Chimanimani has lots to offer all age groups.
We think that the Chimanimani Mountains offer some of the greatest hiking opportunities in the world. The whole mountain is in a National Park. It is unspoiled on the Zimbabwean side and only marred on the Moçambique side by the “makorakosa” – gold panners. The mountains are unusual, formed by an overthrust fold, an extension of the Great Rift. The rock is quartzite, unlike most Zimbabwean rock which is granite. The vegetation is magnificent except in the very dry season when the mountains often burn. It is never freezing cold – it never snows but June/July can be chilly and bathing becomes a challenge. The water is fresh and clean, a natural golden tea colour – you can drink it and the swimming pools are abundant and unbeatable. Beware in the rainy season – don’t camp near the rivers as flash floods are common.
The Farmhouse is on the side of the road which you take from Chimanimani to the Chimanimani Mountain National Park. The first ten kilometers are tar, deteriorating as you get closer to Charleswood Farm – which belongs to Roy Bennett (now in exile). Just before the end of the tar there is a dirt road to the left through Roy’s farm. It is about 3 km on the dirt to the Base Camp. Outward Bound is well sign posted, the left fork when the road divides. The right hand road takes you up into the foothills of the mountains where you can park safely at the Base Camp. Here you need to sign in and pay parks fees. Locals pay $5 per day and $3 entry fee, foreigners pay $10 per day. There is a stiff climb up Bailey’s folly – well marked with yellow painted arrows, or there are alternative routes, Banana Grove, Long Gully or the Hadange but they are not marked. It takes about two hours to reach the top of Bailey’s Folly and then the path levels out and you walk across a plain and down through an exquisite rocky area to the mountain hut. This should not be called a hut – it is a big house but not well maintained. Pity, because its perfectly sited – overlooking the Bundi Plains, with the highest peaks looming up from the other side of the plain. The highest peak is called Binga – the furthest away of the three peaks in front of the hut. The one on the right is called Turret Towers. If you look north-east from the hut you will see the red cliffs behind Red Wall Cave and further away to the north is Ben Nevis, or in Shona, Peza, a grassy peak and a pleasant climb from the hut. Binga is a stiff climb, maybe three hours from the Hut. The ranges run from north to south and the Moçambique border does likewise, going from peak to peak. So although Binga is the second highest mountain in Zimbabwe, it is the highest in Moçambique!
If possible plan to spend some nights in the mountain. There is so much to explore, peaks to conquer if you are that type, or follow the river from north to south. Sleep in the rocky overhangs or at the Hut. See Digby’s Falls, Paradise Pool, and Peterhouse Pools – these three are all within a kilometer of each other. Peterhouse Pool is a deep, dark pool with a huge waterfall dropping into it. Youngsters love to jump off the rocks into the pool. Further down the path which follows the south side of the Bundi is a turnoff across the river and up to a lovely cave called Terry’s Cave and another hour or so down the river is Southern Lakes. Please please respect the Park and obey the rules. Do not leave litter in the mountain and don’t light fires. Leave it perfect for others to enjoy.
About 30 km from Chimanimani Village is The Corner – the northern end of the Chimani National Park – a corner on the map jutting out into Moçambique. You start out on the Cashel Scenic road which is not a bad dirt road but by Chikukwa you turn right (sign posted to Chikukwa school). From the turnoff there are about 5 km of bad dirt road, so you need to have a vehicle with high clearance, and during the rainy season 4 wheel drive would be wise. The last stretch is horribly rocky. This may sound a mission but it is so worth it. Corner is an unspoiled paradise – a cliché I know but this time it fits. It is an easy walk from where you leave your car, over a ridge to the river/waterfall. Explore this river up and down as far as you will. It just gets better and better. And in summer the water is so warm. If you have kids you won’t be able to get them to leave the water. An hour or so upstream is Pothole Pool, an amazing pool formed by merging potholes with archways underwater which you can swim through. Downstream is Rafia Palm Pool. The pool is as spectacular as the rafia palm tree overshadowing it.
Bridal Veil/Pork Pie Eland Sanctuary
This separate area of the same National Park is closer to the village – both are about 3 km from the village. Both are worth a visit and you only have to pay entry once to visit both although they are on different roads. The road to Bridal Veil Falls is in fair condition but the road to Pork Pie is horrible. Better to walk up there if you are able – wonderful 360 degree view from the top. Don’t expect to see much game – the bad years (around 2008) took their toll here too. But the msasa trees are beautiful.
Horse Riding, Golf, Tessa’s Pool
Please ask Tempe about horse riding. She has three well schooled horses and two little old kids’ ponies. Ask the locals, Doug and Shane, if you want to play golf. There is a nine-hole golf course in Chimanimani at what was once the Chimanimani Country Club. The Chimanimani Outward Bound school is well worth a visit. It has an amazing setting, lovely local walks and the famous Tessa’s pool is nearby. Please ask the director, Dave Meikle, if you want to visit. And if you do not want to drive to the Park or pay entry fees there are lovely walks from the Farmhouse. Up Greenmount is particularly special.