As Zimbabwe continues to re-establish its mark on the map of countries to visit in Africa, time efficient and cost effective access to the prime safari areas continues to be a challenge to both operators on the ground as well as tourists visiting the country, writes Shelley Cox.Over the last 12 months however, improved transportation options have started to arise as the tourist numbers increase, and access challenges are slowly but surely improving.
Previously known for its political instability over the last 14 years, Zimbabwe’s Tourism reeled with the impact and as a result had lain dormant, like a sleeping giant. Agents worldwide removed Zimbabwe from their brochures and only a loyal few continued to support the Zimbabwe operators wherever possible. As an option offered to Tourists looking for unique safari experiences and wildlife encounters in Africa, Zimbabwe was almost completely written off the map.
But the sleeping giant has awoken… Agents both regionally and internationally are reintroducing Zimbabwe into their brochures, and more and more tourists are opting for Zimbabwe as their first choice for a safari to Africa. And the confidence is not just external… Local operators in the country are undergoing large-scale refurbishments, and several new camps, lodges and companies are opening up as the country pushes itself back onto the “traveller’s map of Africa”.
So why the big hype? Not only does Zimbabwe have a multitude of remote areas which offer diverse landscapes and up close and personal wildlife encounters, but the people within the country are, without a doubt, one of the most welcoming and customer friendly populations in Africa.
Whilst the varied locations within Zimbabwe are a traveller’s dream, many of these are based in remote areas where the distance by road is substantial and quite time consuming. For visitors on safari, time spent in the wild is a vital factor, and many do not want to have to spend a large majority of their time on the roads travelling between destinations.
For the duration of 2011, Solenta Aviation was operating a daily seat rate charter service for visitors travelling around Zimbabwe, but unfortunately the company closed down in early 2012. In April 2012, having noticed a gap in the market, and in an effort to overcome the access challenges for operators in Zimbabwe, Beks Ndlovu initiated ‘Safari Logistics’, a new Scheduled Charter Service, providing seat rates to the most popular and prime safari areas of Zimbabwe. These areas included Victoria Falls, Hwange, Kariba, Matusadona and Mana Pools.
Safari Logistics has proved to be very successful, not only in maintaining the competitive cost of safaris in Zimbabwe in relation to neighbouring countries, but also in meeting an increasing demand of tourists returning to the country and requiring efficient, fast and reliable air access to the varied areas. Several operators are now utilizing the service for their clients, and other Charter Companies are now exploring the option of offering seat rates to clients in an effort to open up the access in Zimbabwe. One thing is for certain, as the number of travellers to the country continues to increase, so too do options of cheaper transportation around the country. Watch this space as Zimbabwe continues to make its come back as one of the most popular destinations in Africa.
By: Shelley Cox