10 zinging reasons to visit Zimbabwe

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In November 2017 Zimbabwe underwent a change of leadership. Emmerson Mnangagwa replaced Robert Mugabe as the Zimbabwean president. Early in 2018, at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, Mr Mnangagwa announced that “Zimbabwe is open for business”.

For travellers, what does that mean? Travel journalist Stuart Forster travelled to Zimbabwe on behalf of MannedUp.com to seek out reasons to visit the country in southern Africa. Here are 10 things he suggests trying while in Zimbabwe:

Walk with rhinos in Matobo National Park

Black Rhino Safaris operates guided walking tours in the bush, which enable travellers to get within a few metres of wild rhinos in Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park. It’s an enthralling way of learning about rhinos, their habitat and the challenges faced by both the animals and conservation team.

The high black market value of rhinoceros horn means that the creatures are targeted by poachers. Conservation efforts include intermittently sedating white rhinos and removing the animals’ horns, so that they are less likely to be a target.

Rhinoceros, Rhino, Matopo National Park, Zimbabwe
A tagged white rhino in Matobo National Park.

Cruise at sunset on the River Zambezi

Relaxing Sunset cruises on the River Zambezi offer a means of viewing crocodiles basking on the river bank and hippos wallowing in water.

The servers on board the open-sided vessels keep the drinks flowing throughout the evening cruise. Enjoying sundowners while the sun sets over the African bush is a magical experience.

Sunset cruise, Zambezi River, Zimbabwe
A sunset cruise on the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls.

Stroll on Africa Unity Square

Africa Unity Square is a small park in central Harare. It’s a good place to stroll and chat with locals. Photographers and florists count among the people why ply their trade in the park.

The park is reputed to mark the location where the British South Africa Company’s Pioneer Column camped, in 1890, upon first arriving at the place they would name Fort Salisbury. The square’s trees are said to resemble the union jack when they flower during the southern hemisphere’s springtime (September and October). For views over the park head to the Pavilion Bistro in the nearby Meikles Hotel.

Africa Unity Square, Harare, Zimbabwe
Africa Unity Square in central Harare.

Take a game drive near Harare

You don’t necessarily have to head to one of Zimbabwe’s national parks to spot creatures such as giraffes and impala during a morning game drive.

Pamuzinda Safari Lodge, a little over an hour’s drive from Harare, is set among a 13,000 acre concession by the Serui River. With 15 thatched lodges it offers an opportunity to ease into a holiday in Zimbabwe.

Track, Pamuzinda Safari Lodge
Golden sunlight. A track during a morning game drive from Pamuzinda Safari Lodge.

Fly above the Victoria Falls

Heliopter rides are always exciting, so that’s one good reason to take the Flight of Angels. Flying above the Victoria Falls is a way of understanding the lie of the land on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border.

Flying above the waterfall allows you to see the zigzagging canyons and breadth of the Zambezi River.

Victoria Falls, Flight of Angle
A wow! moment. A view from the helicopter of the Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya) on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Walk beneath the Victoria Falls Bridge

If heights aren’t your thing then you might struggle with the Victoria Falls Bridge Walk. It involves crossing the bridge on the walkway, below road level. You’ll be harnessed to the bridge, so there’s no major reason to get nervous while making the crossing from Zambia into Zimbabwe (Don’t forget your passport!).

The tour is led by a man playing the character of Georges C. Imbault, the French engineer who oversaw the construction of the bridge. He provides insights into the history of the bridge, which spans the Zambezi River.  The arched bridge was opened in 1905 as part of Cecil Rhodes vision for a railway between Cairo to Cape Town.

The tour provides five views into the gorge and of the Zambezi’s eddying currents.

 Victoria Falls Bridge Walk tour, Zimbabwe
Guide leading the Victoria Falls Bridge Walk tour.

View birds and animals in Hwange National Park

Hwange National Park is roughly two-thirds the size of Wales but it probably won’t come as any surprise to learn it provides habitat to many more elephants. More than 20,000 of the pachyderms live in Hwange, which has an area of 14,651 square kilometres.

You’ll have an opportunity to spot all of Africa’s Big Five game animals in Hwange. That’s right: lions, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinos also reside in the national park.

Several of the safari lodges on Hwange’s periphery offer games drives and guided walking tours that provide insights into the region’s animals. Elephant’s Eye has two water holes, meaning its even possible to stay in camp and view wildlife.

Hwange National Park, Wildlife, Zimbabwe, Waterbuck
Having a little sit down….a male waterbuck in Hwange National Park.

Play the bongos (and acquire a certificate for eating worms)

You never ate a worm as a child? Really? You can do so at The Boma, at Victoria Falls, and even get a certificate for eating a mopani worm (actually a caterpillar that’s slightly crunchy on the outside and surprisingly delicious).

Meanwhile, you have also opportunities to taste a cross-section of game meats — including impala and deliciously tender warthog — plus a selection of stews and traditional Zimbabwean dishes.

Add to that a drum show, during which you can bang on bongos, and communal dancing and you have quite a night of entertainment. It attracts an international audience, so is worth booking in advance.

Mopani Worms
Delicious…mopani worms.

Stay at a luxury, colonial style hotel

The Victoria Falls Hotel opened in 1904. The framed paintings and pictures in the hotel’s corridors convey a history of the region. From garden it’s possible to look onto the Victoria Falls Bridge. Alternatively, sit on the terrace and treat yourself to a gin and tonic while savouring the location.

The hotel revels in its colonial past and offers a luxurious place to stay. Beds are shrouded by mosquito nets. After a long steep in the clawfoot bathtub they represent comfortable places to sleep.

Bulawayo Room, Victoria Falls Hotel
Colonial chic…the Bulawayo Room at the Victoria Falls Hotel.

Climb to the royal enclosure at Great Zimbabwe

The stone buildings of Great Zimbabwe, a civilisation that flourished from the 11th to 15th centuries, lend their name to the modern nation. One of the sculpted birds found at this historic site now symbolically adorns the Zimbabwean flag.

Located near Masvingo, Great Zimbabwe is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s worth arriving early and climbing to the hilltop royal enclosure while the day is still cool. This place is a must for history buffs!

Royal Enclosure, Great Zimbabwe
Worth the climb! The hilltop Royal Enclosure at Great Zimbabwe near Masvingo.

Further information

Discover more about Zimbabwe and the country’s attractions on the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority website.

Find out more about attractions in the Victoria Falls area via the Go To Victoria Falls website.

Illustrating photos are by Why Eye Photography, a photography company based in the north-east of England which specialises in travel, food and portraiture.

Getting to Zimbabwe

Rwandair operates flights from London Gatwick to Harare, with a brief stop in Brussels, via its hub at Kigali International Airport in Rwanda.

Do you have a suggestion regarding a visit to Zimbabwe? Feel free to leave a comment recommending a place or activity.

Disclosure: Our travel journalist was invited to participate in a group tour of Zimbabwe as a guest of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. Our writer had full editorial freedom in writing this post.

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