A cottage on the outskirts of Hwange

A cottage on the outskirts of Hwange

Inside our little cottage on the edge of Hwange National Park

Here’s a peak into life in Zimbabwe when I joined my husband to live in a tiny cottage on the outskirts of the wild African bush.

We have been living on the edge of Hwange National Park for the past two months.  I travel between British Columbia, Canada and Zimbabwe where my husband has been stationed doing conservation work.  I’m still cautious but have finally settled into our cottage and lifestyle here. It’s the wildest place I have ever lived until a few years later when we camped alongside the Zambezi River for months. The heat has been such an adjustment but it’s mainly in between work when the house can reach 40 degrees. The office is cool as the roof is thatched but the staff cottages are metal roofed mainly due to baboons; who would otherwise have a party with the grass.  We are patiently awaiting a ceiling that will reduce the intense heat shining down on the metal.  The mosquito net looks pretty but it’s way too hot to sleep with as it prohibits the breeze from the fan.  There are so many power outages that often we don’t have electricity or sadly a fan!  I’m still horrified with house wasps and centipedes but patiently awaiting mesh screens one day also.  (these never arrived the whole time I lived in Hwange and I eventually got used to some insects and really they weren’t so bad!)

Sleeping next to a noisy pan full of hippos in Hwange National Park

We were away for two days in Victoria Falls, and upon our return, a centipede decided to take over my pillowcase. Subsequently the next few sleeps were really unsettled. My walk to the “office,” takes me along a fence line. Besides this 10 minute walk or 15 minute walk to the rehabilitation center and Fannuel; there is no walking here period! The fence is broken at the moment so it won’t give you a shock, but if there was a buffalo, elephant or lion, you would have to jump through the first line pretty fast! I’ve also been taught to look for spoor (tracks) so that I can tell when lions have been around. At night I can sometimes hear them roaring.  It is a deeply satisfying sound to fall asleep to. We camped on the other side of the park and slept outside under a thatch viewing area with a ranger.

It was noisy at night near the watering hole as elephants gathered. Some lions arrived in the vicinity, prompting the herd to trumpet and make low growling noises. The hippos were extraordinarily loud as well.  have a chance to go out on research for a week to another part of the park, as we rotate to search for other packs that are too far from the main camp. It’s very sad as near the Botswana border they have started to poison the water with cyanide. Staff witnessed five dead elephants and countless vultures cruelly killed by this form of poaching.

Closer to home, MK (Painted Dog) was killed in a snare. Her mate has been crying for her and is on his own now. Aurora who is missing is also presumed to be killed in a snare. The PDC has an anti-poaching unit along with National Parks but it continues to be a problem. 

Painted Dogs outside of Main Camp

 I participate on the research team with Dr. Matzikanda, Jealous and Washy. We use two vehicles and are usually tracking separate packs of painted dogs in the thick bushes of the park. We go out from 5am until 10 or 11am then again from 3:30pm until dark.

At one time our vehicle broke down in the bush and Jealous had no choice but to walk out.  He offered me to join him but I decided that my chances were better of not feeling horrified by staying in the vehicle with 2 litres of warm stale water.  The park is the size of Belgium so our radio could not reach another vehicle in range. Luckily we were only a few hours from camp.

Jealous reached a water pump station on the edge of the railway tracks and another land rover came five hours later and towed us home. Jealous ran into honey badgers which are really vicious and a snake. Just after Jealous left, a herd of elephants passed by the vehicle. It really made me realize the importance of carrying enough water for next time as I was so hot with my windows rolled up to avoid flies. Fannuel was really worried when it was after 9 pm and I never came home. They had already started arranging a search party and it was a good feeling working with people that are so supportive.       

Jealous, Colleen and Washington in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe