Why book an African Safari (Especially Now)? Read More

Changing Conservation: Gonarezhou

Gonarezhou is the second biggest national park in Zimbabwe but chances are you’ve never heard of it. Tucked away in the country’s south-east lowlands, it’s a wildlife reserve with all the animals you’d expect – elephants, lions, hippo, buffalo – but it’s also the place where a revolution in conservation was born.

Aerial view of Gonarezhou National Park

The magnificent Chilojo Cliffs are just part of the sweeping Gonarezhou landscape.

We first need to backtrack to the 1980s when the wildlife of Gonarezhou and neighbouring communities were at war with each other. This is a tough part of Zimbabwe – rough, wild country and an unpredictable climate. Villagers would despair when hungry elephants destroyed their crops or baboons raided their houses for food. Local counter-measures – shooting the ‘problem’ animals – served only to bring in anti-poaching forces, exacerbating the problem and deepening the community’s hostility towards wild animals.

Elephant conservation in Zimbabwe Gonarezhou

Once feared, Gonarezhou’s elephants are now a source of income for local communities.

That all changed with the introduction of a new conservation strategy. Convinced that conservation cannot happen without community buy-in, Clive Stockil, an experienced local conservationist, argued that the local communities had to benefit directly and tangibly from the tourism that Gonarezhou and its animals attracted. The concept was called CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources) and it was a significant departure from the standard model of wildlife reserves which were simply fenced-off areas aggressively defended from everyone except fee-paying visitors.

Community led conservation

Balancing wildlife conservation with community needs has led to improvements for both.

By the early 1990s things had transformed dramatically. Funds from the park had enabled the building of the community’s first school. Such was this impact that the number of arrests for poaching fell tenfold within a year. A corn mill followed, and then a clinic and a police station and now it would be fair to say that local culture, wildlife and tourism all thrive at Gonarezhou, a state of affairs that won Stockil the Prince William Award for Conservation in 2013. A further partnership with the Frankfurt Zoological Society ensures future sustainability.

Rhino conservation in Zimbabwe Gonarezhou Park

Drawing on science & local expertise allows Gonarezhou to lead ambitious conservation projects.

But what of the park itself? A dramatic landscape of rolling wooded savannah, winding rivers and sandstone cliffs, Gonarezhou means ‘place of elephants’ and it’s well-named: this reserve has one of the highest densities of elephants in any conservation area across the continent. It’s also home to several packs of endangered African Wild Dog, and has recently seen the re-introduction of the critically endangered Black Rhino. Gonarezhou is renowned for its range of antelope species and its riverine forest is the haunt of the leopard. Add over 400 bird species and you have one of the most richly diverse conservation areas in Southern Africa.

Wild dogs conservation in Zimbabwe Gonarezhou

One of the continent’s rarest carnivores, African wild dogs are a highlight at Gonarezhou.

Ideally combined with Zimbabwe’s more familiar destinations such as Victoria Falls, Gonarezhou is well off the beaten track. You’ll need to fly in, and in our opinion there’s only one place to stay: Chilo Lodge, founded by – of course – Clive Stokil.

Aerial view of Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge

Chilo Lodge takes advantage of its lofty location to offer amazing views.

Comfortably set on riverside cliffs, Chilo Lodge offers game drives as well as walking safaris, fly-camping and cultural experiences. Your canvas-and-thatch accommodation has river views and its own bathroom. For larger, independent-minded groups, Chilo has a private camp located a short distance away, complete with its own pool and a six-sleeper family chalet.

View from the safari chalet

Good Morning Gonarezhou: sunrise makes its way into a Chilo Lodge chalet.

Hands-on Expertise

  • We’re based in Africa
  • Consultants Travel in Africa
  • Knowledgeable team
  • Expect great customer service

Accredited & Bonded

  • SATSA – Bonded Membership (2061)
  • Travel Save Compliant Certificate
  • Fully Independent & Owner Run
  • Travel Support from Start to Finish

Reviews

Karina was absolutely instrumental to our safari success.

Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

Chris (USA)
Professional, quick and top of the edge service!!!

From the very first contact we’re very happy about the respond time and quality of information from safari-online.com. Based on the received first tailor-made quote, which is a weblink with all the details about the flights, photos of the lodges etc. we knew that this is “our” partner for this trip. Our expectations were excelled!!!

Lukas (Germany)
An incredibly well organised tour with no hassles whatsoever.

Safari Online understood our needs and was able to present us with sensible options to choose from. It was evident that this tour operator has knowledgable and experienced agents who can arrange a seemless tour. We were provided with a professional online itinary which was comprehensive and easy to use, knew exactely what to expect, and encountered no stumble blocks along the way.

Gwen (AU)
Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)
Safari Online were extremely efficient and absolutely charming to work with.

Our 28-day itinerary took us to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. A magnificent and unforgettable adventure. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently from the flights, transfers, rides, connections, etc. Absolutely wonderful! Can’t thank them enough!

Ann and Mario (Canada)
Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

Roger (UK)
Professional, patient, efficient and responsive. Met all our travel needs and requirements spot on

Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

Neena
Very helpful good suggestions for holiday ideas always available for questions good organising

Excellent service and they supplied good suggestions for our holiday they also organised all internal flights and arranged check in for us so we had no worries while on holiday. We have had a most memorable holiday staying at wonderful places thanks to Sabrina and Safari Online. Would recommend Safari Online to organise your holiday.

Lorraine (UK)
Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

It was a safari of a lifetime and exceeded all of our expectations!

Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

Heather (USA)