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  • "World Wildlife Day 2024: How Can Digital Innovation Connect People and Planet for Conservation?"

    The theme of World Wildlife Day 2024 is a very apt one for the times. With digital innovation expanding into new areas and creating new possibilities at a fast pace, wildlife conservation efforts are able to better connect with people than ever before. Not all that long ago in the greater scheme of things, much of the world was an undiscovered wilderness, irresistible to those of adventurous hearts and curious minds. Amongst those on expeditions of exploration were botanists and zoologists, eager to record some of the plants and animals they saw. Part scientist, part artist, they used their pens and paper to draw and annotate what they saw. Some of the results were stiff and not terribly accurate. To a modern audience, used to high resolution, full colour, moving images, they can even seem a little comical. They were certainly a far cry from Richard Attenborough's stunningly filmed Planet Earth Series. Nevertheless, they provide an invaluable record of plants and animals on which to build our knowledge of our beautiful wild planet, and more importantly, like the Planet Earth Series does today, they increased people's interest and understanding, and hence love, of the natural world. The advent of cameras and their subsequent evolution into the high tech tools that produce the incredible full colour, detailed, moving images we have today has delivered full access to, and a far better understanding of, the incredible world of plants and animals right to our living rooms. The advent of Go Pro cameras and drones has allowed us intimate and overarching view points that early scientists could not even have imagined. Digital innovation has placed us in a better position to be awed and wowed by the natural beauty of our world and its inhabitants than ever before. The importance of this to the conservation of these same wild natural resources, cannot be understated and is best summed up by Baba Dioum: "For in the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught". In addition to making the natural world accessible to all through captured images, digital technology has also broadened the scope of what is possible in terms of research and monitoring of both plants and animals, and in this way great enhances both our knowledge of the natural world and also our ability to respond, by fine tuning conservation efforts. Drone technology has allowed us both to view things from a distance and also (thanks to the amazing zoom technology of drone cameras), to view details from a distance which is not disruptive to the subjects we are viewing. In this way we are able see and follow animals to witness their natural behavior and movement more closely than ever before, without them being aware or disturbed by us observing them. A key component of any conservation effort is to monitor or conduct a regular census of the animal populations and vegetation density and health. Drone technology has dramatically decreased the cost of aerial surveys and the onboard cameras have improved accuracy. Another nifty way to observe animal movements with minimum disruption to the animals themselves is to deploy camera traps. These are triggered into taking a photo by the movement of animals passing near them. Used on game paths or at game intersections they can give conservationists a fairly good idea of what animals are using what areas and how often. While the photos are not of pristine quality they are fit for purpose and often show amusing or interesting aspects of animal behaviour that would be difficult to witness otherwise. For World Wildlife Day 2024, conservation efforts are only just starting to seriously apply digital technology in various ways. Already, there have been amazing advancements. We have mentioned only three different ways that digital technology has made a difference here. We have focused on three aspects that, we believe, serve to better connect people with our amazing planet and its inhabitants. Were World Wildlife Day to present the same theme of How Can Digital Innovation Connect People and Planet for Conservation in a few years time we do not doubt that there will be many more new and exciting innovations, allowing us to better connect with and understand wildlife, to report. At the end of the day, this can only be a good thing for the future of the plants and animals battling to find space to exist in our world.

  • "Leap into Action: Celebrating Frogs on February 29th Leap Year Day"

