Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, is a convenient starting point from which to visit the country’s many tourist attractions that must be seen during your Zimbabwe holiday. A prime example of a modern African city, Harare is a mosaic of high-rise office blocks and well-preserved, historic buildings, all situated on the central plateaux of this country which is about three times the size of England. Amongst the concrete and glass structures there is an ample supply of green lungs - tree-filled parks and other open spaces, which lend this city its vibrant, friendly character. Harare has a lot to offer, provided that you know where to go and what to look out for.
Although not on a par with the shopping malls of Johannesburg’s Hyde Park or Sandton, Harare has its own unique collection of shops catering for every budget, which can be included in your Zimbabwe tour. Westgate is a double-storey shopping centre about 15 minutes from the CBD. Apart from a number of shops stocking South African goods, this is the place to go for movies, fast- food, and a wide selection of clothing and accessories. Next to the well-known Meikles hotel you will find an upmarket shopping centre renowned for its computer outlets and fine shoe stores. This building also houses the Zimbabwe Tourism Association where you can get further information about your Zimbabwe holiday. Another shopping complex offering quality goods is Sam Levy’s village in Barrowdale, one of the city suburbs.
But if you want to experience shopping the way it is traditionally done in many African countries, you need to stroll around at the open flea-market at Mbare. Here tourists can feast their eyes on a colourful array of baskets, food, clothing and other items. Looking for that perfect memento from your Zimbabwe holiday? Support the local craftsmen who are selling hand-made artworks such as stone and wooden sculptures and wickerwork along the tree-lined streets of Harare.
In Harare you will find Zimbabwe’s Parliament, Queen Victoria Museum, Queen Victoria National Library, and the National Art Gallery. This not only houses a valuable and interesting national collection, but also hosts travelling international exhibitions and has a permanent display of some superb stone carvings by local Shona people. At the National Archives you can see the valuable collection of rare Rhodesiana and Africana in the form of diaries, note-books and reports of famous missionaries and explorers. Not to be missed on your Zimbabwe tour is the famous painting of the Victoria Falls by Thomas Baines, the first artist to paint the Falls, as well as the less well-known but excellent painting of the same subject by EH Holder.
Other places of interest to see on your Zimbabwe tour include Chapungu Sculpture Park, Vhukutiwa Sculpture Garden, and the National Botanical Garden. While development of this garden only began in 1962, to date more than 900 species of wild trees and shrubs from all over the country flourish here. Larvon Bird Gardens, Lion and Cheetah Park, Lake Chivero all make for excellent viewing. Be sure to include the Mukuvisi Woodlands in your Zimbabwe holiday. When travelling just a little to the east of Harare, one will find 227 ha of natural woodland on the banks of the small Mukuvisi stream. Escape from the hustle and bustle of Harare’s CBD and explore this magnificent area on foot in the company of a guide, or on horseback. Bird-watchers will be pleased to know that more than 230 species of bird occur here, including the shy Narina Trogon, African Finfoot and Ayres Hawk Eagle. Botanists will enjoy this walk as they will be able to identify no less than 300 species of trees and shrubs that naturally occur in the area. Just less than 50 per cent of these woodlands are isolated by an electrified fence, creating a safe haven for a wide range of game species such as giraffe, zebra, impala, tsessebe, wildebeest, bushbuck, steenbuck, reedbuck and eland, which can be seen during your Zimbabwe tour.
The smaller remaining part of this popular tourist destination houses the head offices of some of Zimbabwe’s most important conservation bodies, namely The Wildlife Society, The Zambezi Society and Campfire. The best mode of transport for tourists is the commuter omnibus - the cheapest and most reliable way to get from A to B. The ever-present sedan taxis are really expensive and not a good option for Zimbabwe travel.
Bulawayo, a name that means “place of slaughter”, was the royal kraal of the legendary Ndbele kings in former times, and worth a stop in your Zimbabwe tour. Zimbabwe’s second largest city, it is noted for the exceptionally wide streets which were originally designed to allow turning space for a full span of oxen. Many chapters of Zimbabwe’s history were written in this city, which is still characterised by many old British colonial buildings, maintained by the Bulawayo City Council and landlords as heritage sites. Bulawayo boasts one of the best municipal caravan and camping parks in Zimbabwe. The country was originally known as “Rhodesia”, named after Cecil John Rhodes who made a lasting impact on the country’s history. One of Rhodes’ favourite places was the Matobo Hills south of Bulawayo. He was so moved by the fascinating rock formations and the wild spirit of this area that he chose to be buried at the highest point of the hills which he named “World’s View”. His burial site is visited by thousands of tourists - make sure to include it in your Zimbabwe tour. Places to visit in and around Bulawayo during your Zimbabwe holiday
- The Natural History Museum
Situated in Centenary Park, it is not only the country’s main museum but also one of the better known natural history museums in the southern hemisphere. The impressive mammal collection comprises more than 75 000 specimens.
- Railway Museum
Here you will find displays of steam engines and rolling stock and station buildings from the earliest days of the country’s railway history, including the Pullman saloon that transported Rhodes’ body from Cape Town for his burial.
