Where will your road lead you?

Exploring the Eland Sanctuary, Chimanimani.

Visitors to Chimanimani can be described as being hugely varied but invariably interesting, as well as active people.   Now that the rains have stopped they are out exploring in 4×4’s or stepping off a mini-bus, ragged and courageous. Some drive in with diplomatic plates and energetic kids, others for a romantic weekend. Almost all have a sense of adventure.

Never walk without your camera in Chimanimani. You will miss something special if you do.

Active and independent minded people, some bring good books and their dog, some carry binoculars and bird books, some are loaded with  braai packs, beers and good friends  – almost all  have a camera and a back pack of some description.

Helene from France takes the Frog & Fern pack (including cat Benji) for walk.

And when they reach Chimanimani there is plenty to do. Hiking in the mountains is the main course but the side dishes on offer are unlimited.

Always take your camera. Winter is ALOE time in Chimanimani. This is Aloe arborescens.

Just recently we had Helene and Chris (he from Oz, she from France) who camped for a week, taking our animals walking every day. Unfazed by getting lost on day 1 – Helene flagged down a mini bus, all dogs on board while Chris sat in the bush with a very miffed little black cat. We have seen many things at Frog & Fern…but never our pack arriving in the dark by mini bus!

Benji was with Chris and Helene when they got lost - they did not abandon him though! They came home eventually by car....

Half an hour later we rescued Chris and Benji and everyone settled down to a good sleep after a walk to remember!

Many folks wish to meet some young Zimbabweans and a few days before Chris and Helene, were Kurt and Allison (from Canada). They played a round of golf with Cyclone, Tim and Bright of Matsetso Youth Club – Kurt said it was the most enjoyable 18 holes he has ever played!

Cyclone Tees off at Number 5 - Look out sheep!

And he was amazed at the quality of their golf.

Kurt tees off at Number 3 with Cyclone looking on.

Kurt played golf with three lads from Matsetso Youth Club.

Kurt and Allison then took the time to open a small window for the children to learn something of  the lives of Canadians –  showing them photos of  the snow  and the “fall leaves”, spring time,  boats at the harbour,  their family,  their home in Vancouver and so much more. It was a very special day to be in Chimanimani.

Allison and Kurt from Vancouver chatting with kids from Matsetso Youth Club, Chimanimani.

Posted in Activities, Birding, Eastern Highlands, Golf, Helping children in our community., Matsetso Stars and Peza Trust., Soccer or Football, Things to do in Chimanimani, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Take a walk in May.

Chimanimani. Walk, ride or hike.

May for the Aloes.

Walking, riding or taking the dogs out for a run – There is NO place like this.

May brings the Aloes into flower

Aloes are in flower as well as the everlastings. Wherever  you go you are met with astounding beauty.

The walking you choose to do ranges from moderately strenuous strolling to extreme hiking.  Whether you are unfit or super fit, find your level and along the way just feast your eyes.

There are SAN paintings near Tessa’s Pool  which are beautifully preserved. Call in at Outward Bound for permission to visit them.

Bush man paintings on quartzite overhang in Chimanimani.

Walking your dog. Chimanimani is the place.

Old mans' beard hanging from the trees in Chimanimani.

Gorgeous lichens on quartzite rocks

Wild flowers and delighted dogs

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Does your Medical Aid cover a helicopter rescue?

Our back fence adjoins a National Park and there are many walks in and around Frog & Fern Cottage – Bridal Veil Falls, Pork Pie and Greenmount –  all of them will get your heart rate up. There are in fact three national Parks here, known as the Eland Sanctuary, Corner and the CMNP.  If you are keen to embark on a serious full day or overnight hike in the Chimanimani Mountains National Park then it is worth checking whether your medical aid covers the cost of a helicopter air lift.

Chimanimani Mountains National Park provides a formidable challenge. Do your homework and come prepared.

Check the details of your Medical Aid company in your phone. Make certain you have at least one waterproof pouch in your backpack as these mountains tend to have their own weather system operating.  Fortunately there is good  cell signal in the mountains these days. Whilst hiking either keep an eye on your GPS position or make sure you know exactly where you are. Never hike alone.

Recently a hiker experienced a dreadful injury with ligaments tearing clean away from his foot bones and he was unable to walk another step. This would normally require a stretcher, a large rescue team and a very long haul out of the mountains. Fortunately our hiker had done his homework and his Medical Aid (BUPA) responded appropriately.

A chopper comes to the rescue on the Bundi Plain Chimanimani.

A  helicopter was dispatched and a combination of kind weather, excellent communications with the Outward Bound school,  Zim Parks and the Chimanimani Police resulted in our hiker being airlifted  to Harare within hours.

Moral of the story – check your medical insurance is up to scratch. In the unlikely but possible event of you being injured, you will be thankful.

(Thanks to Doug and Tempe van de Ruit for the photo)

Posted in Activities, Chimanimani Tourist Association, Eastern Highlands, Hiking, Safety and Security, Things to do in Chimanimani, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

March marched in…

March  15th 2014 saw a ” Global March for Lions” in 36 cities all over the world bringing attention to the critical threat to lions posed by the lion bone trade, canned hunting and trophy hunting.