    Given that some frogs can leap over 20 times their own body length, Leap Year Day seems like a very appropriate day to celebrate frogs. This is the equivalent of a human being able to jump 30 meters. Scientists have studied frogs to try and find out how they do this and have realised that it is not a matter of strength, but a matter of technique and the way they coil and stretch their legs. Apparently we are not the only ones who feel this way and a quick search of Leap Year Day images will bring up multiple froggy themed icons and graphics. What's not too love about a whole extra day in your year AND an abundance of frogs? Aside from their incredible leap ability, frogs are amazing creatures and are important indicators of environmental health. At Chishakwe, in the Save Valley Conservancy, we are privileged to have several species of frogs in residence as well as some species of toad. The main physical difference between the two is in their differing skins. Frogs spend most of their time in water and have smooth, damp feeling skin and toads spend more time on land and have bumpy dry feeling skin. Since the 1980's frog numbers have been declining and some species have even become extinct. Due to frogs status as environmental indicators this is a worrying trend, and not only for frogs! In fact, we are jumping the gun a little by celebrating frogs today, as there are already two official days to celebrate and raise awareness of frog conservation. World Frog Day is on the 20th of March every year and the 16th annual Save the Frogs Day is on the 28th of April this year. We encourage you to spread the word and to look on the World Frog Day web page to see what events are planned and how you can contribute and on the Save the Frogs website, for some ideas on how you make your immediate surrounds a friendlier place for our amphibian friends and also for details on this years Save the Frog Day . Both are also troves of fascinating frog information and pictures. Since you have a whole extra day in your year this year why not spend a little time learning more about our froggy friends and seeing if there is any way you can help with efforts to conserve them.

  • An Unexpected Easter Celebration on Safari in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe

    The secret of any good game drive is not how many animals you see, or what animals they are. The real thrill is setting off with every hope, but having no idea what you might be surprised by. Often, what enchants you is not a member of the Big 5, but something quite else ... a bird building a nest or a glossy beetle going about its business. A visit to Chishakwe is a similar experience. You just never know what you might find, but it is hardly ever what you were expecting. This is particularly the case when it comes to high days and holidays which are particularly beloved at Chishakwe. (Word to the wise: if you have a special occasion you want to celebrate in the African bush, Chishakwe is an excellent place to book). When on an Easter time Safari in Zimbabwe, A Big Fat Greek Easter Lunch celebration is probably not what you would expect. A tastefully wrapped little Easter egg on the breakfast table or a subtly decorated chocolate cake for tea is probably more the norm ... and then it is back to the safari norm of khaki shirts, binoculars and bird books. But not at Chishakwe .... Instead you are faced with a full on, decadent, table groaning, Greek lunch which will last most of the afternoon if you do it right, and is more likely to be followed by a siesta than a game drive. The handmade decorations that bedeck the tables are rebelliously tied to the traditional Northern hemisphere spring theme. Somehow all the reaffirming testaments to life, though not traditional in the bush, fit right in! Why Greek? Why not? The food is delicious! If you are after a creative and abundant way to celebrate Easter while on safari in Zimbabwe, one which very much involves cocktails, loads of food and chocolate .... while at the same time enjoying a spot of fishing and the occasional elephant (or something more discreet but just as wonderful) sighting ... then Chishakwe' s Big Fat Easter Lunch is likely to be right up your alley. Just one word of caution though, if you are travelling with little people who are hoping to spot the Easter bunny, you might be disappointed. The wild terrain and carnivorous inhabitants of Chishakwe make it a very dangerous trip for the bunny. So, instead, he sends his good friend, the Easter Aardvark, who works exclusively at Chishakwe, to do his deliveries for him. 😉

  • Chishakwe's Marula House: The Best Self Catered Safari

    Named for and shaded by the large tree growing in the driveway area, outside the front door, Marula House is the most recently renovated and the largest house in the Home from Home category of best self catered safari accommodation options at Chishakwe. Marula House is set on the Southern edge of the Headquarters area and has a large fenced garden and outdoor area with the vegetable garden and the orchard just behind it and to the side of it. The front of the house and the garden look out into the bush. The house comfortably sleeps 12 people and the library/snug area has two sofa beds in it as well. A small cottage behind the house (next to the vegetable garden) can sleep another 3 people, bringing Marula House to a total of 17 if we use every bed option. Our guests love the small grove of trees in the garden and can often be found sitting under the trees, cooking on the fire or enjoying a drink or two together. Large and comfortable; Marula House is house for living and laughing, friends and families having a good time and relaxing together. Just as it has always been going back to cattle ranching days on Devuli almost a century ago.

