Friday, April 3, 2015

Jozibanini Camp - a safari adventure far off the grid in Hwange National Park

Mountain biking near Jozibanini Camp, Hwange
In March, Tad had the opportunity to explore the Jozibanini area of Hwange National Park, located in the remote southern section of the park, 120+ km from the nearest camp! Tad joined Imvelo Safari Lodges' director and former Hwange game ranger Mark Butcher, and several Imvelo guides and scouts for two adventurous days, opening up old park roads, repairing the Jozibanini water pump and scouting mountain bike trails in the area. Jozibanini Camp is scheduled to open in July 2015 (after about a year of delay due to the challenges of building a camp in such a remote area!).

Read on for the fascinating (and occasionally tragic) history of Jozibanini and how this new adventure camp came to be.

In the 1970's a ranger station was established at Jozibanini in the most remote southern section of Hwange National Park. Originally, it was sited there to provide a base for the rangers to manage this portion of the park, maintaining waterholes for the game and patrolling for poachers. In the early 2000's, the post was abandoned due to lack of funds and this wild and beautiful area was left without any eyes on the wildlife, either by tourists or rangers. . .

Then, in the fall of 2013, Hwange saw one of the worst incidents of elephant poaching in its history. Between 100-300 elephants were killed by drinking from waterholes laced with cyanide in the Jozibanini area. Stories abound online about this horrific act. What hasn't been told is that the local authorities responded swiftly and harshly. The majority of the perpetrators were apprehended, tried and sent to prison. This justice happened thanks in large part to the cooperation and assistance from the local communities near this part of the park, who rallied against the poachers.

Jozibanini pan
In an effort to stop future poaching incidents, Imvelo Safari Lodges has partnered with Zim Parks and these local communities to re-establish a permanent presence in this part of Hwange. Jozibanini Camp will start as a small exclusive 4-bed tented  'fly camp' under the Acacia trees overlooking Jozibanini pan (waterhole). Comprising high quality tents with en suite flush toilets and hot and cold bucket showers, it will be built on a raised deck behind an unobtrusive elephant proof barrier. The beds will be able to roll outside the tents onto the large front deck for an incredible star bed experience.

Jozibanini will be an adventurous 2 day add-on for guests from Bomani or Camelthorn Lodges. The transfer will be via an Imvelo "Pump Run" heading deep into the park and resupplying Hwange's waterholes along the way. Then instead of returning to Camelthorn or Bomani, the guests will continue onto Jozibanini for two nights. There is a nearby airstrip that is being restored for charter flight access if prefered.

Jozi Look Up blind
A second 'Look up Blind' is under construction beside waterhole. For serious photographers, bookings here should ideally be aligned over the 10 day period straddling the full moon as game viewing by moonlight from the underground blind will be an awesome experience.

Apart from some extremely wild country - this part of the park has never been visited by tourism - a large pack of Wild dog (about 22) den in the Jozi area (now named the "Jozi pack") and we are exploring several exciting new programs including mountain biking down the ancient elephant paths that run for miles and miles in this part of Hwange, and the restoration of the old Rangers house as a museum recording some of Hwange's fascinating past.

Exciting adventures to come, stay tuned!

Elephants in the late dry season at Jozi

Sunset over Jozi pan

Exploring elephants paths on mountain bikes near Jozi

One of the  many natural pans near Jozi
frequented by elephants and other game

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