The best of Zimbabwe
Here’s what makes her great!
There’s so much more to Zimbabwe than its tumultuous history and iconic thundering waterfall. Take the time to explore her patchwork of landscapes, and you’ll soon realize just how beautiful and complex she really is.
A journey through Zim (as we affectionately know her) promises a colorful experience – to say the least – guaranteed to enhance and enrich your spirit. From laidback metropoles lined with flaming msasa trees to countless natural wonders and wildlife galore, you’re guaranteed to leave feeling as though you’ve just discovered one of the most spectacular countries on the African continent.
If that’s enough to pique your safari wanderlust, read on to discover the best of Zimbabwe and all the features that make her really great.
Ellies in Hwange
No trip is complete without a visit to some of Zimbabwe’s national parks: Chimanimani, Chizarira, and Gonarezhou, to name but a few. These hidden boltholes herald some of the country’s most thrilling wildlife encounters, but none surpass the pristine African wilderness that is Hwange National Park.
Brimming with oh-so-beautiful lodges, like the eco-friendly Verney’s Camp and elegant Somalisa Hwange stands as one of the oldest parks on the continent and the largest in Zimbabwe. Its network of water pans sustains a host of birds and game, most notably, mega herds of elephants often seen plodding across the mopane-dotted plains. Blink, and you might just miss a cheetah sighting. Roan and sable also top the list.
Although not a new addition to most itineraries, it’s easy to see why the most ardent safari-goers return to Hwange year after year. Love a good walking safari? This park boasts the best of Zimbabwe’s most experienced trackers and walking guides.
The magic of Mana Pools
For us at ATC, Mana Pools is one of those places that you’ll want to talk to your grandchildren about for years to come. The fact that it was the first in the country to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site should give you the first clue to its allure.
Meaning ‘four’ in the local Shona language, ‘mana’ points to four large pools, originally carved out by the Zambezi River. Adding to that is its glistening mix of waterways, grasslands, and groves sustaining a healthy bounty of wildlife.
This watery arena ticks all the right boxes for a more aquatic safari experience, with expert-led canoe trails topping the daily agenda and accommodation of the bush camp variety. Cameras at the ready to capture marauding elephants, brooding buffalo, and Nile crocodiles. There’s not much that Mana Pools doesn’t have, including generous prides of lion and rogue packs of African wild dog scampering after their next kill.
The mysterious ruined city
Dating back to the 11th to 15th centuries AD, the ruined city of Khami offers something utterly unique to add to your safari itinerary.
A designated Unesco World Heritage site close to Bulawayo, this archeological wonder proves that Africa indeed reached an unprecedented level of civilization. Although sadly plundered by European treasure hunters in the 20th century and slowly eroded by the elements over time, these incredible ruins offer a glimpse into the ancient history of Great Zimbabwe.
The site is divided into several primary areas: Hill Complex, the Valley, and the Great Enclosure, which can easily be self-explored. Expect plenty of maps and info at the starting checkpoint. However, if you prefer having an expert at your side, that can also be arranged.
The best time to go? Either dawn or dusk when the light illuminates all the finer details of the granite bricked walls and fragments of various turrets and towers.
Mosi-oa-Tunya at full moon
When in Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is a must-see, but you don’t necessarily have to explore it in the traditional way…
If we can let you in on a little secret: Timing is everything when it comes to experiencing the sheer majesty of the ‘smoke that thunders’. If you’re planning a return trip to this legendary attraction, try to time your visit during the full moon when you can experience a ‘lunar rainbow’ or ‘moonbow’ within its spray, instead of a rainbow generally observed there during the day.
One of the best-kept secrets when it comes to falls is that during a full moon, a “moonbow” can be seen in the spray instead of the usual daylight rainbow. While Vic Falls is often over-emphasized as a thrill-seekers paradise, if you still want to dabble in some bungee jumping or take part in a helicopter flip, Tom Cruise-style, then why not?
Lake Kariba never fails to represent the best of Zimbabwe, and no list is complete without an honorary mention.
Replenished by the Zambezi River, this watery wonderland attracts flourishing herds of buffalos and elephants, with prowling predators never far behind. It’s also the main stomping grounds for a treasure trove of birds (Fish eagles, and flamingos!).
It also proves a top-notch spot to cast in a line and try your hand at taming tigerfish. But oh, the sunsets! We can’t harp on enough about those! When the lake shimmers in a kaleidoscopic of red, orange, pinks, and golden hues, you’ll quickly feel as though you’ve slipped through the gates of heaven.
We’ll also mention that Lake Kariba also holds a special place in our hearts as the primary base of Operation Noah, a rescue mission for thousands of animals trapped by rising flood waters during the 1950s.
The place of elephants
If you’ve already hung out in Hwange, and dared yourself to dangle from in Devil’s Pool, how about a visit to Gonarezhou National Park?
Although proclaimed as a national park in 1975 and the second largest in the country, Gonarezhou often slips under the radar due to its highly remote location in the country’s southeast corner. Yes, it’s a little harder to get to, but it’s very much worth the effort if you’re on the hunt for something completely unique, and a little further off-grid.
Consisting of the Chilojo Cliffs, a network of rivers, and extensive woodlands, one thing Gonarezhou has plenty of, is character. And, not to mention, wildlife. Gonarezhou, meaning ‘place of many elephants’, certainly stays true to its name with its abundant pachyderms. Also in attendance are your more usual safari favorites, such as zebra, wildebeest, and giraffe, with a healthy count of birdlife (450 species) and wild dogs thrown into the mix. Considering all of this, it’s almost too easy to see why it has recently garnered such a great deal of attention from the safari community.
Ready to see the best of Zimbabwe? Let’s start planning!
What we can say, is that those who do travel through Zim usually leave insisting that it was easily one of the safest, friendliest, and most welcoming countries on the African continent.
Big Journeys Start With Small Steps
~ African Proverb