Mana Pools National Park offers a more singular adventure, which lies on the southern bank of the Zambezi River below the Kariba Dam. It provides incredible canoeing safaris and the opportunity to walk freely among big game.
Also worthwhile is Matusadona National Park, which overlooks Lake Kariba and is famed for supporting several thousand-strong herds of buffalo, a dense lion population, and one of Zimbabwe’s last Black rhino populations.
Great Zimbabwe, sub-equatorial Africa’s most spectacular ruins
Canoe and walking safaris in Mana Pools National Park
Rambling through the forests and boulder-strewn moonscapes of the Eastern Highlands
Overnighting in a hide at Hwange National Park
White-water rafting on Grade Five rapids below Victoria Falls
Spectacular birdlife along the Zambezi and in Chirinda Forest
Where to go in Zimbabwe
Hwange National Park
Hwange is a large, sprawling expanse of semi-arid landscape that supports a vast diversity of wildlife, including massive herds of elephants.
During the dry-season months between June and October, elephants converge on Hwange’s pumped waterholes from far and wide, some coming from as great a distance as Chobe National Park in neighboring Botswana. The result is an impressive wildlife spectacle.
Waterholes see a continuous procession of these giant pachyderms, along with a wide variety of general game species and their ever-attentive predators.
Safari enthusiasts seldom need to travel further than these action-packed waterpoints to get their fill of exciting wildlife sightings.
Whiling away hours watching birds, hippos, and crocodiles from the deck couldn’t be more relaxing.
Still, you can also spend your days on smaller tender boats or canoes fishing and spotting wildlife in Matusadona National Park on the lake’s shores.
Cruising Lake Kariba on a houseboat is one of Zimbabwe’s top experiences. Spending a few days on a houseboat safari is the perfect way to unwind and soak up the magic of this vast watery wilderness and its beautiful islands.
The park is also ideal for a birding safari as it is home to the rare roan and sable antelope and 240 species of birds (herons and Saddlebill storks are particular highlights).
A highlight of visiting Kariba is the water-based game-viewing safari you can do from the lake in small boats or canoes, which allows you to get thrillingly close to elephants and other animals.
Fishing for Tigerfish and Bream is another big lake attraction, and there’s an international tiger fishing tournament held here each October. Houseboat safaris offer fishing trips, or you can book a specific fishing safari.
June to October is the best time to visit Lake Kariba for wildlife viewing, but be aware that September and October are scorching months.
Don’t be tempted to swim in the lake, and be careful when fishing on the shoreline because of the threat of crocodiles.
Malaria is present in Lake Kariba, and the risk of contraction is highest during the rainy months from November to April – take the necessary precautions.
Mana boasts a wide range of professionally-guided and fully catered canoe safari options.
Whether you’d prefer a day trip on the river with a picnic lunch or an epic ten-day expedition from Kariba to Kanyemba through the wild Mapata Gorge, the Zambezi canoe safari is one of the great African safari experiences.
It provides a different perspective of wildlife as you silently glide past hippos, crocs, and elephants.
For adventurous visitors who would prefer not to leave dry land, there is a good network of game viewing 4×4 tracks and excellent terrain for walking safaris.
For many visitors, Victoria Falls international airport is the gateway to Zimbabwe.
The town of Victoria Falls is a great place to start a Zimbabwe holiday. Not only can you see the famous waterfalls, but there are also loads of exciting adventures in the town and its surrounding area.
You can expect everything from horseback safaris in the nearby Zambezi National Park to thrilling whitewater rafting in the Zambezi River.
An hour’s drive away from Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park is easily accessible and suitable for self-drivers without a 4×4, and a great destination to combine with spending a few days in Victoria Falls on safari.
To the east of Hwange and straddling the Zambian border, Lake Kariba is a popular destination for a relaxing few days onboard one of the many houseboats that ply the lake’s calm waters.
There are game-viewing safaris to do from your houseboat itself, but you can also stay at a lodge on an island or the mainland in Matusadona National Park, where you can do a Big Five safari.
If you travel to Lake Kariba, it makes sense to head further east and add Mana Pools National Park to your holiday itinerary. Mana Pools may not be Zimbabwe’s most easily accessible reserve (you’ll need to have a 4×4 to explore on your own), but this unspoiled wilderness is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most incredible parks and an excellent place to do walking safaris and canoeing safaris.
Victoria Falls is Zimbabwe’s most visited attraction and one of Africa’s most thrilling natural wonders: a vast expanse of cascading water roaring down 108m (354ft) high cliffs. Once you’ve seen the falls from the mist-drenched footpaths, you can get an aerial view in a helicopter by doing the flight of Angels – or for the brave – from the back of a tiny microlight.
Microflights over Victoria Falls
Besides waterfall-related activities, there are plenty of other adventures in the town next to the falls and the surrounding area. You can get your heart pumping on a whitewater rafting experience on the rapids of the Zambezi River, bungee jump off the bridge that connects Zimbabwe and Zambia, go gorge swinging and abseiling, or do a walking safari in the nearby Zambezi National Park.
Hwange National Park is one of Africa’s prime safari destinations, with abundant wildlife – more than 100 species of mammals, including massive herds of elephants, Black and White rhinos, lots of lions and buffalo, and rarer species such as sable and roan antelope.
