WHAT IS THE VUMBA TRAIL?
This is a tough hiking trail in the Vumba mountains in the Eastern Districts of Zimbabwe.
Experienced hikers can enjoy six days of hiking in unspoiled mountains, camping each night in different locations. You will get to see a huge variety of vegetation, including open grasslands, msasa woodlands and montane forest, bath in clear mountain streams and see distant views. It is advisable to go with a guide. At the moment there is only one guide, his name is Stewart Chiwurawa. Phone: 077 734 9203. We plan to print maps for sale at Seldom Seen soon. Until then please use the one on this website.
Please take your own first aid and be responsible for your own safety.
Hiking the Vumba Trail is done at your own risk.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
All hikers are asked to pay the Friends of the Vumba US$10 each for maintenance of the path and to raise funds to pay the anti poaching scouts. This should be paid at the Seldom Seen Reception and receipted. Its one way that hikers can contribute to the excellent work done by the Friends of the Vumba to preserve this national treasure.
There are other costs: camping fees and National Park entry fees. These should be paid to the owners of your campsites. The prices are quoted in US dollars but you may pay in RTGS equivalents. And you need to pay your guide US$10 per day for up to six people, thereafter another US$5 per person.
THE START & DAILY HIKES
The hike starts at Seldom Seen in the Vumba. Seldom Seen has fully equipped self catering cottages but if you are camping stay at Crimson Wing, the empty cottage at the end of the road. Camp in the garden and use the ablutions. If its raining they will allow you to sleep in the house.You may leave your vehicle at Seldom Seen for free while you do the trail. Cost: US$5 per person per night.
Phone: Sue Worsley on 077 377 7142 or Ken Worsley on 071 261 0388 or e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org to make a booking.
Day I: To Nancy Morgan’s B and B (12.3 kms)
Walk up the road from Crimson Wing, then turn right and cross a forested stream to Tony’s Coffee Shop. Follow the track down past the Taylor’s dam and on down into the valley. Cross a small vlei and a stream and climb up the other side to the lovely contoured Acacia Tree Road. Cross the tar road and walk down towards the old Eagle School site of the Elim massacre, now a Military training school, but before you get there climb up towards the cell phone towers and on up to the top of Chinziwa Mountain. Great view of the Mutare district to the north and west. Go down to join the old Vumba road. Cross the tar road and walk through woodlands down to the White Horse Inn. Camp in Nancy Morgan’s garden. Phone: 077 211 5953 Cost: US$5 per person per night or sleep in a cottage for US$10 per person per night (self catering). Or if you need more luxury stay at the White Horse Inn, up the road from Nancy’s. Phone the Reception on 071 593 8388 or Frank Marembo on 077 234 9590. If you are camping you could still spoil yourself by having a meal at the White Horse Inn.
Day 2: To the Botanic Gardens (15.9kms)
Start hiking early as there is a hard climb up from the White Horse Inn along the boundary of Gill Wylie’s wildlife sanctuary, following a spectacular msasa covered ridge. You may well see flocks of silvery cheeked horn bills here. After the saddle climb steeply up to the secret passageway up the cliffs and on to the nose of the Lion – Lion’s rock. Look down the cliffs at the forest far below and give yourself a clap! After a rest go over the top of Lion Rock mountain in unspoiled forest and steep down the other side. Make a detour to see the spiney tree ferns or to stay with Pete and Marianne Buttress (071 221 3240). They have a delightful B and B with a beautiful garden and a great view. Or carry on across the Essex road, climb onto the grassy Blue Swallow Ridge and follow it to the south then descend to cross the Chinamata River (detour to see the Chinamata Falls). Climb up on a farm road to the Vumba Gardens National Park. Camp in their camp site. It has toilets and showers. To make a booking phone the Wildlife Officer in Charge, Mr Leo Parakasingwa, on 071 554 8954. Or call Reservations in Mutare on 077 374 0333. Cost: Locals $US 5 per person per night. Foreigners: US$10 per person per night.
It’s also possible to stay next door at Forest Hills, or go there for a meal.