Here in Chimanimani  the last lion was shot not far from the golf course 40 years ago. However viable populations still exist in Gona re Zhou, Hwange, Mana Pools and elsewhere and these need the support of all Zimbabweans.  Thanks  to donations from visitors to Chimanimani  and the work of local volunteers, we have an active Youth club with a purpose. Our purpose is two fold – Education and Conservation.

Zim Parks Field Ranger Stanley educates Matsetso Stars Youth in Chimanimani.

This week Zim Parks Ranger Stanley joined our group to talk about “Why Nature needs our help”. He explained why we rely on nature for our water and our food and how all creatures, including humans, are joined in a web of life.

Marching for lions in Chimanimani

Our youngsters from Matsetso Soccer team enjoyed wearing their new kit kindly sent to us from Scotland and a busy afternoon of environmental education, then the fun of marching and roaring was followed by a good hard training session. The future of our National Parks lies in the hands of children such as these – the earlier they learn to understand their wild life heritage the sooner they will love it and thus care for it.

Are you on FACEBOOK?  – See what else is going on at  Matsetso Stars Youth Club on FACEBOOK and give us a “LIKE”

Matsetso Young Stars training in their new blues

Matsetso Young Stars training in Chimanimani

Posted in Helping children in our community., Matsetso Stars and Peza Trust., Paintings by Dee, Soccer or Football, Uncategorized, Wildlife Art | Leave a comment

Relax…and walk.

The best kind of holiday sends you back to the office feeling mentally sharp and physically fitter.  Where to go to achieve this on a budget?

I used to enjoy lying on a beach reading a book and then jumping on my windsurfer the second the wind picked up. No wind? – no problem, just put on a mask and go snorkeling for a couple of hours. Zimbabwe cannot offer this type of break but we have something just as effective.  Here in Chimanimani you can give your mind that vital rest and even more importantly, reinvigorate your body with surprising economy.

Morning tea and then walk....and a more beautiful walk would be hard to find. This is the walk from Frog&Fern to Bridal Veil Falls.

Play the Chimanimani Course

Morning people enjoy a cup of tea as the sun rises, lace up their  walking shoes and head out into Msasa woodland – just the birds accompany them. This place, this walk gives them the time to wind down, think, enjoy beautiful surroundings.  Other people like to sleep late, put together a leisurely breakfast, grab the golf clubs –  and go play. Not too many people know about the golf course a stone’s throw from Frog & Fern – it’s there and it has slopes, bunkers, caddies, water hazards and neat greens.

If you work up a sweat you have a choice of crystal clear pools where you park yourself under a cascading waterfall and feel your troubles get washed right away. After your exercise you need a place to relax, a quiet and lovely place. Frog & Fern Cottages is that place.

Walking and resting....Frog & Fern Cottages provide the very best of both in Chimanimani.

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2014…brings rain and gorgeous birds

Blue Swallow photographed by Richard Peek

Happily for us it was rain and not fireworks bringing  in the New Year to our garden at Frog & Fern Cottages. Exactly what we needed of course. No frightened, runaway animals, instead the horses are knee deep in kikuyu.  Above their munching heads multiple birds seek insects whenever the rain eases. Just one of three Paradise Flycatcher chicks survived the three day drenching but he is doing well, flitting after his parents with cheerful chirps.

One of the benefits of running Frog & Fern is that we get to meet some extraordinary people. In the last two years alone we hosted some of the world’s leading experts on: dragon flies, birds, ferns, frogs, insects, bats, trees and mushrooms. Their love of nature and dedication to learning never fails to impress.  Just a five minute chat with any one of these people lifts my spirit. Many of them have kindly shared some of their knowledge and their stunning photographs.

Gurneys Sugarbird on Protea caffra - December 2013 Chimanimani Eland Sanctuary. (Courtesy of Richard Peek)

Most recently we had Warwick  and Michelle Tarbuton along with Richard and Bookey Peek (of Stone Hills fame). If you have not yet read any of Bookey’s books you are missing something…..google her and enjoy!

Malachite Sunbird on Protea caffra. Chimanimani. Photo taken by Richard Peek on Pork Pie.

Richard & Warwick set off to photograph Gurneys Sugar bird.  We had a few ideas and finally they found them feasting on Protea caffra up on Pork Pie in the Eland Sanctuary.  Chasing off the Malachite Sunbirds who had actually got there first.  Thank you Richard for sharing these lovely images.

Inspired by their enthusiasm I rode up those slopes in heavy mist and suddenly flying low, racing through the air – Blue Swallows and Black Swifts swooped over me.  I craned my neck so much at them I nearly fell off and Sesame kindly stopped and stood until I was ready to move along again. Just a day later and closer to home on the dog walk,  again I was gifted with a sighting of blue swallows – this time the sun was out and the unmistakable deep, metallic blue shot through above the grasses in lightning fast manoeuvres. Here above my head,  for a few summer months, one of the world’s most threatened creatures flies free! And to think that just the other day a city person asked me “Why do you live all the way out here?” – Oh, I  really did not know where to start with that answer!

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December already….and a good month for a prayer.