The dry season here is superb for wildlife watching, as both predators and prey congregate in huge concentrations around the park’s manmade waterholes.
The immense watery wilderness of Lake Kariba is a relaxing get-away-from-it-all destination where you can stay on a houseboat for a few days and explore the lake’s bird and animal life, go fishing, or just soak up the sun on deck.
Matusadona National Park, which lies on the shores of Lake Kariba, is a beautiful Big Five safari reserve where you can view wildlife from boats on the lake or from lodges in the north of the park or on islands.
The park is perfect for buffalo, leopards, hyenas, and lions. More than 240 species of birds, including an impressive array of water birds, make it an ideal destination for a birding safari.
Expect to see massive elephant herds, lots of buffalo, high concentrations of wild dogs, lions, leopards, and cheetahs in a stunning riverine habitat.
You can explore the park by 4×4 or experience this magical wilderness by doing a canoe safari, paddling along the Zambezi River, and camping out under the stars on islands. It’s also a top destination for walking safaris, with some of the best guides in Africa.
While difficult to access and low on animal density, Chizarira National Park rewards intrepid safari travelers who come for a truly wild off-the-beaten-track experience in a breathtaking landscape of rugged gorges and ravines as well as for the chance to spot leopards.
For the best wildlife viewing in northern Zimbabwe’s parks, you should visit during the dry winter months of June to October, when vegetation is thinner, and animals gather around water sources, making them very easy to spot. During this popular travel period, camps in Mana Pools get booked up far in advance, so be sure to plan your lodging several months before.
Most roads in Mana Pools National Park are closed from November to April, so the best way to explore the park in these rainy months is by canoe.
Hwange National Park is the easiest reserve for accessibility and self-driving, while the other parks are a bit more challenging and require hiring a 4×4 and a bit of planning. Matusadona National Park is only accessible by boat, small plane, or by a difficult 4×4 road, while Chizarira is the least accessible, with challenging tracks even for 4×4 drivers (and most roads inaccessible during the rainy summer months).
Southern Zimbabwe stretches along the border with South Africa, and Beitbridge – the busiest border post in southern Africa – is the main entrance point for self-driver safari goers to enter Zimbabwe.
Most southern destinations are easily accessible for self-drivers on a Southern Zimbabwe safari. In the west, the pleasant town of Bulawayo and the scenic rock-art-filled Matobo National Park draw visitors, and the nearby Khami Ruins make for an interesting historical holiday.
Meanwhile, to the center of the country, Great Zimbabwe is a must-see on your Zimbabwe holiday. Ancient archaeological ruins tell a fascinating story about Zimbabwe’s past.
Less easy to reach on a Zimbabwe Holiday (and therefore visited by few tourists), Gonarezhou National Park in the southeast is a truly rugged wilderness with incredible wildlife diversity and perfect birding-safari opportunities.
Highlights of Southern Zimbabwe
With 3000 rock art sites (some dating back as far as 13 000 years) scattered amongst its towering boulders, Matobo National Park is one of the best places in Africa to see rock art.
Added to its archaeological importance, the park of forested valleys and granite kopjes is also stunning and is a haven for White and Black rhinos. Matobo National Park also boasts Zimbabwe’s largest concentration of leopards.
Another archaeological treasure in the country’s south is the thousand-year-old ruins of Great Zimbabwe, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The rambling stone ruins are scattered across a 2000-acre area: the millennia-old remains of palaces of the ancient Kingdom of Zimbabwe.
It’s worth spending at least a day here on your southern Zimbabwe holiday. It’s a good idea to hire a guide to take you through the site’s history so that you know what you’re looking at as you explore the stone walls and passageways.
To the west of Great Zimbabwe is another UNESCO World Heritage-awarded archaeological site, the Khami Ruins. The Khami Ruins have been partially reconstructed to create a fascinating historical site worth a stop if you’re in the area on your southern Zimbabwe holiday.
Close by, Bulawayo is used by some travelers merely as a stop-off point. Still, Zimbabwe’s second city has a lot of charm to tempt a stay of a few days, from graceful colonial architecture to interesting museums.
In a remote corner of south-eastern Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe’s second largest reserve, is an untamed natural wilderness with no tarred roads, only unfenced campsites, and few visitors.
Amongst magnificent landscapes of 200m (656ft) tall red sandstone cliffs, huge floodplains, and vast mopane woodland roams a massive diversity of animals. Gonarezhou National Park houses wild dogs and lions, nyala antelope, and some 11 000 elephants.
Bordering on South Africa, southern Zimbabwe is easily reached if you’re driving from Johannesburg: the drive takes around six hours. The Beitbridge border post is extremely busy, and if you travel at peak times, particularly in December and January, you may have to wait for hours.
Try to get to the border early in the morning, avoid travel on weekends and avoid using the touts to get you across.
Bulawayo is a good starting point for your Zimbabwe holiday, especially if you want to explore the south. There are several flights a day to the city from Johannesburg in South Africa.
It’s best to visit Gonarezhou National Park during the dry months of June to October when wildlife viewing is at its best. During the rainy season, from November to April, parts of the park are closed, and from January to March, some lodges are shut. Matobo National Park is also best during the dry season, while some lodges may be shut in late summer (January to March).