  • 10 Essential Items to Pack for a Safari in Zimbabwe

    You are going on a safari to Zimbabwe and you cannot overpack due to the constraints of small plane or long overland travel. However, at the same time, you don't want to ruin your experience by just not having the right kit to get the most out of your African adventure. If you were going on a safari over a century ago packing would have been far more arduous than it is today. In one of the earliest recorded safaris, William Cornwallis Harris set the tone by rising at first light, spending the day walking and observing, recording and hunting animals and the bush; broken by an afternoon siesta on your camp bed and finishing with a formal dinner (for which one should dress) followed by the telling of stories around a campfire. In William's day you would have been attended by porters and servants to assist with carrying all the luggage and the huge job of setting up camp at the end of the day. You would have needed trunk loads of items and the whole event would take months. The sundowner cocktails alone would take up an entire trunk and of course would include the crystal decanters and matching glasses! William Cornwallis Harris courtesy of Wikipedia images Luckily, these days, a reputable safari operator will provide you with everything you need to make your time in the African bush comfortable, without losing any of that special African atmosphere or, hopefully, any of the authenticity that comes with spending time in the timelessness of the bush. This leaves you to focus on filling your luggage with the items that you need just for you. If you are one of the more experienced modern explorers you might even be the type to minimise airport time and effort by restricting your luggage to a carry on. A chalet at Chishakwe River Camp. All the ambience of an old style safari and none of the hassle. For your convenience and comfort on your special Safari to Zimbabwe we have created a list of items not to leave behind: Essentials: A wide brimmed hat which has some ventilation to allow for some air movement. It is not just your forehead and your nose you want out of the sun, it is also your neck and your ears. On a hot day you will be grateful for the additional shade of a hat keeping the sun off your head. Sunblock. Your hat won't cover everywhere and you might not always be wearing it. If you are out on a vehicle or walking you can still get burnt, even in winter when skies are typically big and blue. Insect repellant. Mosquitoes and other biting insects can really spoil an otherwise lovely evening. A late afternoon application of repellant to exposed areas on skin will save you from bug harassment. If you are going to an area where it is known that there is malaria you may want to take advice from your doctor on anti malarial prophylactics. Comfortable walking shoes. If you are going on game walks it is likely you will be covering some fairly rough terrain and might be out for a few hours at a time. Closed shoes are essential as are comfortable feet. Socks are just as important as shoes. Thick wooly socks or socks that extend up your legs are not ideal. Both will provide a trap for seeds and burrs which will soon become itchy and uncomfortable against your skin. Lighter, wicking fabric socks that fit inside your shoe or boot are preferable. Clothing in muted, mid tone colours will help you to be less visible to animals in the bush. Remember that it is likely to be hot at least during some parts of the day so it is best to keep day time clothing reasonably light and cool to wear. Most safari outfitters offer a laundry service so there is no need to bring a clean set of clothes for each day you are on safari. Early mornings, especially just before the sun rises, and evenings may be quite cool so you may find you want an extra layer of clothing for these times - especially if you are on the back of a game drive vehicle as is often the case at these times of day. We suggest a fleece jacket which can be bundled into the bottom of your day pack until next needed to be the most practical idea. Speaking of which: A day pack or small ruck sack will be useful for comfortably carrying a few items with you on a drive or walk. Long trousers to wear in the evenings are an excellent idea, not just because they are a littler warmer, but also because they offer additional protection against mosquitoes. Without any ambient light the African bush can be very dark at night. It is a good idea to have a small but bright torch with you to guide you from you tent or chalet to the communal areas or back to your room after a night drive. Modern LED torches offer impressively bright light for their size and weight. With these ten items in your trusty cabin baggage you are good to go on safari. However, there are a few other nice to have items that we would suggest. Although not essential per say, their presence is certainly likely to enhance your safari experience. Binoculars are a wonderful way of establishing whether what you think is a sitting lion is in fact a sitting lion or whether it is just an interestingly lit ant hill. A camera to take a picture of the lion, once you are sure that is what it is, will preserve the moment forever. Most cell phone cameras are not good enough to get good shots unless you are really (unadvisedly) close to the lion. Good reference books or apps on animals, birds or trees mean that you can look up what you have seen and find out more about them. It is also fun to have a notebook and pen to start creating your own personal reference list or journal ... if you are one of those arty people you could add a sketch or two.

