Sable Valley Lodge
He was the founder of the diamond company De Beers, which today markets 40 per cent of the world's rough diamonds and at one time marketed 90 per cent. An ardent believer in colonialism and imperialism, he was the founder of the state of Rhodesia, which was named after him.
After independence, Rhodesia separated into the nations of Northern and Southern Rhodesia, later renamed Zambia and Zimbabwe, respectively.
South Africa's Rhodes University is named after him. He set up the provisions of the Rhodes Scholarship, which is funded by his estate.
We resumed our tour and visited huge caves with ancient paintings, spiders and large nettles.
Ian's eagle eye spotted the tiniest of creatures on the road and gently avoided them. One was a chameleom (pictured) which climbed up my arm and around my neck.
We had an extensive and interesting tour with Ian befiore returning to our hotel for lunch.
Fergus and I went on walkabout and visited a local bar for a can of the locally brewed Zambezi beer at $1.50 each ($3 in the hotel); a bottle, where you can get it, is less gassey.
Part of our itinerary was to visit a rural school. We did so in October '08 and were taken aback by the total lack of basic equipment such as copies and pencils.
We came prepared this time with crayons, biros, colouring books and a variety of sweets.
However, because of our delay out of London the school visit had to be abandoned.
Instead, we visited an orphanage close to the hotel – The Queen Elizabeth Adventish Early Education Centre - where they cater for orphans from birth to 10 years.
The facility was a credit the to dedicated staff. We expected it to be very instutionalised but it was in fact very homely, clean and the children were gracious.
Later we called vto see Francis at The Cattleman where the entire night with tips cost us €33 each. The T-bone stakes were gigantic and delicious.
The following morning we set out in a Msuna Travel bus for the road trip to Hwange – the largest national park in Zimbabwe, and equal to the size of Ireland.
Brian and Marleen Sabers (zimbezigmall.com), true hosts, run the Sable Valley Lodge which is set within 140 square km (34,600 acres) of private wildlife reserve adjoining Hwange.
That evening we set out on a game drive and encountered elephants by the dozens.
After dinner in the open we stayed in individual traditional huts and had an early morning call at 5.30 a.m. for a game drive. A log fire was burning and the kettle was boiled for some of the distinctive Rooibos tea to wake us up.
The sunrise was spectacular and the variety of wildlife stunning.
We encountered warthog, eagles, baboons, zebra, jackals, elephant, giraffe, kude, impala and a huge range of birds.
After breakfast it was time to say our goodbyes and we set out for the five hour road trip tp Victoria Falls.
We were booked into The Kingdom, the closest hotel to the Victoria Falls and a spectacular amenity.
Walking through rainbows
The highlight of this visit was a trek to the Falls. We realised on arrival the water levels were high and a mist came down upon us as we pulled into the car park.
Undetered and with my camera well protected, we went to view the Falls that stretch over a width of 1,700 metres and, stand 108 metres tall, making them the world's largest waterfall.
It was a mixture of mist, rainbows and as we got closer, a drenching as if in a torrential downpour. But it was worth the effort.
We had to return to the hotel to dry out and change and then set out for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi.
It was a spectacular sight as the sun went down and the golden hues splattered the sky.
During the trip as we sipped chilled Zambezi and nibbled finger food we passed hippopotomus and crocodiles. What a day. What an experience.And more was to come.
The following morning we set off for the African Lion and Environmnetal Research Trust (ALERT) to walk with lions.
I had visited this project in the past and was eagerly looking forward returning.
ALERT was founded in 2005 to support the work of African's Encounters Lion Rehabilitation and Release into the wild programme.
After a safety induction course we walked into the bush to meet and walk with Mighty and Fearless, two year-old male lions.
We spent over an hour walking with, petting (with great trepidation) and photographing the young lions.
If that was not enough excitement for one day we then headed off to a gorge over the Zambezi where daredevil Fergus Kilkelly volunteered to cross the gorge in a harness (see photo). Not for the faint-hearted.
We booked out of The Kingdom and moved to the stunning Victoria Lodge Safari Lodge overlooking a water hole.
The lodge is built on seven intricate levels, rising above the pristine bushveld. From the Buffalo Bar you can observe the wildlife, the sunset and the sunshine.
The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is run by Africa Albida and when back in Harare we met its chief executive, Ross Kennedy, who outlined plans to open a multi-million dollar Sangtonga, a fusion of museum, multi-faceted wildlife park and entertainment park, rendering the history of the Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River basin in a stunning, multi-sensory presentation. When up and running it will attract thousands to the Victoria Falls area.
But back at the Safari Lodge we had traditional dinner in the Boma Restaurant complimented with an African floorshow.
The menu was a gastronomic feast. For starters - house smoked scapoppini of baby crocodile tail, pressed Impala knuckle, a deluxe of foraged mushrooms wrapped in goat's cheese or oven baked vegetables.
For the main course you could choose from a selection of game meats – warthog 'pumba' steak, beef, pork, chicken, kudu and impala.
Breakfast was equally stunning. As elephant and impala visited the water hole in the Makuwa-Kuwa Restaurant we had a choice of soft poached egg atop milk poached smoked haddock, fresh spinach leaves served on a toasted crossaint, Gusu mushroom duxelle, belle peppers and salami frittata served with grilled aubergines set on a chilli tomato relish, Cajun rubbed bacon and chicken liver skewers, toasted sweet corn bread and a fresh coriander pesto.
Or you could have a medium baked egg served with maple-cinnamon glaced and kilted chipolata sausage skewers, garlic sautéed gusu mushrooms, sun dried tomato and cardamom chutney with pan fried shredded potato and onion cakes or a fluffy omelette from whisked egg whites filled with sautéed onions, mixed bell peppers and mozzarella cheese with homemade tomato relish.
But all good things must come to an end and it was time to head for the airport for the flight back to Harare where we stayed at the Holiday Inn for two nights.
At our meeting with Ross Kennedy we sought his recommendation for a good restaurant and he booked Fergus and I into Victoria Twenty-Two, an Italian themed emporium, which proved an excellent choice.
There I had fillet of blessbock washed down with Thelema South African red wine. A real treat indeed.
While we were in Harare former Irish President and UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, met with President Robert Mugabe where she called for the inclusion of gender equality in the proposed new constitution.
Our thanks to Felicia, to Gladys Dongo who accompanied and looked after us on the entire trip and to Moses Mapanda, general manager, Air Zimbabwe.