Tumbling down 100m (328ft) high cliffs surrounded by lush forest, Victoria Falls is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most astounding sights and one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World: the biggest sheet of falling water on the planet.
Zimbabwe’s most popular tourist attraction is Mosi-oa-Tunya (which translates to ‘the smoke that thunders’), and the spray it sends up is visible from 50km (31mi) away.
Stretching 1.7 kilometers wide, the falls span both Zimbabwe and Zambia, and on each side of the border, some pathways take you to the edge of cliffs where you can get dramatic views (and get soaking wet from the spray).
On the Zimbabwean side, the town of Victoria Falls sits right by the falls themselves. It offers a huge array of adrenaline sports and safari activities, including bungee jumping, abseiling, whitewater rafting, and horseback safaris.
Seeing Victoria Falls for the first time from the cliffside paths is one of Africa’s bucket list experiences, but there are many other exciting ways to experience the falls.
For an aerial perspective, you can do a helicopter flip which will get you some spectacular photos, or for a more adventurous flight, hop on the back of a microlight – a tiny light aircraft – to fly like a bird above the mist and spray.
There’s more to visiting Victoria Falls than just the falls – the town adjacent to the falls is a center for activities that range from the sedate to the extreme.
On the relaxing end of the spectrum, there are boat cruises and canoe trips along the Zambezi river, dinner or high tea onboard an old-fashioned steam train, game drives, horseback rides and walks in the nearby Zambezi National Park, which is an ideal opportunity for a Big Five safari in Zimbabwe.
To get your adrenaline pumping, you can go bungee jumping off the 111m (364ft) bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia (said to be one of the best bungee jumps in the world).
There’s also cage diving with crocodiles, swinging across the gorge, whizzing along a zip line, abseiling, or getting drenched tackling the rapids of the Zambezi River on a whitewater rafting adventure.
You can visit Victoria Falls year-round, but depending on which time of year you go, you’ll get a very different experience. From February to May, the Zambezi River is at its fullest after the summer rains, and the view of the falls at their most intense is dramatic.
However, the tremendous amount of mist and spray obscures the view of the falls, so if visibility is what you’re after, then visit between June and September when the river is lower – though not at its lowest – and your view of the cascading falls is clear. If you visit during February and May, you’ll get soaking wet – be sure to wear a plastic poncho or raincoat and protect your camera with a waterproof bag. The paths can be extremely slippery, so wearing a good pair of walking shoes or hiking sandals is essential.
As the falls span Zimbabwe and Zambia, there are benefits to seeing them from both sides of the border. Zimbabwe has wider views of the falls, with most of the viewing points, but on the Zambian side – a short walk across a bridge – the viewing path takes you closer to the falls. When the river runs low (from October to December), you can swim in Devil’s Pool, a natural rock pool right on Zambia’s edge of the falls.
If you’d like to visit the Zambian side, you’ll need to get a KAZA visa when you enter Zimbabwe, which costs $50 for 30 days of travel and allows you to enter both Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Running alongside the Mozambican border for some 300 kilometres, the Eastern Highlands is a mountainous area of spectacular natural beauty: rolling hills, green forests, rugged peaks, misty valleys, deep gorges, cascading waterfalls, and sparkling rivers and lakes. This is a totally different side to the Zimbabwe that most visitors know: the cool damp climate and lush green landscapes of the Eastern Highlands are a contrast to the dry savanna in other parts of the country. While there is some game in the parks of the highlands, this is not a prime safari destination. Instead, people visit the Eastern Highlands for the outdoors activities of hiking, horse riding, fishing and golf, as well as the superb birdlife and the stunning scenery.
The Eastern Highlands is made up of three areas – the Nyanga Highlands in the north, the Bvumba Mountains in the centre and the Chimanimani Mountains in the south – each of which has its own attractions. In the rolling hills of the north, Nyanga National Park is where you’ll find Zimbabwe’s highest mountain, Mount Nyangani, and its highest waterfall, Mtazari Falls as well as wildlife, lots of birds, wonderful hiking trails and excellent trout fishing. The central highlands are home to the city of Mutare – the biggest settlement in the region – but the real draw is the Bvumba Mountains, where lush forests are home to rare bird species and the samango monkey. In the southern highlands, Chimanimani National Park is excellent for mountain hiking, while you can indulge in some forest threrapy at Chirinda Forest Reserve, Africa’s most southern tropical rainforest, and go horseback riding in the hills.
Zimbabwe’s oldest national park, Nyanga National Park is made up of beautiful landscapes of rolling hills, granite outcrops, expansive valleys and deep gorges. It’s home to the highest mountain in the country – Mount Nyangani – and the 762-metre Mtazari Falls, Zimbabwe’s highest waterfall, as well as kudu, klipspringer, reedbuck, blue duiker and samango monkeys, rich archaeological sites and an incredible wealth of birds – more than 300 species – making it a birding hotspot. Fishing for trout is a popular activity here, as is hiking. The standout hike is the five-night Turaco Trail, one of the country’s most scenic hikes, which traverses magnificent mountain and forest landscapes through Mutarazi Falls and Nyanga National Parks to the summit of Chikorokoto, passing waterfalls, rivers, valleys and grasslands on the way.
