Kapirinengu | Looking for the Zim tigers …


When Paul and Pieter van Pletzen needed a break from the Gauteng daily grind, they went fishing.

For years they had been trying to find directions to the fishing camp Kapirinengu, near the Mana Pools Game Reserve in Zimbabwe, but to no avail.

They had no idea how to get there, even up to the winter’s day they left towing the Titanic, their little aluminium boat. So the plan was to head for the Doma Safari Area in Northern Zimbabwe from where they would bundu bash their way through the Chewore Safari Area to the Zambezi, to try to find Kapirinengu. After some fishing there, they would try to reach the Kafue River Camp next to Zambia’s Kafue National Park.This is their story:

Does Kapirinengu ring a bell?

About five years ago I heard about Kapirinengu – a fishing camp near the Mana Pools Game Reserve at the confluence of the Chewore River and the Zambezi.

But no one, not even the staff at Mana Pools, could tell us where it is. The breakthrough came when I found the well-known Zimbabwean conservationist and tour operator, Dick Pitman, on the internet last year. He said he knew where it was.

So we decided to go searching for it. We planned to stay over at Doma Safari Lodge en route to the lower Zambezi, and by coincidence, Dick and a group that he was escorting down the escarpment were also stopping over at the lodge. We agreed to join them there.

Pieter and I left Johannesburg early one morning in June. We headed north on the bumpy, potholed A4 road between Beit Bridge and Harare.
We wasted a lot of time passing through five toll stops (US$ 1 fee at each one) up to Chinhoyi. A few kilometres after each stop, there would be a police road block. At all of these stops we were well received. (Only once, on our way back, did we have to pay a $15 spot fine for a faulty tail light on the trailer − no receipt necessary.)

At Runde, south of Harare, we slept at Rhino Camp. There was no power when we arrived (as is common in Zimbabwe), but the lights came on soon after we had arrived.
On the second day we crossed over to the A5 on the A17 to Gweru and refuelled in Chegutu, 79 km south of Chinhoyi.
About 40 km from Chinhoyi our trailer’s brakes suddenly jammed. Catastrophe! The trailer’s drawbar had broken.
A well-spoken local lad, who introduced himself as Elias, approached us and said he knew a welder nearby. So off we went to fetch the welder. Luckily, he had the right materials, so a mere hour later we were on the road again.
That night we stayed at the Orange Grove Motel just outside Chinhoyi.

Doma Safari Lodge

Heading for the Doma Safari Lodge the next day, we headed northwest on the A1 and turned off to Mhangura.
The lodge offers hunting safaris, but we were more interested in the beautiful dam next to the lodge, with bream and an abundance of small bass.
Considering it was the wrong season, we caught quite a few fish in six days.
On our sixth day at the lodge, Dick Pitman arrived with a group of four South African families. They were fully equipped with 4x4s, trailers and all the off-road bells and whistles.

Pg 2 | into the escarpment

Trek down the escarpment

What was to have been a 315 km, day-and-a-half trip down the Zambezi Escarpment, took three days.
The road down the escarpment passes through the Doma, Chewore and Sapi Safari areas. It was slow and cumbersome driving along steep, rocky slopes, through deep gulleys, along detours, through tall grass that limited visibility, and a few crossings of dry riverbeds. We were mostly in first gear 4×2, and only had to switch to low-range 4×4 here and there.

Dick gave everyone a two-way radio to keep in contact, and “Paul and Pieter” ended up as “Sout en Peper” for our call signature.
After spending a night camping in the bush on the ridge of the escarpment, we came across a river crossing that looked treacherous. We decided to do a 40 km detour via Angwa Bridge to get to Mkanga Bridge.
We reported to the warden at the outpost of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority at Mkanga Bridge and then drove along a rough 2 km track to our overnight spot in Bird Camp.

Kapirinengu, at last!

At about 4 pm on our third day of bundu bashing, we finally got to Kapirinengu and the Zambezi and pitched our tents.
What a magnificent place! It is situated in the Chewore Safari Area where the seasonal Chewore River meets the Zambezi, across the river from the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia.
It is many kilometres from the nearest settlement and has lots of wildlife and good fishing. Lions roared in the distance at night, an old bull elephant wandered around the camp, antelope grazed in the open plain behind the camp and fish eagles woke us up at dawn.
The river starts to converge around there as it approaches the Mpata Gorge downstream, so the water is deep and fast flowing, and the tiger fish mean and furious.

After years of neglect, Kapirinengu is being renovated by the owner, Terry Kelly, with Zim Parks.
The river was in flood, so fishing was not at its best, but Johan Buys from Paarl was thrilled when he caught one of the first nice-sized tiger fish.
We two ou manne, who were exploring the river from our little Titanic, were put to shame by the rest of the party who caught all the fish in the first few days from the banks.

They all left after four days for further adventures, but we stayed on for another five days.
Pieter eventually caught a 4 kg tiger fish, and I caught my first nice-sized one. Terry taught us a few tricks and helped me catch a 5.5 kg prize specimen.

Pg 3 | Kafue River Camp


Kafue River Camp

Our last destination was the Kafue River Camp. Except for the last 30 km of the bad Mana Pools access road, the many counters at the Chirundu border post and a potholed section of road south of Kafue town, things went well and we reached Eureka Camp, on a private game farm near Lusaka.
>After restocking with food and drink and refuelling, we hit the tar road to Mumbwa one day later. Following directions obtained from the Kafue River Camp we drove through the outskirts of Mumbwa and found the main gravel road north to Kasempa.

Apart from the first 40 km, it was in a good condition and we cruised at 70 km/h. We watched out for animals and oncoming vehicles, as we passed through parts of the Kafue National Park and adjacent game management areas.

We crossed the Kafue River by ferry ($20) at Lubungu, drove a few kilometres down the main road and took the well-marked turnoff to the camp on a 12 km gravel track.

Kafue River Camp is a new development, but it was the only lodge offering affordable self-catering camping facilities.

The Kafue River was in flood, so we did not use the Titanic very much. But fishing from the banks was good. We caught a few nice pikes and bream on spinners, and lots of smaller bream on worm.

There were lots of lion, elephant, bushbuck and puku about, but the game was generally skittish because of hunting in the game management area.

Which way to Kafue?

We spent a whole day trying to locate the northern entrance to the Kafue National Park, which is about 100 km north of Kafue River Camp, driving up and down one section.
Locals told us to turn off onto a badly rutted road at a sign reading Kabanga Wildlife Sanctuary. There was no indication that it eventually would lead to the park.
We also had no idea how far it was to the park – estimates by locals varied from 8 km to 25 km.
Eventually we gave up and turned around, and drove back to Lusaka. The next day we headed home, taking three more days to get back.
We might not have seen Kafue National Park, but that didn’t matter − we had finally found Kapirinengu.

I want to go too!

What are the roads like?
The potholed A4 north of Beit Bridge is bumpy. Apart from badly potholed sections between Chirundu and Lusaka, and the first 60 km from Mumbwa to Kafue River Camp, the Zambian roads are not bad.

Can I drive there by myself?
Yes, but if you want to follow the route we did to Kapirinengu, you will need a guide. From there you can drive to Zambia by yourself.

What should I take along?
For camping, you need to be completely self-sufficient. Carry at least 25 litres water. Treated water is available at the lodges and camps.
Apart from tools and spare parts as well as a recovery kit, must-haves include an electrical adapter plug – from square pegs to round pegs and a variety of double adapters.
Also take water purification tablets, a block of wood to support your jack and a seed net for the radiator.

Is fuel readily available?
Fuel is available in most Zimbabwean (around $1.10/litre) and Zambian (about R10/litre) towns. Take at least one full jerry can along. Carry enough fuel for at least 1 000 km between remote refuelling points.

Should I book?
We booked the main destinations. It is advisable to book for national parks (cmhuriro@zimparks.co.zw).
You need authorisation from Zim Parks to visit the safari areas in the Lower Zambezi. Phone the offices in Makuti 263 63 512/3 or 263 63 584/5.

What maps did you use?
Infomap’s Zambia; the AA’s Motoring in Zimbabwe and New South African book of the road; World Map’s Zimbabwe; maps that were drawn from Google Earth.


Pg 4 | Facts & Figures

Facts & Figures

Best time:
August to mid-November. Many lodges and camps on the Lower Zambezi close up by late November.
In Zambia, fishing seems to be good all year round. For game viewing, winter is best.

Stay at least:
Five days at each venue to get the feel of a place.

Lions roaring at night, dodging elephant and buffalo on your way to a fishing spot.

Tiger fish are ferocious hunters just like piranhas. With their razor-sharp teeth, schools of tiger fish can attack humans and large land animals.

Where can I overnight on the way to the Doma Safari Area?

