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< BACKCountry Hotspots - Zimbabwe

  • [?]Eastern Highlands

    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.

  • [?]Victoria Falls

    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.

  • [?]The Matopos

    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.

  • [?]Hwange National Park

    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.

  • [?]Great Zimbabwe Ruins

    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.

  • [?]Mana Pools

    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

    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.

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