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10 Best Zimbabwe Safari Destinations

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10 Best Zimbabwe Safari Destinations

After 10 long years of being out in the cold politically, Zimbabwe tourism is starting to ‘happen’ again. At one point in the early to mid nineties, Zimbabwe was the place to go on holiday. Every able bodied person visiting Zimbabwe made it their mission to go white water rafting on the Zambezi River. It was so popular it became almost a right of passage for young adults.

In the interim 10 years since Zimbabwe fell off the tourist map, the world has changed but I am happy to report that the essential things that made Zimbabwe popular as a tourist destination remain largely unchanged – like the unwavering friendliness of the people, the pure wilderness of the national parks and the lack urban sprawl.

These are my 10 top Zimbabwe destinations:

1. Victoria Falls is the obvious number one. Next to Cape Town, Victoria Falls is the best known destination in Southern Africa. It has to be done at least once in a lifetime. It’s still natural and not overly developed. Millions of litres of water flow over the 1.2 km wide lip in high water with spray so thick you cannot at times see the rock formations over which the water tumbles.

2. If pachyderms are your thing then Hwange is the place for you. This is elephant country. It’s a wondrous sight to see hundreds of elephants at a waterhole. Unlike humans, elephants are orderly. No barging in here. Each herd waits patiently before taking takes a chance. The other wildlife is varied and plentiful too. Besides the usual Big Five, the smaller mammals like bat eared foxes, jackals and civet are plentiful making Hwange a superb all round safari destination.

3. Canoe the Zambezi. If you want to do the real thing then it has to be within the Mana Pools nature reserve. This is an unspoiled wilderness with extraordinary wildlife – and very few tourists to boot. Sleep each night under canvas and listen to the sounds of Africa. This is a taste of the world as it was created.

4. The rock formations of the Matopas National Park are a natural engineering feat. Huge boulders lie one upon each other in a seemingly tenuous balancing act. This national park has many excellent examples of San art, a healthy rhino population and huge local historical significance. The notorious colonialist Cecil John Rhodes loved the beauty of the landscape so much he chose it as final resting place.

5. Southern Africa doesn’t have a lot of examples of ancient architecture. The most notable exception is the mysterious ancient city at Masvingo, also known as the Zimbabwe Ruins. Believed to possibly be linked to King Solomon’s mines, the massive walls of this once bustling city were built by a lost civilisation. If you like myth and legend then read Wilbur Smith’s 70’s epic novel, The Sunbird which is set in this, the original Zimbabwean metropolis.

6. Lake Kariba is water wilderness of immense proportions. The most popular way to enjoy the wildlife is by houseboat. These live aboard boats range from big to small, basic to luxury. Nearly all boats come equipped with small tender boats so guests can enjoy game viewing and take on Africa’s best known fresh water game fish – the Tiger! There are two centres from which to board a houseboat – either from the town of Kariba in the north of the dam or in Binga, in the south.

7. Go horse riding in the Mavuradonha. This destination is the ultimate ‘long way from anywhere’ kind of place – a pure bushveld destination where you can completely lose yourself in the untouched rugged scenery. With over 300 species in the area it’s also a birders’ paradise. In addition to riding, you can swim in natural streams and waterfalls and discover the many rock paintings hidden way in caves and ledges.

8. Go trout fishing in the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe. Here where Zimbabwe touches Mozambique, the countryside changes into lush green hills interlaced with crystal clear streams. A spectacular golf course with superb views is to be found at the grand old Leopard Rock hotel.

9. Dive the clearest, bluest water of the Chinhoyi Caves. The caves are steeped in history and are named after a local chief who sought refuge from Ndebele raiders. The caves are best experienced in summer when the sun is high in the sky and the light shines directly onto the water. The main pool known as the Sleeping Pool or Chirorodzira (Pool of the Fallen) leads onto an extensive cave system. The full depth of the cave system is unknown and is believed to be more than 200 metres deep. There is a camp site and a small hotel but the best place to stay in the area is on the Henderson’s farm. The camp has an unrivalled hilltop position from which one can see for miles.

10. Gonarezhou in the southwest corner of Zimbabwe is a vast 5000 square kilometer expanse that forms part of the newly formed Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a massive Pan African ‘peace park’ initiative that encompasses South Africa’s Kruger Park and Mozambique’s Gaza Park. Gonarezhou, or ‘place of elephants’ in the local language, has impressive rugged landscapes that feature massive red sandstone cliffs, a vast diverse array of fauna and flora, and an estimated 400+ species of birds.

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