Orchids of Zimbabwe

A first ever for the Orchid Conservation Alliance, a trip to cloud forests of Zimbabwe! Zimbabwe lies north of the Tropic of Capricorn, has a range of altitudes and landscapes, and has many beautiful, interesting and endemic orchid species. In this country plagued by soci-economic and political turmoil, many species are at risk of extinction through habitat loss, overharvesting for traditional medicine, and other human activities.

Our tour leader, Brad Croukamp, grew up in rural Zimbabwe, and spent much of his childhood in nature reserves and the bush. Brad has a Master’s degree in Environmental Humanities from the University of Cape Town, with the focus of his research on the conservation of African orchids, and a particular emphasis on the orchids of Zimbabwe and South Africa. He often conducts short tours in the fynbos surrounding Cape Town, as well as orchid tours of the Table Mountain area. A new venture for Brad is the creation of special tours to bring awareness to at-risk Zimababwean ecological regions, celebrating the variety of local flora that exists. Brad owns and operates a plant shop in Cape Town.

Our tour will take place within the monsoon window, and January should be an optimal period to see the greatest variety of both terrestrial and epiphytic orchids. The tour focus area will be the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, within the foothills of the Vumba mountains. (see holiday itinerary for additional details). At the end of the eastern highlands tour, the group will fly to Victoria Falls and spend three days in that region, with activities including birding tours, safaris, and sightseeing. This area only has a limited orchid flora, but is a popular leisure and holiday destination. Victoria Falls is heralded as one of the natural wonders of the world.

In addition to the orchids, this region is well known for its diversity of bird life, rare chameleons, and Samango monkeys.

The group size will be limited to 10 participants plus our guides. Our transportation will be in 4wd vehicles. Hotels will generally be lodges with on-site restaurants, gardens/luxurious grounds or surroundings. Participants should be prepared to do some hiking; for the most part this is not an “arm-chair” tour. On several days there may be longer hikes (all day), but we will also try to plan an alternate activity on those days for those participants unable or unwilling to undertake the more strenuous hiking.

The tour starts in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, and ends at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Our tour operator also offers additional trip extensions to other parts of this amazing area. Contact Mary (mary@orchidconservationalliance.org) for further details regarding these extensions.

Dates & Prices

Dates: January 6-Jan 20 2025

Price: $8600 per person. Single supplement $1000 (total $9600)

Deposit: $1500. Due no later than Oct 1, 2024

Group Size: Minimum of 6 Maximum of 10

Final Payment Due: November 15 2024

Deposit details: Refundable up Oct 1, 2024. Since there is a very limited number of spaces, interested participants should send their deposits to the OCA as soon as possible to reserve a spot on the tour. Your spot on the tour is only reserved when your deposit is received, and the order of the deposits determines acceptance. No exceptions! Also, as we have internal flights on the tour, it is essential to send you deposit in as early as possible so we can book the flights. If the tour is fully booked, we do suggest registering for our waiting list. Often we have cancellations and this way you still may get to go on the tour. Yes, we know this is expensive, but the tour includes internal airfares, birding tours, a safari tour AND visiting Victoria falls.

Price includes: internal airfare, ground transportation, guides, meals, hotel accommodations, entry to parks and reserves, a one-day birding tour with expert guides, and a safari tour.

Conservation Donation: A donation based on the profit (~$1000 per person) from the tour is donated to the Orchid Conservation Alliance. The Orchid Conservation Alliance is a 501(c)3 organization, and for USA residents, the donation may be tax deductible. A formal acknowledgement letter with the exact amount donated is sent to each participant at year end.

Not included in Price: Round trip airfare to Zimbabwe from home country, entry visas, travel insurances, alcoholic beverages, personal items, tips. A communal purse will be created to cover tips for hotel porters, reserve guides, etc., plan on $150-$200 (in cash). The currency in Zimbabwe is the US dollar however, only bills from 2006 or newer are accepted. Cost does not include pre tour or post tour accommodations. Details will be sent to participants regarding which hotel to book if you decide to arrive a day or two early.  Hotel nights after the tour are also not included but can be arranged with our tour agency, or separately.

NOTE: Luggage allowance for the internal flight is 20kg for checked luggage and 5 kg for cabin luggage. Excess luggage may be charged per kg, but may not be allowed. Please pack accordingly, i.e. 1 carry on less than 5 kg, and 1 suitcase no more than 20 kg. We also suggest that the carry-on not be hardsided, and “squashable” so it can fit. Trekking poles have to go in checked luggage.

 

Day 1

Arrival in Harare, Zimbabwe’s largest metropolitan area, a 3 star equivalent hotel will be booked (potentially the bronte garden hotel) this hotel will be booked for the first two nights and the last night before traveling to Victoria falls. This day will be to get to unwind and prepare, however early arrivals can schedule cultural activities for the day.

Day 2

After breakfast, visitors will go to the Mukuvisi Woodlands for the first sighting of many local orchids – mostly Eulophia and Habenaria species. There is also some wild game including giraffes, zebra and eland. This will be around 3 miles on flat terrain through miombo woodland.   After lunch a cultural tour of local stone masons and crafts will be organized. In the evening a dinner with all the members of the tour group and the guides will take place, before the adventure into orchid country begins.

Day 3

Transfer 260 kms north east from Harare to La Rochelle Estate in Penhelonga, close to Mutare. The travel time is roughly 4 hours, and the countryside changes from scrubby Miombo woodland to the forests of the Afromontane climate. La Rochelle estate houses Zimbabwe’s only government-funded orchid collection. This historic estate is embedded within an old garden originally established in 1940’s. It is a luxurious hotel of old-world style and charm, extensive private gardens in the estate is cultivated with extravagence and flair. This estate is rich in both social and natural history, and of particular interest are the Microcoelia exilis, Bulbophyllum ellioti and Polystachia concreta which grow wild in the trees.

Day 4

Explore La Rochelle orchid collections and grounds at ease. Sir Stephen and Lady Courtald were eccentric English aristocrats who collected plant specimens from all over the world. There is a unique and interesting arboretum as well as a portion of indigenous forest with three distinct habitat types. The walk around this forest is roughly five kilometers (3 miles) with a moderate incline. After lunch, travel to the Vumba mountains which is a distance of about 52 kms. The landscape here is incredibly variable with stunted woodland giving way to thick tropical Afromontane rainforest.

Day 4 

Arrive at the accommodation in the Vumba, the White Horse Inn, another old-world style hotel with attached restaurant and extensive grounds. On the day of arrival, we will unpack and get settled, after which a short walk to a monument built in the bush by original owners can be undertaken. This walk will include drier growing species, such as Eulophia streptopetala, Bulbophyllum maximum, and Ypsilopus erectus. In addition the grounds here are renowned for the stunning bird, the Narina trogon. The walk is relatively flat and approximately 5 kms (3miles). If we arrive too late in the day this walk can be rescheduled.

Day 5

A full day birding tour (which is included within the tour price) organized with local birders. The distances on this tour are variable based on bird nesting positions, and will include multiple locations. With a packed lunch included. Potential endemic birds on this list include:

  • Trumpeter hornbill
  • Knysna turaco
  • Crested guinneafowl
  • Chirinda appalis
  • Roberts warbler
  • Buff-spotted flufftail
  • Narina trogon

Day 6

As day 5 is going to be more active with lots of walking, day six is going to be more relaxed. In the morning we will go to the vumba botanical gardens where many species of cloud forest epiphytes can be seen in situ :

  • Angraecum chamaenthus
  • Angraecum scacciferum
  • Bolusia iridifolia
  • Bulbophyllum maximum
  • Microcoelia stolzii
  • Rhipsoglossum rutillum
  • Stennogottis zambeziaca
  • Polystachia albesence
  • Polystachia campyloglossa
  • Polystachia concreta
  • Pollystachia cultriformis

We will spend the morning at the botanical gardens as the area where all of these can be seen is a small, forested part of the garden. The terrain here is not steep however, due prior neglect the paths are severely degraded, and the ground is incredibly uneven. From the botanical gardens we will go to Tony’s Coffee Shop for tea and cake. This is included in the tour package price. At the back of Tonys Coffee Shop is another small forest walk people can do and species such as Stolzia repens, Disperis fannyae and Polystachia zambeziaca can be seen. This walk is approximately 1 mile. From here there will be multiple stops at roadside sites where orchids have been seen as we slowly make our way back to the hotel for an afternoon to relax. If people still wish to explore more a guide can be arraigned to go to other sites, such as George’s peak (a rough drive with a 4×4) or the bunga forrest.

Day 7

After breakfast we will depart from the Vumba and head to Nyanga, approximately 140 kilometers away. Nyanga is apopular holiday destination and more temperate than the Vumba due to the increased altitude. the landscape here resembles the fynbos heathland of the Western Cape. There are less trees and the area is more of open grasslands interspersed with many species of protea, erica and other fynbos species that occur only within this region. We will arrive at troutbek hotel by around lunch time. After lunch and time to unpack, a walk around the estate to look for terrestrial orchids on the grounds can be undertaken. Species here include c=Cynorkis kassenerina, Disperis species, and Brachycorthys species.

Day 8

Externally guided hike up Mount Inyangani. This is the second highest peak in Africa. This walk is approximately 5 miles and will take up much of the day. Potential species include:

  • Brownlea galpini
  • Disa fragrans
  • Satyrium errectum
  • Disa rhodantha
  • Disa baurii
  • Disa cornuta
  • Disa ornithanantha
  • Disa Saxicola
  • Disa zimbabweensis
  • Habenaria disparrillis

The presence of terrestrial species is dependent on rainfall and so there is no guarantee that these species will be seen. For those not interested or capable of this strenuous hike alternative activites include a journey up to worlds view, a scenic lookout roughly 8 kms by 4×4 to see a similar list of orchids.

On the evening of day 8 a traditional fire side meal or braai will be organized by the guides.

Day 9

Depending on the amount of rain that has been had will dictate this day. One option will be another adventure and will include a day trip to the Pungwe falls, this area is remote and will take approximately 2 hours on a dirt road depending on the conditions.

We will have a scenic lunch at the top of the pungwe river. Bring a bathing suit as the forest across the river is rich in epiphytic species, such as

  • Angraecum conchiferum
  • Stolzia compacta
  • Aerangis mystacidii
  • Liparis bowkerii

In addition to this the grassland around the right-hand side of the falls (by the carpark) is the only recorded space where Neobolusia cilleata is recorded in that area.

Failing this as an option due to weather, a day around Troutbek looking at other local terrestrials will be conducted.

Day 10

Return to Harare over a distance of roughly 300 kilometers . This will take approximately 4 hours. A final day to relax and rest before departure to Victoria falls.

Day 11

Departure for Victoria Falls

Day 11

Arrive at Victoria falls after a flight of roughly 90 mins. The morning will consist of travel and acclimatization. In the evening there will be a sunset cruise and sundowners on the river.

Day 12

There will be a guided walk around the falls, with multiple species of orchids found around the falls, namely Calanthe sylvatica, Eulophia alta, and Eulophia guiniensis. This will take approximately three hours. (there can be a sunrise birding boat cruise and breakfast organized at additional cost). That evening a traditional meal at the Boma resturant, with traditional Zimbabwean music and food is planned.

Victoria falls is renowned for its birding due to the Zambezi being a main source of water for many miles around and there is a great diversity of species.

Day 13

The last full day will be full day guided safari tour of Chobe national park in Botswana.

Day 14

End of trip. Departures.

List of potential orchids

  • Aerangis mystacidii
  • Aerangis verdikii
  • Angraecopsis parviflora
  • Angraecum chamaenthus
  • Angraecum conchiferum
  • Angraecum minus
  • Angraecum scacciferum
  • Bolusia iridifolia
  • Brownlea galpini
  • Bulbophyllum ellioti
  • bulbophyllum maximum
  • Bulbophyllum sandersonii
  • Calanthe sylvatica
  • Cytorchis praetermissa
  • Diaphananthe subsimplex
  • Disa baurii
  • Disa cornuta
  • Disa fragrans
  • Disa ornithanantha
  • Disa rhodantha
  • Disa Saxicola
  • Disa zimbabweensis
  • Disperis fannyae
  • Eulophia alta
  • Eulophia guiniensis
  • Eulophia streptopetala
  • Habenaria disparrillis
  • Lipparis bowkerii
  • Microcoelia exilis
  • Microcoelia stolzii
  • Pollystachia cultriformis
  • Polystachia albesence
  • Polystachia campyloglossa
  • Polystachia concreta
  • Polystachia zambeziaca
  • Rhipsoglossum rutillum
  • Satyrium errectum
  • Stennogottis zambeziaca
  • Stolzia compacta
  • Stolzia repens
  • Trydactile bicaudate
  • Trydactile bicuspus
  • Ypsilopus erectus

