Zimbabwe is a beautiful country that can take hold of your heart. The smiling people, wonderful savanna landscapes, wild and exciting Parks, Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba, Great Zimbabwe and the Eastern Highlands are tourist attractions that draw many visitors.
Hwange National Park lies in the transition zone between the Kalahari sands of the west and the savannah woodland of the east. It is known for its huge elephant population and has over 100 species of mammals and 400 species of birds. All the large carnivores are represented, including lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and hyena.
Mana Pools National Park is certainly one of the wildest and most exciting wildlife reserves in Africa. Mana Pools is a World Heritage Site covering 2,196 sq.kms and is located in northern Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River. It is named after a series of long pools on the alluvial plains which are the remnants of a previous course of the Zambezi where animals congregate to drink.
The Victoria Falls, also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), is one of the most incredible natural wonders of the world and popular tourist destinations in Southern Africa. Situated about 60 kms downstream from the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers where the four countries of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet, the Victoria Falls is shared between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Measuring 1,7 kms wide and 108 metres high, the spectacular Victoria Falls has a myriad of different viewpoints and is best seen from both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides. Approaching the Falls from kilometres away, one sees the spray and mist high above and the roar of the thundering waters which together make a huge impression.
On the Zimbabwean side, the small town of Victoria Falls caters for the tourist market, offering accommodation, adventure, leisure and cultural activities, local craft markets, restaurants and bars.
Seen from the Zimbabwean side in the Victoria Falls National Park, one has direct head-on views of the Falls whereas on the Zambian side one sees different sections and angles that shed a different light on the magnificence of this natural feature.
Lake Kariba on the Zambezi River is the world’s largest man-made lake, 282 kms long and up to 40 kms wide. Surrounding the lake are private game reserves that allow for great gameviewing from a boat. Hiring a houseboat on Lake Kariba for five days is a great experience, combining unique gameviewing with a leisure holiday like no other.
Great Zimbabwe is a massive ancient stone walled city located near Masvingo in south- eastern Zimbabwe. This World Heritage Site is the largest ancient stone structure south of the Sahara covering about 7 sq. kms and is the historical heritage of an empire after which Zimbabwe, meaning “houses of stone” is named.
The Eastern Highlands form Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique and comprise three main mountain groups, Nyanga, Bvumba and Chimanimani. This is a true wilderness area with beautiful forests and mountains that contain some rare birdlife.
Explore the different habitats on an Open Safari Vehicle in search of wildlife and birds. Most of us have an undying fascination of large cats like lion and leopard as well as the big game species such as elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and a variety of antelope. But don’t ignore the smaller animals and the unbelievably diverse birdlife whose antics and calls create a special atmosphere in the bush.
Your guide has the ability to make your wildife experience rewarding, observing every sign that may lead you to that elusive predator or special sighting. Knowledge and experience coupled with an engaging spirit and passion for the bush will rub off on you and add that extra thrill. A guide’s job is to entertain his guests and keep them on their seats.
A day on safari normally starts with a very early wake up call followed by coffee/tea and a snack. Then hop onto your open vehicle and set off on a game drive lasting 3 to 4 hours. It is customary to stop at a scenic spot enroute for another drink and snack and absorb the wonderful bush atmosphere. Then back to your camp or lodge for breakfast or brunch to share your experiences and feast on good memories and great photos.
Night drives offer you the possibility of seeing nocturnal animals that are not visible during the day as well as those animals that are active at night such as most predators.
Some of the best wildlife safaris in Zimbabwe are offered at lodges in Mana Pools and Hwange National Parks.
Gameviewing from a boat adds another dimension to your safari experience allowing you to observe and photograph animals at close range drinking, playing, wallowing, crossing bodies of water or just playing out their normal everyday activities. To observe a breeding herd of elephants interacting in the water with young calves from the vantage point of a boat is very special.
Apart from the wildlife and birds, it is also the spectacular landscapes and tranquillity of pristine nature that make this activity very special, giving you another perspective compared to exploring the areas on an open vehicle.
Boat cruises on Lake Kariba are offered from the western side from Binga and Mlibizi though the best options are on the eastern side from the town of Kariba. Surrounding the lake are private game reserves that allow for great gameviewing from a boat. Hiring a houseboat on Lake Kariba for five days is a great experience, combining unique gameviewing with a leisure holiday like no other.
Sunset cruises are offered on the Upper Zambezi at Victoria Falls as well as at several lodges on the Lower Zambezi River opposite Mana Pools National Park with good gameviewing possibilities.
A walking safari is the ultimate bush experience, allowing you to enter the space of wild animals, see their tracks and signs and feel close to nature. It does not always allow for good sightings of wildlife as their sharp senses will often perceive your presence before you spot them and cause them to take flight, But a good guide who knows his territory and notes the wind direction may bring you within a reasonable distance to observe wildlife and birds.
You will also learn more about the smaller animals, trees and ecology of the area as well as the cultural use of plants and how African people survive in the bush.
Walking safaris are offered by many lodges in Hwange and Mana Pools National Parks as well as lodges around Lake Kariba.
Birdwatching is a fascinating pastime and hugely popular throughout the world today. Few people are aware that birds lend a special atmosphere to a landscape with their antics and calls. Relax in your chair at your camp or lodge and observe the different types of birds around you flying, feeding, foraging on the ground and going about their daily activities while listening to the variety of sounds they make. To begin to understand all of this you need to learn to distinguish one bird from another and slowly you will build a great interest in and fascination for birds. Having a guide who is a bird specialist is hugely rewarding as there is so much to learn and identify, and the subtle differences between one bird and another can be confusing.
Birding safaris are offered by many tour operators and lodges in Zimbabwe.
As in other Southern African countries, the Bantu people in Zimbabwe have fascinating cultural traditions and visitors are entralled by their rich choral singing, beautiful harmonies and dancing. Cultural villages in Victoria Falls and Harare offer tours where visitors can learn about these traditions which include how they live, what they eat, the role of men and women, the hierarchy in the village, their spiritual beliefs, tribal weapons, story telling and their wonderful song and dance.
One of the most interesting cultural sites is at Great Zimbabwe Ruins just outside the town of Masvingo. This World Heritage Site is the largest ancient stone structure south of the Sahara covering about 7 sq. kms and is the historical heritage of an empire after which Zimbabwe, meaning “houses of stone”, is named.
Zimbabwe has fantastic potential for self drive with such a diversity of accommodation and things to see and do. The road network throughout the country has seen better days and presently the struggling economy makes for challenging conditions for this type of experience.
Self drive routes from Victoria Falls to Mana Pools National Park can include Hwange National Park, Matobos National Park, Great Zimbabwe and Lake Kariba. Routes along the Eastern Highlands are also highly recommended for their stunning scenic value, relaxing holidays and excellent hiking trails.
Victoria Falls is Zimbabwe’s biggest tourist drawcard and sets a wonderful platform for visiting other parts of this very beautiful country.