This beautiful country has long been a popular tourist destination due to the huge variety of environments, and the amazing cultural, wildlife and landscape heritage.
Zimbabwean people remain among the friendliest and most capable in Africa, and the country will undoubtedly rise again to become one of Africa\'s most popular destinations. Encompassing many ecosystems, landlocked Zimbabwe is home to the magnificent Victoria Falls, the Eastern Highlands mountain range, tranquil Lake Kariba, the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara at Great Zimbabwe and National Parks home to a great variety of wildlife species.
Zimbabwe is a beautiful, lush country with contrasting landscapes and stunning scenery. The Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers form borders in the south and north respectively and the land rises gradually from these two river valleys to a central plateau of msasa and mopane savanna woodland. The Zambezi frames the country’s northern edge for 715km and encompasses the magnificent Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba and the wilderness area of Mana Pools. The main towns and cities are located on the fertile ridge, as are many of the farms.
The Mvurwi mountains in the north, the Matobo Hills in the south west and the Mashava Hills in the central region are all located along the central ridge. Another range of mountains forms the border with Moçambique in the east, these are the Nyanga, Bvumba & Chimanimani which are known collectively as the Eastern Highlands. 35% of the countries area is lowveld, and many of the prime wilderness areas are found here including Kariba & Gonarezhou National Park
A short rainy season with heavy storms and little water replenishing the underground water table means that drought can still be a problem. Despite being in the tropics, Zimbabwe\'s climate is more on the temperate side due to the high altitude of the central plateau.
The countryside is dominated by vast tracts of native trees on the highveld. These ancient woodlands are still impressive, even taking into account the destruction caused by removal for firewood. Indigenous species include Msasa, Munondo, Paperback thorn, Nyanga flattop acacia & Mopane. The so-called \'Rhodesian teak\' is a beautiful species which, along with other hardwoods, has been used for much of the beautiful furniture and carvings for sale in Zimbabwe. These woodland areas in turn support a great variety of bird and animal life.
Tall grasslands are present throughout much of the country, and over 5,000 species of flowering plants can be found, many of which are still used medicinally. The beautiful flame lily is Zimbabwe\'s National Flower. Animal species have always thrived here and some of Africa\'s most impressive species may be seen in Parks such as Hwange and Mana Pools. Unfortunately poaching is difficult to control, and with so many people unable to fulfil their basic needs at present, Zimbabwe\'s wildlife is severely under threat.
The San were the first people to inhabit Southern Africa and around 30,000 fascinating rock art sites can be seen in present day Zimbabwe. Around 2,000 years ago it appears that San tribes began to keep small numbers of livestock and to plant grain so limiting their nomadic lifestyle. Pottery and iron smelting also began here at around this time. Between 200BC and AD1000, Bantu tribes migrated south into the area, largely displacing the San.
The 10th century saw the first signs of an embryonic Shona society developing on the central plateau region of modern Zimbabwe. These first foundations led to the growth of the first major Shona State. Historians are unsure whether the forefathers of the Shona had arrived in the Bantu tribe migration, or whether they originated from San tribes who settled into a less nomadic life. Cattle ownership increased, as did skills enabling the Shona to produce iron tools
Gold mining led to contact with Arab traders from the coast and steadily the wealth increased. This status enabled cattle barons to establish a complex settlement at Great Zimbabwe, at the crossroads of seasonal grazing areas. At its height, Great Zimbabwe was home to 40,000 people and an army was employed to guard the cattle. The site was only occupied for around 300 years, and by 1450 the area had been abandoned, probably due to drought, overpopulation and exhausted supplies of firewood. The Torwa & Rozvi were also strong states at the time of Great Zimbabwe, controlling large cattle herds and building settlements from stone.
The Mutapa dynasty in the north and east of the country was one of the next great powers. Originally based at Great Zimbabwe, this state broke away during the last years of the settlement. Tales of fantastic wealth and riches on the scale of \'King Solomon\'s Mines\' made their way back to the coast from Swahili traders and prompted Portuguese explorer Antonio Fernandes, the first westerner, to enter this area in 1513. Explorers, traders & missionaries now began to venture inland to seek the Munhumutapa people.