 

List of potential birds

  • African black headed oriole
  • African jacana
  • African palm swift
  • African turn
  • Bateleur eagle
  • Black backed Koran
  • Blacksmith lapwing
  • Blue swallow
  • Buff-spotted flufftail
  • Carmine bee eater
  • Chirinda appalis
  • Common bulbul
  • Coot
  • Cormorant
  • Crested guinneafowel
  • Crowned lapwing
  • Egrets
  • European bee eater
  • Firey necked nightjar
  • Golden oriole
  • Greater kingfisher
  • Grey turaco
  • Ground hornbill
  • Half-collared kingfisher
  • Herons
  • Hopoes
  • Knysna turaco
  • Lanner falcon
  • Lappit faced vulture
  • Liliac breasted roller
  • Lillians lovebirds
  • Little bee eater
  • Little grebe
  • Malachite kingfisher
  • Meyers parrot
  • Mousebirds
  • Narina trogon
  • Ostriches
  • Paradise flycatcher
  • Perrigrin falcon
  • Pied kingfisher
  • Purple crested turaco
  • Roberts warbler
  • Spoonbill stork
  • Spotted thick-kney
  • Tropical bou bou
  • Trumpeter hornbill
  • Verreaux eagle
  • Wattled lapwing
  • White fronted bee eater
  • White-browed robin-chat
  • White backed vulture

Guides: Brad Croukamp, Nicolette du Plessis and Mary Gerritsen

Bradley Croukamp

Bradley Croukamp

Bradley Croukamp

I grew up in rural Zimbabwe and spent much of my childhood being in nature reserves and learning about the bush. I have been an avid orchid collector since I was ten years old and to date have established five shade houses in Zimbabwe for my collection of over 600 specimens. I have been a member of the Zimbabwe Orchid Society in Harare for 15 years, and joined the training to be an orchid judge while I was still at school. I volunteered at the Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens while studying and have also assisted in the cataloguing of a major private collection in Zimbabwe that was recently taken over by the state.

My Master’s degree is in Environmental Humanities from the University of Cape Town, and the focus of that research was the conservation of African orchids, with particular reference to Zimbabwe and South Africa. The interrelatedness of human ecologies and ecologies of flora and fauna is extremely topical, and I was also a research assistant in the field of neo-colonial studies. After my degree, I opened a rare plant and orchid shop in Cape Town that was the only outlet of its kind in the area and well-known for having unusual plants. As an experienced hiker, I began to be asked to conduct short tours in the indigenous fynbos around Cape Town, and specifically to see orchids found within the unique Table Mountain eco-complex.

I realize how little people know and how much of our natural systems are at real threat of extinction due to this lack of knowledge. I decided to create special tours to bring awareness to at-risk Zimbabwean ecological regions and to generate more interest in the smaller wonders of the natural world. Many eco-tours within Zimbabwe focus on mega-fauna, namely elephants, lions, and rhinos, but very few celebrate the variety of local flora that exists. That is what I aim to do with this tour. I am eager to share my knowledge and experiences with like-minded enthusiasts so that Zimbabwean orchids have more exposure and their habitats more respect.

Nicolette du Plessis

I have a Masters Degree from Rhodes University and have been involved in human development within arts and culture in various ways ever since. I managed the the first independent multi-cultural arts center in Durban and provided management and research assistance to the birth of several new initiatives post-1994, in the new South African democracy. This included contributing to new policies for funding and creating curricula for arts management education.

