And then the Covid-19 pandemic happened!
The world as we knew it was blown away right from our faces, forcing an indoor lifestyle for much of the seven months that the globe has been in lockdown.
But the pieces are slowly coming back together and humans, largely having known for exploring their surroundings, are getting out of the forced cocoons.
With international and cross-border curtailed, domestic tourism is somehow finding itself rejuvenated as the world is coming to terms with the new normal: the emergence of a plethora of new destinations.
One such destination is Pindi Game Park, tucked a few kilometres away from the Harare-Kariba highway, between Banket and Chinhoyi.
“People are now tired from sitting at home, it has been a long seven months and for those who want to loosen up, with a mind not to travelling long distances to enjoy the wild, we are the ultimate destination,” enthused Mitch Ferguson, the game park’s manager.
“For example, we are just under an hour’s drive from Harare and roughly 15 minutes from Chinhoyi. Not only that, we have a range of game, from giraffe, eland, kudu, impala, waterbuck to the warthog. Then for the bird-watching enthusiasts, there is a lot of bird species flying all over the park,” added Ferguson.
For the water sport enthusiasts, the park boasts of five water bodies, of which the largest is available for fishing and boating, “as well as a picnic, camping and braai site. With the appetite for domestic tourism likely to grow, going into the next year, we are working on enhancing another point as an alternative camping site.”
Sitting on an expansive 1 800 hectares, Pindi Game Park caters for either the walk-in fun-loving day tourist or those intend on sleeping overs as it has five A-frame self-catering chalets, which overlook the largest water body.
The sprawling carpet of lush indigenous trees gives the environs of Pindi Game Park a serene and inviting atmosphere, for picnics, parties or evern weddings.
“To test the waters, I held my wedding here and it was a memorable and romantic event and we are very proud to do it again for any of our clients,” said Ferguson.
But according to Ferguson, that inviting appeal has had its negative impact as unlicensed gold panners, commonly referred to as makorokoza, have made the game park their second home.
“We have approached almost every office but to no avail, from the Environment Management Agency, local council to the police and though they have come for assessments, they have done little to address our plight. We believe game-keeping is an important aspect of conserving our environment, not so much for the holiday-maker, but also for posterity.
“One of our long-term plans is to establish a wildlife education centre for school children, so that they can come here learn and interact with wild animals in a natural setting. But these plans and efforts will come to nought if the current land degradation goes on unchecked.
“Besides the illegal panners, our game park is being invaded left, right and centre. Game should roam freely but you find people coming to parcel out the park to themselves, yet the area has been designated a game park and large parts of it are not arable. Our appeal is to the highest office in the land to save our game park and ultimately our animals from the invasions that are taking place here,” moaned Ferguson.
To add salt to injury, apart from the panners and land invasions, the game park faces yet another threat from poachers. “Ideally, we would love to employ rangers to look after the game but with what is going on here, we cannot invest because of the uncertainty that we face. We also intend to fence the game park off, but these plans have also been put on hold because of this uncertainty,” added Ferguson.
Those challenges aside, Pindi Game Park, once it is discovered by fun-loving adventurers always out to look for new destinations, thrills and spills, has the potential to become one of the most sought-after destinations.
“What adds another feather to our attraction is our proximity to Mazvikadei, such that those who have tired of that destination may want to try us,” added Ferguson.