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Lowveld oughly translated, gonarezhou means ' the wilderness of elephants' - a name that conveys the eponymous park's austere beauty and natural wealth. Lower in altitude and hotter than anywhere else in Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park exudes a sense of remoteness, and it wasn't long before it cast its spell on me. I'd joined Clive Stockil of Chilo Gorge and Senuko Safari Lodges on a rough and tumble adventure deep in Zimbabwe's southeastern corner, where the country's second- largest national park fl anks the Mozambique border. From his lodge retreat at Chilo Gorge, we crossed the Save River and entered the 5000- square- kilometre park's northern quarter. Impressively, we immediately encountered a bachelor herd of Gonarezhou's famously big- tusked elephants and three proud nyala bulls. Around us the earth seemed to move, with gangs of mongoose scurrying and ground hornbills strutting. The backdrop was a continuum of ever- changing ecosystems: fl oodplain thickets; sandveld forests dotted with giant nyala- berry trees; and the Tambahata Pan, the richest bird wetland I'd ever encountered. " It's like an aviary," commented Clive, as our frenzied binoculars picked out sacred ibis, jacanas, black- winged stilts, squacco herons and numerous other species. Clive's earlier assertion that Gonarezhou possessed the highest biodiversity of all Zimbabwe's parks seemed even more justifi ed. Clive has spent his career ensuring the local Shangaan people prosper from Gonarezhou's wildlife. " Our most wonderful resource is our wildlife," explained Clive, " but we can't protect it successfully unless the local communities benefi t Gonarezhou and Malilangwe - very different local initiatives with equally compelling wildlife experiences. CONSERVATION CHRISTOPHER SCOTT Main image: The Runde River and Chilojo Cliffs of Gonarezhou National Park Left: Clive Stockil, a man fi rmly focused on helping wildlife and local communities COMMUNITY

December 2009 Travel Zimbabwe 25