Any journey into the heart of Gonarezhou begins with the realisation that this is wild country. It is one of Africa’s last remaining pristine wildernesses and we are all privileged to be a visitor here. The animals are in their most natural state at Gonarezhou; these are no lazy photographic models, hassled by a constant cavalcade of jeeps, radioing one another in their relentless pursuits. This is a country of red sandstone, thorny scrub and baobabs. Buffalo gather at watering holes, big cats prowl silently in pursuit of painted impala, hippo wallow midstream attended by squadrons of fluttering birds. The presence of elephants is everywhere; on the earth and the vegetation, as their families travel along routes passed from one matriarch to another in search of food, safety, and water. A panorama of birdlife gathers at Tembahata and Machanu Water Pans, a flying, wading tumult of colour, while the wonders of Chilojo Cliffs and Chivilila Falls reveal the glories of the unique landscape.
Three rivers run through Gonarezhou National Park; the Mwenezi to the west, the Runde through its heart, and the Save forming its eastern boundary. At over 5,000 km², it is the second largest National Park in Zimbabwe, cutting a swathe of sandstone cliffs, scrub and baobab trees along the country’s southeastern border with Mozambique. Largely undiscovered by the outside world, this striking land is one of the last great pristine wildernesses in Africa and takes in a huge diversity of habitats. Lions, cheetah, wild dogs, hyena, buffalo, hippo and giraffe can all be seen within the boundaries of Gonarezhou, but this country is known, first and foremost, as the Land of the Elephant. These massive, intelligent creatures are called nzhou in Shona, and give their name to the national park where they number in their thousands. Gonarezhou National Park is on the cusp of a great adventure; it forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, an area the size of the Netherlands straddling Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique. This colossal tract of land encompasses three national parks including Kruger National Park and Limpopo National Park. As the fences come down, years of struggle and division will be forgotten as the animals of this vast land – above all Gonarezhou’s ubiquitous elephants – will once again be able to resume their ancient migratory routes. The Gonarezhou Conservation Trust (GCT) was established in August 2016 and assumed management of Gonarezhou National Park (GNP) in March 2017. GCT is a ground-breaking partnership between Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) and Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), following almost 10 years of working together within Gonarezhou. GCT is committed to protecting and conserving the wilderness, biodiversity, ecological processes, wild and scenic landscapes within Gonarezhou and Malipati Safari Area (MSA) boundaries. The park’s exceptional resource values will be sustained for present and future generations, while supporting its role in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area and regional economic development. The culture and history of the Shangani people will be recognised as one of the key components of the park. Gonarezhou remains a National Park, wholly owned by the Government of Zimbabwe. The GCT uses a decentralised management system in the form of a co-management model. Management is directed by six Trustees appointed by ZPWMA and FZS, with approved work plans and guided by a Ministerially approved GNP Management Plan and jointly developed Trust rules. Policies and procedures primarily based on ZPWMA protocols. More information can be found here
Your guide is a passport to this hidden land; his encyclopaedic knowledge, his insight and skill at living in the bush, and also his protection.
Clive Stockil is the founding father of Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge. Born and bred in the area and qualified as a Zimbabwean Professional Guide in 1973, Clive’s passion for the African bush began in childhood, when he often sought out adventures in the wilderness with his Shangaan friends. He is universally renowned as an authority on the lowveld communities and their wildlife, and continues to build on his vast knowledge. Clive believes community led conservation is vital for the survival of African wildlife and has been at the forefront of this movement for four decades. He is a board member of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority as well as the recipient of numerous national and international awards including The Order of Merit for Conservation by the French Government in 2011 and the inaugural Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa in 2013.
Thomas was born and raised in the South-East Lowveld bordering Gonarezhou National Park and has dedicated his life to exploring and working with local wildlife. As a child, he enjoyed learning about the local flora and fauna and picked up a special interest in trees and shrubs and their medicinal uses. These initial experiences sparked his curiosity and led Thomas to seek a career in which he could show visitors the wilderness that has always been on his doorstep. Holding a full Zimbabwean guide’s license, his safety record is second to none and he’s focussed on providing visitors with unrivalled access to the lowveld wildlife.
John grew up in the mountains of the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, and a visit to Lake Kariba allowed John to see safari guides in action for the first time, showing him that it was possible to build a career working closely in the natural world he had always loved. He immediately set to work to follow his passion and in 2000 earned his Learner Guides license, and his Professional Guide’s License in 2005. John not just admires the wonderful wildlife in Zimbabwe but is dedicated to protecting it as well. He has participated in anti-poaching programs with National Parks & Wildlife in Kariba, as well as snare sweeps along the Kariba shore line. As part of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, he was one of an elite anti-poaching group at Stanley and Livingstone, working as a Ranger-Guide protecting Rhinos and Elephants in the reserve and National Parks and Wildlife areas around Victoria falls and up to Botswana border. During his time as a professional guide, John has worked in most of the Zimbabwean National Parks, including Hwange, Matusadona, Zambezi and Mana pools, and brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience. His passion and commitment to the wildlife, coupled with his quiet confidence and humour, ensure he delivers guests a world-class safari experience.
Tor grew up in the lowveld, spending most of his early years in Chiredzi. His journey to becoming a guide began early. As a child he was brought into Gonarezhou with friends and family, and it left a strong impression. Those early experiences set Tor on his path to pursue an adventurous career in the bush and to work with wildlife. Since that time Tor has dedicated his time and energies into learning of the flora and fauna of Zimbabwe. After a period working Hwange, Tor returned to his lowveld roots and has been sharing his knowledge of, and love for, Gonarezhou with guests. His enthusiasm, energy and modest manner, make him a wonderful companion to explore this pristine wilderness.