Tourism employs most of Zimbabwe's people. It is the main industry in the resort town of Victoria Falls, for example. Zimbabwe has many attractions, is hugely diverse in culture, abundance in wildlife, and the people are incredibly hospitable. Zimbabwe is one of the most underrated countries that Africa has to offer, with a plethora of gems ready to be explored. Below are a few reasons why you should visit Zimbabwe:
1. National Parks
Zimbabwe's national parks are amongst the finest in Africa and offer something special that should not be missed, with a real remote and unspoilt feel to them. The national parks are really diverse, showcasing some of Africa's best wildlife viewing – relax on the shores of Lake Kariba, hike the slopes of the Eastern Highlands or sit in the secret hides found throughout Hwange National Park whilst you watch herds of elephants and buffalo congregate around the waterholes. These are all great ways to experience Zimbabwe's diverse landscapes.
Hwange National Park, set aside purely to protect wildlife in its natural habitat, is one of Africa's biggest conservation areas. The level of conservation means that it provides an opportunity to see Africa's largest drawcard, the Big 5, with elephant sightings being particularly impressive. The varied and remote landscape creates concentrations of game, including elephant, buffalo, cheetah, leopard and lion. It also contains some of the most diverse birds globally, with over 420 species being recorded. Whilst none are endemic to Zimbabwe, there are near-endemics often found in the Eastern Highlands. If you are a keen birder, then the best sightings are from November to April, when many migratory species make their way south during the European winter. A Zimbabwe safari creates an epic experience like no other with something to suit everyone's interests and tastes.
Zimbabwe has focused its tourism towards quality rather than quantity, ensuring an exclusive safari experience. For example, it is likely that you will only share your safari experience in Hwange National Park with a handful of other people. This level of remoteness creates a feeling of exclusivity, providing you with a more personalised and private experience. Enjoy close-up encounters with wildlife, allowing you to truly appreciate wild and untouched Africa, without the hordes and chaos sometimes endured in other safari destinations.
4. Quality of guiding
An excellent safari wouldn't be possible without the best-quality guides. Zimbabwe offers one of Africa's premier safari experiences with a reputation for some of the best guides on the continent. Those who have decided to dedicate their lives to guiding go through rigorous training that lasts a minimum of four years. This produces a selection of dedicated guides who will certainly impress with their bush knowledge.
Since switching to the US Dollar, the Zimbabwean economy has stabilised somewhat. An increase in confidence and tourism keep prices stable and inflation steady. Earning its place in a competitive market, Zimbabwe is an excellent, more affordable option to some of its neighbours, which offer similar experiences. Be quick, though, because once Zimbabwe becomes centre stage, we will see the prices increase.
6. The Zimbabwean smile
There is nothing like it! Zimbabweans are known for being some of the world's friendliest and most welcoming hosts – there is no better place to experience this than being on safari in Zimbabwe. At each lodge, you will be welcomed with open arms, a big smile and greeted like old friends popping in for a visit. There may have been tough times recently, but the spirit still lives on, and Zimbabweans pride themselves in showcasing what Zimbabwe has to offer each and every visitor. The close-knit communities ensure that all visitors feel welcomed and safe, which instils an admiration of the 'can do' attitude and leaves guests yearning to return.
7. Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls is one of the greatest waterfalls in the world, with the thrashing waters creating a curtain almost twice the size of Niagara Falls. The Falls has earned its place as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and since 1989 has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This natural phenomenon is known as Mosi-oa-Tunya – literally 'the Smoke that Thunders' should be top of any Zimbabwean, or even African, bucket list.
8. Heritage and History
Zimbabwe is teeming with history and heritage, with unique rock art and archaeological ruins a particular attraction. Evidence of the ancient civilisation can be found at the Matopos Hills, where some of the best-preserved rock paintings in Africa are located, as well as a selection of other interesting artefacts dating all the way back to the pre-middle stone ages. Zimbabwe's wealth of ethnic groups includes the Shona people, whose soapstone sculptures are famous in the artisanal world. See for yourself the numerous awe-inspiring sights Zimbabwe has to offer, and broaden your horizons as you learn about a culture unheard of by many.
9. World Heritage Sites
Zimbabwe is home to five different UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Mana Pools National Park, Matobo National Park, Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe and Khami Ruins. Mana Pools National Park boasts some of the best safaris, with a plethora of wildlife including lions, elephants, wild dog, giraffe and more. Great Zimbabwe provides an insight into the country's incredible history and lingers as a reminder of ancient African civilisation. Thriving with both natural and cultural sites, Zimbabwe is full of notable historic attractions and majestic natural beauty.
Zimbabwe does not fall short when it comes to accommodation. It boasts a wide spectrum of options from lodges to hotels, safari camps and luxury digs for those that really want to spoil themselves whilst on holiday. Many of the choices come with picturesque views, exhilarating activities, ideal locations and untouched wilderness. There are new properties popping up all the time, and the older, more traditional establishments have all seen a recent makeover and continue to win prestigious awards.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Zimbabwe
With mild temperatures, virtually no rain and low malaria risk, the dry May to October winter season is generally seen as the best time to visit Zimbabwe for game-viewing, although note that September and October are extremely hot and dry months.