  • Comments on a Green Season Safari in the Lowveld

    While it is more traditional to go on safari in the cooler dry months of the year, the wet months are not without their own special appeal. The Wet Season is beautiful in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe The wet season, it stands to reason, is also the green season. The tawny golds and bleached browns of the dry season are replaced with every hue of green imaginable. The vast blue sky of the winter months is filled with great skyscapes of clouds; sometimes towering mountains and sometimes white sheep scudding across the sky. Sometimes dark and ominous and sometimes light and fluffy. And sometimes all of this, all at the same time. Game viewing can be rewarding The thick green bush can make it a bit harder to get good visual on some of the animals and looking for them at water points is not as productive as it is during the dry months as there is water everywhere. But if it is dripping wet from recent rain, it also means some of the animals are more likely to be looking for somewhere to dry off, not infrequently, on the roads themselves. The other aspect that is added to the game watching agenda is the presence of babies. Many of the herbivores have young at heal at this time of the year and watching young animals explore their new surrounds and gamboling on wobbly legs is an enchanting experience. There is plenty of life to be observed in addition to mammals. The Lowveld is abuzz with abundant and diverse insect life during the wet season. This can be seen as a pro or a con, depending on your point of view, and the situation. Having a host of moths trying to dive into your glass of wine at dinner that could certainly be seen as a disadvantage. On the other hand, you will get to see some the big, the bad, the ugly and also the beautiful and the weird of the bug world. We would certainly recommend some insect repellant as an essential item to avoid any encounters of the too close kind. Bird Watching can be great Even if you do not appreciate all the insect life you can rest assured that birds do. This makes for some good bird watching opportunities especially if you are wanting to see some of the summer visitors from the North. At the end of the day the wet season is not the traditional safari season as most visitors prefer to avoid the chance of rain and prefer the cooler weather. Having said this, for those who are prepared to chance the warm weather and the odd shower and brave the bug life, it can be a different and rewarding experience. Seeing the bush at its most vibrant green and growing best is, in itself, affirming and what better start to a year than some time gaining insight and inspiration in the natural world?

  • Welcome to Chishakwe's Real Life Safari

    At Chishakwe every day is a real life safari. If you are looking for the type of 5 star safari that comes with an ensuite jacuzzi, an on site gym, and a guarantee that you will leave with a certificate saying that you saw the Big 5 then a safari at Chishakwe is not for you. If you are looking for an authentic but comfortable experience in a uniquely Zimbabwean atmosphere and the opportunity to see any one (or all) of the Big 5 and learn more about a host of other animals and plants, then you will really enjoy a visit to Chishakwe. Chishakwe is a part of the Save Valley Conservancy and straddles the head quarters of what was once the largest privately owned cattle ranch in the world, the famous Devuli Ranch. A number of roomy old ranch houses dating back to this time have been sensitively renovated so as not to lose their original relaxed Lowveld ambience. These houses provide the basis for Chishakwe's Home from Home safari experiences for self-catering guests. In addition Chishakwe boasts a tranquil safari camp, set a few kilometers away from the Devuli Head Quarters area, on the banks of the Msaize River. Our primary business is habitat and wildlife conservation which we fund through safari tourism activities. We love sharing the natural bounty and tough, rugged beauty of the South East Lowveld with our guests. If you are they type of traveller who likes to get to know the locals, to smell the dust settling at the end of a day and try out the local favourite foods and drinks then we really look forward to hearing from you and getting to know you too.