- National Art Gallery
This is housed in a charming Victorian building, Douslin House, in Main Street. The gallery complex contains a curio shop, restaurant and artists’ studios (also a bicycle hire facility for the energetic.)
- Mzilikazi Arts and Crafts Centre
Situated just out of town off the Old Falls road, the Centre is definitely worth a visit if you are looking for mementos to take home from your Zimbabwe holiday. Visitors can choose from a wide selection of skilfully crafted sculptures, basketry, pottery, beadwork and woodwork, all done by local people. Established in 1963, the Centre today boasts a commercial pottery providing jobs for more than 70 people. Situated nearby is the Bulawayo Home Industries Centre where batiks, hand-woven items and embroidery work is manufactured and sold.
- Matobo Hills and Matobos National Park
About one hour south of Bulawayo by road, are the stunning Matobo Hills, which are a must see during your Zimbabwe holiday. Regarded as one of Zimbabwe’s major tourist attractions, these famous rocky outcrops extend across 2000 square kilometres of countryside. The massive granite boulders and gigantic rock formations are more than 3 000 million years old, creating an ancient, brooding landscape. A focal point is Rhodes Grave on the summit of the Hill of Benevolent Spirits. The entire area has great cultural and religious significance for the African people. The vegetation in the Matobo is quite different from the surrounding countryside and provides fascinating and varied habitats for wildlife. There are hundreds of caves, many of which were home to early man, and rock paintings bear testimony to the value of wildlife to the artists.
These are signposted and directions and maps are available to help your Zimbabwe travel. Despite their antiquity, many of the depictions are well-preserved and very clear. Matobo National Park contains some of the more rare species of wildlife, including the sable antelope and both black and white rhino. It is renowned for having the highest concentration of leopards and black eagle in an area of its size in the world. Bird life is prolific and the area is a botanist’s delight. There is a fenced area where most of the country’s big game can be viewed in a short space of time against a dramatic setting. So if your Zimbabwe holiday is quite short, this can be a great place to visit for maximum viewings.
- Tshabalala Game Sanctuary
The Sanctuary is ten kilometres from the city centre and en route to the Matobo. It contains varied wildlife, birds and waterfowl. One may drive, walk or cycle, and horse rides can be arranged. It has an important Interpretive Centre, easily accessible for school children and city dwellers, and can give your Zimbabwe holiday an educational aspect.
- Kame Ruins
Travel to Zimbabwe and just 22 kilometres west of Bulawayo and you will find one of southern Africa’s most magnificent Late Iron Age ruins, which are now recognised as a World Heritage Site. The ruins consist of a series of terraces and passages supported by massive granite walls, some overlooking Khami Dam and Khami Gorge. Scenically more beautiful than Great Zimbabwe, the ruins are thought to have been built between 1450 and 1650. It is claimed that the Matabele king Lobengula used the site for rain-making ceremonies. A small museum displays relics found at the site, some over 100 000 years old. The land adjoining the ruins has been made into a municipal recreation park, called Mazwi Nature Reserve. There the visitor may walk, drive and picnic. Horses are available for hire.
These are a reason in themselves to travel to Zimbabwe. Mosi-oa-Tunya - The Smoke that Thunders. Derived from the towering column of spray when the Zambezi River runs high, this is the name that Zimbabwe’s local people have given to this awesome natural phenomenon. The name is probably more appropriate and descriptive than “Victoria”, which has a far too calm and composed ring to it to do justice to the masses of thundering, swirling water of these spectacular Falls. But all Dr David Livingstone probably thought of when he named the Falls after his Queen in 1855 was his royal duty.
Five separate falls make up this incredible spectacle that plunges more than 100 m into a sheer-sided chasm which separates Zimbabwe from Zambia. The awe-inspiring abyss is spanned by a 1905 Edwardian bridge which links the two countries. The masses of water plunging down the Falls and into the gorge below originate from the mighty Zambezi River that meanders through more than 2 700 km of African countryside.
The Victoria Falls and all its associated adventure-packed activities have a way of whetting the appetite. There are numerous restaurants to choose from and the cuisine ranges from Indian to Italian. Include a visit to the Falls in your Zimbabwe tour, they are worth the time.
Some of the main Zimbabwe hotels in town where you could stay during your Zimbabwe holiday include:
- Elephant Hills Hotel: Situated a mere 3 km from the Falls, this superb African hotel overlooks an 18-hole golf course and the Zambezi River. A full range of sporting facilities is available and the hotel has a casino and has a good conference venue, which caters for up to 450 people.
- Victoria Falls Hotel: Regarded as one of the world’s best hotels, this famous Edwardian-style hotel offers breathtaking views of the Victoria Falls Bridge and gorge. A private footpath leads hotel guests to the Falls close by.
- Victoria Falls Safari Lodge: This world-class lodge is ideally situated; overlooking the Zambezi National Park with the thundering Falls just 4 km away. Water activities and game viewing are offered. There is also a self-catering section, operating under the name of Lokothula Lodges.
- Rainbow Hotel: Situated within easy walking distance of the Falls, guests can enjoy the beauty of the rainbow formed by the tumbling waters from the Sundowner, a special roof pedestal. The hotel also overlooks a rainforest of trees.