Eventually, trading posts were established and in return for the ivory & gold shipped out of the country, maize was brought from the Americas (still the staple diet of Zimbabwe today) and lemons from India were brought to the Munhumutapa. In 1818 Shaka Zulu took over the leadership of the Zulu nation to the south and began a reign of violence that scattered clans and gave the Zulu their fierce reputation.
Three of the tribes forced northwards by the violence became known as the Ndebele and settled in the west of present day Zimbabwe, near what is now the city of Bulawayo, in 1837. The Ndebele now make up the second largest language group in Zimbabwe.
The missionary Robert Moffatt was the first British citizen to reach the country, in 1854. He was closely followed by his son-in-law, David Livingstone. News of the enormous natural and mineral wealth of the country soon reached England, and the British had occupied the area by 1890. By 1895 the country had been named Rhodesia, after the mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes. Rhodes\' British South Africa Company was given the support of the crown to push for domination of the African continent from north to south, the idea of a Cape to Cairo railway was pursued and major sections of this were completed, although the end result was never accomplished.
Taxes, land appropriation and forced labour led to severe discontent among the colonised inhabitants, and a war of liberation began. The first uprising was soon quashed in 1893, after this the Shona and the Ndebele (traditional enemies) united against the British. Many settlers were killed, but the superior firepower of the British ensured that no serious threat to the colonial power was acknowledged. Britain ruled Rhodesia for the next 85 years, dominating the language, economy and infrastructure of the country. In 1957 Joshua Nkomo became the president of the newly formed Southern Rhodesia African National Congress which split into two factions in 1963; the Zimbabwean African National Union (ZANU) and the Zimbabwean African People\'s Union (ZAPU). Furious rivalry between the two organisations followed. At the same time, white Rhodesians were pushing the British government for independence on their terms, and Prime Minister Ian Smith finally achieved this by pronouncing Unilateral Independence in 1965. UN sanctions followed and the Shona & Ndebele again took up arms.
The armed struggle was largely ineffectual until the 1970\'s when the rural guerrilla movement gained the logistical support of a newly independent Moçambique. The Rhodesian military intelligence responded by forming Renamo, a guerrilla movement aimed at destroying Moçambique\'s infrastructure and bringing down the Marxist government. By the mid 1970\'s outside influences from the USA and South Africa were pushing for a settlement to the on-going conflict, and in 1979 an all party conference in London saw the signing of a peace accord with the first free elections being held in February 1980. ZANU won with Robert Mugabe becoming the Zimbabwe\'s first (and only, so far) president.
27,000 people had died in the war of independence, and 150,000 more had become refugees. Despite this difficult starting point, the economy began to soar with the 1980\'s being hailed as a boom decade for the new country. Up to two thirds of Rhodesians left, but the white farmers stayed and continued to provide the backbone of the economy. Conflicts between ZANU & ZAPU continued, however, with violent bloodshed in Matabeleland, the home of the Ndebele. A resolution was reached in 1987 and ZAPU\'s leader, Joshua Nkomo, became Mugabe\'s vice president. ZANU became ZANU (PF), the PF standing for People\'s Front.
Land issues, which the liberation movement had promised to solve, re-emerged as the main issue for the ruling party around 1997. Despite majority rule and the existence of a "willing-buyer-willing-seller" land reform programme since the 1980s, whites made up less than 1% of the population but held about 70% of the most arable land. Mugabe began to redistribute land to blacks in 2000 with compulsory land redistribution.
Eventually a wide range of sanctions were imposed by the US government and European Union against the person of Mugabe and the government. The confiscation of the farmland was affected by continuous droughts and lack of inputs and finance led to a sharp decline in agricultural exports, which was traditionally the country\'s leading export producing sector.
As a result, Zimbabwe experienced a severe hard-currency shortage that led to hyperinflation and chronic shortages in imported fuel and consumer goods. In 2002, Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations.
