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Plan the perfect holiday to Zimbabwe

Why should you visit this revitalised southern African country and how can you make the most of your trip? Shelley Cox tells you everything you need to know: how long to go for; how many days to spend in each place; how to get from A to B; the best places for families, birdwatching and wildlife, and much more

Zimbabwe: a land full of charismatic personalities, prolific wildlife and spectacular landscapes. The country in which I was born, and which I proudly call home. Its vibrant heartbeat is its resilient people, eager to see their nation reborn as one of the most sought-after destinations in Africa. With its rich cultural history, natural wonders and scenic beauty, Zimbabwe should be on every Africa enthusiast’s bucket list, a country to which it is possible to return time and time again, and experience something different on each visit.

We have indeed had our fair share of challenges, but given our tumultuous political and economic past, the country’s wildlife and habitats remain for the most part intact and in a healthy state. This is largely due to the conservation-focused approach of many of the country’s guides and operators who have maintained a strong presence and have continuously worked hand-in-hand with the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) to ensure the long-term preservation of our natural heritage.

The ‘coup but not a coup’ of November 2017 was typically Zimbabwean — peaceful yet full of hope and excitement. As the new government took charge, led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the people faced the future with optimism. The change in political stance to one of inclusiveness has spurred on new infrastructural developments and investment across the country, and ease of access by both road and air has already improved.

Contrary to some perceptions, the country is remarkably safe and easy to get around with a fairly good road network linking the regions, domestic flights between the larger cities, and reliable air charters into the remoter destinations. Road blocks have been removed, a number of roads between the major cities have been resurfaced, and the option to self-drive is firmly back on the table. Health-wise, the country has a professional and reliable medical air rescue service in case of emergencies, and in most of the major cities there are decent private medical facilities available, ensuring visitors with health insurance will be well looked after.

Price-wise, Zimbabwe remains competitive with its neighbours and across most of the country there is a wide range of accommodation to suit different budgets. Existing properties have, over the the past two to three years, been completing refurbishments and extensions, and new accommodation facilities are being developed to cater to the increased tourist demand.

I hope that this feature on Zimbabwe will provide you with a good overview of the highlights, where to travel to and for how long, and that it will spur you on to visit our magnificent homeland as we take these bold steps to once again become one of Africa’s most alluring destinations.

Not for many years has there been a more exciting time to visit a country on a very clear and evident road to recovery.

Zimbabwe’s unique attributes
A safe destination  Zimbabwe is considered one of Africa’s most peaceful destinations. Decent medical facilities are available in the major cities, and ACE Air and Ambulance service operates locally and regionally to provide medical services and evacuations. 

Diverse landscapes  Around 13 per cent of Zimbabwe’s total land, which amounts to over 5 million hectares, is designated to wildlife and natural habitats. Spread across this are 12 national parks, 15 safari areas and 14 recreational parks. In the west, the landscape is dominated by mixed woodland forests, whereas the Eastern Highlands has a sub-tropical montane forest landscape with rolling valleys, waterfalls and tea and coffee estates. Further south, the Chilojo Cliffs and warm desert climate starkly contrast with the rest of the country, and in the far north lies the Zambezi Valley.

Friendly, talented and hospitable people  Despite the economic hardships, Zimbabweans retain their justified reputation for being friendly, hard-working and creative. There is a strong sense of ‘extending a helping hand’ to anyone in need.

Rich cultural heritage and history  Zimbabwe maintains a strong connection with its ancient past, showcased in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. Today’s nation is made up primarily of Shona and Ndebele, with Tonga in the north and north-west, Shangaan/Hlengwe in the lowveld and Venda on the border with South Africa as minority ethnic groups.

Prolific wildlife  The landscape supports the Big Five as well as some of Africa’s most endangered species. Zimbabwe has the second-largest population of elephant in the world and maintains healthy populations of lion, wild dog and cheetah in different regions. The country supports an estimated 4440 plant species, 672 bird species, 196 mammal species, 156 reptile species, 57 species of amphibians and 132 fish species.

Outstanding guiding reputation  Zimbabwe’s guides are considered among the best trained in Africa. Aspiring guides follow an extensive and arduous qualification process, which takes, on average, three to five years.

Family friendly  Zimbabweans adore children, so families will be welcomed with greater enthusiasm than ever. Most camps now have family units, sometimes set aside from the main camp to minimise disruption, and can arrange activities that appeal to young nature lovers.

Variety of activities  Whether you prefer to experience these wild areas by foot, horseback, vehicle or canoe, there are several destinations offering both land- and water-based activities, all of which can cater to specific interests including game viewing, birdwatching, cultural or historic site visits, community development project visits, or adventure activities.

Given the wide range of sights and experiences on offer in Zimbabwe, here’s our highlights:


1 LAKE KARIBA

As the world’s largest man-made lake by volume, Lake Kariba boasts fabulous sunsets and relaxing houseboat accommodation from which to explore its wildlife-rich shores or to go fishing.

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