. Ngaa warmly welcomed us and much to our liking, he was very cool and approachable.Luckily for us we arrived just in the nip of time for dinner and so proceeded to have a hearty meal before we saw our room.
Food, glorious food ,we entered the eating area which was located in a thatched area with warm lighting. The attentive cooks welcomed us with a smile and informed us about the 3 course meal on offer. I must say for 15 dollars we were impressed by the helpings and the variety of food. Not to add as a liberal Muslim I was impressed to find out that they were halaal friendly which meant I could indulge in all the nyama. Friday dinner consisted of braaid t-bone, chicken and borewors with a rice and potatoes starch option…i had both… no shy. The Vegetable options were also large and a salads option featured too. I love my meat but I also love vegetables so that made me happy. After a long journey the grand meal was what we needed and left us incredibly relaxed and full. Scrumptious, mouth watering and delicious is all I have to say about the Friday dinner. The steak was superb and we were really surprised by the hospitality and general friendliness of the staff. Everyone was so polite , genuinely seemed happy and to be honest that is what makes a great venue.
River lodge master bedroom
River Lodge outdoor shower
River Lodge Patio
Ngaa took us to our room and more surprises kept coming. The river lodge we were placed in had a patio perfect for relaxing and having sundowners. As the door opened we immediately took note of the master bed which was decorated in white linen and had a beautifully draped mosquito net around it. What a gorgeous bed, and then we toured the bathroom which had a great safari touch to it and exciting shower. At the end of the bathroom, was roofless shower while the other half of the bathroom had a roof. The shower can be extremely romantic as you are quite literally showering under the African stars, sun and sky . For those not to appreciative of the outback it is important to beware of creatures and insects and advisable to keep you bathroom door closed. My sister absolutely loved the shower and I feel she spent most of her time in there and claimed the water was so soft. We can only imagine what the honeymoon suite looks like if that is what the River Lodge features.
Internet at the lodge proved to be quite a mission as the wifi is not as strong in all the locations and even though an econet booster has been placed at the park, internet connections and signal are limited in some spots. So I, being, someone who is always on my phone on watsapp and updating social media quite literally had a real holiday away from all my posts and chats if not willingly due to circumstances. However, there is great signal to msg and call so that is convenient. After a good shower, failed attempts to get internet signal and a hearty meal it was time to call it a night.
Saturday morning arrived and Saranna insisted on watching the sun rise (I’m more a sunset girl) however my exhaustion was not having it and plus it was slightly overcast so I slept while she appreciated the sunrise. I woke up, enjoyed the amazing outdoor shower and was looking forward to our planned activity for the day…. riding elephants which it took a whole night of convincing my sister. Saranna who was not having the idea of riding ‘tame’ elephants. Eventually she agreed and that was our mission for the day.
Every meal begins with the beating of the african drums, played by the kitchen staff. As soon as you hear the rhythms you know it is the start of the day and a warm delicious meal awaits you. We went to breakfast and as usual were greeted with smiles and fantastic hospitality. Eggs, beans, potatoes and mince meat were all included in breakfast not to add yoghurt, fruit salad and cereal. The well prepared breakfast is a lovely way to get started and I made sure I did not indulged too much as I knew the elephant riding would take a lot of my nerves and physical strength.
After exploring the vicinity in the morning and taking in the scenic views which we did not get to do the night before. Our guide , Ngaa informed us that we would be scheduled for our ride with the elephants at 11. In the mean time we prepped ourselves and in fact our adventure was moved to 10 which gave me a lot less time to mentally prepare myself even though I was the biggest advocate for the ride, surprisingly Saranna was calm…OH MY.
Approaching the elephants
So once the elephants were ready, we proceeded to walk to meet the elephants with Ngaa who encouraged us to be excited and relaxed. Having been a keen advocate for the activity, my nerves suddenly reminded me that they existed and that these were wild animals which were tamed that we were going to ride. As we approached the location, the elephants stood relaxed in a line which consisted of 4 large elephants. What magnificent and grand creatures they are. The elephant guides sat just a few footsteps away conversing and are clearly used to the elephants and more importantly the elephants appeared accustomed to us humans and their keepers. As we drew closer, these grey majestic beasts stood calmly with their long trunks at ease… [To be continued]