Zimbabwe\'s current economic and food crisis, described by some observers as the country\'s worst humanitarian crisis since independence, has been attributed in varying degrees to the government\'s price controls and land confiscations, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and a drought affecting the entire region.
In late 2008, problems in Zimbabwe reached crisis proportions in the areas of living standards, public health (with a major cholera outbreak in December) and various public considerations.
In September 2008, a power-sharing agreement was reached between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, in which Mugabe remained president and Tsvangirai became prime minister. However, due to ministerial differences between their respective political parties, the agreement was not fully implemented until February 13, 2009, two days after the swearing in of Tsvangirai as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.
In November 2010, the IMF described the Zimbabwean economy as "completing its second year of buoyant economic growth after a decade of economic decline", mentioning "strengthening policies" and "favourable shocks" as main reasons for the economic growth.
In December 2010 President Mugabe threatened to further expropriate privately-owned companies unless "western sanctions" were lifted. He said: "Why should we continue having companies and organizations that are supported by Britain and America without hitting back? Time has come for us to [take] revenge. We can read the riot act and say this is 51% we are taking and if the sanctions persist we are taking over 100%."
The lowveld areas of Zimbabwe, including the Zambezi Valley and the south east of the country, are malaria areas and recommended prophylaxis should be taken. Your doctor can advise you on the best type for the area of travel and your personal requirements. However, taking prophylaxis will not guarantee that you will not contract malaria! The best way to avoid malaria is to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes that carry the parasite. Only the females of one species of mosquito (Anopheles) carry the tiny parasite, and the greatest incidence of malaria is in areas of high population where there are many people for the mosquito to bite and pass the parasite between.
Mosquitoes usually bite between sunset and sunrise, so make sure that you are covered up during this time! Wear loose fitting, long sleeved shirts and trousers, use a good insect repellent and sleep underneath a mosquito net or in a tent/ room sealed with netting. If you do develop flu-like symptoms, or feel at all unwell, during your holiday or after your return home, you must make sure that your doctor knows that you have recently travelled in a malaria area. Malaria is not a serious problem provided people take adequate precautions and seek advice and treatment immediately if they feel unwell.
The provision of basic services and health care is unreliable. There is a shortage of drugs and trained medical staff in hospitals, making it difficult for hospitals to treat certain illnesses including accidents and trauma cases. Standards of nursing care even in private hospitals vary. Private clinics will not treat patients until they pay and often require large amounts of cash before they will admit even emergency cases. For this reason you must make sure that comprehensive travel insurance is taken out before you travel, this insurance should cover any medical expenses, air evacuation and repatriation if necessary.
Familiarise yourself with precautions to avoid cholera, drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. The standard of water quality and piping is low and there are frequent and severe shortages of municipal water. Rigorous food and hygiene measures should be observed and you should take particular care with any foods bought at the roadside or in the markets.
Rainy season: November to April. Rainfall does not usually occur every day, and generally takes place in the afternoon with mornings being fairly clear.
Summer: November to April with a high of 29° C and a low of 18° C.
Winter: May to October with a high of 25° C and a low of 6° C.
There is no "best time" to visit Zimbabwe as the different seasons all offer completely different experiences! However, you may like to consider the following when planning your trip:
Pros: Quieter tourism period, lush green inland landscape, beautiful sunsets and stunning views of electrical storms.
Cons: Warm temperatures, activities may be interrupted by rain, increased mosquitoes in lowland areas.
Pros: Cooler, clear skies, fewer mosquitoes.
Cons: Busier tourism period, cooler mornings and evenings.
Our personal preference would be for either April - May or early November as these times are neither too hot nor too cool. At these times, rain should not be a problem and the heat is not excessive. Wildlife sightings are usually at their best in the dry, winter season.
Bring plenty of memory cards and a spare camera battery as these items may not be available in some of the more remote areas of Namibia. A good zoom lens (minimum 200 mm) is essential for wildlife photography.
A good zoom lens (minimum 200 mm) is essential for wildlife photography. Photography of government offices, airports, military establishments, official residences and embassies, in addition to other sensitive facilities, is illegal without special permission from the Ministry of Information. Taking photographs of members of the security services (police and armed forces personnel) and of demonstrations and protests is not permitted. Laws are strictly enforced.
