There are certain places on earth you just have to experience for yourself. Places so unique in landscape and so rich in culture and heritage that only a first hand encounter will do them justice.
Our beautiful country, Zimbabwe, is one such place.
Ask why we love our country so much... and you will hear many different answers. Some will say that it is our people’s friendliness, the way we wrap each visitor in genuine hospitality and warmth; others will tell you about our sound infrastructure that enables visitors to explore the country extensively, allowing them to indulge in the luxury of fit-for-kings-and-queens five star hotels and lodges; yet others will tell you about our magnificent natural wonders like the Victoria Falls, the mighty Zambezi River, the ancient Baobab trees, the precariously- balancing rocks found in many parts of the country as well as intricate ecosystems and biodiversity.
You will be told about monuments that bear testimony to human and our predecessors’ ingenuity and courage , particularly as they are expressed by the great construction feats of Lake Kariba and its Dam Wall as well as the incredible Great Zimbabwe, where the spirits of its former Shona inhabitants appear to still magically linger.
One of the most enticing reasons to visit Zimbabwe is our people’s stories. No one knows this country better than us Zimbabweans. Who else but a Zimbabwean will be able to share magical tales carried over or by the elements? Or tell you about the serenity and peace of sailing on a houseboat on Lake Kariba or the mighty Zambezi River? Or whisper in your ears about the haunting beauty and mystery-filled tales of the Eastern Highlands?
Come and Listen to our stories, the stories of our World of Wonders:
Why not visit us and explore the undisputable Wonders of our World.
When you arrive in our country you will be greeted by the friendliest people in the world.
As you make your way through our cities, markets and villages, one thing always remains the same. No matter where you go, you are constantly surrounded by warm and friendly people, always wearing a smile and willing to lend a helping hand. Hospitality is second nature to us.
We have rich and diverse cultures: the Shona people in the northern parts of the country, the Ndebele in the western regions and minority groups strung across the country, all sharing commonness in the diversity of their cultures.
We have tried hard to preserve our traditional way of life. There are many types of food dishes and ways of preparing them; many types of songs and dances; a wide variety of marriage rites and ceremonies; many ways of establishing relations and social hierarchies and their attendant obligations.
Not least exciting of our many and varied traditions and ceremonies is the rain making ceremony, the most notable one held at Mathojeni, near Bulawayo.
Almost each of the many traditional dances from around the will tell you a story. For example the Shona have the Mbende-Jerusarema dance, a UNESCO – Intangible Cultural Heritage for Humanity; the Ndebele are famous for their Isitshikitsha dance while the Makishi dance is presented by the Chokwe people who live around Victoria Falls.
These and many more dances are the very pulse of our nation, their rhythm and beat the heart and soul of Zimbabwe. The cities may reverberate with contemporary music but they also boast and host various festivals throughout the year that present unique exposes of our traditional arts and culture.
We are proud to share with visitors our Rich History and Heritage.
Travelling through our country you will encounter history few have ever seen or heard, such as hundreds-year old rock art created by long forgotten San artists: altogether evidence of a rich history and proud Heritage. You will see evidence of a culture that can be traced as far back as even 30 000 years. You will be confronted by evidence of commercial trade between the indigenous Shona people and Arabs, Chinese and Portuguese centuries ago. The Great Zimbabwe national monument, a UNESCO World Heritage site, for example, is both reminder and symbol of a distinct, powerful and successful culture that existed in Zimbabwe centuries ago. And our more recent history, from the arrival of Europeans in the late 1900s, through to the first, second and third Chimurengas, is there to leave its indelible mark.
Mosi – oa - Tunya
You are walking down a path towards the Falls. A veritable tropical jungle hems you in: tall swaying trees and thick branches and leaves cutting off the sunlight trying to sneak its way in. Water drops sit on or droop down thick green leaves, glinting like diamonds. The air is thick with moisture and the ground damp from the waterfall spray, while all around a thunderous roar hits the ears, increasing with each step one takes towards the Falls.
As you emerge from the forest, the sun hits you, blinding you for a few seconds. Then your eyes open to one of the most spectacular sights you will ever see: Mosi-oa-tunya! The Smoke that Thunders! The Falls! Torrents of water cascade over the cliff, plummeting down towards the bottom of the 100-metre high gorge, throwing up a cloud of mist and spray into the air- which is why the locals called it ‘Mosi - oa - Tunya’.