- A’Zambezi River Lodge: Situated on the banks of the Zambezi River a few kilometres upstream from the Falls and near the Victoria Falls village. There are two restaurants, a swimming pool and boats can be hired. A courtesy bus operates between the town and the hotel.
Activities available at the Falls
- White-water rafting
The ultimate African adventure to experience during your Zimbabwe holiday. One of the major tourist attractions of the Falls, commercial white-water rafting started about 10 years ago. Today several companies are offering these adventure-filled packages to tourists. This activity takes place below the Falls and the white water section of the Zambezi extends for just over 20 km, hurtling the rubber boats through 19 gorges bordered by sheer cliffs of up to 700 ft high. This adventure is regarded as a Grade 5 “run” (grade six is regarded as “non-runnable”).
These rafting excursions are conducted from July to March, so make sure that this coincides with your Zimbabwe tour. Those wishing to take it in their stride can opt for a 3-day white-water canoeing trail stretching along 65 km of the Zambezi, from the Botswana border to the Victoria Falls. Irrespective of the kind of white-water adventure one chooses, safety is of major concern. Each rafting trip is preceded by a safety talk during which the guide instructs his passengers on the importance of safety helmets, high-flotation life jackets and other equipment, and demonstrates safety procedures.
- Canoeing/game viewing
Suitable for the less adventurous during your Zimbabwe holiday. Rent a canoe and cruise down the river upwards from the Falls, while viewing game coming to drink at the water’s edge. This water-bound trip will take you through Zimbabwe’s Zambezi National Park and the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park on the Zambian side of the Zambezi. Cameras and binoculars are recommended, as you will come within a stone’s throw of animals such as elephants, buffaloes, waterbuck, kudu and many others. Visitors can embark on full or half-day trips to explore the rapids and channels on the Zimbabwean side of the river.
This is not for the faint-hearted amongst your Zimbabwe tour group. A visit to the Victoria Falls is packed with adventure, and those wishing to experience the thrill of bungi-jumping have one of the most scenic spots in the world at their disposal. Please note that medical conditions are taken seriously and it is essential to check with the relevant company in this regard well before you take the plunge!
- Helicopter flips
This adventure outing takes Zimbabwe travel to new heights. An aerial view of the Victoria Falls in all its splendour is an unforgettable experience, and one which is made possible by the Zambezi Helicopter Company. Visitors can choose between a 13-minute panoramic flip over the Falls or a 30-minute flight over the Falls and the neighbouring National Park. Viewing the Victoria Falls and animals such as hippos, crocodiles, elephants and other animals from the air is an unusual experience which visitors will remember long after they have left the country. Flights depart from a helipad next to the Elephant Hills Hotel.
- Train rides
South Africa’s world-famous Blue Train needs no introduction and for those wishing to combine the experience of travelling on one of the world’s most luxurious trains with viewing one of the world’s most spectacular falls this is the perfect choice. ,strong>Travel to Zimbabwe along the Pretoria/Victoria Falls route, which allows passengers to spend two nights on the train, stopping for a few hours in Bulawayo and making provision for game viewing in Hwange National Park. Rovos Rail and the Train De Luxe also include the Falls on their itineraries.
The Victoria Falls, one of the most popular sights on a Zimbabwe tour, is approximately 5600 feet wide - twice the height of Niagra Falls and one and a half times as wide. It is divided into five separate waterfalls: Devils Cataract, Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Rainbow Falls and Eastern Cataract, ranging in height from 200 - 355 feet. Peak flood waters usually occur around mid April when 150 gallons of water per minute crash onto the rocks below spraying water up to 1650 feet in the air, hence the African name for the falls Mosi ao Tunya - the smoke that thunders. Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River form the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The banks of the 1675 mile long Zambezi River are lined with thick riverine forest. Daytime and sundowner cruises, for alternative Zimbabwe travel, operate above the falls where hippo and crocodiles may be spotted, and elephant and other wildlife may be seen coming to shore to drink.
The eastern highlands form a natural barrier between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Sweeping 300 kilometres from Nyanga in the north, they include the Bvumba Mountains near the little city of Mutare and the Chimamimani Mountains, the farming area of Cashel, and end south of the Chirinda Forest Botanical Reserve. The area is cooler than most of Zimbabwe, and the winter months, June and July, are often very cold. The rains come between November and March and then wildflowers are at their best, making for a scenic stop on your Zimbabwe tour.
Just 30 kilometres from the town of Masvingo and eight kilometres by road from Lake Mutirikwi (formerly Lake Kyle) are some of the most extraordinary relics of man-made structures in Africa, so be sure to visit them during your Zimbabwe tour. Formed of regular, rectangular granite stones packed into impeccable dry-stone walling, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe are awe inspiring. Many visitors talk of experiencing a strange atmosphere, and say that within the ruins there is an almost tangible “presence”. Others are less susceptible to mood, but are none the less impressed by the scale and grandeur of the site. Among Africa’s most complex and well-preserved archaeological sites, the ruins are thought to be the remains of a royal stronghold built by the Karanga, ancestors of the Shona, between the eleventh and the thirteenth century. The enigmatic soapstone carvings of the now ubiquitous Zimbabwe Bird was first found among these ruins. Set in a rugged koppie-strewn valley, this national monument is surrounded by a well tended indigenous garden with a museum and walking trails. A few Zimbabwe hotels and camping sites are located nearby.
