Waterfalls and Wilderness
Combine the majestic Victoria Falls with the wilderness areas of Hwange National Park and Mana Pools National Park. A vast array of activities awaits allowing you to interact with the abundant wildlife from a variety of perspectives.
Prices: On request
Duration: 9 nights
Availability: April – December
Destinations: Hwange National Park, Mana Pools National Park, Victoria Falls
i) Experience the unbelievable size of the elephant herds at Hwange National Park
ii) Enjoy wildlife interactions whilst in the comfort of your camp
iii) Get out of the vehicle and experience up close interactions with game
iv) Take to the water for a canoeing safari and experience a completely different perspective
v) Marvel at the magic of the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls
vi) Get your adrenaline pumping with one of the many adventure activities around Victoria Falls
A remarkable itinerary taking in Zimbabwe’s two flagship but rarely visited national parks, Hwange and Mana Pools, as well as one of the natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. The variety and abundance of activities included in this itinerary offer excitement and an opportunity to view wildlife from several perspectives. Both Hwange and Mana Pools are reliable wildlife sanctuaries and offer abundant and high-quality wildlife viewing.
The accommodations have been specifically chosen to integrate an authentic bush experience with all the home comforts you could wish for. This itinerary is ideal for honeymooners, couples, or those celebrating a very special occasion.
Best time to visit?
So what is the best time of year to take this trip to maximise your overall experience? Without knowing you yet this is a difficult question to answer. With so many variables to consider we need to know what is important to you before we advise on the preferable time for you.
There are many variables to consider when attempting to recommend the best time to visit. Specific considerations include the whereabouts of migratory animals, the effect the density of the vegetation and height of the grass has on wildlife viewing, special wildlife moments such as the birth of baby animals, and the effect weather patterns has on wildlife behaviour. Other factors to consider are the variation in prices at different times of the year, visitor traffic, whether you prefer a lush or relatively arid environment and of course the annual climate, namely temperature and rainfall values.
For this reason we present detailed information for each individual destination in the locations section to help you understand what may work best for you. We will of course have an in-depth discussion with you prior to making a booking so you are completely happy with the time of year you decide to travel.
- Game drives
- Walking safaris
- Night drives
- All domestic flights as described in the daily itinerary
- Return airport transfers in Hwange, Mana Pools and Victoria Falls
- 9 nights accommodation as stated
- All meals as stated
- All drinks unless otherwise stated as excluded
- All relevant taxes and surcharges
- International flight to Zimbabwe
- Airport transfers in home country
- Meals not stated
- Applicable VISAS
- Tips and gratuities
- Health innoculations and medications
- Items of a personal nature
- Day 1 Your Ultimate Wildlife Adventure Begins
Board your overnight international flight from your chosen airport to Victoria Falls International Airport (VFA), Zimbabwe.
- Day 2 Somalisa Camp, Hwange National Park (L, D)
Upon your arrival in Zimbabwe you will be extended a warm Zimbabwean welcome by a camp representative before boarding your internal flight to Hwange. Upon arrival you will be met by your driver who will guide you on an extended game drive back to camp. You will likely arrive in camp in the late afternoon or early evening where a hearty dinner will be waiting for you.
- Days 3-4 Somalisa Camp, Hwange National Park (B, L, D)
These next two days will be your first real taste of safari in Hwange National Park. Rise early after a restful night for your morning activity. The camp offers game drives, walking safaris, bird watching and cultural tours to local villages as part of your game package.
You will be able to rest over lunch before heading out into the bush again in the late afternoon for another game experience.
- Day 5 Nyamatusi Camp, Mana Pools National Park (B, L, D)
Today you reflect on your time in Hwange National Park and no doubt marvel at the abundance and variety of game you have seen, especially huge herds of elephants.
You board your light aircraft flight and depart to the far north-west of the country to the wilderness of Mana Pools National Park.
Upon arrival you will be met by a welcoming representative from Nyamatusi Camp and transferred to your new home. Your guide will stop for game and any interesting sightings or features along the way.