From 1998, I focused on cultural exchange management for Scandinavian agencies seeking new methods to support the new social order after apartheid. I was involved in facilitating over 1000 artists and cultural practitioners in exchange projects between all five Nordic countries and South Africa. I subsequently conducted numerous evaluations of social development projects and/or cultural audits in different countries throughout Southern, Western and Eastern Africa, for various clients, including The Swiss Development Agency, Africalia, the Danish Centre for Culture and Development (DCCD), Sida, Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Hivos and Stichtung Doen. The majority of these assessments were primarily concerned with the use of cultural activities to support positive social transformation. I was a founding member of Art Moves Africa (the only African mobility fund for artists and cultural practitioners), serving two terms of office as President from 2002 – 2009. In 2012 I completed the training to be included in the UNESCO Pool of Experts on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

I am passionate about understanding cultural practice across all diversities and have always sought to support initiatives that celebrate creativity and innovation. More recently, I was the CEO for ten years of a large youth development Non-Governmental Organization that works with music and active citizenship. I left that position to relocate to Cape Town, develop my own artistic practice and to continue with my research consultancy.

I am good at organizing events, managing logistics and keeping calm when things go wrong. And like all members of our family, I am a very enthusiastic gardener and lover of being in beautiful natural places. Brad and I have often travelled together and I am very proud to have been asked to be his right-hand woman on this enterprise.

Mary Gerritsen

Dr. Mary Gerritsen

Dr. Mary Gerritsen

The OCA representative on the Zimbabwe trip will be Mary Gerritsen, Ph.D., President of the Orchid Conservation Alliance. Mary has been leading orchid tours for the OCA for nearly 10 years, and has traveled extensively to see orchids in habitat.

Zimbabwe lies within the Tropic of Capricorn and has seasonal monsoons from November to March. This, along with a range of altitudes, has created varying landscapes with many interesting and endemic orchid species. However, Zimbabwe’s orchids have been little seen by the rest of the world due to the country’s socio-economic and political turmoil, which has deterred most travelers. As a result, many species are only known by residents who are firstly interested in the plants and secondly, able to manage the practical difficulties of travelling around the country. Mismanagement of natural resources (due to lack of information and reduced public funding) has resulted in orchid protection being overlooked by local legislature. This is leading to many species becoming at risk of extinction through habitat loss or overharvesting for the use of traditional medicine.

This tour aims to bring global awareness to a threatened group of special plants and expose the wonder of Zimbabwe’s orchid diversity to people outside of Zimbabwe. This proposed tour is the product of years of personal research and a passion for orchids combined with knowledge of the rich natural history of Zimbabwe. Many of these orchids have only been found through personal perseverance and on-going exploration of the areas. many of these rural areas are not always easy to get to. However, actually seeing orchids in their natural habitat in one of the most extraordinary countries in the world, is an amazing reward for anyone with determination and resilience.

There are plants that flower all year round, but the greatest chance of seeing most species lies within the monsoon window from November to March. Many epiphytes flower early in the spring season, so December or January into February is recommended as the optimal period for seeing the greatest variety of plants. The focus area for the tour is the Eastern Highlands of the country.

 

 

Nyanga is unique as it is comprised mainly of fynbos and stunted brachestychia woodland. Nyanga National Park lies in the north of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands. One of the first national parks to be declared in the country, it contains the highest land in Zimbabwe, with green hills and perennial rivers. Most of its terrain consists of rolling downland, sometimes lightly wooded, lying at altitudes between 1,800–2,593 meters (6,560–7,544 feet). Mount Nyangani, the highest point in Zimbabwe, lies in the centre of the park and Mutarazi Falls, Zimbabwe’s highest waterfall, is in the south of the park. Nyanga National Park incorporates the former Mutarazi Falls National Park on its southern boundary.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyanga_National_Park

The Bvumba Mountains or Vumba Mountains straddle the Zimbabwe– Mozambique border, and lie some 10 km southeast of the city of Mutare. The Bvumba rise to Castle Beacon at 1,911 meters, and are, together with the Chimanimani Mountains to the south and Nyanga Mountains to the north, part of the Eastern Highlands of the Manicaland and adjacent Manica provinces. They are referred to as the “Mountains of the Mist” (Bvumba being the Shona word for “mist”), as so often the early morning starts with a mist which clears by mid-morning. Although lying mostly within Zimbabwe, the mountains extend north-eastward to Mount Vumba (or Monte Vumba) in Mozambique.[1] They are capped by cool, green hills which shelter country hotels, a casino and golf course at the Leopard Rock Hotel and a Botanical Garden with one of the best views in Africa.[2] The mountains are also known for their coffee plantations.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bvumba_Mountains 

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