Gonarezhou National Park
Gonarezhou (pronounced Gonna-res-or) or “place of the elephant” is the only large big-game national park in Zimbabwe not in the Zambezi basin. Situated in the south-east lowveld, and bordering on Mozambique, Gonarezhou is in one of the hotter and drier parts of the country. The Park is 5,053 square kilometres in extent and is characterised by low altitude (most of it is below 400 m above sea level), high temperatures of up to 50 degrees Centigrade and rainfall that is low, varied, and unreliable. Despite these apparent drawbacks, the Park is an extraordinary place to visit during your Zimbabwe tour. It is a true wilderness area. Three drainage systems traverse the park and have created an extraordinary landscape. To watch the light of sunset illuminate the ochre-coloured castellated sandstone of Chilojo Cliffs across the sandy bed of the Runde River is an unforgettable experience – one that should definitely be seen during your Zimbabwe holiday.
Apart from being known as a bird-watchers’ paradise, a number of animals considered rare in Zimbabwe occur in this ecosystem. These include the pangolin, wild dog, bat-eared fox, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, roan antelope and nyala. It is the only park in Zimbabwe that has the diminutive suni. This tiny and elegant, rufus creature (brown mouse lemur) has moderately long ears that seem almost transparent. A shy and secretive browser, it lives exclusively in dry sand forest areas and is found only at the confluence of the Save (pronounced Sah-vie) and Runde rivers in Gonerezhou. Though seldom seen, it is unlikely to cause a stir if you do spot one, being roughly the size of a fox-terrier and of unremarkable features. The elephants that gave their name to the area are known for their small body size and, in the bulls, relatively large tusks. They have earned the reputation of being among the most irascible and aggressive of their species. Try to include a visit to see them in your Zimbabwe tour.
Stretching north from the Gonarezhou up the east side of the Save valley lie a number of large ranches which, until ten years ago, were predominantly concerned with raising cattle. Owners of these ranches have been forced by a declining cattle economy to convert to wildlife use as their main source of income. Common interest and the wide open spaces needed for wildlife populations have resulted in the formation of the Save Conservancy now comprising over 20 members. The crowning achievement of this conservancy was the reintroduction of state-owned black rhino from the Zambezi valley in the mid 1990’s. Safari hunting and upmarket game viewing in a large number of scattered private game lodges provide the main sources of revenue. This conservancy concept has spread to many other areas of Zimbabwe’s privately owned game areas. A good place to stay during your Zimbabwe holiday is the Malilangwe Private Nature Reserve, which has two lodges.
Zambezi Valley and Mana Pools
Between Zimbabwe and Zambia the Zambezi River has carved a deep, broad valley through some of Africa’s oldest rocks. In its recent past it has sliced into eight succeeding basalt chasms to form the broad majestic sweep of Victoria Falls, as movement of the earth caused cracks and ruptures to appear. With each new route, the old lip of the falls became the new gorge. Winding its way through the narrow channel of these gorges, it spills out into an area of mud stone and shale, to be dammed at Kariba Gorge. Here it spreads into a man-made lake so heavy that it has caused tectonic movement in the rock substrate. Expelled by the huge turbines that drive the hydro-electric scheme for the entire country, it finally finds its way into sandstone, carving a valley floor so vast that at times the opposite bank, now a steep escarpment thousands of feet high, is blue and smudged by distance.
This area of flat valley floor and abrupt great-rift walls is the region most often referred to as the Zambezi Valley. During your Zimbabwe tour you will see that it is an area of heart-stopping beauty, vast sweeping savannas graced with stately trees, backed by the distant fringe of the escarpment, heron blue in the soft air. Well watered and much of it inaccessible, it is a natural haven for wildlife. Between Kariba and the Mozambique border all of the Zimbabwe side of the valley is devoted to wildlife use of one kind or another.
Over many years the Zambezi River has cut its channel slowly northward into Zambia, leaving a series of old channels and river terraces on the Zimbabwe side, where there are now countless pools and small ponds, which is where the park got its name, Mana Pools. Mana Pools National Park, a million hectares in extent, is the main attraction for game viewing, but the entire length of the river from Kariba Gorge to Kanyemba on the Mozambique border provides endless opportunities for canoeing, fishing, game viewing, and simple inert gazing. From a true wilderness 20 years ago this is now a busy recreational river - luckily it’s too shallow for industrial transport. Once famed as being the last redoubt of the black rhino, the remnants of this species have now been removed to the safer confines of private conservancies. This area is, nevertheless, well worth a visit during your Zimbabwe holiday.