Nyamatusi Camp benefits from the lenient regulations of Mana Pools National Park. Activities here will include exceptional and educational walking safaris, game drives, canoeing, bird watching and catch and release fishing.
- Days 6-7 Nyamatusi, Mana Pools National Park (B, L, D)
You have 2 whole days to spend how you wish. With so many activities at Mana Pools you will not be bored. The walking safaris and canoeing here are exceptional and the guides are some of the best in the business, having had to achieve the highest of standards of anywhere in Africa. Game drives are a good choice to cover more ground and potentially see more wildlife but nothing beats getting out of the vehicle and interacting with your environment and the wildlife.
- Day 8 Thorntree River Lodge (B, L, D)
Today we say goodbye to Mana Pools and fly down to Livingstone airport on the Zambian side of the falls to utilise the more upmarket accommodations. Finally, you can relax and recuperate after an adrenaline filled and exciting time on safari.
- Days 9-10 Thorntree River Lodge (B, L, D)
The pace at Victoria Falls is much slower and flexible. You will be thankful of having complete control of how you spend your time. Maybe you want to laze away the days overlooking the river or you may still be bursting with energy and looking for your next adrenaline fix. Thankfully, your time at Victoria Falls offers the best of both worlds. Relax on a spectacular sunset cruise or go crazy downstream on a full day’s white water rafting adventure. Whichever you choose you can be sure it will compliment your safari perfectly.
- Day 11 The End Of Your Ultimate Wildlife Adventure (B, L)
Today is the day you say goodbye to Africa in the knowledge you will be leaving with a head full of memories and a camera full of images for you to relive the dream for many years to come.
You will make the short journey by road to Victoria Falls Airport across the Falls in Zimbabwe. Here you will board your flight to your chosen airport in your home country.
Hwange National Park
Overview: Somalisa Camp adorns an admirable setting in the heart of Hwange National Park. It is nestled in a stunning location tucked away on its own little acacia island along the edge of an ancient seasonal flood plain. Guests are treated to breathtaking views of the savannah plains across the famous Kennedy Vlei line. The lodge has recently been rebuilt and has upgraded its specification to that of complete comfort and luxury whilst still maintaining its core focus on superlative hosting and guiding to ensure the ultimate guest experience.
Accommodation: The camp consists of 7 elegantly furnished sail tents, all complete with a glass wood-burner fireplace for the cold winter nights and a floor fan for the hot summers. En suite bathrooms come as standard and have facilities including flush toilets, an indoor and outdoor shower, as well as copper slipper-style bathtub.
Facilities & Amenities: Separate lounge and dining area. Small splash pool and lounging deck overlooking the elephant pool. Natural waterhole encourages herds of game including elephants.
Power & Communication: Fully equipped mains electricity. Mobile phone network available but may be limited.
Activities: The camp has an excellent choice of activities all lead by highly-trained guides. Activities include bush walks, game drives and night drives, as well as bird watching. Safari vehicles accommodate 6 guests therefore guarantees a ‘window’ seat.
Children: Children of all ages are welcome. Walking safari is age limited. Please get in touch before booking for further information.
Mana Pools National Park
Overview: Nyamatusi Camp is set in one of the wildest and most remote parts of Africa, on the banks of one of the oldest rivers in the world, the mighty Zambezi. Guests are seduced by the authenticity of experiencing the untouched Africa of old. Despite its location deep in wild Africa it managers to ooze charm and sophistication whilst maintaining a light footprint.
Accommodation: Six luxury tented suites each enjoying uninterrupted views of the river and escarpment beyond. The rooms themselves have facilities way beyond the expectations of a bush camp and more familiar with a chic city boutique hotel. Air conditioning and plunge pools come as standard in each suite. En suite bathrooms are equipped with both indoor and outdoor showers and dressing gowns. The room also has a safe, tea & coffee making facilities and a mini bar.
Facilities & Amenities: Public areas consist of a dining area, library and bar. There is also a complimentary laundry service. Private vehicles are available for hire but at an extra cost.
