Zimbabwe is a beautiful country to visit. It boasts the majestic Victoria Falls, magnificent wildlife preserves and the medieval ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the spectacular Matopos , as well as the bustling city of Harare.
Zimbabwe is situated on a high plateau in Southern Africa, between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers. It is landlocked and bounded by Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. Zimbabwe covers 390 245 km2, the same size as California. Most parts of Zimbabwe lie more than 300m above sea level and its terrain consists primarily of grasslands bordered on the east by mountains. The northeastern border of the country is marked by the mighty Zambezi River, along which is located the incomparable spectacle of Victoria Falls and the magnificent expanse of Lake Kariba. The Zambezi has become one of the world's best water adventure travel destinations, offering outstanding whitewater rafting in the Zambezi Gorges below the falls as well as excellent canoeing and kayaking above them.
Zimbabwe is an unbeatable destination for adventure travel of all sorts. Not only are its game reserves among the most abundant and beautiful on the continent, but they also offer unusual types of safari experience that are simply unavailable anywhere else. For example, visitors can do a canoeing safari down the Zambezi River and end in Mana Pools National Park, a rugged and remote wilderness area teeming with game.
The majority of visitors to Zimbabwe tend to go towards the south west of the country, to visit Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park. This provides a great combination of a safari and Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world and a UNESCO site.
There is evidence of settlements in Zimbabwe dating from as long ago as the second century AD, but these early inhabitants were supplanted around the 5th century by Bantu-speaking peoples. In southeastern Zimbabwe, in 1870, European explorers came upon an impressive ruined city, which they believed to be the biblical city of Ophir--the site of King Solomon's mines. The immediate result was a frantic, and utterly unsuccessful, search for gold deposits in the surrounding region.
Archaeologists have more recently determined that the site was occupied as early as the 3rd century AD, but that its ruins date from the12th to the 15th century. Known as Great Zimbabwe, it was during its heyday the capital of a Shona trading empire that collapsed for reasons that remain unknown. By the middle of the19th century, with European influence still slight, the region's Shona states had been defeated by an invading Ndebele army from the south. Ndebele power didn't last long, however. In 1890, the fortune-hunting Cecil Rhodes arrived at the head of a private army of settlers and commenced to conquer what he thought might be a rich gold-producing region. By 1897 the area had been completely subdued. In 1923 Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony, completely controlled by the white settlers. For much of the last half-century Zimbabwe's history has been that of the long struggle to end white rule. Finally, in 1979, a new constitution that provided for democratic majority rule was established. The country has in recent years moved increasingly toward a more liberal economy, and the era of violent internal strife appears to have concluded.
Getting there and getting around
International flights arrive in Harare. A very popular route for tourists to Zimbabwe is to fly into Johannesburg, South Africa, where there are more international flight options. From here, visitors can connect to flights directly to Victoria Falls, avoiding an unnecessary visit to Harare.
Zimbabwe?s road infrastructure is very good, giving visitors the option of a self-drive holiday and safari. The only portion of the journey that is difficult with a normal sedan vehicle is between Victoria Falls and Kariba. Not only are the roads untarred and poor, but require a ferry journey up Lake Kariba, which is logistically difficult to pre-plan. This rules out a circular route from Harare, Bulawayo, Hwange, Victoria Falls, Kariba, Mana Pools and back to Harare, unless you have a 4x4.
Main safari destinations
Hwange National Park: Hwange National Park is one of Africa's finest havens for wildlife and is home to vast herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and has the largest concentration of giraffe in Africa. It is also home to many predators and endangered species plus very large and varied birdlife. Hwange is an excellent park for game viewing safari tours in Zimbabwe. See our detailed map of Hwange National Park
Mana Pools National Park: The Zambezi River dominates the park. This portion of the Zambezi Valley is a true wilderness area with one of the highest dry-season concentrations of animals in Zimbabwe. The Zambezi divides this wilderness area from the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia. See our detailed map of Mana Pools National Park