The constant roar from the Falls shakes the ground beneath your feet; the cool spray hits the body, draping it wet and then wafting into the swaying green foliage. You know then why the plants maintain the green hue!
At 1.7 km long and 100 metres high, the Victoria Falls, also one of the natural Wonders of the World, is the definitive example of breathtaking power and splendid beauty wrapped up in one package – and a place which everyone should try to see at least once in their life time.
There are dozens of viewing areas from which one can admire this feat of nature. However the breathtaking panorama of Victoria Falls and Livingstone towns, the Falls themselves, the Zambezi River and the wild gorge is a sight only flights by aeroplane, micro-lights or helicopter can offer. One company offers the hugely famous helicopter rides over the falls, known as the Flight of the Angels. The choice is yours, but no matter where you choose to view Victoria Falls from, you will not be disappointed. You will carry memories of this fantastic sight for the rest of your life.
Activities at the Victoria Falls
But the Falls themselves are not the only attraction in the area. Victoria Falls has gained the label ‘the world’s adventure capital’ because it has so much adventure to offer the tourist.
There are the adrenaline-rush adventures of the 111-meter bunji jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge and white water rafting in the Zambezi River gorge while for those looking for more sedate activities there are sunset cruises, fishing, elephant back trails, game drives, canoeing and golfing. Victoria Falls also offers excellent conference facilities and has gained popularity as an incentive travel destination.
It is an awe-inspiring experience to stand at the base of the Hill overlooking the sprawling granite stonework of this Medieval Palace, stone work that is testament to the ingenuity, resilience and strength of the people who lived here centuries ago. And strength of the spirit of Zimbabwean people!
Standing amongst the grey sprawling ruins on the Valley floor, listening to birds chirping in the thorn bushes sprouting from the strewn rocks, or looking up at the incredible boulders on the hill top in the distance or peering up at the tall Conical Tower, it is easy to feel dwarfed, insignificant and lost here. How was this place built? What engineering genius and physical force built the Conical Tower, the tall and massive walls on the Valley floor and the hill complex?
The Great Zimbabwe, now a world heritage site, is evidence of a burgeoning African civilisation which flourished long before the arrival of European settlers, a place that was home to more than 2000 Shona-speaking people during the 12th to 15th centuries.
It is an enchanting place, redolent with history, even if that history has been sorely misinterpreted. Early archaeological and historical thinking that the walls of this Medieval Palace hid a horde of gold and diamond treasure and that the walls had been designed as a fortress has now been replaced by the belief that Great Zimbabwe was built simply as a tribute to the power and authority of the rulers of the time. Early archaeological investigations of the ruins had created historical distortions, especially as the white administration then refused to admit, or even consider, that this massive stone palace had been created by native Zimbabweans.
This place, quite easily the Spirit of Zimbabwe, is well worth a full day on a visitors’ programme. Certainly a visit can ill afford to leave out the climb to the summit of the Hill Complex, which, though exhausting is still invigorating.
Nearby and to the East, is Lake Mutirikwi, Zimbabwe’s third largest water body. Lake Mutirikwi has a beautiful rugged shoreline, much of which has been designated a national park and whose main attraction, apart from its beauty, is the thriving population of endangered White Rhino.
The nearest town to the Great Zimbabwe is Masvingo, the provincial capital and Zimbabwe’s oldest town established in 1890 as Fort Victoria by the first Whites into the country.
Stop and gaze at century old Majestic Baobab trees or be mesmerised by a pride of lions tussling over a morning kill, or be awed by the size of one of the largest herds of elephant or buffalo ever encountered in the wild.
One of the best areas to view all manner of wildlife gathered together is a waterhole, where somehow differences seem negotiated and a holding peace sustains, unless king of the jungle is part of the entourage! Then of-course all bets are off! Opportunities to admire such scenes are becoming harder and harder, but Zimbabwe can still offer them in more than 20% of the country’s surface area set aside as national parks and botanical gardens.
Our National Parks have created viewing platforms near popular waterholes, giving visitors excellent opportunity to see wild game close up.
The largest game Park in Zimbabwe is Hwange, a 14 000 square- kilometre area declared as game reserve in 1972. This huge Park can boast to be one of the most pristine and best managed wildlife areas in the world with an abundance of wildlife species. It is home to the famous big seven –elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, rhino, hippo, and crocodile
Zimbabwe’s National Parks feature 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species and approximately 1000 trees and shrub species. Gravel roads traverse the Parks allowing visitors to admire and enjoy scenery, game and the drives themselves at the same time. Several safari operators offer both day and night trips through the Parks.