In the central highlands, the lush forested Vumba Mountains – “Mountains of the Mist” – is a top birding destination, with a number of special species that can be spotted (it’s a good idea to hire a birding guide to help you). One of the world’s best championship golf courses is here at the Leopard Rock Hotel, while the beautiful Vumba Botanical Gardens are worth exploring for wonderful exotic and indigenous plant life.
In the south of the highlands, the dramatic mountain scape of Chimanimani National Park is renowned as a serious hiking destination although horse riding is also popular. Multi-day hikes are the best way to explore the rugged park. You can camp anywhere in the reserve or, for something thrillingly different, sleep in one of the caves scattered throughout the park.
At the highlands’ very southern edge, Chirinda Forest Reserve protects a beautiful pocket of tropical rainforest with centuries-old hardwood trees. In the Valley of the Giants you’ll find Zimbabwe’s oldest tree, a mahogany estimated to be at least a thousand years old.
The best time to visit the Eastern Highlands is April to July, although in these winter months there are plantation fires which can make the sky hazy. Note that some roads are inaccessible during the rainy summer months from November to March. The best months for birding are November to April.
There are lots of dirt roads in the Eastern Highlands, which means that you’ll need a 4×4, especially in the rainy season, or a car with high clearance if you’re travelling in the dry season.
If you are going hiking in the mountains, make sure you have a decent map and a compass and tell the park warden or someone at your hotel what your planned route is. There’s also the option of hiring a guide to go hiking.
January is a rainy month and some camps and lodges are closed. The landscape is green and lush and with abundant water around, making animals hard to spot as they are dispersed in the bush. Birding is excellent during January, as well as the other rainy months, with all of the migratory species present.
February is low season in Zimbabwe – it’s rainy and wet, and it’s difficult to see wildlife because of the thick bush and abundance of natural water sources, but it is a perfect time for birdwatching. Some camps, lodges and park roads are closed. The water level in Zambezi is high, and so while Victoria Falls are in full dramatic flow, the amount of mist and spray can obscure the view.
March is hot, humid and rainy in Zimbabwe, with frequent afternoon thundershowers. It’s not an ideal time to see wildlife because of the thick foliage and abundant water for animals to drink, but it is a good month for birdwatching, as many migratory species are present in the country. The Zambezi River is in full flow, so Victoria Falls is at its most dramatic, although there’s a lot of spray which can make visibility difficult.
The rains are coming to an end and skies turn blue in April, a month when the lodges and camps that have been closed for the rainy season usually re-open. Mana Pools National Park also re-opens after closure since the end of November. This is the last month of summer for excellent birdwatching.
Mild weathered May is the first of Zimbabwe’s dry winter months and by the middle of the month, the visibility in the bush starts to improve as the grass begins to thin. Natural pans have not yet dried up which means animals can still be hard to spot.
Temperatures drop in June, so pack warm clothes for early mornings and night game drives as the evenings can be very chilly. As the landscape dries, animals start to move to waterholes to drink, which makes wildlife viewing easier.
July is the first month of Zimbabwe’s peak season. Daytime temperatures are mild (although nights in some places can be freezing), wildlife viewing is excellent, and it’s a great time to do white-water rafting and canoe safaris.
August is an excellent time to travel to Zimbabwe, as days are sunny, daytime temperatures are mild (dropping down to below 10C at night), and wildlife viewing is at its prime. It’s one of the busiest months of the year so be sure to book all your accommodation in advance.
Temperatures start to warm up in September, another dry month and an excellent time to go on a wildlife safari. This month the annual game count in Hwange National Park takes place, and for a totally different wildlife experience you can volunteer to take part in the census, helping the park rangers to count animals in the reserve.
Nicknamed “Suicide Month” for its brutally hot temperatures, October is the hottest month of the year, with day time temperatures sometimes peaking above 40C. It’s the last month of the dry season, so wildlife viewing is at its best, and it’s the ideal time to see huge herds of elephant in Hwange National Park.
This month usually sees the start of the rains, which come as sudden thundershowers in the afternoons – a welcome relief from the intense heat. It’s a good month for birdwatching as the migratory species arrive with the rains.
December means summer rain in Zimbabwe. It’s not an ideal time to visit for wildlife viewing, and Mana Pools National Park as well as roads in some other parks are closed. However, if you’re a birdwatcher, it’s a fantastic time to visit to see hundreds of migratory species.
Safari/bucket showers are common in mobile or tented camps where there is no permanent plumbing. They are an effective yet environmentally friendly way to shower where water is at a premium and provide plenty of hot water to wash comfortably.
Generally, there is an en-suite private shower stall within your tent with a “rainfall” style shower head at which you can control the water flow. Outside the tent, there is a large waterproof bag or bucket which is filled with about 10 to 15 litres (5 US gallons) of hot water before being raised with a pully/rope system to either connect to the shower pipe or fill a cistern.
The water is delivered at the ideal temperature so it is best to use it as soon as it arrives. Staff typically fill the showers at a pre-arranged time of day, or you simply need to give them a few minutes notice so they can get it ready.
Tipping is not compulsory on a safari in Zimbabwe and the amounts that you tip each person is also not set.
Do remember, when tipping large amounts (eg. to the guide at the end of a 10-day safari), place the tip in a sealed envelope - and hand it directly to the person for which it is intended.