Power & communication: Full electrical mains power. Limited mobile phone network coverage.
Activities: The variety of activities available to guests is astounding. Game drives, canoeing on the Zambezi and walking safari are all superb.
Children: Children of all ages are welcome at camp. However there is a minimum age limit for walking and canoeing safaris. Please contact us to find out more if you intend on travelling with children.
Thorntree River Lodge
Overview: Thorntree River Lodge is set in Zambia’s Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, just a short distance from the famous Victoria Falls. It has been completely rebuilt with an environmentally-conscious design. The design is modern contemporary with tented roof structures to maintain the feel of authentic Africa.
Accommodation: The lodge boasts 12 twin rooms with 2 sets of inter-leading units. Each unit has its own indoor and outdoor bathrooms, as well as a luxurious private plunge pool. The room is loaded with facilities and amenities including air-conditioning, complimentary mini bar, safe, and tea and coffee making facilities.
Facilities & Amenities: The main lodge consists of a lounge with an open dining area, where the fine dining experience of African cuisine will come to life. A gym and spa overlook the mighty Zambezi River, and there is a small library with WiFi for your use. The communal deck is set on the edge of the stunning riverside, and is home to a boma area and infinity pool. A spectacular wooden decking, the scene of moonlit dinners, floats on the edge of the water and helps to achieve a seamless feel between river and lodge.
Power & communication: Full mains electrical power. WiFi throughout the property. Available mobile phone network coverage.
Activities: There are so many activities and things to do here you could spend a month and not get bored. Within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park you can enjoy typical game activities such as walking, boating, game drives, canoeing and rhino tracking on foot. It must be noted this national park is very tame in comparison to the areas we usually recommend. Those guests who are in the area for the adrenaline type activities the Falls and surrounding areas have become famous will be in awe of the variety on offer. Activities include canoeing and kayaking on the Zambezi, helicopter scenic flights, river cruises, horse-back safaris, bungee jumping, gorge swings, and exhilarating white-water rafting, amongst others.
Children: All ages are welcome.
Hwange National Park
Mana Pools National Park
Thorntree River Lodge
- Special Status: N/A
- Location: South-west Zimbabwe
- Land mass: 14,651 km²
- Mammal species: 100+
- Bird species: 400+
- Big 5 reserve: Yes
- Game drives
- Night drives
- Walking safaris
- Cultural village visits
- Mega herds of elephants
- Unique waterhole game-viewing circuits
- Excellent variety of activities
- Huge biodiversity
- High quality camps and guiding
Hwange National Park is the flagship wildlife reserve in Zimbabwe. With a land mass of 14,651 km² it protects a huge area of pristine African wilderness. To gain perspective this is almost 10 times the size of greater London.
It is located in the south-west of Zimbabwe and is within driving distance of Victoria Falls. It also combines well with Mana Pools as the parks are well connected by excellent domestic aviation infrastructure.
Hwange is renowned for its pumped waterholes. These are especially productive in the dry season and provide a lifeline for the resident and migratory animals that take refuge in the park at this challenging time of year. Indeed, the main activity on offer is what is known as a pump run. Game drives concentrate on moving between waterholes in an attempt to observe as much wildlife abundance and variety as possible. Night drives and walking safaris are also available to provide an exciting and alternative perspective.
Hwange is well recognised as an exceptional destination for a wildlife adventure. It has a large diversity of wildlife thanks in no small measure to its differing habitats, including teak forests, sandveld, savannah and acacia woodland. It is renowned for its huge abundance of elephants and is recognised as one of the best places in the world to interact with these magnificent giants. With an estimated 44,000 individuals in herds of 300-strong around the waterholes it really is an elephant lover’s paradise.
With over 100 reported species of large mammals Hwange is certainly a park with an abundance and large diversity of game. Predators are well represented by lions, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena and the elusive African wild dog. Other smaller, but no less impressive, carnivores include African wildcat, caracal, honey badger, common genet and serval to name but a few.
