On the 15th August we attended the #onezimbabwe workshop hosted by African Bush Camps that was attended by some of the county’s finest lodge collections and service providers. We have always been a firm fan of the experiences on offer in Zimbabwe and this was reaffirmed when listening to the presentations of the respective accommodation suppliers. It is not only the vastness of its landscapes, or the great herds of wildlife, but also the friendliness of its people that pulls one back here.
Wildlife is thriving in Zimbabwe. It is home to 83 000 elephants, second only to Botswana, and is therefore the continents second most important elephant range on the continent (Zimbabwe National Elephant Plan)! 2018 saw a 10% increase in Zimbabwe’s rhino population and is now home to the fourth largest population in the world (WWF)!
The Victoria Falls Experience (One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World):
Central to the Southern Half of Africa it forms a gateway to the KAZA conservation area. The Kaza conservation area incorporates the countries of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Angola and includes the famous Okavango Delta, Hwange National Park and Chobe National Park. In November of 2017 the Victoria Falls International Airport was upgraded to allow for a tourist hub with numerous strategic links to the international community. The Falls themselves are incredible! Can you imagine 625 million litres of water flow over the edge every single minute!
Close access to incredible wildlife regions makes Victoria Falls a fantastic option from which to start and/or end your vacation. There is so much to do in the area! Adrenalin activities include white river rafting (down the largest commercial rapids in the world), bungee jumping from the Vic Falls bridge, or overlooking the Falls themselves from Devil’s Pool on the Zambian side. If this is not for you how about the idea of helicoptering over the Falls and gorges, or sipping on a cocktail while floating along the Mighty Zambezi River aboard an African Dhow?
Hwange National Park (Selfless Cooperation for Conservation):
At 14,651 square kilometres Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest National Park and perhaps its best known. Approximately 40,000 elephants call Hwange its home and, together with all the big cats and over 400 species of bird, it is one of the most diverse parks in all of Africa. Certain lodges are even in driving distance of Victoria Falls!
Conservation forms a large part of this areas appeal with structures in place to preserve the natural surroundings while uplifting the local communities. The Conservation and Wildlife Fund is a collaborative initiative set up to work with stakeholders, including other environmentalist and conservation groups, National Parks and local communities, in order to raise awareness, and provide adequate tools for the management of Zimbabwe’s precious wildlife resources. They have a five stage approach:
- Support anti-poaching efforts
- Raising funds for specific research and other projects of significant ecological impact
- Supporting Community education programs
- Supporting local and community enterprises in tourism development
- Lobby and support Government with sound policy making
The accommodation options are varied and fantastic, the guiding is brilliant and the elephant viewing second to none (specifically in dry season)! Horseback safaris are a recent addition to Hwange’s already impressive portfolio.
The Matobo Hills (#geotourism #geodiversity #geo-heritage):
The Matobo Hills, or “Bald-Headed ones”, is a World Heritage Site and consists of a “profusion of distinctive rock landforms rising above the granite shield that covers much of Zimbabwe. The large boulders provide abundant natural shelters and have been associated with human occupation from the early stone age right through to early historical times, and intermittently since. They also feature an outstanding collection of rock paintings. “(source Unesco World Heritage List)
A good number of both black and white rhinos can be found in the Matobo Hills National Park where tracking is mostly done on foot. It is known as “The Gorilla Experience of Zimbabwe”. A hike through the park, and into the rock structures, reveals incredible san bushman paintings in caves all of which have their own story to tell. Within some lodges you may even find these paintings in the rocks your room is built into. A firm favourite activity of ours is the “My Beautiful Home – Bicycle Ride”. The Mataopos is home to some of the most incredible Ndebele rural homesteads where the yearly painting of one’s home is a proud and colourful affair!
Lake Kariba (and the legend of the Great River God Nyaminyami):
Lake Kariba is the world’s largest man-made lake by volume. It covers 5580 square kilometres and is approximately 220 kms long and 40 kms wide. It was created by damming the Mighty Zambezi River in order to build a hydroelectricity generation utility for the benefit of both Zimbabwe and Zambia in 1959.
