Perhaps most famous for the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe was once one of Africa 's most sought after safari destinations. The treasures of Zimbabwe are rich and varied, ranging from her great wildlife sanctuaries, mighty rivers and natural wonders, to the ancient art heritage left behind by iron and stone age man. Despite the continuing political climate new safari lodges and camps are springing up and tourism is once again making a comeback to this beautiful country. Many of the hotel owners and safari operators are ramping up their operations and the country looks to be 'turning the corner'. They are the last line of defence for the wildlife of that country and they need your support. In areas like Hwange, Mana Pools and Lake Kariba visitors can still enjoy amazing wildlife experiences (without the crowds!). Zimbabwe is definitely worth your consideration.
Zimbabwe is also home of the mysterious Great Zimbabwe, a stone-walled city dating back to the 13th century, the resting place of mining magnate, Cecil John Rhodes, amongst the grandeur of the Matobo Hills outside Bulawayo, and many off-the-beaten-track destinations including the Chilojo Cliffs in Gonarezhou National Park (see 1001 Places to see before you die).
If you are a little more adventurous than most, and not too fazed by the current political climate, then talk to us about visiting this beautiful country...
There are few appropriate superlatives that have not already been applied to this magnificent natural wonder of the world - in many ways it defies description. The Victoria Falls is the largest, probably the most beautiful and certainly the most majestic waterfall in the world. A trip to southern Africa would not be complete without visiting this memorable sight. Visitors to Victoria Falls can also enjoy sundowner cruises on the Zambezi, flights over the Falls, horse ride, ride an Elephant, dare to go white-water rafting on the rapids below the Falls, and, for the really brave, bungee jump 111m off the Victoria Falls Bridge!
Hwange is the largest and probably the most popular national park in the country (and only a 2 hour drive from the Victoria Falls). With a land area of more than 14 000 sq.km, the park boasts over a hundred species of animal and over 400 species of bird. Hwange is also one of the few great elephant sanctuaries left in Africa.
It took four years of incredible engineering to block the mouth of a narrow gorge in order to flood the Gwembe Trough and form Lake Kariba - a place of outstanding beauty and tranquillity. A golden Kariba sunset, savoured over a cool sundowner against the backdrop of mountains and clear African skies is one of the true pleasures to be had here. At any time of the year the lake, and the Matusadonna National Park which lies on its southern shore, offers the visitor relaxation, sport, entertainment, adventure and big game.
Situated in the lower Zambezi valley lies the Mana Pools National Park, a World Heritage Site and scenically stunning area with an abundance of wildlife. Canoeing on the Zambezi and guided walks on the flood plain are the most popular activities together with mobile tented camps strategically sited on the banks of the Zambezi river.
The Matobo Hills National Park near Bulawayo is another of Zimbabwe's major tourist attractions. Covering an area of 2 000 sq.km, it contains fantastic rock formations, fine San (Bushman) paintings at Nswatugi Cave and a game park with 20 varieties of game including white rhino and the world's largest concentration of black eagles. Picnic spots abound in the park and on the hill Malindidzimu "the legendary place of benevolent spirits", lies the tomb of Cecil John Rhodes.
The famous ruined city of Great Zimbabwe lies about 30km from Masvingo and is the country's premier national monument. Judging from the ancient iron tools, ceramics, pottery, gold and carvings discovered in the ruins, it is believed to date from the 12th to 16th century. The complex covers about 720 hectares with its huge granite walls, conical towers and fortresses. Tourist facilities are excellent and there are daily guided tours, a souvenir shop and a museum containing the archaeological artefacts recovered from the ruins.
In the southeast of Zimbabwe lies the remote wilderness area of Gonarezhou National Park (meaning 'place of the elephant'). This is one of Zimbabwe's least visited national parks and the setting for the spectacular Chilojo Cliffs. Whilst the game-viewing in this park is nothing to approach Hwange it has a feeling all its own. The privately owned Malilangwe Reserve on its western border boasts the Big5 and two lovely lodges.
