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More about Zimbabwe
As Zimbabwe is a landlocked country it makes its river systems all the more important and Zimbabwe has two main rivers: the Limpopo River forming the southern border with South Africa and the Zambezi River in the north forming the border with Zambia.
The powerful and majestic Zambezi River includes Victoria Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world and a world heritage site. The Falls are twice the height of the Niagara Falls and one-and-a-half times the width. Two of Zimbabwe’s national parks are legendary, Hwange National Park on the north eastern border with Botswana and Mana Pools National Park on the lower Zambezi river.
It is these northern parks where we concentrate our energies although there is much to see in Zimbabwe elsewhere including the incredible granite hills of the Matopos to the lovely rivers and trees in the Eastern Highlands.
Mana Pools National Park is also a World Heritage site and well known for its walking and canoeing trips. Two of Africa’s most experienced safari guides James Varden and Flip Nicholson continue to operate their unparalleled walking and canoeing trails in Mana Pools. We have no hesitation in suggesting this as one of our first choices for this type of safari.
Zimbabweans are well-known for their creative ways and wonderful art whether in the form of paintings, stone or wood sculptures or recycling bottle tops and cool drink cans into furniture. Many famous artists exhibit their work throughout Zimbabwe’s art galleries and some fine examples can be seen at the Elephants Walk Gallery in Victoria Falls.
Game concentrations are good in the Zambezi Valley and Hwange National Park. Zimbabwe’s elephants are large, handsome and majestic with some well documented habits particularly in the Mana Pools National Park area. Wild dog are prevalent in most areas and we’ve seen them numerous times on school runs from Kariba to Karoi or Harare in packs of up to 20; we’ve also seen caracal and leopard on the same school runs! The best canoe safaris run along the shoreline of Mana Pools National Park. No other canoe safaris in Africa quite match the Zimbabwean settings and style.
Zimbabwe has numerous lions which hunt in large prides throughout the Matusadona feeding off the buffalo and antelope which gather in the open along the Kariba lakeshore to feed off the short green grass. This life sustaining grass appears and disappears depending on the level of the lake. When the grass is plentiful the numbers in each herd swell dramatically, we’ve seen over 200 elephant and buffalo herds of up to 500; however when the lake rises and the grass is scarce, the herds disperse into the interior taking the predators with them. Excellent walking safaris can be done through the Matusadona National Park and in Hwange National Park and close-up views of the “King of the Jungle” are common.
Hwange shares its border and the Kalahari desert sand with Botswana resulting in desert adapted species living alongside forest and savannah species. Some of the last great elephant, buffalo and sable herds in Southern Africa live in this area.
Great Zimbabwe is another famous feature built from large blocks of hand cut stone on the ancient slave route between East and Southern Africa and in fact seems to indicate strong ties with parts of Botswana. Access to all areas of the country used to be very easy and efficient but takes a bit of planning these days.
The Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe offer some of the best spots for keen birders, especially in the Bvumba area. The entire Eastern Highlands is scenically magnificent and may be combined with trips into neighbouring Mozambique.
When to do Zimbabwe
The best time to visit is year round for almost all areas other than the Mana Pools inland area (including Mavuradonha Wilderness) which is best visited in the dry season. Canoe safaris run year round on the upper Zambezi but the best ones are found on the lower Zambezi using the Mana Pools shoreline.
Harare’s climate is pleasant year round although fires in the evening are necessary in the midst of winter. The Eastern Highlands has a warm to hot summer with cold, dry winters; access is possible year round and cold winter hikes are especially enjoyable with a warm fire and a cup of coffee with a tot of whisky in the evening!
In the south of the country in the Gonarezhou National Park, Matopos (Matobo National Park) and Bulawayo areas the weather can drop to freezing in winter but it is rare and it is always dry during winter. This is one of the driest parts of the country and even in rainy season access is possible to many areas.
How to travel Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has an impressive road infrastructure by African standards particularly between the major centres from Harare and within the Eastern Highlands. Car hire is available but expensive - best suited for exploring the east and south-east of the country.
Victoria Falls, Chizarira National Park and Kariba are connected by a very poor dirt road within the country and the domestic air link is recommended - there are two alternatives, drive on the Zambian side (6, 5 hours, potholed tar) or take the Kariba/Milibizi Ferry (22 hours along Lake Kariba).
The rail network is not extensive, serving Bulawayo and Victoria Falls best. The rail safaris between the two towns are very successful.