This is one of ZIM4x4's favourite areas. The Zambezi Valley east of Mana Pools, and the surrounding terrain, offer some of Zimbabwe's most exciting places and experiences for 4x4 owners. Some of it is so-called 'communal land', but it is often very wild, and managed for wildlife by local communities.
There are some surprisingly good wildlife populations, but the area also has many other attractions such as rugged scenery, fossil deposits including dinosaur trackways, sacred forests and other cultural sites, fishing, and the chance to explore little-known and little-used tracks and routes with more freedom than within the Parks estate.
Mavuradonha Wilderness Area
The 500sq km Mavuradonha Wilderness area lies in Muzarabani district, approximately 100km north of Harare, and is a community-managed conservation scheme, generating income for local projects including schools and clinics.
Mavuradonha is well worth a visit. The wilderness area is uninhabited, and consists mainly of wild and rugged Zambezi escarpment hills and gorges It holds small populations of local wildlife including elephants, lions, zebra and sable, but the Mavuradonha's biggest attraction is its scenery and `wilderness quality`. Our favourite camping area is at Kopje Tops Camp, in wild and rugged coiuntry at the western end of the Mavuradonha.
The Doma Hills lie within the hills south of the Zambezi escarpment, about 180km north of Harare. We have pioneered a route that will take our clients through some very remote, rugged and definitely 4 x 4 terrain, down the Zambezi Escarpment to the wildlife country of the Zambezi Valley. This route is only passable at certain times of year, depending on river levels, track condition, and fire hazards. We have exclusive arrangements with concessionnaires and hunting camps to traverse the area, use their facilities, and 'camp wild' if it becomes necessary.
Fossil outcrops occur throughout much of the area, including the well-known `fossil forest` a short distance from Angwa Bridge. However, there is also a little-known but deeply impressive dinosaur trackway in the bed of the Ntumbe River, which lies just inside the Chewore Safari Area near Mkanga Bridge. Should we visit the trackways, we would overnight at a secluded, basic (no ablutions or toilets) but very pleasant private campsite on the Mkanga River.
Kapirinengu lies at S15 37 33 E29 53 39, on the confluence of the Zambezi and Chewore rivers. It is an exceptionally lovely spot, reminiscent of a 'mini-Mana Pools, with riverine floodplains and spacious stands of Acacia albida on the river terraces. Kapirinengu does not have such large wildlife concentrations as Mana Pools, and the available track network is restricted, but even so the game-viewing can be good during the dry season.
However, Kapirinengu is mainly famous for the quality of its tigerfishing. Unlike much of the Middlke Zambezi, there is no human habitation for many kilometres, either on the Zambian or Zimbabwean banks of the Zambezi, and Kapirinengu has not been subjected to the overfishing that is rife in some other popular fishing venues. We'd stay at Kapirinengu Camp, which has recently been refurbished and rebuilt and has excellent ablutions and other facilities. Mkanga Bridge and Kapirinengu both lie inside the famous Middle Zambezi Valley World Heritage Site, which also includes Mana Pools.
Tengenenge Sculpture Community
The Tengenenge Sculpture Community is the 'home' of Zimbabwean stone sculpture, lying in the shadow of the Great Dyke (a highly mineralised geological feature, holding large reserves of platinum and chrome) and mainly utilising the Dyke serpentines as its raw material. Established many years ago by Tom Blomfield, Tengenenge is within easy reach of Kopje Tops Camp and well worth visiting if you are interested in genuine sculpture and art.
Community-managed wildlife schemes and sport hunting are a hot topic, including the Mavuradonha and Doma areas. Does it pay for itself? Do rural communities really benefit? Does it genuinely help conservation? And if so, what about elephants injuring villagers and raiding their crops? There are also many other important issues in the Eastern Valley area, including oil and gas exploration, potential platinum, chrome and nickel mining, and tsetse fly eradication.
ZIM4X4 RECOMMENDATION: Our Eastern Zambezi Valley routes through the Zambezi Escarpment are great ways to reach venues such as Mana Pools, and also some of Zimbabwe's prime tigerfishing areas in the Chewore or Kanyemba areas.
Depending on river levels and other factors, they can include such areas as the wild and rugged Doma or Mavuradonha Wilderness area; visits to cultural sites; and the famous dinosaur trackways near Mkanga Bridge.
We usually take two days (sometimes more) over these routes, and may stay at Kopje Tops Camp in the western Mavuradonha, Doma Safari Lodge, the basic but very wild Bird Camp on the Mkanga River, or at Kapirinengu Camp on the Zambezi River.