Zimbabwe is going through a bit of a crisis right now! So arranging a complete itinerary is more challenging than it once was. Getting to Victoria Falls, and on to nearby Hwange NP, is straight forward. Places like Mana Pools, Lake Kariba, Matobo Hills and Great Zimbabwe will take more planning but are not out of the question. Air charter services are still available and one or two operators can still offer road transfers where required. Do not let the logistics put you off - leave it all to us.
Fly in safaris are available to link Victoria Falls to Hwange, Lake Kariba / Matusadonna, and Mana Pools but access to other parts of the country is predominantly by road.
There are still some good mobile safari operators accessing Hwange, Mana Pools, Matusadonna and Gonarezhou...and if you have always wanted to sample a truly traditional safari then this just may be for you. Ask for details.
Zimbabwe is an attractive destination for families - both as a destination with great variety but also because it is currently considerably less expensive than some of its neighbours.
Horse riding is available in Victoria Falls and the Mavuradonna (north of Harare) - from day rides through to 2, 3 and 4 night horse riding safaris. Ask for details..
Zimbabwe's walking guides have always been considered some of the very best in Africa. Hwange, Chizarira, Matusadonna and Mana Pools are all good walking locations. Ask for details..
Nothing beats a canoeing safari down the Zambezi river! From participatory canoe safaris to the more luxurious, and much in between, there is surely a canoe safari to suit you.
White Water Rafting
Available at Victoria Falls are vast range of adventure (and adrenalin) pursuits. White-water rafting must surely be the most fun and exciting! Not to be missed.
Lake Kariba is renowned for its fabulous cruising opportunities - whether on a luxury houseboat or more elaborate cruie boat. With stunning sunsets, wonderful water vistas, wildlife and good fishing this is a fabulous holiday for small groups and families.
Victoria Falls really acts as the tourism hub for Zimbabwe (and 4 other countries whose borders converge here!).
Described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800s as 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' - 'the Smoke that Thunders' and in more modern terms as 'the greatest known curtain of falling water', the Victoria Falls are a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe. Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as 546 million cubic meters of water per minute plummet over the edge (at the height of the flood season) over a width of nearly two kilometres into a gorge over 100 metres deep. The wide basalt cliff, over which the falls thunder, transforms the Zambezi from a wide placid river to a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges.
When to visit the Victoria Falls?
Different times of the year will provide completely different experiences of the Falls region. Peak flood season is around March and April and the full power of the falls can be experienced in all its glory. But due to the masses of spray rising from the fallen water the full width of the Falls cannot be seen on foot. The aerial view at this time however is spectacular, with clouds of spray rising high into the sky. As the floods abate the view of the falls gets better and better through the year, but at it's lowest, around November and December the Falls become little rivulets running over the edge and in some places along the 1,7km width no water falls at all. This season's gift is the view of the impressive cliffs that form the Falls wall and the magnitude of the abyss can be fully appreciated.
From the air:
To fully appreciate the incredible size of the Falls, and the awesome power of the water as it carves into the deep zig zagging gorges for eight kilometers, one must see it from the air. Micro-light and fixed wing flights are available. The pilot will take you along the wide tranquil upper Zambezi, and over the huge 2 km rent in the earth. The breathtaking sight of this magnificent natural phenomena, seen in all its glory from the air, is unforgettable.
A range of excellent accommodation options are available ranging from guesthouses, motels and up-market hotels. The nearby Zambezi National Park also offers a number of excellent camps and lodges along the river allowing you easy access to the Falls whilst still maintaining the 'safari experience'.
Some points to note when planning your Zimbabwean itinerary:
Zimbabawe combines well with South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia.
Most people are entering Zimbabwe via Victoria Falls at present although there are still flights into the capital, Harare. There are daily flights to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg, Windhoek and Maun and it is easy to transfer by road from Kasane in Botswana or Livingstone in Zambia. From Vic Falls, getting to Hwange is a simple road transfer (2 hours). Scheduled air charters to Victoria Falls, Hwange, Kariba and Mana Pools are available on a seat-in-plane basis on a daily schedule with charter flights available to anywhere in the country from Harare or Vic Falls.