•  Rhino Camp (Runde)

How do I get there?
It’s near the Shell garage at Runde, near Gonarezhou National Park on the A4 from Beit Bridge.
$30 for an en-suite two-bedroom cottage.
We had a delicious steak-and-kidney pot pie for only R30.
Lloyd Kirsten
263 912 036 498,
263 912 370 208 (SMS only)

• Orange Grove Motel (Chinhoyi)

How do I get there?
It’s just outside Chinhoyi on the road to Chirundu.
$40 for an en-suite two-bedroom cottage;
$4 for a tasty but small portion of spaghetti bolognaise
Bring your own generic bath plug.
263 67 23095,
263 912 976 165;

Why the Doma Safari Lodge?

It’s affordable and comfortable.

What can I do there?
Hunting and photographic safaris, or fishing. Guided walks and game drives are also offered.

How do I get there?
Drive northwest of Chinhoyi on the A1 and turn off to Mhangura at the village Lion’s Den, about 25 km north of Chinhoyi. The lodge management will give you directions for the next 70 km to a bush road of about 12 km to the lodge.

Where do I sleep?
In well-equipped self-catering bungalows.

Cost: $25 pppd for a 2-room bungalow (sleeps 4 or 5).
Larger groups pay $75 per bungalow per day.

What do I need to bring?
Bring your own food, ice and gas. The kitchens have a stove, deepfreeze and fridge, pots, pans and cutlery. Bedding and firewood are provided.

Hint: Fill up with plenty of filtered water here.

Book: Gordon Duncan  263 912 266 257, 263 4 293 0932;  gordo@thedomaproject.com, www.thedomaproject.com

Why Kapirinengu?

Recently a pride of lions killed an eland in the campsite. The lions were chased off by a pack of hyenas. A pack of wild dogs also chased three waterbuck into the Zambezi where one was quickly killed by a large croc. The remaining two waterbuck won a two-hour standoff with the wild dogs. Enough said.

What can I do there?
Watch game from hides at waterholes and visit hot springs in the area. Go fishing (it is one of the best tiger fish spots in Southern Africa), hiking and birding.

How do I get there?
Get an entry permit (US$2 per person per week) at the ranger’s office at Marongora on the A1 between Harare and Chirundu. Continue on the A1 for about 15 km to the bottom of the escarpment. About 100 m beyond the Tsetse Fly Boom turn right at the Chewore Campsite sign. Enter through the parks boom and continue for 30 km to the T-junction signposted Chewore Campsite 99 km. Turn rig
ht and continue for 41 km before turning left at the Chewore Campsite sign. The campsite is 55 km from here and signposted all the way.

Where do I sleep?
Each of the 10 shaded tent stands has a flushing toilet, shower, power point, freezer, table, benches, lights, braai area and donkey for hot showers and washing up. Six people are allowed on each stand. Power is provided by a generator.

What do I have to bring?
You have to be self-sufficient, but the management or Dick Pitman can arrange an operator (see details below) who will organise a package including transport, fishing and catering.

US$125 per campsite for a group of five or fewer. US$25 pppd for an extra 6th person.

When can I go?
The camp closes from December to mid-March due to rains.

Farida Canary
263 04 757 398 or 263 04 775 628;

* Terry Kelly
263 4 756 931-8;
terry@nkwazi.co.zw or terry@nashua.co.zw;

* Dick Pitman,

* Charter flights:
Central Air Transport Services:
Kevin Mudzivare
263 9 234 0953 or 263 4 332 2141/2;

* Guided fishing tours:
Danie Swart  263 912 305 153
Co-ordinates: S15.62425 E29.91278

Where can I sleep over on the way to Kafue?

At Eureka Camping Park, 10 km south of the Lusaka city centre on the road to Kafue.

A 3-bed A-frame cottage costs $45 per night;
camping: $5 pppd

260 211 272351 or 260 211 278110;

Why Kafue River Camp?

It’s next to the Kafue National Park where you can go on game drives, and on the Kafue River where you can fish.

What can I do there?
The park offers fishing excursions and guided tours and walks.

How do I get there?
Drive 150 km on the M9 from Lusaka and turn off on the 4 km tar road to Mumbwa. Take the first turnoff left in Mumbwa, continue for 1 km and turn right. Turn left at the 34 km mark and continue for 87 km. Turn right at the sign Hippo Lodge and continue to the Lubungu Pontoon at the 96 km mark. Cross the river and turn right at the Kafue River Camp sign. About 7 km after the turnoff, turn right onto a road that leads to Kafue River Camp. (Ask the booking officer for a map.)

Where can I stay?
In tents in the campsite or chalets. Each stand has ablution facilities and firewood is provided.

What do I have to bring?
Just your own food − they offer the services of a chef.

Campsite: $20 pppn;
Lodge: rates vary from $50 (self-catering) to $150 pppn.


Beatrice Wienand
260 977 933000;
Co-ordinates: S14.29841 E26.31206