Flanked by wildlife areas set aside for safari hunting, Mana Pools is renowned for its glorious views of elephants in the tall stately parkland of the Zambezi flood plain, the much browsed undergrowth allowing vistas for kilometres between the giant trees. The park has four camp sites, and is a really great park for the do-it-yourself camper on his Zimbabwe holiday, since it’s possibly the least restrictive of all the parks, visitors being allowed to walk as freely they would in un-proclaimed bush, despite the presence of the more dangerous animals. However, care should be taken as accidents do occur; there have been incidents of canoes (and canoeists) destroyed by hippo, and sleeping under the stars more than once resulted in the sleeper being claimed as a prize by a passing hyena. The park is increasingly being opened to upmarket international visitors who travel to Zimbabwe, by the provision of neighbouring luxury bush camps and lodges on the Zambezi like those at Chikwenya and Ruckomechi.
The park is only open seasonally for your Zimbabwe holiday, between the beginning of May and the end of October. During September and October this area has the highest concentration of wildlife in Zimbabwe. In recent years there has been a tremendous growth in canoe safari operations. These companies organise guided canoe trails down the Zambezi, from Kariba in the west to Kanyemba in the east - or any portion in between. Each trip is accompanied by well-trained, competent and experienced guides, and is an incredible way to experience the river at first hand.
Lake Kariba on the Zambezi River is a unique place of outlandish beauty: a great man-made inland sea nestled amongst drowned mountains, the bone-white limbs of dead trees still reaching up from the water like pleading hands. These stark relics of the wilderness that was inundated for the production of hydro-electric power in the late 1950’s are a photographer’s delight. The water covers nearly 6 000 square kilometres and is surrounded predominantly by wilderness areas with an abundance of wildlife. The Zimbabwe side of the lake has about 1 000 kilometres of shoreline, baked African fjords with placid backwaters and numerous islands. Often elephants can be seen swimming between the shore and islands, a sight perhaps unique to Lake Kariba and definitely worth a visit on your Zimbabwe tour.
Game viewing by boat is a popular activity during Zimbabwe tours, since it provides an unusual and effective way of approaching land-based animals without causing alarm - to both the animals and the tourists. Crocodile and hippo abound so swimming and water sports are generally not an option. Some suggest that swimming in the deepest water is safe, but many would disagree. There is a four-day wilderness water-safari from Bumi Hills, where guests are accommodated in twin bed mini house-boats and fed on a central kitchen-dining boat, ferrying themselves between the two by canoe. From here guided game viewing on foot into the Matusadona National Park provides a different immediate experience of the wilderness. This combination can be considered an excellent Zimbabwe holiday.
Matusadona National Park
Matusadona National Park lies on the south-eastern shore, and is accessible by boat or aircraft. There is a rough, seasonally passable access road from the south. Sprawling across 1407 square kilometres between the Ume and the Sanyati rivers, the park is a tumble of wooded mountains spilling down from the uninhabited plateau to the creeks and bays of the lake. The Sanyati Gorge is particularly spectacular, and is navigable for 12 kilometres. Camping facilities are available at Tashinga on the Ume River and Elephant Point.
Charara Safari Area
This area stretches over 1700 square kilometres from the outskirts of Kariba Village and has a network of unsurfaced roads, which makes your Zimbabwe travel interesting. Game viewing on foot is allowed, if the necessary permit is obtained from the warden. Viewing is reputed to be good, especially in the late afternoon. With the close proximity of the village, there is no lodge accommodation for visitors in the park. However, there are camping and caravan sites at the mouth of the Nyanyana River some 28 kilometres from Kariba.
For tourists with limited time to spare on their Zimbabwe holiday, a ferry trip along the length of the lake is most appealing. Daily trips run between the towns of Kariba in the north and Binga in the south. Kariba town was initially built to house the workforce needed to build the dam wall in 1956, and now has a permanent population. It is also popular as a holiday resort, like a little Riviera at the head of the lake. It’s the base for the many house-boats that are such a typical sight on Lake Kariba.
There are many of these floating houseboats available for charter, if a floating or fishing holiday appeals, which offer an alternative to the more usual Zimbabwe hotels and other accommodation. Some houseboats have special swimming cages which allow the visitor to bathe in complete safety. Small tender boats accompany the houseboats to allow for close-up game viewing, angling, or just exploring the shoreline. The lake is home to the famed tigerfish, a fighting game fish that offers an excellent challenge. Vundu, bottle nose, barbel and several types of bream are also among the 42 species of fish found there. Commercial fishing for kapenta (the Lake Tanganyika sardine, Limnothrissa miodon) is a feature of the Lake, and provides a vitally important source of protein for both Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Hwange National Park
Named for a sub-chief of the Rozvi tribe, who were all slaughtered by the Matabele chief Mzilikazi, Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s oldest, largest and best known game reserve. It is regarded as one of the finest conservation areas in Africa. Only a quarter of the area is accessible to visitors in the more diverse and interesting northern part of the park, making for a spectacular Zimbabwe holiday. Covering just over 14,600 square kilometres and bordered by Botswana in the west and the railway line to Bulawayo in the east, this huge park has a relatively low rainfall of between 570 and 650 mm per annum. Covered centuries ago by wind-blown Kalahari sands, most of the area consists of scattered woodland scrub and grassland in an endless mosaic.