Yes, because Zimbabwe is a malaria area and the use of malaria prophylactics is highly recommended.
You will need to take prescription medicine before, during and after your trip to prevent malaria. Your doctor can help you decide which medicine is right for you, and also talk to you about other steps you can take to prevent malaria.
Any person entering Zimbabwe from or via a yellow fever or cholera-infected area must be in possession of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever or cholera.
Zimbabwe has 16 official languages namely: Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koi-san, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, Sign Language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa.
However, English, Shona and Ndebele are the most widely spoken languages in the country.
Approximately 70% of the population is Shona speaking and speaks ChiShona as their first language. But the official language of Zimbabwe is English.
The best time to visit Chizarira National Park is during the middle and end of the dry season (July to October). The wildlife is more easily seen at this time, because the vegetation is thinner and animals gather around the waterholes.
Zimbabwe is an excellent value for money destination, with accessible parks such as Hwange offering much lower park fees than neighbouring countries, as well as a range of affordable lodging options. Hiring a car and doing a self-driving trip will offer the best value for money, and national parks campsites offer the most budget-friendly lodging option, although self-catering cottages are also affordable.
Getting the best possible value for money in Zimbabwe, however, means exploring the beautiful corners of the country that don’t see many tourists. The destinations that are most popular with travellers, such as Victoria Falls, are the most expensive in terms of lodging, food, activities and park entrance fees. Some parks such as Victoria Falls, cost $30 entrance, but other more remote parks such as Chizarira only cost $10.
Less is more when it comes to travelling on a budget in Zimbabwe: to save money, stick to fewer destinations and spend longer in each one, rather than trying to fit lots of places into your itinerary. If you have your own tent and sleeping bag, staying at campsites is the most wallet-friendly way to explore Zimbabwe, and by choosing simple dishes at local restaurants rather eating the international fare at hotels and restaurants that cater for tourists you’ll also save money. In terms of transport, your best budget option for getting around Zimbabwe is to use public buses and trains.
If you’re willing to travelling to Zimbabwe during the off-peak months of November to April (which is known as the “green season” because of all the rain and the lush foliage) then you can pick up rooms at a cheaper rate than in the busier months. Some parks are inaccessible during the off-peak months (and some lodges close down) but other parks – such as Hwange – can be visited throughout the year (some lodges shut for a few months but others stay open the whole time).
If you’re travelling solo in Zimbabwe, it’s a good idea to team up with other travellers to share costs of accommodation and transport.
Zimbabwe has many excellent luxury safari lodges and high-end camps dotted around the country, with a concentration in Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park. If you only have a short time to visit the country, then focus your time on these two destinations, where you’ll have a choice of luxury lodging options, each of which will offer a host of activities to fill your days.
On a longer holiday, you’ll be able to see more of Zimbabwe’s parks and reserves: stay on a luxury houseboat on Lake Kariba to explore this beautiful water wilderness in style and then experience one of Africa’s best wilderness areas – Mana Pools National Park – in a high-end lodge on a private concession that offers walking and canoeing as thrilling ways of seeing wildlife in the park.
The easiest way to travel between luxury lodges in in Zimbabwe is by private charter plane, but there is also an air taxi service that flies between Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Lake Kariba and Mana Pools National Park.
There are plenty of ways to take it easy and enjoy Zimbabwe’s natural beauty without breaking a sweat. Victoria Falls is a good place to start: stay at a luxury hotel and spend your days exploring the falls, having afternoon high teas and relaxing massages, and sipping drinks on a boat cruising languidly down the Zambezi as the sun sets. It’s easy to get a road transfer to nearby Hwange National Park, where you can stay at an intimate luxury camp, and going on guided game drives or just doing nothing much at all and just soaking up the peace of the bush.
A holiday on a houseboat on Lake Kariba couldn’t be more relaxing. Once you’re on the boat, there’s nothing to plan and very little to do, other than soak up the sun, cool down in the swimming pool, look for birds and animals on the shore with a pair of binoculars and sip cocktails while watching a glorious sunset.
If you’re wanting to explore other parts of Zimbabwe, the country is home to a host of excellent safari lodges and camps in remote wild places where you really can get away from it all and connect with nature. You can travel to by private charter plane, cutting out the hassle and time of driving.
Zimbabwe is a perfect destination for an exciting active holiday: the country is full of outdoors activities in the bush and the mountains.
If you had to choose one base for doing as many heart-pumping activities as possible, it would be Victoria Falls. The town is Zimbabwe’s adventure capital, offering just about every kind of adventure activity under the sun, including bungee jumping, white-water rafting, kayaking, gorge swinging, cage diving with crocodiles, abseiling, zip lining, canopy tours and hiking.
In terms of safari activities, Zimbabwe has far more to offer than just game drives. It’s one of the best African countries to go on walking safaris – a thrilling and immersive way to experience the bush and wildlife on foot. In Mana Pools National Park, you can walk on the floodplains without a guide – one of the only national parks in Africa where this is allowed – although unless you’re very experienced in the bush, it’s advisable to only do guided walking safaris.
