An overview of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is unique! Where else in the world can a visitor gaze upon hundreds of species of tropical wildlife, thrill to the experience of white water rafting, scale chilly mountain peaks and savour the history of a people that goes back tens of thousands of years? Yet these pleasures are but a few of those waiting to be discovered by the traveller who plans to visit this gem in the heart of Africa.
Zimbabwe is situated on a high plateau in South Central Of Africa collectively known as Southern Africa, between Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. It is landlocked and bounded by Zambia to the north and northwest, by South Africa to the south, by Mozambique to the east and northeast and by Botswana to the north. Zimbabwe wholly lies to the north of the Tropic Of Capricorn. Zimbabwe is a Shona word meaning "zimba ramabwe" (big house of stone) usually royal, hence The Great Zimbabwe monument remains a dominant reminder of such structures.
Victoria falls is One of the Seven Wonders of the World, people come from all over the world to witness the sight of this curtain of water, 1.7 km wide, plunging into a chasm which is 108 metres at its deepest point, creating a cauldron of seemingly boiling water and a cloud of spray creating its own rainbows. This is a sight to be experienced to be truly appreciated. One of the best ways to see the Victoria Falls is on a 'Flight of Angels' over the Falls and gorges.
The Falls are about 1,000km from the source of the Zambezi River in western Zambia. Towards the end of a normal rainy season the flow of water over the Falls reaches 500 000 cu m per minute. During the dry season the flow can be very minimal. It is difficult to see the Falls during the peak flow as the heavy spray obscures the Falls themselves. The Rain Forest, despite its name, is not a genuine rain forest; it is really only an unusually dense riverine forest. The fern Helianthus farinosa is only found in this forest, nowhere else in the world apart from two locations in Zambia. The rare Taita Falcon and Black Eagle breed in the gorges. The Victoria Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are many game viewing opportunities in the area as well as a wide variety of activities.
Hwange the largest of Zimbabwe National Parks, covers an area of more than 14,000 square kilometres, the size of Wales in the United Kingdom. It was declared a Game Reserve in 1928 and through a careful management system over the years; the small wildlife nucleus has grown into large herds that now roam the game park. The National Park is estimated to have more than 40 000 elephants most visitors to the park always enjoy to watch.
Hwange is also home to a wide range of other species, one of the most rare being the wild dog (or painted hunting dog) that through the efforts of a dedicated team of experts are once again breeding and growing in big numbers.
The magnificent Sable Antelope, Zebra, Eland, Kudu and Water buck, the bad tempered buffalo, and the tall gracious giraffe are just a few of the animals which are commonly seen on game-viewing drives.
Dawn and dusk game drives and observation platforms beside watering holes provide unforgettable scenes of the natural world in its wild state.
Anytime is the right time to visit Hwange. Early in the year after the rain season the vegetation is green and lush. Colorful wild flowers carpet the ground and the newly born animals cavort with their parents.
It is also the same time that migratory birds start their long flights home. Later on in the year, when water is sparse the animals converge at water points providing excellent photographic opportunities.
There is a good selection of accommodation for visitors, from basic self-catering National Parks Chalets to the more luxurious hotel and safari lodges.
Visitors can choose to sleep in a sophisticated tree – house, in a large airy tent and under thatch or ethnically designed safari lodges, some with game viewing hides and platforms, most with swimming pools.
Lake Kariba: The shores of Lake Kariba, the world's largest man-made lake, are a wildlife paradise. There are unrivalled opportunities for fishing and bird watching, and the chance to see the big game that comes to the water edge to quench their thirst. Game viewing is best by boat or canoe, and the sunsets will tempt you to make sundowners a ritual. Lake Kariba can be experienced from lodges on islands in the lake or on the shore, or even from a house boat. One of the best small lodges is Musango or for a totally different experience one can stay on houseboats in the lake.
Zimbabwe is one of southern Africa's easiest countries in which to take a safari. Cheaper than neighbouring Botswana and Zambia it is also easier to get to and easier to combine with Mauritius or Mozambique for a beach extension. Most clients tend to visit Hwange for their Land Rover based safari, Lake Kariba for a walking and canoeing safari and the Victoria Falls for relaxation either at the beginning or the end of an itinerary. There are also other parks and reserves for specific interests - for example Mana Pools for amazing walking safaris and Bubiana for Rhino.
Bulawayo is Zimbabwe's second largest city with an estimated population of 1 million. Altitude 1350m. It was originally known as GuBulawayo, meaning the "place of slaughter", named by King Lobengula after the battles he fought to establish himself as king. Known for its lovely wide streets and architecture, there are many places of historic interest to visit. 30kms south of Bulawayo are the spectacular Matobo Hills.
Sunny and spacious Bulawayo is a pleasure to visit at any season because of its excellent highveld climate. Broad avenues lined with an attractive mix of architecture, gracious parks and gardens in perpetual flower give it special appeal. Once the seat of the Ndebele kings, the city is now a major industrial centre with museums, art galleries, theatres and a new university in the making.
Steam trains are alive and well in Bulawayo, hub of the national rail network. They operate throughout the country, alongside modern locomotives, and thunder down to Victoria Falls on romantic rail safaris. The Railway Museum has an outstanding collection of historic locomotives and rolling stock.
West of the city, an easy half-hour drive, lie the ruins of Khame stronghold of the Torwa state that flourished in the sixteenth century. The eerie wind-sculptured landscape of balancing rocks in Matobo national park, 32 km south of Bulawayo, is equally accessible. Matobo means 'bald heads' in Ndebele. Cecil Rhodes and other leaders from the colonial period chose to be buried on top of one huge whaleback rock. Other domes form gigantic caves where San cave dwellers, Zimbabwe's prehistoric people, have left exquisite rock paintings.
Great Zimbabwe, near Masvingo, is the largest and most significant ancient monument south of the Sahara. The towering "stone houses" (dzimba dzembabwe) are the remains of a city of 20 000 shona- speaking people which prospered between the 12th and 15th centuries. The grand concept is an eloquent testament to the advanced culture of its African builders.
A beautiful stylised soapstone fish eagle now the national emblem, was found in the ruins. The sculpture has pride of place in the site museum. The whole complex extends across 270 hectares and a whole day visit is strongly recommended.
On top of the hill, a dry stone citadel set among giant boulders overlooks the valley. It is a breathtaking view. Down below is an enclosure 250m in diameter with double walls up to 100m high, a great conical tower, smaller towers and many lesser enclosures linked to sunken passageways and walls. Everything has been constructed entirely without mortar and a million stones, each one balancing on each other.
Nearby Lake Mutirikwi is a popular water sports resort, with excursions to bird Rich Island and pony trekking in the game reserve on the north shore. Visit nearby traditional villages where the true Zimbabwean hospitality awaits you. This is an experience you should never miss.