Gonarezhou National Park is located in the Southern region of Zimbabwe and is now part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, joining game reserves in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This is where the famous Chilojo Cliffs and, as the name Gonarezhou (Shona for haven of Elephants) suggests, where some of the largest herds of elephant are found. Accommodation in the Parks ranges from basic self catering chalets to the more luxurious hotels and safari lodges.
There is nothing as lovely as waking up early each morning and watching the sun slowly crest over the tops of mountains as a new day dawns.
It is extremely relaxing to watch the morning sunlight gently filter through foliage, glinting off emerald green leaves and over dew-dripping grass. Just sitting and listening to the sound of a nearby river coursing through the forest and then crushing over a waterfall a few kilometres further on, or watching as the veil of morning mist slowly clears from the mountain sides with the rise of the sun, fills one with indescribable peace and joy. If happen to be up early, you can feel the cool wind caress your face, hear birds chirping in the tall weaving trees or perhaps even see a squirrel streak across a rock face. This is the Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe’s Garden of Eden and the beginning of a perfect day.
Nyanga’s temperate climate and its hauntingly beautiful scenery especially as seen and experienced from the World’s View, the Leopard Rock, Vumba Mountains and numerous other places simply make make the Eastern Highlands unforgettable.
The landscape brims with the best that nature can give: spectacular waterfalls, historic stone structures, uniquely shaped hills, strangely formed trees and stunning trout-filled mountain lakes. There is no end to the peace this Garden of Eden can give to the spirit.
The gateway to this veritable gift is the Provincial capital Mutare, well known for its tree-lined streets- the amazing cacophony of colours from the red and gold of the Msasa trees to the blue and purple of the Jacaranda. Mutare offers a number of markets and curio shops for the memento hunter, a fairly wide range of restaurants, budget and exclusive hotels and a variety of camping sites for variable accommodation.
About a little more than half an hour’s drive from Mutare is Leopard Rock hotel, which boasts a world class 18-hole golf course and stunning views of the Eastern Highlands.
Among the activities the Eastern Highlands offer are hiking, horse riding trails, bird watching, historical monument exploration and trout fishing. One of the world’s tallest waterfalls, the 762-metre tall Mtarazi Falls, is a major attraction in Nyanga while the picturesque Bridal Veil Falls are one of Chimanimani’s natural marvels.
Kariba offers you the best sunsets in the entire world.
You are pining for an unforgettable Lake Kariba experience? Get on a boat with friends and sail to one of the islands where, as the evening approaches and you prepare to bunk down, you can anchor your boat and lounge on the deck, watching the sun go down, kissing the tops of the coastal hills, listening to island birds chirp in stunted tree growth and water lapping against the boat’s hull. The sparkling rolling waters of the Lake stretch as far as eyes can see, appearing to turn to gold as the sinking sun’s rays place a last caressing kiss on the heaving mass.
Built on the Zambezi River, this massive water body is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the entire world. Measuring 280km long and 40km at its widest, Kariba is home to around 40 different species of fish, as well as crocodile and Hippo. The Lake is famous for its fierce tiger fish, renowned to give a fisherman an especially good fight, something any fisherman needs to experience once in their life. In-fact one of the world’s best known tiger fishing competitions is held annually on Lake Kariba in October. Other fish like bream, carp, black bass and catfish make the lake a favourite fishing holiday destination for both local and foreign visitors.
Other areas of interest in the Kariba area include the impressive Dam Wall, particularly when the flood gates are opened. There is also the church of Saint Barbara which was built to honour the lives of those lost during the construction of the dam wall. Particularly intriguing is the myth of the River God Nyaminyami which visitors will find interesting to explore from local folk.
As the Zambezi River leaves Kariba and continues its journey down towards the Indian Ocean, we come across what is perhaps the wildest National Park in all of Zimbabwe, Mana Pools, a World Heritage Site.
The Lake Kariba and Zambezi River areas are home to a large variety of bird and animal life, a prize destination for the birdlife enthusiast, especially the wildlife-cameraman. Game drives and guided bird and animal study walks are common and conducted by various companies based in Kariba.