In the north where the ancient sand cap thins to a clay and basalt layer are large natural pans, with granite outcrops among extensive Mopane woodland. During the dry winter months the game relies on man-made water-holes, dams and boreholes where vast herds of elephants and buffalos come to drink. Both black and white rhinos have been reintroduced to the area, and large herds of sable and eland can be seen, and the rare roan antelope. Lion and spotted hyena are found throughout the park, and although leopards are common, they are rarely seen. The park affords a large enough area for African wild dogs, one of the continent’s most endangered predators. Crocodiles are present in some of the larger waterholes and the northern river systems. In the dry winter months some hours spent watching quietly at a waterhole can be more rewarding than driving around searching for game, as most species will come to drink during the day. There are large hides at several waterholes where you can view game on your Zimbabwe tour.
More than 400 bird species have been recorded in Hwange, and bird watching in summer when they are most active is particularly good. The three camps, Main Camp, Sinamatella and Robin’s Camp, offer escorted walks, and this is where the real joy of a Zimbabwean bush experience begins. Moonlit game viewing from Main Camp is also popular. Robin’s Camp has one and two bedroom chalets; Main Camp and Sinamatella have one and two bedroom chalets, cottages and lodges, as well as a restaurant and a shop each. There are three other small “exclusive” camps with a variety of accommodation. In addition private tour operators have their own camps within the reserve, which are available only to their particular clients. Hwange Safari Lodge lies outside the park and offers luxury accommodation and tours on your Zimbabwe holiday.
There is an airstrip at Main Camp. Hwange National Park Aerodrome is close to the Safari Lodge, and takes scheduled flights. Within the park is a network of almost 500 kilometres of game viewing roads, mostly of hardened gravel. Some sections may be closed in the rainy season. The undeniable pleasure of Hwange is that it is considerably wilder than it’s rather larger South African competitor, the Kruger National Park, and has fewer visitors, making for an exceptional Zimbabwe holiday. The camps too are much smaller are more intimate. This leads to a greater sense of wilderness, which, together with the traditionally superlative quality of Zimbabwe’s game guides, gives an experience of wild Africa seldom bettered.
As a tourist or potential tourist to wildlife destinations in Zimbabwe you will be interested to know where the money you spend is going. Zimbabwe believes in making wildlife pay for itself. It has legislation which grants the right to the utilisation of wildlife and natural resources to those who live on the land - whether a private land-owner or lessee, or the traditional community which has always lived there. In the 1980’s a programme based on the rationale that communities will invest in environmental conservation if they can see tangible benefits in so doing, was implemented by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, which had the potential to influence travel to Zimbabwe.
Called CAMPFIRE as an acronym for Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources, it aimed to develop and manage sustainable wildlife utilisation in communal areas by placing the custody of and responsibility for resources with the resident communities who would gain direct cash benefits from their use. In essence, CAMPFIRE is simple: rural communities conserve their own wildlife and other natural resources. National Park authorities advise them regarding what they should use and what the off-take for the year should be. The community then ‘sells’ that off-take, either directly or through a third party - usually a safari or hunting operator who then may arrange a Zimbabwe tour. The aim is sustainable utilisation of natural resources in the interests of conservation and the relief of human poverty. And it works! One elephant, for example, is worth ZW$63 000 - a huge amount to a poor rural community. And Zimbabwe has an over abundance of elephants, not only are there sufficient to be hunted, but in many areas the population actually needs reduction.
This means that revenue generated by hunting safaris, tourism, photographic safaris, rafting licences, and the sale of hides, skins, wood and so on, will find its way into the coffers of either commercial land-owners, or those local communities who have these resources on their land. Roughly 80% of Zimbabwe’s communal lands which have the space and the habitat for wildlife are engaged in CAMPFIRE. Beneath this encouraging success lies one basic fact: wild animals are worth money. And they are worth it, dead or alive. If hunting were to stop, or if the value of animals was otherwise to be reduced (by stopping the sale of trophies, for example), the incentive for CAMPFIRE would be removed. Zimbabwe’s spectacular reserves of game would once again be threatened, and the present abundance would come to an end, only to be replaced by cattle and goats which almost invariably end up destroying the resource base on which they depend. As a tourist to Zimbabwe’s wildlife areas, you are helping to support conservation, which in turn is keeping the environment intact and healthy for future generations and a future Zimbabwe holiday.
The Great Zimbabwe Monument
Located 247 miles south of Harare stand the brooding stone ruins of the ancient city state names Great Zimbabwe. For years the ruins were know as one of Africa’s greatest mysteries, as their origin and purpose baffled scientists throughout the world. Only recently have archaeologists proposed that Great Zimbabwe was built and inhabited by African people between 13th and 15th centuries. The complex once occupied several square miles and is thought to have contained a population of over 10,000 inhabitants. Fortified by a flourishing gold trade with Arab and Muslim merchants, it is believed to have begun its decline in the late 15th century due to agricultural overuse of the natural environment. When the gold trade trickled to a halt by the end of the 18th century and travel to Zimbabwe stopped, the entire culture was dissolved. The ruins are dominated by the Acropolis, Valley of the Ruins, Temple and Conical tower - all examples of the incredible skill and tremendous labour put forth by these ancient builders. The ruins are easily explored by foot and the Great Zimbabwe Sun Hotel is located only a few minutes’ walk from the complex entrance.
