Natural beauty, untouched wilderness and unlimited adventure – that’s what Zimbabwe promises overlanders. But in recent times the country has fallen off the traveller map. Now three adventurers are tackling an epic 4×4 trip to show others where to find the best experiences. Expedition Zimbabwe is a circuit of the country’s iconic wilderness areas – and you’re invited.
Mana Pools. Lake Kariba. Hwange. Just the mention of these names is enough to spark wanderlust in the heart of any overlander. But for far too long, Zimbabwe didn’t top many bucket lists. Some self-drivers find the idea of exploring Zimbabwe a bit daunting. Others don’t know just how much there is to see. That is set to change with Expedition Zimbabwe, a 5,000km overlanding adventure that will culminate in a captivating documentary.
Departing on 12 August, three adventurous Zimbabweans will take the road less travelled to unearth the top experiences. They will explore some of Zimbabwe’s wildest and most remote destinations, taking in all the national parks. Their goal is to show other overlanders what immense natural splendour, rugged wildness and fascinating culture there is to enjoy. Along the way, they will also gather vital traveller information so other overlanders can follow in their tracks.
Making up the Expedition Zimbabwe team are Graeme Sharp, Buck O’Donoghue and Joanna Craig. The first Zimbabwean to finish the Dakar Rally on a motorbike, Graeme is also the founder of Overland Adventure Consultants. Photographer Buck and writer Jo are the filmmakers of the award-winning documentary Gonarezhou, Return of the Rhino. Between the three of them, they combine overlanding ability, wilderness insight and the joy of storytelling. You couldn’t ask for better guides to Zimbabwe.
Tracks4Africa asked Graeme to tell us more about the expedition.
What is the inspiration for Expedition Zimbabwe?
Firstly, we hope to get a clearer picture of what Zimbabwe holds for the 4×4 purist, explorer and adventurer. I believe the country has all the key ingredients for a real overlanding adventure. Our aim is to put Zimbabwe back on the map as a safe, diverse and must-see destination.
Secondly, we plan to build on a tourism effort led by the Zimbabwe Professional Guides Association. Their goal is to facilitate an easier and more accessible visitor experience for self-drivers. This involves public and private sector initiatives to streamline border formalities, roadblock and toll clearances, fuel access, and medical and evacuation support. Part of this is an updated accommodation register specifically suited to self-drive adventurers. We hope to release more info on this in the coming months.
Finally, after the pandemic, many people have re-evaluated what’s important in their lives. Our view of freedom, connection, wilderness and adventure has been challenged. So there is certainly an element of connection and re-evaluation for the expedition team. We’ll be doing something we love in our own country, which we haven’t had the freedom to explore for some time.
How will Expedition Zimbabwe be collaborating with Tracks4Africa?
Over the years, we have found that there aren’t sufficiently frequent and reliable updates on road and travel conditions for Zimbabwe. Countries like Botswana, Namibia and South Africa enjoy considerably more detailed info. This is largely due to a combination of comparatively fewer visitors and limited amounts of local knowledge making its way back to the Tracks4Africa database.
So we have teamed up with Tracks4Africa to assist in capturing updated travel information within Zimbabwe. We will look at road and route conditions, accommodation, driving time and other key info. Essentially whatever helps inform safe and enjoyable travel through Zimbabwe for the self-drive 4×4 enthusiast. There is going to be a particular focus on the national parks, wilderness areas and other tourist attractions.
[For overlanders this wealth of travel data means that a dedicated Tracks4Africa Zimbabwe paper map and guide book are in the pipeline. We’ll keep you posted here!]
What does your route entail?
The plan is for Expedition Zimbabwe to kick off in Kariba before heading west through the Matusadona and Chizarira national parks. Then a visit to Victoria Falls is on the cards. The first leg will also include Zambezi and Hwange national parks. After travelling to Kazuma Pan, the expedition will head to Matobo, Tuli and Great Zimbabwe. The southernmost stop will be Gonarezhou National Park. The expedition will then explore the Eastern highlands of Chimanimani, Bvumba and Nyanga. The last stretch will cover Chewore and Sapi, before finishing up at Mana Pools.
For the most part, the route we have chosen is a guideline. From previous experience, gained during my long-distance Dakar training in northern Zimbabwe, nothing is set in stone. It’s safe to say that a route on paper differs significantly from a route on the ground. There are cases where bridges may have been washed away and roads overgrown. So there is a big element of the unknown and there will certainly be ample adventure and discovery along the way. Because the navigation and road conditions are more uncertain, we will need to allow for detouring and route adjustments. But that is what this trip is all about: taking the road less travelled.
Also read: 10 reasons to self-drive Zimbabwe
What are your hopes for the trip?
Our goal is to travel as organically as possible with no prescribed itinerary in terms of date. Trips of this magnitude through remote areas need to unfold naturally at their own pace. A calm, cool-headed approach to each kilometre will enable a natural immersion into the journey. We have an opportunity to capture the true rhythm of Africa out there and share this as we go along. We want to highlight key personalities, cultures and attractions along the way in a unique ‘over the bonnet style’ documentary.
Read more: Get to know the team behind Expedition Zimbabwe.