Herbivores are well represented and include antelope specials such as roan, sable and eland. Buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, impala and the dry country gemsbok are also present and relatively easily seen. Unfortunately, white rhinoceros have been driven to extinction through poaching. However, the presence of black rhinoceros ensures Hwange is a Big 5 park but sightings of these endangered animals are more luck than a given.
Hwange is an excellent choice of destination for many types of safari guests. Accommodations are top quality and on par with esteemed camps and lodges over the borders in Botswana and South Africa. Guides and activities are sensational and the wildlife is reliable and abundant.
However, Zimbabwe’s political woes have inadvertently provided Hwange with its ultimate selling points. It offers great value financially and the mammal species you are least likely to encounter in abundance is your fellow human beings.
Best Time To Visit
The climate of Hwange National Park can be simplified by dividing it into the dry season and wet season with two transitional shoulder seasons. Each season, and indeed the months within each season, offers you a different experience. There is no time of year that offers you the best of everything so we provide you with a balanced account throughout the year so you are able to make an informed decision on the best time to visit based on your preferences.
The dry season runs from June to October. It is at this time of year wildlife viewing is at its best. The season, as its name suggests, is characterised by blue skies and no rain. A perfect time to be on safari. As Zimbabwe is in the Southern Hemisphere this time of year is winter. The coolest months are July and August when night temperatures drop enough to necessitate warm clothing for early game activities. However, the sun quickly raises the mercury so expect to be basking in 30 degrees Celsius by lunchtime. Temperatures increase as the season draws on with October being extremely hot and dry and uncomfortable for those who do not enjoy such high temperatures.
Wildlife viewing is at its best in the dry season as the animals migrate towards permanent sources of life-giving water. This makes game viewing much more reliable and predictable. Huge volumes of wildlife can be seen in one place which makes for great photographic opportunities.
The negative aspects of the dry season are the premium price tags the camps carry at this time of year. Also the dry and dusty park isn’t as beautiful as it is in the wet season.
The wet season runs from December to March. Rainfall is a feature of most days in the form of heavy showers and thunderstorms yet it rarely rains all day. Travel can be difficult at this time of year and some roads may become washed out. The presence of water throughout the park and beyond its boundaries allows wildlife to disperse into the hinterland, making wildlife viewing generally more of a challenge. However, many species of animals give birth at this time of year so it is the best time to travel for the cuteness factor.
Prices are at their lowest at this time of year but it must be noted most of the remote camps are closed. The permanent lodges stay open and offer attractive rates.
The wet season is definitely the best time if you are looking for an exclusive safari where other tourist vehicles are a rare sighting. Although Hwange National Park certainly isn’t a busy park it can suffer occasional crowding around water sources in the dry season.
The transitional shoulder seasons are November and April and May. These times of year represent a transition from dry to wet and wet to dry respectively. Guests are offered a kind of half-way house between the negatives and positives of the main seasons.
- Special Status: UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Location: North-west Zimbabwe
- Land mass: 2,196 km²
- Mammal species: 72
- Bird species: 350+
- Big 5 reserve: No (Rhino are absent)
- Multi-day walking expeditions
- Walking safaris
- Multi-day canoeing expeditions
- Canoeing safaris
- Game drives
- Night drives
- Large variety of safari activities on offer
- Walking safaris with approaches on large game
- Outstanding levels of guiding
- Low tourist numbers
- World-leading canoeing activities and expeditions
- Exceptional camps and lodges
Mana Pools National Park, although a relatively unknown destination to many travellers, is recognised as one of the premium locations in Africa for experiential safari. It was recently made famous in the latest David Attenborough BBC documentary Dynasties, by featuring the park’s famous African wild dog packs.
They say good things come in small packages and this is certainly the case at Mana Pools. With a land mass of only just over 2000 km² it is a relatively small park by African standards. However, it is surrounded by a wilderness of 20,000 km² including Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park just across the Zambezi River. Despite the actual park’s small size it is renowned for its excellent camps, superb guiding and some of the best walking and canoeing on the continent.