For centuries Africa has been called the “Dark Continent” by early explorers, hunters and others during their travel to Zimbabwe - a mysterious and wild continent reluctant to reveal her secrets. Not much has changed since those early days. To the modern-day traveller Africa is still a treasure chest of natural riches waiting to be explored.
Zimbabwe is a land of diversity, contrasts and unrivalled natural beauty. It is a land of adventure where one can experience nature first-hand, whether you are hurtling through rapids on the mighty Zambezi, bungi-jumping off the bridge at the Victoria Falls or watching a herd of elephant at sunset in one of the many wildlife sanctuaries – all of which make for a spectacular Zimbabwe holiday. Of course one cannot mention the Zambezi without referring to one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders, the Victoria Falls. Whatever your choice of adventure, you will leave your Zimbabwe holiday with fond memories of an unforgettable visit. But there is more to this wild and wonderful country than thundering water and plains teeming with game. A history that can be traced back thousands of years is interwoven with legends of ancient tribes and forgotten civilisations, of Portuguese travellers, brave English explorers and Arab traders who came from the north and would travel to Zimbabwe to exchange beads and cloth for ivory and gold. One of the sites that silently testifies to this fact is the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, the largest man-made structure in Africa after Egypt’s Pyramids.
Although steeped in history, Zimbabwe has kept up with the demands of catering for the modern-day tourism industry. The country boasts a well-developed infrastructure, including aspects such as telecommunications, roads, banking services, transport, and upper-market Zimbabwe hotels and accommodation and shopping facilities. Perhaps this popular tourist destination’s greatest asset is its friendly people, always ready to welcome visitors to their country with a smile and good service.
The most important sector of the country’s economy is agriculture, with a variety of crops such as tobacco, sugar, coffee, cotton and maize as well as a large cattle farming industry which in the past exported high-grade beef. The second largest sector is mining, with many important minerals like gold and nickel being important exports. Sadly since about 2000 the economy in Zimbabwe has deteriorated due to bad governance and has all but ground to halt, with agriculture having taken a major knock and tourism just ticking over in a few select areas such as Victoria Falls, Zambezi Valley and Hwange.
Whilst African Travel Gateway does not arrange visas, the following information has been provided to assist you in finding out the visa requirements for the passport that you are holding. While every effort is made to keep this information updated, it is subject to change.
If you are a passport holder from the following country you are exempt from visas:
Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Botswana, Canada, Caymen Islands, Cyprus, Fiji, Granada, Guyana, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Leeward Islands, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Monserrat, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuata, Western Samoa and Zambia.
The following passport holders, can purchase their visas at port of entry to Zimbabwe:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Cook Islands, Denmark, Dominica Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana*, Greece, Ireland, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Palau Islands, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico (USA), Seychelles, Spain, State of Palestine, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, UK, USA, Vatican, Virgin Islands (USA). * Gratis visas for Ghanaians
Below are the issuing authorities in the Southern Africa region. One should first however, check if there is a Zimbabwean Consulate in your country of residence. This will make the process of applying for a visa a lot simpler:
a) Zimbabwe Consulate
17th Floor, 20 Anderson Street, Johannesburg, 2001
P.O Box 61736, Marshalltown, 2107
Tel: (+27 11) 838 2156 / 9
Fax: (+27 11) 838 5620
Office hours: Mon - Tue & Thu - Fri: 08h30 - 12h00
NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC ON WEDNESDAYS
b) Chief Immigration Officer
Private Bag 7717, Causeway, Harare
Tel: (+263) 4 791 913 (ask for visas)
A yellow fever certificate will be needed if coming from an endemic area.
Malaria precautions are advised at all times of the year, especial in the Zambezi Valley.
Bilharzia is present as well as sleeping sickness.
Polio shots are recommended
Tetanus recommended if coming from an infected area
Hepatitis A & B recommended
Boiled or bottled water advised
Unpasteurised milk bust be boiled
People who travel to Zimbabwe from infected areas are required to possess valid vaccination certificates against cholera and yellow fever. It is essential that you take malaria prophylactics before entering Zimbabwe. It is best to contact your pharmacist or doctor in this regard. It is not advisable to use the water in Zimbabwe for drinking or swimming. However water in the town and Zimbabwe hotels (including swimming pools) is purified and therefore safe. With the exception of children younger than one year, all travellers arriving in Zimbabwe from infected areas are requested to possess valid vaccination certificates against cholera and yellow fever.
While in Zimbabwe, visitors are advised not to use water in any river or dams for swimming and drinking as it may be infected with bilharzia. Needless to say, all water in towns, hotels and swimming pools originates from purified central water supplies or boreholes and is, therefore, safe. If you plan to visit low-lying areas such as Hwange, Victoria Falls, Kariba, Gonarezhou and the Zambezi Valley, it is advisable to take a course of anti-malaria tablets as a simple precaution. Remember to consult a doctor before you travel to Zimbabwe.
