Safari to Selous (Pt 1)

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WHEN I first heard it was possible to have a day’s safari adventure in the country, an hour-and-a-bit’s drive from Harare and that just US$89 covered the cost of getting there and back by a luxury state-of-the-art mini-bus, welcoming drinks and a jolly good slap-up lunch which, alone, would set you back US$35, plus teas and coffees, I silently resolved to try it as soon as possible.

Travel with Dusty Miller

I was totally amazed to learn that for an extra US$30 (bottom line US$109 per person per night) the safari package would also include a night’s accommodation in a thatched lodge of international standards, a fabulous dinner and early bird breakfast.

Bearing in mind that the venue for this real value-for-money package deal is the luxurious Pamuzinda Safari Lodge or its sister operation Chengeta Safari Lodge, both near Selous, just over 100km south of Harare, and this is certainly an offer few would refuse.

I certainly couldn’t say “no” when the publicist of Dunhu Ramambo, a travel and tourism holding company, whom, intriguingly, I only know as a disembodied voice at the other end of my cellphone who calls me, herself and everyone else in the world “Sweetie” rang and invited me to sample the deal, professionally.

No, Sweetie wasn’t included in the package!

I was told to RV at Rainbow Towers Hotel to be uplifted by Farai Dahwa, a professional guide with Pesha Safaris of Mount Pleasant and Kariba at 9:30 on Sunday morning (if you drive yourself it’s cheaper) and thought it would be a good idea to have an early breakfast at the hotel’s Harvest Garden restaurant.

Smoked salmon
And it would have been, except — even being very frugal: a little fresh fruit and yoghurt, Spanish omelette and some smoky haddock, one slice of toast with smoked salmon, apple juice and coffee — breakfast meant, sadly, I could do little justice to the fine Sunday lunch served at Selous.

Imagine what my appetite would have been like had I tucked into RTG’s cornucopia of oatmeal or mielie-meal porridge, imported cereals; bacon, sausages, liver, kidneys, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, sautéed potatoes; French bread, croissants,  muffins and pastries; cold meats and cheese;  jams, marmalades, honey, Marmite/Bovril/Oxo spreads; fruit salad, whole fresh fruit, tinned fruit, dried fruits?

Farai carried five “pax” to Selous, but I was the only one booked in to overnight there. We dropped one at Chengeta, and then swiftly proceeded to Pamuzinda. They obviously had good rains around Selous because the grass is still in good nick, nutritious, with plenty of growth and height. But then, since the loony land invasions, you don’t see an awful lot of beef cattle around to graze it!

Pamuzinda is a distinctive world-class safari lodge lying on the banks of the placid Serui River, which most lodges (including mine) overlook. The river has beautiful flowering lilies and is home to bream and bass, which visitors are encouraged to fish for from the banks, bass boat or canoe.

It also attracts aquatic birds in large numbers as do the various pans, streams and vleis in the two neighbouring estates.  Pamuzinda is currently on 5 000 acres (about 2 000 hectares) but will soon increase in size to 13 000 acres of prime unspoiled wildlife habitat.

The combined wildlife area of Chengeta and Pamuzinda should reach 20 000 acres of mainly rolling, well-watered msasa woodlands by 2014.

This is an outdoor-person’s heaven, with around 350 bird species having been spotted on the two estates, several in the “rare” or “seldom seen” categories and 38 African mammals making their permanent homes here.

Add masses of indigenous trees, shrubs, grasses, plants and flowers, reptiles, insects, including colourful butterflies and moths, fish and amphibious creatures and many folk with similar interests to me are happily “at home” far from where we usually lay our heads.

I’m also very much at my ease with the fine cooking served on a broad verandah overlooking the slowly meandering river after a pint or two in the friendly pub where fellow travellers try to outdo each other with bush stories and memories.

Piggy pet
And certainly one memory they’ll all take with them from Pamuzinda is of “Spike” a fully grown and fairly fearsome and ferocious-looking warthog.

This piggy pet (the Dobinson family, who are major shareholders in the tourism company, have owned him since he was a few days old, his mother having been killed by poachers) will demand his own pillow from the barman on duty, plonk it in front of the roaring log fire, plump it up to maximum comfort and then lay himself down in front of the flames to toast his grey, leathery flanks.

More next week, but if you can’t wait to go wild in Selous, book at your favourite travel agent or directly with the lodges: 0772 568 832; reservations@dunhuramabo.com; www.dunhuramambo.com
dustym@zimind.co.zw

(Dusty Miller was a guest of the Dobinson family at Pamuzinda and travelled there and back with Pesha Safaris.)