Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe
Picture yourself cooking dinner whilst sitting around the campfire. You can hear the hippos grunting from the shore, the chorus of the insects and the wood crackling in the fire. In the distance a large shadow appears out of the surrounding darkness and it takes you several seconds before you can recognise what animal is approaching. It’s one of the largest elephant bulls you have ever seen; it walks closer and closer, you are definitely what caught its interest. The elephant walks within five meters of you and the campfire, he stands there for what seems like an eternity, before blowing the dust on the ground with his trunk, turning and disappearing back into the blanket of darkness. Imagine being that close to a wild elephant, acting as a beautiful gentle giant, just investigating the new arrivals in his home. This is Tashinga campsite in Matusadona National Park.
Matusadona National Park has a slightly different appeal from other parks, although it has all the predators and even several relocated Black Rhinos, the bush can be very thick and spotting animals whilst driving through the park can be difficult. However the journey and wild campsite experience at Tashinga are what makes this National Park one of my favourites throughout the whole of Africa.
The Tashinga campsite is on a peninsula with a 270 degree view of Lake Kariba. There are striking white trees in the lake due to the man-made hydroelectric dam that was built in the late 1950’s. This flooded an area housing a forest of Leadwood trees, making a wonderfully eerie landscape and we had the campsite, maybe even the whole national park to ourselves. Surprisingly in such a remote location there are hot water showers, built barbeque areas and a nice selection of trees providing shade. It is the perfect place to relax after the extreme off-roading it requires to drive there.
The journey to Tashinga campsite through Matusadona National Park was one of the craziest routes I have ever driven and probably one of the most bone shaking for my passengers. Even the 4 x 4 Pajero struggled with parts of this journey, driving over river beds needed lots of concentration to find the most accessible route. Descending 700m down towards Lake Kariba will test even the best 4x 4 vehicles, trying to slowly lower the car down massive boulders and not hit the undercarriage is almost impossible. I couldn’t believe the terrain I was driving over. One annoyance of this journey were the horseflies that swarmed the car and administered their painful bites, as soon as we had got rid of them another swarm would enter the car.
It is only 80km from the entrance of the park to Tashinga, but this will take at least 3 or 4 hours and you will be shaken like no other journey. If all of this sounds too much, there is a ferry that sails to and from Kariba, however last year only one ferry was in use, it came just once a week from Kariba and was not cheap. Also remember to take enough food, drinking water and petrol with you on this trip, there are no shops, although for a very inflated price petrol was available to buy from the headquarters in case you miscalculated and ran out.
For a totally off the beaten track adventure, with challenging driving, a beautifully isolated campsite and potentially close encounters with wildlife, Matusadona is the place to go.
For camping and general information on Matusadona National Park: