Places to visit in Zimbabwe
With breathtaking wildlife viewing, the best-trained guides in Africa, and walking safaris that kids can take part in from as young as seven, Zimbabwe is second to none as a safari destination. But because of its past troubles, it remains relatively free of crowds as the public continues to go elsewhere. As a result, you’ll often feel like you have all those lovely creatures to yourselves. This is a great option for our summer school holidays, when Victoria Falls is at its most dramatic and animals mass around Hwange’s rivers and waterholes.
Start and/or finish your Zimbabwe family safari in the northwest of the country, on the border with Zambia, and you’ll experience not only one of the world’s largest waterfalls but also the adventure capital of Africa, with all manner of activities to get your pulses racing: white-water rafting, bungee-jumping, gorge high-wiring, zipline-canopy tours, canoeing, rafting, and microlighting are just the tip of the iceberg.
A sunset river cruise is also a must, giving you all a glimpse of hippos swimming in the river channel and crocodiles basking on the banks. You’ll also want to get an early start to see the sun rise over the water as it thunders down into the canyon, showering you with mist. Jet-boat safaris down the mighty Zambezi River are also a thrill.
Hwange National Park
Despite being within easy reach of Victoria Falls, Africa’s 10th-largest national park is off most people’s radars, giving you lots of space and privacy as you travel around spotting its wild dogs, baboons, giraffes and other fabulous wildlife. And there’s also the sheer delight of getting into it aboard the iconic Elephant Express safari train, and of up-close encounters with elephants from the safety of the amazing underground hides built next to waterholes.
Among other unique offerings of Hwange is the chance to go out with the Cobras Community Wildlife Protection Unit, which has reintroduced rhinos to the park. These animals are housed on community land, with all the income generated by visitors reinvested into nearby villages. You might also get the chance to help drop off supplies at a local school or clinic or even combine your safari with a ‘pump run’, delivering supplies to the rangers who look after Hwange’s artificial water holes.
Matusadona National Park & Lake Kariba
Up in the north, near another section of the border with Zambia, remote, rugged Matusadona was rested for a while as a tourist destination while conservation and reintroduction work took place. Now revitalised for both the wildlife and the human communities that inhabit it, and flourishing sustainably, it’s a great place to see lion, leopard, buffalo, zebra, elephant, hippo, and a wonderful array of antelope species across a variety of terrain from woodlands to open grasslands.
Matusadona borders Lake Kariba, which, like Victoria Falls, is split between Zimbabwe and Zambia on the Zambezi River. The world’s largest artificial lake and reservoir, it was created on a thick layer of fertile soil that has given rise to a vibrant population of kapenta (freshwater sardine) and tiger fish, crocodiles, elephants and hippos, plus fish eagles, cormorants, and other birdlife. It’s also stunningly beautiful, with spectacular sunsets (don’t miss a dusk fishing trip), a petrified forest on its shoreline, and some seriously jaw-dropping stargazing by night.
Mana Pools National Park
In the far north of Zimbabwe, and incorporating the south bank and islands of the Zambezi, Mana Pools is great for wildlife visibility by the river and on the flood plains – especially in the Long Pool, where lots of elephants, hippos and Nile crocodiles gather at sunrise, and at Chitake Spring, where lionesses lay in wait for easy prey.
Mana Pools is fabulous for walking and canoeing safaris amidst its gorgeous, expansive landscapes with a wilderness feel, dotted by acacia trees and other lovely plant life. In winter, it has one of Africa’s highest wildlife concentrations.
Bulawayo & Matobo Hills National Park
The country’s second-largest city, Bulawayo in the southwest is the gateway to the Matobo Hills rock formations and Stone Age cave art but has attractions of its own that make it worth a gander, especially the Natural History Museum and the Railway Museum. It’s also handy for Tshabalala Game Sanctuary and the 15th-century ruins of Khami city.
Matobo Hills’ balancing koppies (rock formations) and rock art date from its time as home to Zimbabwe’s earliest inhabitants, the San, and local communities maintain shrines and other sacred places here. Zimbabwe’s oldest national park, it’s also a place to see large populations of black and white rhinos and black eagles, and to camp and picnic with glorious views over Maleme Dam.
Believed to have been the capital of a kingdom during the Late Iron Age and abandoned in the 15th century, this ruined ancient Shona (Bantu) trading empire in southeast Zimbabwe has given up Arab coins and pottery from China and Persia during the limited archaeological digs that have taken place here.
It’s a wonderful place to explore, oozing atmosphere. The Hill Complex has signs of construction dating back to around 900 AD; the double-walled, circular Great Enclosure, dating from the 14th century, may have been a royal residence; and the Valley Ruins are the remnants of many mud-brick houses. Best of all is the soapstone bird sculptures that were once looted but eventually returned here, which you’ll also recognise from the modern Zimbabwean flag as the national symbol.
Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.
Zimbawe in pictures
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