During this time, it is remembered for Operation Noah a five-year wildlife rescue operation, rescuing over 6,000 animals, most of which were relocated to the Matusadhona National Park whilst the lake filled up upon completion of the dam. What it is less none for is the legend of the Tonga people’s great serpent River God Nyaminyami. The name Kariba is derived from the BaTonga “Kariva” meaning trap. It refers to a rock jutting out from the gorge where the dam wall was to be built and where Nyaminyami lived. In 1957, as the wall was almost complete, Nyaminyami was said to strike. The worst floods ever to be seen on the Zambezi washed away much of the wall and, in the process, washed away many workers with its ferocity. The project was put on hold and flow patterns of the river studied and it agreed that a flood of that magnitude would only hit again in a thousand years. The following year brought worse floods and more of the dam was destroyed! Eventually, through much toil, the Kariba Dam reached completion and in 1960 the generators were eventually switched on.
Containing large herds of all wildlife, including the famous croc hunting lions of the Matusadhona National Park, Lake Kariba is best explored by boat. This can take the form of a houseboat, where one can take in the amazing surroundings and sunsets on a three-day leisurely float down the lake, or motor boat from one of the very special lodges in the area. Fishing is another great past time on the lake where the infamous Tiger Fish or tasty bream can be caught in abundance.
Mana Pools National Park (Africa’s Garden of Eden):
Mana Pools was recently ranked as the second best safari destination, by Safari Bookings, for 2019. An incredible feat when you look at what is on offer on the continent. It ranks higher than the Masai Mara, Sabi Sands and Okavango Delta! Mana Pools is known for being the traditional heart of adventure styled safari escapes with its walking and canoeing being described as the best in Africa. The guiding that guests experience is second to none and the proximity to wildlife that one can experience is legendary.
If photography is what interests, you then this is the place. Forming a part of the Lower Zambezi escarpment means that views over the river, and onto the Zambian mountain ranges, are idyllically situated for incredible sunsets and sundowners. Cathedral like Anna Tree forests lends itself to dreamy photos during the days “golden hour”. Couple this with the proximity of wildlife and you have an unforgettable experience.
Gonarazhou National Park (True Wilderness):
“There are few truly remote parts of Africa that are left to explore, unspoiled by mass tourism, such as Gonarezhou, but it is reassuring to know that for the time being at least, here in Zimbabwe, there is some true wilderness left.” Author (s) – Private Guides, conservationist, well known journalists, experienced safari goers.
Situated in the South Eastern part of Zimbabwe, bordering Mozambique and South Africa, Gonarezhou is true wilderness. A park that has grown its elephant population from 4000 in 1994 to 11000 by 2014. It is a story of wildlife rehabilitation success due to concerted efforts from those involved. It is a place to explore without the worry of bumping into anyone really!
Here are 5 great reasons to visit Gonarezhou:
- Not a tourist in sight (almost)
- Year round destination (depending on your interests)
- The diversity of its landscapes from wide sandy river beds, flood plains and pans, 2,000-year-old baobabs to sand forests.
- Its bio-diversity. By next year Gonarezhou will be relocating rhino again into its borders making it a Big 5 destination. It is also home to some of the very biggest tusker bull elephants in Southern Africa. By combining it with Nyanga National Park in the north bird lovers can experience the full range of Zimbabwe’s bird life.
- People and culture. The Shangaan people of the area are extremely lovely and friendly. The re – emergence of the tourist industry in this area is positively affecting the local populations in terms of jobs and education.
Direct flights into VF International Airport via Johannesburg, Harare, Lusaka, Windhoek, Cape Town, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Frankfurt (via Luanda).
Road transfer from Victoria Falls. Connected by flights to VF, Bulawayo, Lake Kariba, Mana Pools.
Connected by flights to Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and Mana Pools National Park.
Road transfers from Harare or Lusaka. There is a nice option of a boat transfer from Chirundu border post with Zambia. Connected to Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and Lake Kariba.
Gonarezhou National Park
Connected flights with Harare, Mana Pools National Park, Vilanculous in Mozambique (for a beach break), Matopos and Johannesburg.