Day 3: To the Zonwe Falls (10.6kms)
This hike begins with a long steep descent from the Vumba Gardens. The path takes you through a grove of ancient msasa trees, a farm and indiginous forests to the edge of the Zonwe Dam. Here you will hear Narina Trogons calling in summer and sometimes fish eagles. There is a lovely camp site at the Boswell Brown’s fishing camp. Phone Louise Bezuidenhout on 077 238 2971 if you do not want to go on east to the Zonwe Falls. Louise and Robbie Boswell Brown have a little cottage by their dam with a toilet and shower. But it is well worth walking on to the Zonwe Falls. Close to the bridge on the north side is a path to the east which follows the now meandering river. Walk through a neglected farm with some cattle and then enter Sue Peters’ private game park through an open gate. Phone her on 077 221 5519 for permission. (US$5 per person per night camping fee) Soon after the gate you will see the scouts’ camp on your left and then the road crosses the Zonwe River on a log bridge. Leave the road after the bridge and follow the river bank down to the spectacular Zonwe Falls. Find a campsite on the flat ground before the Falls. No ablutions, bath in the river. Please bury all your biodegradeable waste and carry out all your litter. This applies to the whole trail of course but especially to this bit of paradise.
Day 4: To the Witchwood Campsite in Burma Valley (11.1 kms)
Walk a short distance back up the Zonwe River from the Falls and the campsite. Cross the river and climb up the ridge to Eastern Ridge (two hour climb!) See more wonderful distant views of Chikamba Dam and the Mocambique plains from the top of the ridge. We often see zebra here. Pass Mr Dusky’s house, and go down to cross the Sambenyara River. Walk through the farm which used to be the Ricard’s Private Game Reserve following the Sambenyara River to Zebra Falls on the Ricard’s old boundary. From here the path divides and there is an option to go up over Globe Rock towards Leopard Rock, leaving out the Burma Valley, or descend steeply into the Burma Valley. If you are leaving out the Burma Valley loop walk over Globe Rock, past Rob Jones’ house and take the short cut from the old Mounain Lodge compound to Leopard Rock Hotel. Then join the trail again to the Giant Brocolli Forest. The Sambenyara falls, which are further down the river, almost in Burma Valley are picturesque and a cool place to swim. The water is sparkling clean. Its fine to drink. Camp an hour’s hike further on in the shade of enormous forest albizias in Witchwood Forest. This is the lowest (hottest) point of the trail at 820m. No ablutions. The Witchwood stream may be contaminated by settlers upstream so its advisable to carry drinking water from the Sambenyara. Please leave no trace that you have been there. Pay National Parks US$5 for camping.
Day 5: To the Giant Brocolli Forest, Elephant campsite (8kms)
Follow the old Pioneer Road from the Burma Valley to Leopard Rock, now overgrown, but a path has been cleared. Divert to follow the Wichwood stream and rest at Butterfly falls, aptly named by Lynda Campbell Morrison. Slog on up the hill to Leopard Rock Hotel. Enter through the gate and explain to the security that you are doing the Vumba Trail and will be exiting towards George’s point. Pass the golf course and the game park and walk through Leopard Rock compound. Then follow the power line path to the Giant Brocolli Forest. (also aptly named by Lynda when looking down on the ‘heads of brocolli’ from George’s Point) Pass the turn off to George’s point and you will cross a stream. Look for the big rock with the texture of elephant hide. Find a place to camp on the soft leafy forest floor just beyond the “Elephant Rock in the Giant Brocolli Forest.
Day 6: Back to Seldom Seen (7.9kms)
Wake up in the forest, and climb early before it gets hot as you have lots of steep climbing ahead! Up to George’s Point. Enjoy the msasa trees and the cliffs. Look down on Burma Valley and across to the Tsetsera mountains. See the Chimanimani Range far to the south on a clear day. Then traverse to the base of Castle Beacon. Climb the knife edge ridge which still has a few remnant giant Yellow Wood trees. See if you can find the Star of Africa. Pass some ancient ruins as you climb to the very top of Castle Beacon. The summit is 1900 meters high – the highest you will get on the Vumba Trail. Descend on the other side of the mountain. Down down to come out at Tony’s Coffee Shop. Spoil yourself with a piece of his famous cake. Its less than half an hour to walk from Tony’s across the stream and down the road back to Seldom Seen. Well done. You will have walked more than seventy kilometers in some of the most beautiful country I know.
The Vumba Trail is a circle so you can start and finish anywhere you like on the trail. You can also choose to do any stretches, or number of nights that suit you, especially if you have a back up vehicle. You can find your own accommodation anywhere in the Vumba and join the trail where it suits you, but please remember to pay Parks entry fees if you are entering the Parks area and to pay the Friends of the Vumba US$10. We desperately need funding to preserve this incredible area.