Zimbabwe also offer fantastic multi-day canoeing safaris in wilderness areas. Paddling along the Zambezi River gets you up close to water animals such as hippos and crocs, while you also get to spot animals, such as elephants, drinking at the river and on the shore from a much closer vantage point than on a game drive. You’ll also get to explore wild islands and camp under the stars. Canoeing safaris on the Upper Zambezi River, near Victoria Falls, are fairly sedate and suitable for children of seven and up, while Lower Zambezi Canoe Safaris in Mana Pools and remoter safari areas are more strenuous – the minimum age limit is 14.
For another way to experience the bush, you can do a horseback safari – just a few hours or several days – in the Zambezi National Park near Victoria Falls, exploring the park’s beautiful landscapes and spotting game along the way.
Fishing is a popular activity in Zimbabwe, and there are several places where you can cast your line: catch tigerfishes, catfish and bream in the Upper and Lower Zambezi River as well as in Lake Kariba – the setting for an international tigerfish tournament in October – and fish for trout in the streams of the Eastern Highlands.
The forested mountains of the Eastern Highlands are the best place to go hiking in Zimbabwe. Whether you want a gentle walk of just a few hours or a strenuous multi-day hike, there are some fantastic trails that take you through incredible scenery of peaks, forests, valleys, gorges, rivers and waterfalls.
With its vast wildernesses, 4×4-only areas, wild campsites and even wilder animals, Zimbabwe is full of endless adventures.
If you like your Zimbabwe adventures to last just a day, base yourself in Victoria Falls and take advantage of the activities of Zimbabwe’s adrenaline capital: think bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge, abseiling, gorge swinging, cage diving with crocodiles, and Big Five horseback safaris and going white-water rafting in the Grade 5 rapids of the Zambezi River.
For longer Zimbabwe adventure tours, you can launch off on a multi-day canoeing safari in the wilds of Mana Pools National Park, gliding past hippos, crocodiles and herds of elephants on the shores, and camping in the wilderness of remote islands each night.
By car, Mana Pools National Park is a zimbabwe adventure in itself, offering the chance to sleep in totally wild campsites where animals brush past your tent at night, and the chance to walk unguided in parts of the reserve.
Walking safaris on a Zimbabwe adventure tour with a qualified guide is a thrilling way to experience the bush: you can choose to just walk for a few hours when you stay at a safari camp or embark on a Zimbabwe walking safari adventure for a few days – an amazing way to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the bush and see big game on foot.
Zimbabwe is home to some remote and rugged national parks which are only accessible with 4x4s. If you’re up for a self-guided safari adventure in Zimbabwe and have some 4×4 experience, then head to Gonarezhou National Park in the south-east. This is where you’ll find rough roads, unfenced campsites and not many other tourists in a beautiful landscape.
Another 4×4-only Zimbabwe adventure tour can be had in one of Zimbabwe’s most remote wilderness areas, Chizarira National Park, where you’ll find dramatic scenery, fantastic birdlife and – when you need a break from the car – excellent walking safaris.
Zimbabwe is a special wildlife destination that holds much lore in terms of wildlife. More prominently, the Big Five as its affectionately become known as, is prolific throughout certain areas and national parks in the southern african country – making it a prime safari destination for Big Five holidays in Zimbabwe.
One of the most important hidden gems in regards to the largest (in size) of the Big Five, is Gonarezhou, which is translated as ‘Place of Many Elephants’. A 2014 aerial survey put the population at 11,000 in the park. This is one of the highest densities in Africa.
Spotting lion is also a much desired bucket-list item for safari-lovers and a visit to Mana Pools National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. Its location can be found in the north of Zimbabwe along the lower Zambezi River section.
With the world’s densest population of leopard, Matobo Hills National Park is a good place as any to spot one of these magnificent predators. However, do be prepared to have your patience tested, as leopards are notoriously stealthy and often well camouflaged.
Hwange National Park is an incredible safari destination; boasting the country’s largest and most varied wildlife population. Along with an immense elephant population, the 14,000km2 park is also home to a vast number of buffalo, which travel in large herds, taking advantage of the lush open grasslands and dense woodlands.
In Zimbabwe, there are an estimated 430 black rhinos and 290 white rhinos remaining, so we believe that the best place to spot them is a destination where they are most protected. Situated in southeast Zimbabwe, the Save Valley Conservancy is one of the largest private game reserves on the continent. Forming part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, the conservancy is partnered with the African Wildlife Foundation to provide intensive protection for a small population of black and white rhinos.
Despite the fact that Zimbabwe doesn’t have any endemic bird species, it’s still a terrific bird watching destination. A birding holiday in Zim is best enjoyed from October to March when food is plentiful, migrant species are around and many species are in breeding plumage. The Taita falcon and the Angola pitta (African pitta) are among the most revered.
There have been more than 670 bird species recorded in Zimbabwe with eight of the ten endemic families to Africa being represented here.
Mashonaland plateau’s main habitat is miombo woodland, with the revered Spotted creeper that really gets birders excited.
Matabeleland is another birding drawcard with its drier ecology and plentiful acacia – attracting different bird species to the area. Additionally, the Rhodes Matopos National Park has spectacular granite formations and Hwange National Park boasts prolific wildlife species.
The ruggedness of Chizarira National Park is suited to the self contained adventurer, whilst Victoria Falls and Kazungula can be combined with a variety of tourist attractions and adventures. The drier west shares many species with Botswana and can only be found here.