Wishing you an excellent Festive Season where ever you may be reading this. I wonder if your year sped by with the same slippery velocity?

Dee and Jane - at home in Chimanimani.

Here in Zimbabwe 2013 provided an interesting year and how grateful we were to have a peaceful one.  My wish for Manchester United to reach the majic 20, Andy Murray to win Wimbledon came through before the horrible blow of losing Madiba. So much has been said of this great human being.

I will throw my prayer in here – I pray for a Mandela of the Natural World…. Somebody capable of chasing down the demand for Ivory and rhino horns. Who would place a moratorium on the destruction of the last wild forests of our earth.  Some talented human being who turns all our heads, who makes us look into our own hearts and change something about ourselves. So that every creature on earth may enjoy a life free from cruelty. A world free from cruelty – this is my prayer. Happy Christmas everybody. RIP Tata.

Gentle friends

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November Kicks off… nicely

Bothwell wins boots for best sporting conduct.

Gentle first rains, then blustery blue skies and a whole bunch of very happy kids. A great start to November.

The TIATIX Trophies. Gorgeous sculptures from scrap metal.

Just down the hill from Frog & Fern Matsetso  Youth Club has been running a barefoot 5 aside soccer tournament all of October, with ten teams playing a round robin.

Action packed day - This is Brian.

The final was played on November 2nd – what a day!

Kyplone - most improved player and his brother Kyclone won best young striker.

The girls!

The Junior Trophy was won by Ngangu Young Elands. They also won a choice between a horse ride and a swimming lesson.

These kind of events cause great excitement since most of the children have never experienced such a get together and treats for all.  Manica Produce Market in Mutare donated high quality fresh fruit for all the children at the event – players and spectators!

Delicious fruit donated by Manica Produce of Mutare.

Prizes sourced by PEZA TRUST included food, clothing, football boots, soccer balls, day trips to Mutare for a Museum visit and a computer lesson, swimming lessons, horse rides, notebooks, pens, backpacks and more. A huge thank you to our donors.

Lovely uniform from Forfar Athletic, Scotland.

The Winning Team wearing their uniform for the first time.

Uniforms from Blairgowrie

All the Matsetso Stars players were in uniforms which arrived in time from Scotland….carried by individuals who care about Zimbabwe and the children of our nation.

Thank you all and here they are in action.

TIATIX 5 Aside Final. Visit and LIKE Matsetso Stars Facebook Page - every bit of support helps!

Posted in Activities, Helping children in our community., Matsetso Stars and Peza Trust., Soccer or Football, Things to do in Chimanimani, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Chimanimani Marching for Elephants

People around the world marched for elephants on October 4th – we in Chimanimani felt compelled to join in. The poaching of elephants in our own back yard of Hwange Game Reserve  using cyanide and salt has horrified us all.  And why should people on other continents who do not have wild elephants as part of their Natural Heritage march alone? No, we in Chimanimani joined their cry.

And Rhinos! They are the heritage of young Zimbabweans.

Matsetso Stars Youth March for Elephants.

Hands off our Elephants!

The youth and children of Matsetso marched for the elephants to open their Inaugural Tiatix 5 Aside Football Tournment.  This competition is named in memory of a fine polo x pony I once knew. Tiatix represented Zimbabwe at her sport and was an athlete of the finest calibre.  He athleticism, her bold play and her speed placed her above so many of her competitors. Her example is a good one for our budding  athletes to follow.

And it is fitting that our march for elephants  was led by a child riding another wonderful mare.

Jade ridden by Nomatter leads the march

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Keeping cool – Chimanimani is the place to be.

Refresh yourself in Chimanimani waters

Cool waters of Chimanimani

October is known as suicide month – dry, hot, debilitating –  unless you have a mountain stream gushing by your doorstep…

Bridal Veil Falls - and miles of cool waters to explore downstream.

Here in Chimanimani we are known to be somewhat off beat, refreshingly so in my opinion. Take for instance our  waterfall crawl as opposed to the traditional old pub crawl. Pack your coldies, toss in some ice and a sandwich, couple of apples, bottle of wine and a swimming towel. No need for elaborate bathers – you and your friends are most likely to have your waterfall all to yourselves.  When not feeling energetic enough to get up to the rivers in the Chimanimani Mountains National Park,  we opt for our  favourite two day waterfallcrawl (You will need a 4×4).

Refreshing dip in Mangowe Pool

Mangowe Falls – to Tessa’s Pool – to Corner Waterfalls and up to the Circle Pools back again to Bridal Veil Falls and home to Frog & Fern.

Bridal Veil Falls - Walk there from Frog & Fern Cottages

Mangowe and Tessas  and a good piece of the river below Bridal Veil Falls are not inside National Parks so our dogs join us and dive right in.

There is nothing quite like the  sensation of slipping under crystal clear water, letting the tingling cold of a rushing mountain stream refresh every corpuscle of your being.

Come and immerse yourself this  October.

Beat the October heat and sit under a waterfall in Chimanimani.

Posted in Activities, Eastern Highlands, Hiking, Self Catering, Things to do in Chimanimani, Uncategorized | 1 Comment