Neutral, muted colours such as khaki, dark green or beige ensure as little disturbance to wildlife as possible whilst on game drives or walks. White or bright colours are not advised and army camouflage uniforms or army hats are prohibited in Zimbabwe.
Light, casual clothing (shorts/shirts) for everyday wear, stout shoes for walking, light waterproof jacket for summer, warm jumper/ fleece for winter, warm long trousers for winter, two sets of good casual clothes for evening dining where appropriate, towel, broad brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, plenty of film & spare battery, binoculars, reliable torch, sleeping bag if camping. Evening wear in the lowveld should be light coloured and loose fitting to discourage mosquitoes.
It is also worth noting that if you are travelling by light aircraft you should carry no more than 10-15kg of luggage in a soft bag for ease of packing.
The Zimbabwean dollar has been taken out of circulation indefinitely. The most widely used currencies are the US dollar and the South African rand. It is inadvisable to carry large amounts of cash. However, credit and debit cards are not widely accepted. Although it is possible to withdraw cash from some ATMs, it is not advisable to rely on this service being available throughout Zimbabwe. It is illegal to exchange foreign currency in Zimbabwe anywhere other than at officially licensed dealers (e.g. banks), who may not have sufficient currency to accommodate your request. It is advisable to have small denomination notes, as change is rarely available. Travellers cheques are not generally accepted at the unofficial rate, so cash is best.
Visitors from the Commonwealth and some other countries can obtain tourist visas at the border, at present the fees are as follows:
single entry visa US$55
double entry visa US$70
multiple entry visas US$90.
All other nationalities:
single entry visa US$30
double entry visas US$45.
Please contact us for details regarding your personal visa requirements.
This mountainous area bordering Moçambique offers a completely different landscape and climate to most of Zimbabwe. The cool, lushly vegetated uplands could easily be mistaken for the Lake District of England and are a welcome respite from the heat of lower lying areas. The low population and remote nature of the Highlands makes the area a hiker’s paradise as well as being a haven for many bird and animal species. Many golf courses lie scattered throughout the area as well as bubbling streams offering an ideal opportunity for trout fishing. Interesting archaeological sites have also been found throughout this area.
The Highlands encompass three specific mountain areas stretching for 300km; Nyanga which is the largest, Bvumba with the highest rainfall and Chimanimani, the most remote of the groups, located on a windswept massif
Nyanga is reminiscent of English moorland with dense forest, waterfalls, rivers and silent lakes. The Iron Age population living in this area stripped much of the forest for agriculture, leaving stone terracing which still exists today along with stone walled enclosures, corrals and forts.
Mt. Nyangani is Zimbabwe\'s highest mountain at 2593m and it towers above the Nyanga landscape. The area is not home to a great number of animals, but there are a number of kudu, wildebeest, waterbuck and leopard, a predator that seems able to thrive in almost any habitat. There are many private nature reserves in this area as well as Nyanga National Park which consists of 33,000 hectares of Cecil Rhodes Homestead. The private reserves are characterized by pine plantations, montane hardwood trees and fern and orchid filled valleys.
The Mutarazi Falls are situated in the Mutarazi National Park, in the south of Nyanga. The Falls are 762m high and are the second highest in Africa, after the famous Victoria Falls. The area is beautiful, lush and green with wildflower meadows and shady valleys.
The Bvumba Mountains lie 28km southeast of Mutare, the area\'s major town. The Bvumba and Bunga National Botanical Reserves offer a pretty contrast between planted English gardens and indigenous forests. There is a profusion of wildlife with samango monkeys, eland, duikers, bushbuck and sable as well as many tropical birds. The Bvumba area is also famous for the good quality cheeses produced here!
