Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe: Elephant RoundDecember 6, 2018
Beks Ndlovu from Zimbabwe left his swimming pool in the Somalisa Camp to the elephant after the opening. Only a few meters away, he has built a new one for the guests – with the best views.
Anatomically speaking, the elephant has more in common with humans than with other animals. And also the preferences of both species seem to resemble each other. In the far west of Zimbabwe, a stretch of land withered away many months of the year, humans and elephants fall into an unexpected conflict of interest in an unexpected place: at the Somalisa Camp swimming pool
In the sparse grass savanna of Hwange National Park, around the camp, eat impala antelope, kudu, springbok, buffalo, giraffe and elephant. Also all big cats are found here. In 2007, on a concession in the park, Zimbabwean Beks Ndlovu opened the camp of canvas tents, with running hot and cold water, viewing terrace. And with a swimming pool, which should provide cooling in the dry season between May and October.
His pool, however, Ndlovu had to clear quickly. Only a few weeks after the opening, elephants had taken him over. “The animals prefer fresh water like humans, and the more muddy the natural waterholes in the park become in the dry season, the more elephants arrive,” says Ndlovu. The lodge operator finally left the animals to the pool. “Because we built our lodge on their land.”
A bath with elephant
However, humans and animals have not refreshed themselves in the same water since then, that would be too dangerous. Instead, Ndlovu built a new pool for his guests – slightly elevated, overlooking the barely eight meters away elephant pool. Only when no guests are present, Ndlovu climbs to the pachyderms in the water. Often the animals are only a few inches away from him.
Beks Ndlovu is the icon of tracking in his country – and probably one of the most sought-after men in his field in Africa. The Zimbabwean began as a little boy in front of his parents’ house. For hours he pursued the elephants who harvested the ripe fruit on the mango tree in front of the house.
When, at the age of twelve, a friendly ranger took him on a stalking trip, it was all about Ndlovu. He just wanted to become one more: guide. After just two and a half years, most apprentices needed four, he graduated and hired a safari company. In 1997, Ndlovu was just 21, the Zimbabwean Hunter and Safari Guide Association voted him the best guide on the Zambezi.
A model for the future Zimbabwe
The acquaintances he had met on safari were the ones who gave him the money in 2007 to acquire the concession for Somalisa. The company now owns more than a dozen camps in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia, has nearly 400 employees and a safari logistics company with its own airline.
The circumstances were anything but favorable: When the despot Robert Mugabe began in 2000 to chase white farmers out of the country and divide their property under his government clan, it came to mass exodus. In addition to agriculture, tourism also collapsed.
But Ndlovu could not have chosen a better moment to gain a foothold in tourism than in the absolute lows. Since the removal of Mugabe in November 2017 and the presidential elections in July 2018, many are also hoping for a tourist upswing.
The 41-year-old is proud of his safari empire. When you enter his office in Victoria Falls, you see black and white, Shona and the long-suppressed Ndebele working peacefully side by side – under a Ndebele. Ndlovu’s company could be something of a model for the Zimbabwe of the future. This is one of the reasons why many friends suggest one day to go into politics.
In his camps you will not find pomp, but rustic wooden furniture and stylish English tea sets. But does it really need a pool in this arid area? “In Hwange it gets very hot in summer, so it’s nice to cool down,” says Ndlovu. “The guests do not expect that, it’s more of a bonus.”
And what a: On a single afternoon in the dry season come and go to Ndlovus pool up to 200 elephants, so the Zimbabweans has counted.
From 1020 euros, for example, with South African Airways (www.flysaa.com) from Berlin via Frankfurt and Johannesburg to Victoria Falls.
The visa is issued upon entry for the equivalent of about 26 euros. The passport must be valid for six months beyond the date of departure.
In Zimbabwe there is a subtropical climate with muggy and hot southern summers (November to March) and with dryness and a pleasant 25 degrees daytime temperature in the south winter (April to October).
African Bush Camps has 13 camps in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. An overnight stay in the Somalisa Camp in Hwange National Park costs depending on the season from 430 euros per person (www.africanbushcamps.com).
In the rainy season between November and March you should protect yourself against malaria. Also important: protection against hepatitis A and B. Watch out for drinking water hygiene!
Zimbabwe Tourism, www.zimbabwetourism.net; Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe, www.zimembassyberlin.com
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