April to October – Dry Season – Winter
Vegetation is thin during this time, and animals concentrate around water, so wildlife viewing is easier. There's also virtually no rain, with clear blue skies and lots of sunshine and fewer mosquitoes.
Although it's high season, the parks won't be crowded, except for Victoria Falls, which is most spectacular from May through September when the water is mid-to-low, and the spray doesn't block the view. October is very hot in low-lying areas, with temperatures above 32°C/90°F.
November to March – Wet Season – Summer
The scenery is greener, and it's low season resulting in lower rates. It's the best time to see newborn animals and bird watching, with many birds in their breeding plumage and migratory birds present. Rain spells are mostly short afternoon showers and seldom have a negative impact on your safari.
However, wildlife viewing is a little bit more difficult since there is more vegetation and animals no longer rely on watering holes. The humidity combined with the higher temperatures in the low-lying parks can make it feel uncomfortably hot. From October to December, the flow of the Zambezi River is at its lowest.
Few airlines fly directly to Zimbabwe. Most people fly to Johannesburg and from there connect to Harare, Victoria Falls or Bulawayo on the same day. Most tourists fly to Victoria Falls Airport (VFA), located 18km/11mi south of the town of Victoria Falls, and continue from there by vehicle or charter planes.
Zimbabwe’s unique environment is one of its biggest attractions. From breathtaking bodies of water to humongous national parks, the country is filled with custom-made adventures for adrenaline junkies and nature lovers alike.
It is recommended to get an eVisa prior to arrival. This means that queues are reduced and that time spent at airports is minimised.
If you are planning a self-driving trip through Zimbabwe, there are some road rules you’ll need to bear in mind. People drive on the left side of the road and speed limits are set at 40 kilometres per hour in national parks, 60 to 80 kilometres per hour in populated areas, and 120 kilometres per hour on open highways. You will have to carry an international driver’s license that is valid for 90 days. A national driver’s license will also be accepted as long as it is in English.
The quality of the roads in Zimbabwe is good and it’s safe to drive here, but fuel shortages are common throughout the country so make sure you have a relatively full tank at all times. Police roadblocks are also quite frequent but shouldn’t be a hassle if you have all the right documentation.
Crossing the border between Zimbabwe and its neighbouring countries is quite easy. Border crossings are open 24 hours a day and visas (if necessary) can be issued upon arrival.
Most hotels and lodges are equipped with Wi-Fi and major cities are usually full of internet cafes. You also have the option of purchasing prepaid USB internet through Econet and Telecel.
Cellphone reception is generally limited to urban areas. While many international service providers offer roaming, it may be more economical to purchase a prepaid SIM card upon arrival in Zimbabwe. Credit or ‘airtime’ is readily available throughout the country.
If you need to post a postcard, your hotel or lodge can do so on your behalf.
If you’re planning a trip to Zimbabwe, there are some things you’ll need to know before you go. Here are some helpful hints to bear in mind:
-It is illegal for civilians to wear camouflage clothing in Zimbabwe
-If you’re travelling to Victoria Falls in the rainy season be sure to pack rain boots and a raincoat – or risk getting soaked
-Zimbabwe still has not fully embraced homosexuality and we ask that homosexual couples be respectful of the country’s regulations by means of withholding and minimising public displays of affection
Before going on a trip, it is important to consult your doctor, and take out comprehensive travel and health insurance that will cover all of your intended activities while on holiday in Zimbabwe. Here are some helpful health hints to bear in mind:
-Vaccination against malaria is recommended – consult your doctor for the necessary prescriptions
-If you’re entering Zimbabwe after visiting a yellow-fever area, you will be required to produce a yellow fever vaccination certificate
If you are planning a trip to Zimbabwe, here are the most important money matters you’ll need to know before you go:
-The Zimbabwean Dollar (ZWD) was suspended indefinitely in 2009. The accepted currency is USD and ZAR (South African Rand)
-American Express, Diners Club, and Visa are all widely accepted throughout Zimbabwe, while the use of MasterCard is more limited
-If you need to exchange foreign currencies, you can do so at any bureaux de change, banks, or hotels in Zimbabwe
-Bring small denominations of currency with you since they often do not have change
-People over the age of 18 are allowed to import the following items into Zimbabwe without incurring customs duty: 5L of alcohol (of which 2L can be spirits), and goods up to the value of US$200
-The import and export of foreign currencies are unlimited, as long as declared on entry
-Zimbabwean banks are generally open from 08:00 to 15:00 on weekdays, and from 08:00 to 11:30 on Saturdays
-Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a shortage of US Dollars cash. ATM users may not always be able to withdraw the amount of US dollars they require. We strongly encourage guests to bring small denomination US$ bills with them for payments where a Visa/Master card are not accepted. Some smaller shops and restaurants as well as the craft markets do not have card facilities.
-Please note that Euros, Pounds, Pula and ZAR are also accepted in cash but exchange rates may not be favourable.