Visitors planning a Zimbabwe holiday are reminded that malaria can still be contracted even when a prophylaxis has been taken. The safest option is to try and prevent mosquito bites by taking the following steps: apply insect repellent to any exposed skin; wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long trousers and socks at dusk and at night; use mosquito coils, candles, mats and nets; use soap that contains mosquito repellent; and avoid places close to water at night. Each country has its own health requirements and potential tourists should therefore check the health requirements of their own country before you travel to Zimbabwe. They are also advised to obtain vaccination certificates, if required, for their return home.
Zimbabwe does not have a national health welfare scheme. It is therefore advisable to obtain good medical insurance prior to arrival. It is also wise to bring with you any medicines which you may require, since you will not have access to pharmacies in many of the areas which you may be visiting during your Zimbabwe tour.
Zimbabwe is an all year round destination, but for special interest groups such as high adventure enthusiasts, white water rafting is most exciting when the Zambezi waters are low, which is generally from August to December. Best botanical months to visit the famous Vumba Botanical Gardens are Dec - May when the vegetation is lush and green, also when most plants are in flower. Bear this in mind when planning your Zimbabwe holiday.
Summer is from October to April. Days are hot and generally sunny in the morning with possible afternoon thunder storms. Day temperatures reach about 30C and night temperatures drop to 14 degrees Centigrade – 16 degrees Centigrade. It can also be considerably warmer all year round in the low-lying areas such as Kariba, Victoria Falls, and Zambezi Valley. The rainy season is from November to March, although the Eastern Highlands are damp for most of the year. Winter is from May to September, days are dry, sunny and cool to warm (20 degrees Centigrade) while evening temperatures drop sharply (5 degrees Centigrade). Exceptionally cold spells can occur so it is recommended to bring appropriate clothing on your Zimbabwe holiday, just in case.
In Zimbabwe the seasons are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. Summer is at its hottest over Christmas, while winter lasts from May to August. It is considerably warmer in low-lying areas such as Kariba, Victoria Falls, Hwange, Gonarezhou and the Zambezi Valley. Winter days are generally dry and sunny with temperatures averaging 15-20 degrees Centigrade. In summer, temperatures range from 25-30 degrees Centigrade during the day. The hottest month is October when temperatures often exceed 32 degrees Centigrade. The sun can be very harsh and it is advisable to wear a hat and sunblock. The rainy season runs from November to March. Be sure to take this into account when planning your Zimbabwe tour.
Zimbabwe’s unit currency is the Zimbabwe Dollar and is the weakest currency in the world. The best currency to take with is US Dollars in small denominations, because the change you will get will be Zimbabwe Dollars.
English is the official language of Zimbabwe. Other widely spoken languages are Chishona and Sindebele, which also have various dialects and other minority languages that include the following:
Sotho and Nambya - South Western border with Botswana
Shangani - South Eastern
Venda - Southern border with SA
Chewa, Nyanja - Mining towns
Tonga - Zambezi Valley.
Zimbabwe is a multi-racial society where people of all nationalities live in harmony. The majority of these widely spread and friendly populations, more specifically in urban areas, have a Westernised lifestyle. In country areas, however, there are many African traditions that have been preserved, with the people remaining friendly and accustomed to the presence of visitors. Despite Zimbabwe’s vibrant cities, the countryside retains a deep hold on the nation’s consciousness. Only one in four lives in the city, and very few of these forget their rural roots. Despite the close relationship between town and country, a new generation of purely urban Zimbabweans is now emerging, their lives plugged into the rest of the international press. But out in the countryside on a Zimbabwe tour, it is still possible to find thousands of villages, which are little more than a cluster of grass-roofed huts, symbols of a close-knit community life.
Start your Zimbabwe holiday feast with an inspiring range of snacks, from madora/ mancimbi (mopani worms), roast groundnuts and boiled mielie to biltong. Sample Zimbabwe’s staple traditional mielies sadza (thick porridge) and mungha sudza (millet). Why not try our popular soups of nhedzi (wild mushroom), muboora (pumpkin leaves) and game soup, alongside a variety of other locally made soups. Enjoy wild game meat dishes varying from impala and warthog to ostrich steak, eland stroganoff and crocodile tail in cheese sauce. Spruce up your appetite by treating yourself to our local fish dishes, which include Nyanga trout, Kariba bream and Kapenta (fresh and dry small fish). The Zimbabwe hotels and restaurants should offer a variety of indigenous foods.
Firewood, coal and solar energy are used mostly by the rural folk. The country electricity supply is 220/240 volts AC, 50Hz. Most hotels and lodges have standy generators to stand in if there are any power outs.
Zimbabweans are known for their hospitality and friendliness towards each other and visitors alike. Although all Zimbabweans are very helpful, it is always advisable to be cautious when dealing with strangers. If you need help during your Zimbabwe African holiday, be on the lookout for anyone wearing a ZIMHOST badge, as they are the best people to ask. Police officers can also be very helpful and are easily identified by their uniforms, although some may be plainclothes police. Like anywhere in the world, valuables should always be safeguarded or left in the hotel safe box.
With an array of spectacular natural sights, luxurious Zimbabwe hotels, and a variety of activities available, a Zimbabwe holiday can offer you a chance to explore another country. A Zimbabwe tour is an efficient way of seeing the various spectacular areas that Zimbabwe has to offer.