Swynnerton robin | Credit: Jeremy Smith
The mountainous, forested eastern highlands offer a completely different experience to the drier west in that the bird species found here include Swynnerton’s Robins, Chirinda Apalis and Robert’s warbler, to name a few.
The noteworthy Zambezi Valley and Kariba are also different to the aforementioned regions – boasting species such as the Carmine bee-eater, African skimmers, herons, storks, Lilian’s lovebirds and many more.
Zimbabwe is well adapted to the westernised way of dining and throughout most of Zim, one will find something familiar to satiate you. However, for the more adventurous foodies, there is a wide variety of top quality meats to sample. Vegans may have a harder time finding imaginative menus that cater for them specifically, so it would be best to specify any dietary requirements to your lodge or camp when booking. Given the often remote locations of these camps, don’t wait until you arrive before stating your dietary needs, as it will then be too late for them to cater accordingly.
The staple starch for Zimbabweans is maize (corn), although millet and sorghum are alternative grains grown mainly in the low-lying areas. Sadza, a heavy mash made from ground maize and water, forms the basis of every meal, supplemented with a relish – essentially anything that is available to impart a different flavour. Generally the sadza is rolled by hand into a small ball, moulded into a slight cup shape and dipped into the relish. Common relishes are vegetable-based, frequently green leaves like rape, either cultivated or collected wild, with tomato or onion if available.
For wildlife and landscape photography, Zimbabwe is a dream. Visit during the dry winter months of July to October for the best chances of photographing hordes of animals – especially elephants in Hwange National Park – gathering around waterholes. For bird photographers, November to April is the best time to visit to catch hundreds of migratory species. August to November are the best months to photograph Victoria Falls, when the river is low and skies are clear – you’ll have the best chance of capturing this natural wonder without the spray and mist of earlier in the year, when the river is higher.
Particular photographic highlights include the rock art sites and dramatic granite outcrops of Matobo National Park, the breathtaking riverine landscapes of Mana Pools National Park, the atmospheric stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls from the air.
Be sure to bring all of the equipment and accessories that you will need on your trip before coming to Zimbabwe, as you can’t count on being able to buy what you need once you’re travelling. If you’re going to be shooting wildlife and landscapes, bring along a variety of lenses. Having a tripod will really boost your landscape images and help you get the perfect shot at a waterhole or hide.
Your honeymoon is something that only happens once in a lifetime, so you want to make it a vacation that you’ll remember.
The only issue is that there are so many places to see in Zimbabwe that it might be overwhelming. That’s where we come in – keep reading for our picks for the best Zimbabwe honeymoons.
A romantic getaway in Zimbabwe can be a romantic dream whether you’re into luxury or intrepid adventure: think picture-perfect sunsets in huge expanses of wilderness, dinners for two by candlelight in the bush, sipping gin and tonics on a boat cruising the calm waters of Lake Kariba or the Zambezi River, sleeping under the stars on a remote river island and camping in the wild.
Many of Zimbabwe’s luxury lodges and camps are tucked away on private concessions all over the country and have been set up with exclusive intimacy in mind, which means secluded rooms with private decks, outdoor showers and plunge pools, the option of private guided game drives and private meals set out for just the two of you in your suite or out in the wild.
Most luxury lodgings also offer honeymoon packages and romantic touches such as relaxing spa treatments and sleep-out platforms, where you can spend a night in a comfortable bed on an elevated ledge with just the two of you, surrounded by the sounds of the bush.
If your idea of a romantic getaway in Zimbabwe is getting off-grid and back to basics, there’s plenty of that in Zimbabwe. Hire a 4×4 and head off for the remoter corners of the country such as Gonarezhou National Park, where you’ll feel like you have the wilderness all to yourself, or book one of the exclusive campsites on the banks of the Zambezi River in Mana Pools National Park to experience a pocket of this untamed wilderness all on your own.
Honeymoon places in Zimbabwe to stay at
Kaingo Camp – We recommend this Camp for your first stay in the South Luangwa, surrounded by tall ebony trees on the Luangwa River. This camp is definitely one of the best romantic places to visit in Zimbabwe. The wildlife is flourishing, and you may select from five photography hides.
Somalisa Camp – is a great romantic getaway in Zimbabwe, Hwange. This nicely restored tent is nestled in a camelthorn acacia island on the brink of an old stream.
Nyamatusi Camp – Enjoy this honeymoon place in Zimbabwe at the Mana Pools. The lodge’s small location means you’ll be completely pampered – and you could even share your plunge pool with an elephant or two!
Victoria Falls Island Lodge – is ideal for couples. The lodge’s Treehouse Suites are joined by an elevated winding path, with the murmur of the Falls in the background.
Victoria Falls River Lodge – Book an Island Treehouse Suite for a romantic getaway near Victoria Falls. Imagine modern décor, butler service, and a river-view bathtub!
John’s Camp – Named after legendary safari guide John Stevens, offers a very unique trekking experience in Mana Pools. Enjoy staying in one of just five Meru-style tents along the riverbed and walking safaris with some of the best guides around. Best of wild romance!
Wedged between Botswana and Mozambique, Zimbabwe is one of the best safari destinations to experience the Big Five and other wildlife species, by foot.
Safari guides, especially those trained to lead walking safaris, are rigorously trained. Guiding is passed down as a tradition from one generation to the next. Zimbabwe still has large rural communities, and many people still live very connected to the land and its animals.
