Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Mozambique. Possibly Southern Africa’s most diverse travel destination, Zimbabwe is blessed with a myriad of landscapes with vast areas of the country set aside as national parks. It is a country of great contrasts and home to no less than five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The thunderous Victoria Falls are perhaps what the country is best known for but with eight national parks to choose from, there are plenty of unforgettable wildlife experiences to be had as well.

Top 5 places to visit

Straddling Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls are one of Africa’s most iconic sights and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The incredibly loud roar of the Zambezi River as it rushes over the cliffs to form the Victoria Falls is guaranteed to take your breath away and at the height of the rainy season columns of spray can be seen from miles away. The falls were discovered in 1851 by the Scottish missionary David Livingstone and named after the British Queen Victoria. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. In more modern terms Victoria Falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world. The Zimbabwean side of the Falls is home to the majority of viewpoints and has the bonus of water flowing year-round. Whilst the Falls themselves are simply breath-taking there are plenty of activities on offer to make the most of your time here. 

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 draw, the Big 5, with elephant sightings being particularly impressive. The park is situated on the eastern edge of the vast Kalahari sands and scrublands. Habitats in the park include teak forest, thornveld and mopane woodland, with scattered hills in the northwest. The diverse and remote landscape creates concentrations of game including elephant, buffalo, cheetah, leopard, and lion. It also has one of the most prolific birdlife in the world, with over 420 species being recorded.

Matakataka Safaris Zimbabwe Mana Pools
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Mana Pools National Park is one of the most exciting safari destinations imaginable and really does offer the full package of wonderful game viewing and a rich and varied safari experience all wrapped up in one of the most beautiful settings in the country. The park lies on the southern bank of the Zambezi with Zambia clearly visible across the water, with game swimming between the two – the sight of elephants making the crossing is not uncommon. Mana is named after the pools that have been created by oxbow lakes formed by the meandering Zambezi carving new channels.

The alluvial floodplain that comprises Mana Pools is incredibly fertile and with the permanent water of the river, a wide range of wildlife is seen in the park, making for a rewarding safari. Elephants are common with some bull elephants having the skill to stand on their hind legs to reach up for vegetation usually too high up – an ever-impressive sight! Big cats are common too with outstanding lion and leopard sightings as well as Mana being a stronghold for the elusive and endangered wild dog, with some of the best sightings in the world experienced here. The riverine setting also makes for exceptional birding opportunities with a wide range of species seen including rare ones such as Angolan Pitta and White-backed Night Heron whilst bee-eaters and Fish Eagles are commonly seen.

No visit to Zimbabwe is complete without a visit to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. Once the centre of a vast and powerful empire known and the Munhumutapa Empire in the 13th century, today the ruins of Great Zimbabwe are the largest ruins in sub-Saharan Africa covering 722 hectares. The sheer ingenuity of the construction of these high walls without the aid or use of mortar is an incredible feat of human creativity and ingenuity. The three main areas of interest at the ruins include the Hill Complex with its magnificent views of the surrounding landscape, the Great Enclosure and the museum which holds a number of interesting artefacts that were found on the site, including pottery from China.

Matakataka Zim Chimani

Chimanimani Mountains National Park is a mountainous area in the province of Manicaland, eastern Zimbabwe. The region is distinguished by large peaks, carved from a rifted quartzite block, the highest reaching to 2,440 m and stretching for some 50km, forming the border with Mozambique. The mountains are home to diverse forests, savannas, montane grasslands, and heathlands. Zimbabwe’s Chimanimani National Park and Mozambique’s adjacent Chimanimani National Reserve protect parts of the range. These two parks, together with a larger buffer zone, constitute Chimanimani Transfrontier Conservation Area.

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General Information

Currency: Zimbabwe Dollar (ZWL)

The government announced the reintroduction of the Zimbabwean Dollar in June 2019. It is now replacing the era after years without its own currency and the US Dollar as the sole means of payment after the hyperinflation of 2009. The impact on international travellers is therefore exceedingly small. A hard currency like the US Dollar is still very welcome in Zimbabwe.

In all larger towns there are ATMs where you can withdraw cash with international credit cards (Visa preferred, sometimes Mastercard), and in some cases you can also withdraw money with debit cards. Your card needs to have a chip and pin. Cashless payment by credit card (mainly Visa) is possible in hotels, restaurants and supermarkets in larger cities, debit cards are rarely accepted for direct payments. Visa fees can be paid in USD upon entry, as can the entrance fees e.g. for Victoria Falls. While changing money at an exchange office is possible, it is not recommended as it is often a complicated and lengthy process.

Please be sure to advise your bank before you travel that you will be using your card in a different country as they may block access to your card if they do not know that you are currently travelling.

For current exchange rates please use this website.

 Official languages: Zimbabwe has 16 official languages, namely Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, and Xhosa.

Visa: Please have a look at this list to see if you need to apply for a visa before travelling.

Please also consult the Zimbabwean Embassy or Consulate for any updates before departure, especially when travelling with children.

Independence: 18 April 1980 from Britain

Religion: Christian 93%, Muslim & Other 1.3%, No religious beliefs 5.7%

Souvenirs: Fabrics, ceramics, weaved baskets, masks, bronze figures

Agricultural products: Cotton, tobacco, coffee, peanuts, various fruits, corn, wheat

Main Industries: Mining (coal, gold, platinum, copper, nickel, tin, clay, numerous metallic and non-metallic ores), steel, wood products, cement, chemicals, fertilizer, clothing, and footwear

Best time to visit: With mild temperatures, virtually no rain and a 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.

The best time to travel to Victoria Falls on the other hand is at the end of the summer rainy season when the falls are in full flood -go between April and May for the most dramatic views.

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