Zimbabwe is best known for the mighty Victoria Falls and Hwange Game Reserve, and for good reason, however it has so much more to offer. Sėan Kelly, Africa specialist at Odyssey World gives us his low down..
Zimbabwe is acknowledged as having some of the best game viewing in Africa due to the foresight of those in authority in the early part of the last century, setting aside large tracks of land throughout the country as National Parks and Game Reserves. There are twelve significant parks spread throughout the country with the most well known being Hwange in the North-West and Gona-re-Zhou in the South East, but all have very different landscapes and something different to offer.
Photographic safaris have become increasingly popular over the years and Zimbabwe also boasts an amazing variety of birdlife. The Matopas area, for example, 45 kilometers south-east of Bulawayo, has a very large number of bird species and there the visitor may be lucky enough to see the rare Black Eagle.
If it’s culture you’re after, Zimbabwe is reputed to have one of the highest densities of ancient rock art in the world. The Matobo Hills are a good spot to view ancient San Bushmen rock paintings. There are also the Great Zimbabwe Ruins (Masvingo) and Khami Ruins (Bulawayo) which are definitely worth a visit, as two of the world’s most unique and well preserved ancient cities
The Kariba Dam, extending over two hundred and twenty kilometers, is a formidable sight and engineering feat. It remains very popular with anglers and still attracts numerous international and local competitors for the exciting annual Tiger fishing tournament held in October.
In stark contrast to the vast open expanses of Kariba, the extensive Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe (embracing Juliasdale, Nyanga, Melsetter, Chimanimani and the Vumba) is a nature-lovers haven with dense forests and magnificent mountainous granite formations. Only two to three hours from Harare, and distinctly cooler than the rest of the country, the area is a popular destination for walkers, birders, trout fishermen and golfers; the golf course at Leopard Rock in the Vumba area is one of the most picturesque courses anywhere in Africa.
Visitors to the eastern part of the country in June to August will be exposed to a kaleidoscope of colour as the leaves of the indigenous Msasa trees transform and develop through a variety of reds, yellows, maroons, golds, browns, oranges, and greens over a few weeks. A wonderful sight to behold -and photograph.
So how do tourists get around? For a start the Zimbabwean people are inherently friendly and welcoming which makes all travel a delight. Air travel is available but Air Zimbabwe has had an erratic history and nowadays operates only irregular and infrequent domestic flights. Luxury, privately operated coaches travel between all the main centres and are reasonably priced. Many travelers opt to avail themselves of the services of tour companies, whilst others self-drive with many people traveling across the border from South Africa. Note that car hire in Zimbabwe can be relatively expensive especially with insurance added on.
The overriding benefit of visiting Zimbabwe is that you’ll enjoy a more genuine experience; the tourist spots haven’t been over developed and commercialised; they are not over crowded with tourist vehicles and there are still plenty of places to go to simply to chill out and see wildlife in its natural state.
Read on for a little history….
Zimbabwean tourism is back in business.
For decades prior to its well publicised political turmoil and economic collapse, Zimbabwe was the preferred African tourist destination for many travelers. The diversity of its tourist offerings, the quality of its infrastructure and the warmth of the local’s welcome, ensured that the experiences of holiday makers were both enjoyable and memorable.
For a number of years travel warnings to Zimbabwe have been in place, however at this time the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have no restrictions in their travel advice. As with all countries, caution is required. The formation of a cross-party inclusive government in February 2009 led to a reduction in the level of political violence and human rights abuses and since that time Zimbabwe has generally experienced a relatively stable period with reasonable economic growth. Many tourist facilities remained open during the troubled times and are now beginning to reap the rewards of their optimism and investment as the numbers of tourists steadily increase each year.
There has been talk for some time about the resumption of international flights direct to Zimbabwe and a number of airlines have been reviewing their position. Emirates were the first major airline to take the plunge in early 2012 and KLM followed suit last November. Both airlines offer three flights a week. The fullness of the flights is testimony to the demand and it would seem that with continued stability, other airlines will no doubt follow suit in a bid to capture their share of a growing and potentially very lucrative route.
Zimbabwe is back.
Sėan Kelly was born in Harare in Zimbabwe where he was raised and educated. He has a Masters degree in Business Strategy and spent a good part of his career working as a Business Consultant in his own practice and has lived and worked in Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Sean is passionate about Africa and specifically his home country of Zimbabwe where he has traveled extensively. He is very proud of the country’s past achievements and natural beauty and despite its turbulent political past, he encourages people to visit Zimbabwe and to experience the natural warmth of the people and to support those involved in building a future.