The Chimanimani area is the most remote, and most of the granite peaks are only accessible by foot. Two thirds of this area lies in Mozambique and it can be easy to stray across the border by accident as there are no fences. Many interesting hiking trails wind their way around these mountains and the Bridal Veil Falls are located here, a peaceful and scenic landmark surrounded by ferns, lianas and still, clear pools. The Chimanimani area is riddled with some of the world’s deepest cave systems, one in particular sinks 250m into the ground! This area is home to many bird and animal species, and visitors may have the chance to see some of the rare tropical birds or the tree civets which make their home in the botanical forest reserve.
These spectacular waterfalls are a designated World Heritage Site as well as being one of the natural wonders of the world. Ever since their existence was publicized by David Livingstone in 1855, visitors have travelled from all over the world to witness this amazing natural phenomenon. The falls are 1.7 km wide and have an average height of 100m.
The volume of water passing over the falls is 550,000 square meters per minute, on average, although this can increase dramatically during the high water period between March and May. The geology of this area is fascinating; the original falls were actually 8km downstream of the present ones. Erosion over millions of years, combined with weaknesses in the basalt rock perpendicular to the flow of the Zambezi have gradually worn away the previous seven sets of falls and have led to the magnificent gorge system that visitors see today.
In the first years of the 20th century, the growing village of Victoria Falls was put on the map by Cecil Rhodes\' British South African Company plans to attempt the construction of a Cape to Cairo railway line. Although the line was never completed, the track still runs through Victoria Falls and luxury trains, offering opulent service as well as breath-taking views, travel through this station in addition to the regular Zimbabwean Railway service.
The Falls can also be viewed from the Zambian town of Livingstone where visitors are able to get spectacularly close to the edge of the river gorge! Many adventure activities can be arranged from the town of Victoria Falls, varying from bungee jumping, gorge swinging, micro-lighting and white water rafting to more leisurely boat cruises on the upper stretches of the river.
A short drive south of Bulawayo are the ancient Matopos hills, a world of knobbly granite outcrops that look as if they have been transplanted from another planet. As soon as you enter this National Park, another Africa descends upon you. Here is an eerie panorama so brooding and mysterious that it has enchanted Ndebele kings and colonial settlers alike. Today, the visitor can gaze upon the tomb of Cecil Rhodes and those of his deputies.
Not far from these monuments to colonial ambition are the vestiges of a very different people, cave paintings by ancient Bushmen depicting another world which existed thousands of years before the name \'Zimbabwe\' was ever invented.
The National Park of Matobo is home to many bird and animal species including reintroduced black and white rhino, kudu, agile klipspringer antelope, warthog, giraffe, zebra and also a relatively high population of elusive leopard. In addition it is an important breeding area for black eagles and visitors may also have the chance to see the African hawk eagle and the rare Cape eagle owl.
The area of Hwange was historically important for its extensive reserves of coal, and a good amount is still mined here.
For this reason, the abandoned Cape to Cairo railway was routed through Hwange and Victoria Falls instead of through Harare.
The wildlife area and National Park were actually only set aside due to their poor soil quality making the land unsuitable for agriculture. When the designation was made in 1929, the area was almost devoid of animal and birdlife due to seriously overenthusiastic hunting practices.
Nowadays the Park is a rich habitat for many rare and fascinating species including giraffe, sable antelope, buffalo, impala, kudu, zebra, elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, wild dog and jackal. The Park is also home to over 400 bird species including numerous eagle species, kestrels, goshawk, falcons, buzzards and osprey. There are over 1000 species of tree and shrub, presenting a great variety of habitat and scenery.
Unlike the more popular and well-known Parks of East Africa, Hwange is relatively un-crowded and although the area is managed quite extensively by Park authorities, it still represents one of Africa\'s most interesting game areas, with an excellent density of wildlife. The Park is marked into three areas; Main Camp is the headquarters of the Park and is mostly covered with savanna grassland. Sinamatella comprises granite ridges overlooking a lush valley with thick mopane forest. Robins and Nantwich are a little more remote and usually afford good opportunities to view lion. There are 480 km of road in Hwange, 80% of which is only accessible to specialized camping and photographic safaris.