It is located in the remote reaches of North-west Zimbabwe. Access by road is difficult and almost impossible during the rains. However, it is well connected by air and combines very well with its larger neighbour Hwange and also Victoria Falls, both to the south.
As previously alluded to Mana Pools is an adventurers’ paradise. With so many activities on offer your only dilemma will be what to do next. Walking safari with some of the most experienced and accomplished guides in the whole of Africa operate in Mana Pools. Canoeing is also exceptional and is offered as a daily activity or as part of a longer expedition varying from 3 to 11 days. Game drives by day and night are also on offer rounding off a safari programme that offers such a variety of opportunities to view wildlife from different perspectives.
Wildlife abundance and diversity at Mana Pools is excellent and offers you a fantastic opportunity to view a huge variety of species without the company of the maddening crowds that blight some of the more well-known locations.
The park is perhaps most famous for its African wild dog populations and is without doubt one of the most reliable places in the world to see these charismatic but critically endangered canines. It is also recognised as the place to see huge bull elephants who have adapted to standing on their hind legs to reach vegetation in the trees.
There is a variety of ungulates including buffalo, hippopotamus, greater kudu, zebra, eland and impala who are kept alert by the park’s resident carnivores including the aforementioned wild dogs, lions, cheetah, leopard and spotted hyenas.
Notable absentees from the park include the giraffe, which like over the water in Lower Zambezi National Park, has never historically been present. The black rhinoceros is also absent through the more sinister actions of illegal poaching. For this reason Mana Pools can no longer be classed as a Big 5 safari destination.
Best Time To Visit
The climate of Mana Pools National Park can be simplified by dividing it into the dry season and wet season. It is very much a seasonal park with the overwhelming majority of camps only opening in the dry season. None of the camps we recommend open before April and are closed by mid-November at the very latest.
The dry season runs from April to October. It is at this time of year wildlife viewing is at its best. The season, as its name suggests, is characterised by blue skies and little to no rain. A perfect time to be on safari. As Zimbabwe is in the Southern Hemisphere this time of year is winter. The coolest months are July and August when night temperatures drop enough to necessitate warm clothing for early game activities. However, the sun quickly raises the mercury so expect to be enjoying temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius by lunch. Temperatures increase as the season draws on with October being extremely hot and dry.
Wildlife viewing is at its best in the dry season as the animals migrate towards the Zambezi and other permanent water sources. This makes game viewing much more reliable and predictable. The dry and parched landscape provides little cover for wildlife to hide and exposes them for easier game viewing. Large volumes and a wide diversity of wildlife can be seen together which makes for excellent photographic opportunities.
The prices are pretty uniform as the only real option to travel is the usually premium priced dry season. Tourist overcrowding is never a problem in Mana Pools as it is a true African wilderness.
The wet season, as its name rightfully suggests, is characterised by lots of rain. This makes travel into and around Mana Pools very difficult. Therefore, all the best camps used by us are closed at this time of year.
- Special Status: UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Location: Borders South Zambia and West Zimbabwe
- Height: 108 metres
- Width: 1708 metres
- Volume: 500 million litres per minute
- Did you know: Victoria Falls is recognised as the largest waterfall on earth due to having the largest curtain of falling water in the world.
- Bungee jumping
- Helicopter flights
- Microlight flights
- Devil’s pool swimming
- High wire activities (gorge swing, flying fox, zipline)
- Tandem skydiving
- Canoeing on the Zambezi River
- Sunset cruises on the Zambezi River
- Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park game drives & rhino tracking on foot
- Spectacular views of the world’s largest waterfall
- Take to the sky and view the falls from a unique vantage point
- Relax at one of the lodges or camps on the edge of the Zambezi
- Navigate the raging Zambezi on a white-water rafting trip of a lifetime
- Take to the water for a more gentle approach canoeing or on a sunset cruise
- Test your nerve for heights with a bungee jump
Mosi-oa-Tunya as it is known locally, or more commonly recognised as Victoria Falls, lives up to its Zambian name, it is quite literally The Smoke That Thunders.
