Friday, August 7, 2015

Jozibanini Camp in Hwange is now open!

Sunset at Jozibanini Camp, Hwange
Over the last year, we've written a lot about Imvelo Safari Lodges' little-camp-that-could Jozibanini. 

While the original plan was to open last summer, the challenges of building a new camp in such a remote location - Jozi is over 100km from any other camp - were daunting. Water pumps broke repeatedly. The truck transporting the 25 foot shipping container for the Jozi Look Up blind got stuck in the sand. And the heavy rains last green season made access impossible. 

Work was restarted after the rains in March and the camp welcomed its first guests last week! Mark Butcher wrote the following about their experience:
Since we first took on the Jozibanini project I have been very worried that we had let emotion get in the way of clear thinking. My memories of Jozi were always that it was the place in Hwange with a ton of elephant and that its remoteness was very special - but was it too far for safari?

Of course we were proud going back in there re-establishing the footprint on the ground in a forgotten and abandoned part of Hwange, scene of the worst elephant poaching incident in our history. But with patrolling and the water supplies abandoned there, the wildlife was probably gone. So were we making a mistake by trying to open a camp?
I have just come back from guiding our first two groups of guests there. And the news is we have quite literally knocked it out of the park. The simple camp is a perfect fit for Jozi and the wildlife is back and in abundance!  
Ele's at an arm's length from the Jozi Look Up blind
Last Friday afternoon at Jozi was probably the most magnificent wildlife experience I have ever had. I don't say that lightly. [Editors's note: This is coming someone with 30+ years as a Professional Guide and Hwange Park Ranger under his belt. Enough said!] The Look Up blind that Martinus went to so much trouble to drag in there, that we positioned and tweaked based on all our experiences at Stoffie's Look Up blind - is perfect : more elephant, much closer to the water, with sun from behind and elephants against blue sky, and then the huge drama at Jozi between the huge bulls and parched herds that come from the west - we didn't want to leave all afternoon. 
The second group I took down to Jozi also had a really superb mix of experiences:
  • Great pump run down with lunch at Mpisi pan amongst the elephants 
  • a short and then a long afternoon in the Look Up with elephants jostling for water
  • tracking a big buffalo herd on foot 
  • two mountain bike rides both west and then east from camp with elephant 
  • nighttime full moon where we watched and listened to wildlife around the camp all night
  • and then great pump run home with lunch at Mfagazaan pan to arrive at Camelthorn in time to nip over onto the Bomani concession for our lions there! 
They had two nights and three days of safari that they will never forget.
Add to this to these huge safari/wildlife successes with the things we wanted to achieve by gambling with the Jozi project: 
  1. Provide an economic incentive to provide water to the thirsty herds in the remote south of the park. The first group were due to only leave Bomani for Jozi for one night on Tuesday, but Monday morning I received news that three pumps enroute to Jozi were down with no water and many hundreds of elephant milling about. We asked the guests to move forward their pump run to Jozi by a day which we did, and by sundown all three of those pumps were working - the fact that we had guests going to Jozi made that pump run possible that provided immediate relief to the thirsty herds. Score 1.
  2. Then on their pump run home, we checked in with the pump attendants at Secheche pan to find they had spotted tracks of two suspect characters pushing a bicycle, clearly up to no good 20 km inside the park. I hit the satphone and called in cavalry from Main Camp, and the rangers and anti-poaching team arrived hours later got onto their fresh tracks fast and apprehended the individuals. Our simple presence on the ground had ensured a successful reaction within hours rather than an unsuccessful one within days. Score 2.
Jozi isn't right for everyone. There are seasonality issues, the camp is very simple and wild and it is a long way to get out there. But the experience for the right kind of guests is unparalleled. 
I kept a week free in my August schedule to spend time with my family in their school hols  ... guess where we're going?

Mountain biking safaris from Jozi
Jozi tents
Walking safari from Jozi
Ele's at the Jozi waterhole

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