I’d forgotten how good it felt to be out in the African wild. I had begun a search for new landscapes, colors, tastes, smells and feels because the adventurer in me felt like I’d seen enough here at home. We often take for granted here in Zimbabwe, what others pay thousands of dollars for abroad. Being at Pamuzinda this last week reminded me why foreigners visiting Zimbabwe find every cent worth it.
The sadness I felt when leaving Pamuzinda and waving Jasmin the giraffe goodbye was silly but so real. In two days the semi tame animal had taken over a significant portion of my heart. This trip was a solo birthday celebration and knowing that Jasmin would likely not live past thirty (around my age) made me sad. Learning that it was her favorite food – Acacia leaves and their thorns that would eventually cause her blindness – (the thorns poke her eyes sometimes as she eats causing cataracts), and as a result, certain death made me really really sad. I felt a lot of different emotion towards the animals I met on this trip and that sadness paled in comparison to the sense of deep awe and the bursting and pure childish happiness I felt throughout the rest of the trip. Animals will give you that; pure unconditional joy. I was sad to leave Jasmin behind.
First you’re shocked that she even comes around humans, with all her grace and powerful elegance and beauty. Then you’re captivated by her responsiveness; the way she knows her name, the way she responds to it even when called by a stranger and the way her huge pretty eyes will turn your way and simply stare, as if listening to you and getting to know you too. It becomes a trip highlight – the unexpected leap of joy you feel in your heart when you walk out of your room in the morning and see her munching quietly at a tree just two meters away, or when Shephard the man who hand raised her walks by and she immediately turns to follow him, bowing her long graceful neck as if to kiss him. They have an amazing relationship. She follows him almost everywhere, and if you’re there long enough she may take an interest in you like she did in me. What a beautiful thing. So beautiful that from the moment you arrive you unintentionally sign out of all the responsibilities, work and problems that you were working out in your mind on the short drive to Pamuzinda Safari Lodge. It helps that the mobile network out there isn’t so great because you temporarily lose the obsessive, semi-toxic relationship you have with your phone when you realise you’ll only be reachable online when within the lodgings vicinity and connected to their Wi-Fi via the Wi-Fi vouchers provided to guests on arrival. Initially it annoyed me that I have to re- connect repeatedly but later I appreciated the hassle because it made me consider first whether I really needed to disrupt the serenity by being online. The answer was often no. Once you notify the important people (work, home, next of kin) where you are and how to reach you in emergencies ( the landline network works perfectly fine) I advise that you tap out and allow yourself to fully soak into all the relaxation this destination will offer you. Do connect and check your phone periodically but don’t let it steal your peace or cause you to miss the priceless moments you will no doubt encounter here.
Pamuzinda is just over an hour away from Harare out along the Bulawayo road with only two or so kilometers of dust road journey that is in very good condition and any car will get you there safely. I knew very little about it until I came across it on Mbuso travels‘ Instagram page, they promote very many hidden local gems and I’ll definitely be booking more trips with them. I appreciated the personal attention and important tips I received from their sales team. It’s the important things like patience with me while I played around with my dates changing them to suit my schedule; and the little things like verifying my dietary requirements beforehand and advising that I carry a pair of binoculars to make the safari experience that much more interesting. You need that kind of booking agent on any trip and their service has me sure to book with them again.
Pamuzinda is the perfect destination for a solo excursion, a romantic getaway, a weekend breather with some friends or a family holiday. It’s all signature thatch, bursts of green with meticulously manicured lawns, creepers (my favorite) and plants on arrival. Almost like an oasis in the middle of the dry golden bush-veld common in many parts of Zimbabwe during winter season.
Pamuzinda is made up of 13 beautifully designed units with balconies all overlooking the Serui river and once you enter your room you are thrown into a mildly exotic African experience with bamboo covered ceilings, hand beaded wall lamps, pretty wooden headboards and beautifully designed steel furniture. A bedroom bench with animal skin covering, a centre table and mosaic decorated outdoor chairs and table on the balcony. I’m a keen eye when it comes to design and architecture and I must admit that although typical in the materials used – the rooms are stylish, cool and relaxing. You definitely feel like you’re out of town and in the wild but more than comfortable still. When I got into bed I studied the ceiling a bit closer, same as I did while showering before bed. The bamboo sticks are tied together to create a flat mat effect which is then laid across as a ceiling. I noted that there were gaps in them and my over active insect and lizard phobic mind begun to wonder what creepy crawlies might lay within those gaps. Thoughts of comparison to international destinations, of ‘good’ finish and so on then entered my mind; but in the same moment were dismissed by the realization that this very ceiling was likely handmade; of real bamboo by a real person with a real life, job, family to feed and vocation to live off. I’m pretty sure the owners of this place had the means to import some bamboo look alike from some factory in another continent – machine made, perfectly straight with no gaps- but they didn’t. I think I literally physically shook my head (at my “brainwashedness”) and smiled to myself realizing that in traveling abroad to much more developed nations and admiring the phenomenal strides they’ve made in infrastructure and development, I’d lost a very important part of myself – the appreciation for human touch. It’s like we’re at odds. Those from the developed world are paying thousands for the embrace of natural untouched and human made environment and the beautiful stories hidden within. While those who have grown up surrounded by nature are yearning for the clinically flawless experience of the model precision of the machine made world and the fascinating conveniences it has to offer.
