While from afar Zimbabwe’s plight doesn’t paint a rosy picture, the reality is different on the ground for tourists – most insist it’s hands down one of the safest, friendliest and most spectacular countries in Africa.
A journey here will take you through an attractive patchwork of landscapes, from highveld, balancing boulders and flaming msasa trees, to laidback towns, lush mountains and lifeblood rivers up north. Here you can spot the Big Five in its national parks, discover World Heritage listed archaeological sites and stand in awe of one of the natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls.
Along the way you’ll receive a friendly welcome from locals, famous for their politeness and resilience in the face of hardship. After almost two decades of political ruin, violence and economic disaster, Zimbabweans continue to hold on to hope that a new dawn will soon rise upon this embattled nation.
Taking its place alongside the Pyramids and the Serengeti, Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya the “smoke that thunders”) is one of Africa’s original blockbusters.
One of the 10 largest national parks in Africa, and the largest in Zimbabwe, at 14,651 sq km, Hwange National Park, has a ridiculous amount of wildlife.
This magnificent 2200-sq-km national park is a Unesco World Heritage listed site and its magic stems from its remoteness and pervading sense of the wild and natural.
Other Places Of Interest
Matobo National Park
Home to some of the most majestic granite scenery in the world, the Matobo National Park is one of the unsung highlights of Zimbabwe. This Unesco World Heritage Site is a stunning and otherworldly landscape of balancing rocks, kopjes giant boulders unfeasibly teetering on top of one another. When you see it, it’s easy to understand why Matobo is considered the spiritual home of Zimbabwe. The national park is separated into two sections – the recreational park and the game park.
The recreational park includes World’s View (a scenic viewpoint and burial site of Cecil Rhodes) and ancient San rock art caves. The game park may not have the most prolific wildlife in Zimbabwe – it’s been hard hit by poaching but it remains one of the best places to see both black and white rhinos (although the black rhinos are difficult to spot). It also has the highest density of leopards in Zimbabwe, but you’ll be extremely lucky to spot one. Matobo is home to one-third of the world’s species of eagle, so you may see black eagles, African hawk eagles or rare Cape eagle owls.
Wide tree-lined avenues, parks and charming colonial architecture make Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, an attractive one. It has a lovely historic feel to it, and it’s worth spending a night or two, especially given it’s a gateway to Matobo National Park, and an ideal staging point for Hwange National Park and Vic Falls.
The city dates back to pre-colonial days, when it was founded in the 1840s by the Ndebele king, Lobengula Khumalo. Nearly half a century later it was invaded by the British South Africa Company during the Matabele War, and colonised by Cecil Rhodes in 1894. The grand colonial architecture that stands today soon followed, and Bulawayo’s claim to fame is that it had electric lighting (switched on in 1897) before London did! The population today remains majority Ndebele.
Chinhoyi Caves Recreational Park
Located 4km north of Chinhoyi, along the main highway (135km from Harare), this cave network is worth a stop for its underground lake that’s coloured a striking dark blue.