Given years of bad press, one may be forgiven for thinking that Zimbabwe is best left to travel veterans. In fact, it offers some of the best wildlife opportunities on the continent. The political turmoil that has plagued Zimbabwe may have devastated its economy, but the people have endured the hard times proudly and gracefully. Despite its somewhat perilous reputation, Zimbabwe is as safe as anywhere in Southern Africa. Tourists are received convivially by locals, who are enthusiastic to show off their country, will boast openly about the astounding intricacy of the famous roadside wood carvings, and will freely regale any audience with antediluvian tales of the Nyami Nyami, a serpent river god that safeguards the Zambezi River.
Zimbabwe’s guides are among the finest in the world. They are well spoken, hospitable, and above all, proud of their culture, wildlife, birdlife and unspoilt wildernesses. Officially, Zimbabwe is home to only one of the natural wonders of the world (Victoria Falls), but few travellers will be left indifferent by the enduring natural allure of the place.
Zimbabwe offers a very wide selection of options, and it would be easy to spend months exploring its diverse beauty. However, if time is limited, it is easy to narrow down the focus list to a few special hotspots. Most of the places we recommend are easily accessible by air, and the relatively compact scale of the country means you can be sipping a cocktail on a sunset cruise at Victoria Falls one day, and taking photos of Africa’s Big 5 in Mana Pools the next.
The seasons of Zimbabwe are similar to most sub-Saharan countries. It is hot in the months from September to April, with occasional rain that refreshes and brings relief from the African sun. During these months green is the prevailing colour, the frogs are singing, the migratory birds are making the most of the abundant food, and the great herds of animals are found contentedly resting in the shade of leafy cathedrals.
The dry months bring an entirely different beauty. This time of year is a photographer’s dream. The tall grasses glow warmly in shades of gold and red, offset by the brilliance of the expansive cobalt sky. The animals crowd around waterholes, and the predators take their turn to pick them off and lie about, well fed and content after the hunt.
Although winter days are still hot, the night air is refreshingly cool, making sitting around a fire after watching the skies afire at sunset, an experience to treasure.
Zimbabwe is an Eden in its purest form: from the thunderous splendour of the Victoria Falls to the mystery of the Kingdom of the Ancients in the Old Zimbabwe ruins in Masvingo, through to the mist-shrouded mountain paradise of the Eastern Highlands or the unstoppable power of the mighty Zambezi River. It is a country where you will want to write a book, fall in love, and change the world.
Never will you be more alone – and never will you be closer to the world as perhaps it once was and should always be.