The good underground water reserves in the area allowed the initial establishment of around 60 artificially pumped pans for the wildlife to drink from during the dry season. The best time to visit Hwange is between September and October as the wildlife is concentrated around these water holes. The southern area of the park is situated at the tip of the Kalahari Desert, and giant fossil dunes can be seen in the far eastern corner.
This World Heritage site is one of Zimbabwe\'s enigmas and the largest single ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert. Located on an open, wooded plain and surrounded by rolling hills, Great Zimbabwe is around 700 years old and consists of a series of intricate dry stone walled enclosures and walls covering 720 hectares. It is thought that the people who built the impressive structures were wealthy cattle owners, and not traders from North Africa as some historians have suggested. After two centuries of prosperous living, with around 20,000 people being based in this area, and trading relations with Swahili gold merchants, the population had depleted the local resources and moved to more productive land.
The Great Enclosure is thought to have been a royal residence originally, and has a large conical structure in the centre which may have been a grain store, or even a treasury.
Some of the walls are 5m thick and 11m high, the circumference of the Great Enclosure is an impressive 243m. The name of these ruins was that given to the country at Independence, and the original soapstone birds that once perched atop the walls have been adopted as one of the country\'s National symbols.
A museum exists on site, and exhibits range from the soapstone birds to archaeological finds ranging from gold, bronze and copper items to pottery fragments. The nearby Mutirikwi Recreational Park offers water sports on the lake and is home to a wide variety of animal and birdlife including white rhino, kudu, wildebeest, giraffe, collared sunbird, lanner falcon and miombo rock thrush.
This area is one of the more remote and wild areas of Zimbabwe, and also one of the only wildlife rich areas of Africa where guests can walk freely in the bush.
The Mana Pools National park is a declared World Heritage Site which stretches along the Zambezi River and as far inland as the Zambezi escarpment. The vegetation varies from twisting apple-ring acacia and ancient mahogany trees to fig, sausage and rain trees on the floodplain.
Animal species include numerous hippo and crocodile in the river, clawless otter, honey badger, buffalo, elephant, waterbuck, nyala antelope and jackal
Mana means four in the local language, and refers to the four main pools which give this area its name; Long, Main, Chine and Chisambik. The Park is open to vehicles from May to October. Canoe safaris can be undertaken in this area, and these offer a unique and exciting experience, drifting down the mighty Zambezi past herds of lazy buffalo grazing on the river banks, pods of hippo wallowing in the water and crocodiles lying quietly beneath overhanging branches.
Walking is allowed during daylight hours, but visitors must adhere to the recommendations of Park authorities.
Lake Kariba is the result of a massive damming project undertaken in 1958 to flood an area of the Zambezi Valley in order to create a hydroelectric power plant for Zimbabwe and Zambia. Many hundreds of local people were displaced in order to flood the valley, and many animals were relocated in the months before the floodgates finally opened. The lake is 282km long, and the dam is 24m thick at its base.
The town of Kariba is an eclectic mixture of fishing boats, luxury hotel complexes and local township streets. There is no centre as such but the shores of the lake are dotted with campsites, small bed and breakfast guesthouses and hotels.
Views from the surrounding hilltops are beautiful and sunsets are spent very peacefully watching palm swifts dart in and out of their nests, and the silhouettes of the submerged trees grow to shadows in the dusk.
The Lake itself is a popular destination for fishing, boating, game watching and relaxing. Many visitors take a house boat with a crew and drift off to explore the many secluded inlets and islands which are home to a good variety of animal and bird life, as well as 42 species of fish.
The fishing is excellent with opportunity to catch tiger fish, bream, carp and black bass. Many hippos make the lake their home, as well as crocodiles, and the Matusodona National Park, Chete and Charara Safari Areas on the shores of the lake offer a great opportunity to see some of the larger of Zimbabwe\'s game animals such as elephant and buffalo.
Chizarira National Park is the most remote of Zimbawe\'s wildlife areas and is located 50km inland from Kariba. The landscape is a rolling mass of mountains, river gorges, flood plains and plateaus. Animal life includes tssesebe, buffalo, roan and sable antelope and zebra.
Destination:Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana
Destination:Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana
Style:3-4*, Wildlife, Active
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