A guide to Zimbabwe

| June 11, 2020

A guide to Zimbabwe

A superb safari destination, Zimbabwe offers a diverse range of other activities besides searching for the Big Five.

Victoria Falls

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, this is where the Zambezi river thunders 108 metres into a chasm, right on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Clouds of misty spray rise up to form dazzling rainbows in the sunlight. David Livingstone was the first European to find it and it is now classified as the largest sheet of falling water in the world.

Hwange National Park

This is Zimbabwe’s flagship Big Five wildlife reserve. At just over 14,600 sq km, roughly the size of Wales, it is the largest wildlife reserve in Zimbabwe while population densities rank among the highest in Africa.

There are more than 100 mammal species, with the populations of wild dogs and elephants thought to be among the largest surviving groups in the world. Birdwatching is also superb in the wet season with opportunities to spot some of the 400 recorded species.

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve

This off-the-beaten-track private reserve not only features the Big Five but also rarer species such as aardvarks, caracals, roan antelopes, Lichtenstein’s hartebeests and endangered black rhinos. The birdlife here is also remarkable, with some species returning from as far away as Asia on their annual migration. Besides wildlife, the reserve is also home to sandstone hills with caves displaying 2,000-year-old San Bushman rock art.

Matobo Hills National Park

Combine picturesque landscape and unique wildlife viewing with local history in this national park, now declared a world heritage site. Huge granite kopjes interspersed with grassy plains and dense wooded thickets provide a home for high concentrations of leopards, Verreaux’s eagles, and white and black rhinos. Alongside this are more than 3,000 ancient Khoisan rock art sites and the tomb of imperialist Cecil John Rhodes.

Mana Pools National Park

Situated in the heart of the Zambezi valley, this park features an imposing escarpment, traces of river channels that stopped flowing years ago, and four main lakes after which the park is named (mana means ‘four’ in the local Shona language). These lakes hold water all year round, drawing all manner of wildlife and waterfowl during the dry season. Explore the park by vehicle, canoe, boat, or on foot.

Great Zimbabwe

Beautifully set in a verdant valley, this former city is today an imposing set of stone ruins and a Unesco world heritage site, recognised for the amazing effort and skill that went into cutting the stone and assembling mostly geometrical forms using only simple tools and technology. This ancient site was the capital of the kingdom of Zimbabwe from 1100 to 1450 AD and provides a superb insight into the culture of the Shona peoples, who still reside in the region today. The word ‘zimbabwe’ derives from a local Shona word meaning ‘houses of stone’, and carved soapstone birds found in the Great Zimbabwe site today feature in the country’s flag.

The Eastern Highlands

Made up of three mountain ranges, this area provides some of the most dramatic scenery in southern Africa, varying from gentle rolling countryside to fierce granite pinnacles, strewn with spectacular gorges, waterfalls and valleys. Zimbabwe’s highest peak, Mount Nyangani, is also to be found here, standing at 2,592 metres. Activities include hiking, camping, fishing, swimming and golf, providing a dramatic contrast to the typical safari holiday.

Lake Kariba

Situated on Zimbabwe’s northern border, Lake Kariba offers sunshine, wildlife and water sports. One of the largest man-made lakes in the world, created after the Kariba dam flooded the middle Zambezi valley in the 1950s, wildlife now congregates here.

Matusadona National Park was formed on the southern shore, where there is excellent Big Five wildlife viewing and exceptional birdlife. Enjoy a variety of excursions from the safari lodges dotted along the shoreline, from boat and canoe trips to walks and drives.

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