It is amongst the most spectacular of earth’s waterfalls. A result of the contents of the Zambezi River, 2 km wide at this point, plunging over the rock face to produce spray that can be seen more than 20 kilometres away.
Victoria Falls is recognised as the largest waterfall in the world. Although it is neither the tallest nor the widest its combination of both these dimensions ensure it is the planet’s greatest sheet of falling water. An astonishing 500 million litres each minute pass over the precipice to continue its journey towards the Indian Ocean.
Visitors flock to this natural wonder of the world for obvious reasons. The sheer magnitude of the Zambezi River, the waterfall itself and the surrounding vegetation make for spectacular viewing. However, this area is also known for being a bit of an adventure playground with a huge variety of adrenaline-fuelled activities to keep you busy. There are of course much more relaxing ways of passing your time for those who want to relax before or after a safari.
The activities are highlighted above and can either be organised by your agent at Ultimate Wildlife Adventures or arranged locally upon arrival at your lodge or camp.
The Falls are easily accessible via the airports close to Livingstone in Zambia or the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. This ensures it is logistically easy to combine safari in these two countries with times at the Falls. The waterfall’s proximity to Northern Botswana ensures it is often combined with an overland safari. Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls works as an excellent combination.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit the spectacular Victoria Falls is dependent on what it is you personally want to gain from experiencing the world’s largest volume of falling water. In essence, there is no one time of year that offers you the best of everything the Falls has to offer. Each season, and indeed the months within each season, offers you a different experience. Therefore, we provide you with a balanced account throughout the year so you are able to make an informed decision on the best time to visit based on your personal interests.
As with all locations the climate is a huge consideration when deciding the best time to visit. Price of accommodations and the volume of other tourists is also important to most. A huge factor to consider when planning a trip to Victoria Falls is the water levels as this dictates the experience massively and also which activities are available.
The seasons at Victoria Falls are uniform with the surrounding game viewing parks with regards temperatures and rainfall. The wet season runs from November to April and is characterised by daily temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, daily rainfall and inevitably high humidity. November sees the start of the rains with December to February being the wettest months before a drop off in March and relatively little in April. May is somewhat a shoulder season before the onset of the long, dry winter beginning in June and running through to October. Here temperatures drop considerably to lows of around 7 degrees Celsius so warm clothing is advisable for evenings and early mornings. Temperatures quickly recover to 26 degrees during the day thanks to the reliable presence of the sun above clear skies.
The water level is obviously dictated by the rainfall and the ferocity of the water cascading over the Falls is largely dictated by rainfall ‘collected’ in the Zambezi River in the preceding months. Therefore, water levels are highest after the longest unbroken period of rainfall and lowest after long periods of dry weather.
The water level is at its lowest from October to December following the dry winter period. This really isn’t the greatest time to visit for those expecting to see Victoria Falls in all its might as the falling water is reduced to a relative trickle and may have even stopped cascading on the Zambian side. March to June are the months where water levels are at their highest, producing the spectacular show that one expects to see. Walking amongst the Falls is spectacular but expect a drenching. The Falls are spectacular by air and live up to their local name Mosi-oa-Tunya, The Smoke That Thunders, being visible from miles away. July to September sees a drop in water levels but this may be a good time to visit for those wanting a clearer view of the Falls to take photographs.
Activities are dictated by the water levels. White water rafting is seasonal and is divided into the low water rafting season and high water rafting season. The former runs from July to roughly mid-February and is the best time to visit as all the rapids can be navigated with excitement but safely. Mid-February until July is the high water season. Operations will still run at this time of year but the first 10 rapids are skipped as they are deemed too dangerous to navigate. In years of extreme water levels operations may cease in this period. Devils Pool and Livingstone Islands are also seasonal and only available in the lower water level months. Activities from the sky are arguably best when the Falls are at their most ferocious.
As with all locations the surrounding vegetation is at its most beautiful at the end of the rains and is reduced to an arid, dusty landscape by the end of the long dry season.
Visitor volume is at its greatest in the dry season months of June to October, peaking in July and August and this is reflected in the prices charged by the lodges and camps.