Zimbabwe is best known for its many attractions, diverse culture, abundant wildlife, and hospitable people. As one of the most underrated countries in Africa, it has many gems to explore, including a whopping five UNESCO World Heritage Sites! These are Mana Pools National Park, Matobo National Park, Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe, and the Khami Ruins.
The most famous of these is Victoria Falls. Known as "The Smoke That Thunders" and touted as the adrenaline capital of Africa, the mighty Victoria Falls offers several thrilling activities, such as white-water rafting, bungee jumping, and helicopter flights over colossal cascading waters.
Downstream from Victoria Falls, we follow the Zambezi River to come upon another World Heritage Site, Mana Pools. Forming a large part of Mana Pools National Park, these four massive oxbow pools were created by the changing currents of the Zambezi over thousands of years. Today, it attracts flocks of wildlife in dry seasons. It's a wonderland for walking and canoeing safaris and offers a remote and rugged wilderness experience filled with a plethora of wildlife, including lion, leopard, and endangered wild dogs.
Zimbabwe's national parks are amongst the finest in Africa. Relax on the shores of Lake Kariba, hike the slopes of the Eastern Highlands, or, for one of the best game-viewing experiences on the continent, head over to Hwange National Park. Home to the Big 5, including large elephant herds, and over 400 species of birdlife, Hwange is one of Africa's biggest conservation areas and provides an ideal setting to experience Zimbabwe's rich world of natural splendour.
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.