The room feels like a little escape. You’re on your own from the moment you enter and shut the door behind you. There are plenty views and outdoor accesses but it’s total seclusion and privacy on every side. On entering my room had windows all along the left side, from them I could see the prettiest nook ever. Green plants and ivy all around, blossoming tree branches hanging in low and a relaxation pad on which I did my stretches early the next morning. There’s a pretty little stair case leading down from the room and up to the mat for that added enchanting experience. Bedside the mat there’s a spacious outdoor shower, covered in stone and open on the one side because it’s completely private. Hats off, this place is so well designed.
Back in the room there’s a sliding glass doors across the front to give you a view overlooking the river below from the comfort of your bed. I loved being able to get undressed with the curtains, windows and doors wide open with only a gentle breeze as my companion and nature as my only observer. Do leave them closed when you go out though, there’s little wild monkeys that will likely pinch your things if they find the room open and unoccupied. It’s cool during the day but chilly at night so carry warm PJs and do opt for the hot water bottle offered at dinner.
When you exit the glass sliding doors onto your balcony you will no doubt stop and stare. It “doesn’t feel like Zim” but this is because we haven’t taken the time to explore the beauties of Zim. It’s something out of a movie; rich thick greens starting on the river edge below and rising high into the sky. Beautiful water lilies, stunning birds you’ll never see in the city, gigantic lizards and you won’t believe me but I saw a crocodile in there too. Still as a log first but then a minute or so later as if realizing I wouldn’t leave until I confirmed its presence it lazily swung around, begun a slow shallow swing as is swam right past my balcony and off towards the main river! I have it captured on camera so be sure to watch the Pamuzinda episode on my Youtube channel @misschiriseri. After than I couldn’t help but sit on the pretty mosaic decorated metal chairs provided and search the river side for more creatures. By the way the canoe ride is in the very same river. I wasn’t sure I would take the ride after seeing the croc in there but Canaan my amazing guide reassured me that he is “harmless” lol. That crocs never attack boats and that they only go for stuff in the water. Um yea – very comforting I know. God forbid I ever find myself IN THE WATER!! He also told me the craziest story – he told me that they’d once had a guest who upon seeing the croc lazing on the river bank had – get this – jumped into the water towards the croc to CHASE it … I have no idea what kind of madness this is and I know I will never ever in my lifetime understand it but what’s more interesting Canaan says, is that the croc dived into the water and swam away as fast as it could go! I laughed so hard!! Imagine that. That story definitely made me feel better, I won’t be chasing crocs but I’m a little less afraid.
Canaan has been with Pamuzinda for 9 years but has over 29 years’ experience working with animals and guiding tours from more than 7 different companies around southern Africa. He is a walking animal encyclopedia; even knows every bird and the cry it makes. He knows the weight of a giraffe’s heart (12kgs) and how long monitoring lizard can swim in water before they get tired. His solid soothing voice, greying eyebrows and soft fatherly face made the safari and canoe rides feel a little like a walk in the park with my grandpa. There was no question he couldn’t answer and while I was fascinated with his wealth of experience and knowledge he was openly fascinated by me and my photographer’s youth, our use of technology and the way things have changed since he was a child. We talked openly about many things and I truly enjoyed my time with him. We were lucky enough to see many giraffes, buffalos (powerful, brave and bold creatures that also happen to be my family’s totem), wildebeests – which he called the ugly 5 shaaa poor things, lol. We also saw Seseboks, Blesboks and antelopes among other animals. His eye sight is amazing and he would spot the animals long before I did and wait patiently for me to catch up. You will learn so much on the guided tours because they are done by people with a true love for the industry and the animals. My love for horse riding was reignited when I rode Loli the horse with Jasmin the giraffe in tow. Apparently Jasmine thinks she is a horse too! Watch my Instagram highlights for the upclose and personal videos it’s an experience that I can’t fully put into words. You will become an animal lover even if you thought you were not. You will meet rocky the pet warthog and the ginger cat who loves the fire place as much as I do. You will eat delicious wholesome and super filling meals, you will be surrounded by warm, happy and helpful staff and unless you have stayed more than two nights you will definitely plan a return trip to Pamuzinda Safari lodge because it’s simply worth it.
Even right in the middle of winter the weather was beautifully kind throughout the day; warm temperatures as soon as the sun was fully up. I was there for just two days and so I didn’t get to soak up the sunset from my balcony, swim in the sparkling blue pool or have a sundowner on the restaurant deck. Frankly I was exhilarated and refreshed from the two days away but exhausted when I got home. I would plan it so I had two days full of activities and then a full day of rest and relaxation (including another canoe ride) on the last day.
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