The Sunday Mail
Lovemore Ranga Mataire
SLIGHTLY over a 100 kilometres on the north-eastern side of Harare lies one of the most untainted flora and fauna silently nestled in a habitat that once played host to earliest beings ever to set foot on this part of Africa, south of the Sahara.
Aptly named Umfurudzi Safari Park, probably because of its proximity to Umfurudzi River, this place is not only rich in flora and fauna but boasts of wildlife and mineral wealth as well. It is a place of spectacular beauty that angels must be gleefully gazing from above, for it surely looks like a little piece of heaven.
Officially commissioned in 1980, the park covers an area of 76 000 hectares. On the eastern edge is Mazowe River while the Umfurudzi River flows through the southern portion of the park before joining Mazowe River.
After experiencing a severe ransacking of minerals and decimation of wildlife from people in the surrounding communal areas between 2000 and 2010, the place has since fully recovered its pristine state following a joint venture initiative between the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) and Pioneer Corporation Africa (PCA).
So successful has been the public-private joint venture effort between ZimParks and PCA that villagers have also come on board to lend support in conserving the park’s flora and fauna including its wildlife and mineral wealth.
The joint venture has been transformational and a real inspiration for what can be achieved and duplicated in other distressed parks.
Umfurudzi Safari Park is now home to elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, elands and sable antelopes, impalas, wildebeests, leopards and even pangolins. It is hard for any visitor not to fall in love with Umfurudzi — a place with a unique history of being a habitat of the Bushmen whose “footprints” masterfully adorn some caves dotted around the park. Umfurudzi Safari Park manager, Power Mupunga, credits the beautiful sustenance of the park to the partnership between ZimParks and PCA. The partnership has ensured that the local community partake in the maintenance of the park for sustainable development.
“I think the partnership is working well. Most weekends we are fully booked. We have talked to community leaders and school heads in the vicinity of the park to submit their needs and how they would want the park to assist them,” said Mupunga.
Besides the beautiful flora and fauna, Umfurudzi offers game drives and walks, hiking and mountain biking, bird-watching, fishing and ranger duties with the icing being the unforgettable elephant experience where one can be up-close with the largest land mammal in its natural habitat — a truly unique experience whose memories will last a lifetime. It is worth mentioning that Umfurudzi River, which flows into the Mazowe River is the only river system that holds the yellow fish. Something good is surely happening at ZimParks. One ought to be at Umfurudzi to bear testimony to a completely different trajectory unfolding in the management of the country’s wildlife and natural resources.