Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa known for its dramatic scenery and diverse wildlife, much of which can be found in parks, reserves and safari areas. On the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls plunges 108 metres into the narrow Batoka Gorge, where you can go white-water rafting and bungee jumping. Downstream are the Matusadona and Mana Pools National Parks, home to hippos, rhinos and birds.
Zimbabwe enjoys a beautiful, mild climate. On the central plateau, temperatures reach 28°C. In the parks below, it’s warmer all year round. Mana Pools, Matusadona and Gonarezhou are even lower down and get hotter, with temperatures reaching 35°C.
During the “wet season” or summer (November to March), it generally rains in the afternoon. The dry season (April to October) is colder because it is winter. At night and in the mornings, it can be as low as 5°C, but during the day, temperatures are always pleasant and sunny.
Zimbabwean culture is extremely varied due to the many indigenous groups who call the country home. The Shona are the largest ethnic group in many areas, but there are several other groups that have influenced present-day Zimbabwe.
The authorities are very strict about taking photos of government buildings, military installations and embassies. You can get permission, but it’s not worth upsetting someone over a photo, so be careful what you take. Homosexuality is illegal and dressing provocatively is a sign of it, so it’s best to dress modestly.
Zimbabwe’s traditional arts include weaving, pottery, sewing and sculpture. The Shona people are famous for their wooden sculptures depicting idols and ancient gods, while the Ndebele are renowned for their colourful textiles and hand-painted fabrics.
Zimbabwe lies south of the equator and is part of the African continent. It is bordered to the north-west by Zambia, to the north-east by Mozambique and to the south by South Africa and Botswana. It covers 390,757 km², of which only 3,910 km² is covered by water. The Zambezi River forms the northern border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The landscape can be divided into three regions: The inland plateau, at an altitude of 1,200 metres, which occupies most of the country. The peneplains stretch between the cities of Harare and Bulawayo. To the west, the landscape deepens into the Kalahari Basin. To the north and south, the plateau slopes towards the lowveld.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Board is responsible for maintaining ten national parks, nine leisure parks, four botanical gardens, four safari zones and three protected areas. These areas are known as “Wildlife Estates” and cover an area of around 47,000 square kilometres, or 12.5% of Zimbabwe’s total land area.
The best-known parks are Hwange National Park, Mana Pool National Park, Victoria Falls National Park and Zambezi National Park. Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest park and home to one of the world’s largest elephant populations. Mana Pools is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its wildness and beauty, with all its mammals and birds.
Victoria Falls, known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya (“the smoke that roars”), is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, as it is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world.
Around 20% of Zimbabwe is classified as a national park or wildlife reserve. Yet the country is facing a number of environmental problems that are having a negative impact on wildlife. For example, deforestation, soil erosion and air and water pollution, including toxic mining waste. Its herd of black rhinos (once the largest in the world) has been reduced by poaching. Thanks to conservation groups such as the WWF, which protect forest habitats and support intensive anti-poaching measures, this number is on the rise again. Zimbabwe’s Conservation Task Force continues to fight for the wild animals that have been adversely affected by Mugabe’s land grab. While widespread poverty has led to poaching and illegal exploitation of resources, efforts are gradually being made to restore wildlife tourism’s important place in Zimbabwe’s economy.
Huge herds of elephants stay at Hwange and hippos hang out in the Mana Pools lagoons. There are countless wild animals in Zimbabwe’s parks. The Mana Pools section of the Zambezi Valley is pure wilderness, with one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Africa during the dry season. On these vast flood plains, you’ll find giant elephants, stocky buffalo, Nile crocodiles, a few black rhinos and a host of predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs and jackals – the whole package. What’s more, there are over 380 different species of bird in the park. Hwange National Park is also home to huge herds of zebra and giraffe. Among the 105 mammal species in the park are the endangered gemsbok and the brown hyena, as well as one of the largest surviving groups of African wild dogs in Africa.
The Chinhoyi caves, located 135 km from the capital Harare, are a network of limestone and dolomite caves and tunnels. The main attraction is a crystal-clear blue pool 50 metres underground.
The ruins are thought to have been built between the 11th and 15th centuries AD. Chinese porcelain and Arab pieces from East Africa show that this ancient city was once a powerful fortress for trade and industry.
Hwange National Park covers 9,100 square kilometres. It is the largest park in the country and one of the 10 largest on the continent.
Zimbabwe is one of the few African countries to be home to the Big 5 animals.
Also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that Thunders), it is one of the world’s largest waterfalls, measuring 1,708 metres wide and 108 metres high. The site lies on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, on the Zambezi River.