  • Rainy Season Butterfly Safari

    While the much thicker and greener bush conditions in the rainy season make game watching, in the traditional sense, a bit more difficult; they create a great opportunity to observe all the smaller, less observed life forms that make up such an important part of overall bush ecology. Butterflies are particularly present amongst the abundant bug life and we hope you enjoy seeing a few of these beauties as much as we did. #ButterflySafari #RealLifeSafari #ChishakweSafaris #SouthEastLowveldZimbabwe #It'stheSmallThings #RainySeasonSafari

  • AUTUMNAL EQUINOX

    It is official! Here, in the Southern Hemisphere, the writing is on the wall for summer with the arrival of the Autumnal Equinox on March 20-21. We are fortunate that, in our Lowveld area, this does not mean freezing cold nights and grey days. In fact, some cooler weather might even come as a bit of a relief after some scorching of the scorching hot days over summer. We expect big, open, bluer than blue skies and warmish days followed by nights which are cool enough to encourage vicinity to the open air fire after dinner. The colours of the bush change completely. Instead of abundant foliage and thick grass all in every shade of green imaginable, we get shades of gold, amber and russet brown. As the dry winter goes on these colours fade until (especially in a dry year such as this one) we find ourselves in a bleached out, almost monochromatic, world. In this world the impala stand out fiery orange against their background and one cannot imagine what on earth they eat in the harsh environment. It is always beautiful but rugged and wild. #biophilia #everydayisasafariday #Autumnequinox #SouthEastLowveldZimbabwe

  • Home from Home at the Historic Devuli Head Quarters

    Devuli Ranch was once the largest cattle ranch in the world. It was pioneered by two brothers, Lucas and Despard Bridges, after the first World War. The two brothers, with the help of their cousin set about the very tough job of taming the wild African bush and setting up a massive cattle ranching enterprise. Despite their impressive success in this regard, the tough South East Lowveld with its endemic drought cycle, prevented true longevity of the project. Less than a century later, after a truly epic drought, Devuli was sold in lots and it is those lots the make up most of the Northern part of the Save Valley Conservancy. The headquarters area of Devuli sits centrally on Chishakwe and the houses which once housed the managers of the huge ranch have been sensitively renovated to retain the original Devuli ambience. Sturdily and practically built (though maybe a bit rambly due to successive farm built renovations over the years), with cool cement floors and verandas to shade the interior rooms. Tin rooves reflect heat and amplify the drumming of the rain on wet nights. The houses are not grand but they are comfortable ... and packed with character. They are set up with everything you need to make yourself at home and children are most welcome. They provide the perfect location for a gathering of the clans or a get together of friends, just as they did for many years before on Devuli Ranch.

  • Winter is Coming

    If the shorter, cooler days did not confirm to us that winter is coming then a look at ant activity would surely do so. Once you start looking it is hard not to be fascinated by the activity and interactions of these tiny insects and impressed by the strength and level of energetic commitment they display. Like the fable, they are working hard to provide for the days ahead. However, we are not able to confirm the same for the grasshoppers. If the famous fable is to believed they are whiling away the last of the summer on enjoying themselves.

  • Hunter's House

    Hunter's House is one of the accommodation options in our popular Home from Home collection and is situated on the far West of the Devuli Head Quarters area on Chishakwe. It is a large house which easily sleeps 11 people and more if beds are added to some of the larger bedrooms. The wide veranda that runs the length of the house and overlooks the front garden is likely to be where guests will spend most of their time when they are "home" and not out on the ranch looking for wild animals and birds or at the dam fishing. The house was probably first built in the 1930's and was likely smaller and simpler than it was at that time as, over the years, rooms have clearly been added on both ends of the house. On the addition on the East end of the house there was a steep stairwell leading down to an underground concrete bunker which was added during the Rhodesian war. This bunker was thought to be the one mentioned by author Alexandra Fuller in her novel, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. The bunker no longer exists at Hunter's House as, during recent renovations, the decision to fill it in was taken. The reinforced cement slab which formed the raised roof of the bunker took up a significant space on the veranda and the bunker itself was providing habitat to scorpions and centipedes. Unfortunately, converting it to a wine cellar was not an option! On the kitchen end of the veranda there is a fire pit area where most of our guests spend their evenings, especially in winter. From here it is not at all uncommon to see the animals that roam the garden area around the house at night. These commonly include impala, bushbuck, kudu, jackal and hyena.

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