Although a small land locked country, Zimbabwe has something to offer for everyone: active adventurers, outdoor enthusiasts and those with an exquisite eye for beauty alike.
Despite making news for all the wrong reasons in recent years, Zimbabwe began life after independence in 1980, with one of the best transport and communications infrastructures in Africa, a solid industrial base, a thriving tourist industry and towns and cities that were ordered, safe and well maintained. It is a tragedy that Robert Mugabe and his corrupt regime reduced this great country to an impoverished, cholera-ridden, failed state. However, Zimbabwe, a country filled with natural beauty and an engrossing history is once again on the rise.
In the north of the country, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls is indeed one the world’s greatest geographical sites. The two mile wide curtain of water plunges into Zambezi Gorge creating a ‘smoke that thunders’ and rises almost 500m skyward. For you thrill seekers out there, take a leap of faith and bungee from the Victoria Falls Bridge (linking Zimbabwe and Zambia), or perhaps you would prefer white water rafting in Zambezi Gorge, ‘the adventure capital of Africa.’ For the more relaxed adventurers, experience exquisite views like you’ve never seen before from the comfort of a scenic flight over the falls or even a tranquil sundown cruise.
With a number of national parks wildlife in Zimbabwe flourishes all year round. Walk with the lions and watch them roam freely amongst the hippo, buffalo, crocodiles and elephants, or observe the leopards, zebras, monkeys and rhino (black and white) from atop an elephant or within a canoe. Some of the finest canoe safaris in Africa take place at Mana Pools.
But, if waterfalls, animals, sunsets and shrines haven’t quite grasped your attention, don’t worry there’s more. Great Zimbabwe, the country’s capital during the Iron Age (1100-1450), is home to the UNESCO world heritage site of The Great Zimbabwe Ruins.
While the saltpans and grassy plains of Hwange National Park offer one of the largest concentrations of animals in the world, the UNESCO world heritage site at Mana Pools, where bird-watching can be an added pleasure to a safari, is renowned for its outstanding variety of game. Also very popular with game is Lake Kariba, where you can spot the vast quantities attracted to the lake, including the huge Nile crocodiles and hippos, while enjoying a variety of water activities or simply relaxing and enjoying the stunning sunset from the most tranquil of accommodations, a houseboat.
The Matobo Hills, yet another UNESCO world heritage site, are a profusion of densely packed granite landforms, creating a sea of hills. These extraordinary rock forms have exerted a strong presence over the area both in natural and cultural terms. For many millennia this presence has motivated human interaction with the dramatic, natural formations and as a result of this, one of the most outstanding rock art collections in Africa lies amongst these hills. The Mwari religion, which is still practised in the area and may date back to as far as the Iron Age, is the most powerful oracular religion in Southern Africa. The Matobo rocks are seen as the seat of God and ancestral spirits. Contact can be made with the spiritual world from sacred shrines within these hills.
But, if waterfalls, animals, sunsets and shrines haven’t quite grasped your attention, don’t worry there’s more. Great Zimbabwe, the country’s capital during the Iron Age (1100-1450), is home to the UNESCO world heritage site of The Great Zimbabwe Ruins. Beautifully set at the head of the Mutirikiwi River, in a lush and flourishing valley, the ruins spread over 722-ha. Here, rather than building from granite blocks in free standing walls, men moulded structures around existing granite outcrops and balancing boulders. What’s left is now recognised as the oldest stone structure south of the Sahara and is praised for the amazing effort and skill that went into cutting the stone and assembling it in what are mostly geometrical forms. All this, using only simple tools and technology.
As a result of the social and political woes in Zimbabwe over the past decade or so, together with the economy in a fragile state, many potential travellers have been deterred from visiting Zimbabwe and experiencing some of the most breath-taking scenery and first-class safaris in Africa. Although visitors to the country are urged to exercise caution at all times and to remain aware of recent developments, the country’s reputation for stability is improving rapidly and tourism in Zimbabwe is flourishing once more.