Zimbabwean guides rank as some of the best in Africa – this is measured by their knowledge about wildlife and the ecosystem. The apprenticeship that is required is not replicated anywhere else in Africa. The passion and knowledge of Zimbabwean guides, means that guests can expect clear, enthusiastic and concise communication, to give an overall experience that rivals others in the African bush.
The Most Recommended Walking Safari Destinations in Zimbabwe:
View White rhino up close in Matobo
Flanked by the undulating Zambezi escarpment and the undending glassy waters of the Zambezi river, Mana Pools NP clearly deserves its UNESCO World Heritage status. Its ecosystem is unique: open alluvial flood plains, jesse scrub, sweet grasslands and mixed woodlands of acacia and giant mahogany, all teeming with wildlife (including over 12,000 elephants, 8000 buffalo, numerous predators and prolific birdlife)
Experience a walking patrol with the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit
In the south of Zimbabwe, Camp Amalinda offers historical walks in the impressive Matobo Hills with over 2000 San rock art site.
Elephant’s Eye in Hwange NP, offer walking safaris that showcase the best of the park and its surrounding, fenceless concession.
Zimbabwe’s astounding natural wonders, untamed wilderness areas, abundant wildlife and plethora of exciting outdoors activities and adventures make it a wonderful choice for a family holiday. In the country’s most popular destinations, you’ll find a host of family-friendly lodging options, from well-equipped campsites, rustic lodges and self-catering chalets to luxury camps. There’s lots to do in Zimbabwe for children of all ages, and many lodges offer kids’ activities such as guided walks or bushcraft lessons, while the many wilderness adventures you can do with older children – staying in unfenced campsites and going on walking safaris and canoeing trips – are especially unforgettable.
If you’re on a short family holiday in Zimbabwe, two of the best destinations to visit are Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park, which are nearby to one another in the north west corner of the country. You can fly into Victoria Falls from Johannesburg, and either get a road transfer or drive yourself to Hwange. Victoria Falls is an incredible sight to behold and walking along the pathways on the edge of the waterfall-facing cliffs and getting showered with mist and spray will delight of children of any age, while the town offers lots of family-friendly lodges and hotels and is a fantastic base for taking advantage of a huge range of activities and adventures, from bungee jumping to horseback safaris.
Hwange National Park offers excellent wildlife viewing, especially in the dry winter months of June to October, when waterholes are teeming with thirsty animals. Because spotting wildlife in the dry season is as easy as pulling up to a waterhole and parking your car, Hwange is a great option for self-guided family holidays as you won’t have to spend hours and hours in the car to see some exciting animals.
If your children are aged seven and older, then a multi-day canoeing trip along the Upper Zambezi River near Victoria Falls is a great idea. You’ll get to spend your days paddling along the river, spotting hippos, crocodiles, elephants and other game and camp under the stars at night on islands, and it’s a wonderful way for children to experience nature. For children aged above 12 years, you can also do walking safaris in some of the national parks and on private concessions. Seeing animals on foot is a whole different experience to car-based game viewing, and children will learn a lot about the bush, plants and animals big and small from the guide.
To the northeast, Lake Kariba is also a great option for a family holiday, as you can charter a private houseboat and explore the beautiful lake at a slow pace, getting onto smaller tender boats for wildlife viewing along the shore – a completely stress-free way to travel. For an experience in a true wilderness, travel to Mana Pools National Park for sublime wildlife and beautiful landscapes – and no crowds. If your children are above the age of 12, a stay at an exclusive campsite along the river where it’s just you and the wilderness, is thrilling.
In eastern Zimbabwe, the mountainous Eastern Highlands is a great region to explore if your family loves hiking and mountaineering, with easy walks of just a few hours or more challenging multi-day adventures.
Getting drenched by the spray of Victoria Falls, pumping some adrenaline on white-water rafting, gorge swinging, abseiling and bungee jumping activities, watching processions of huge herds of elephants and parking off at waterholes full of animals in Hwange National Park, cruising the languid waters of Lake Kariba on a private houseboat, camping in the wild surrounded by the sounds of roaring lions in Mana Pools National Park, getting a full nature immersion on a walking or canoeing safari, and hiking in the misty mountain ranges of the Eastern Highlands.
Less is more when it comes to travel in Africa with children: driving distances can be deceptively long and it often takes more time than you would expect getting from one place to another. If you do have to do long road journeys, break up the trip with stop overs so that you’re not spending long days in the car. If you have young children, it may be best to base yourself in just two or three places on your trip and do activities from there, rather than trying to fit in too many different destinations into your itinerary.
Zimbabwe is a malaria risk country, so consult your doctor before travelling about prophylactic medicine for kids and be very cautious with your children to prevent them from being bitten. Like elsewhere in southern Africa, the sun can be very harsh so bring lots of sunscreen for your kids, as well as protective clothing – long-sleeved shirts and wide brimmed hats – for outdoors activities.
Before you book your lodge stays, make sure that they accept children. Some lodges won’t allow children under a certain age to go on game drives, and some won’t accept children under a certain age to stay at the lodge. At some lodges you will be required to book a private safari vehicle for game drives if you have young children, which can be expensive. Lots of the adventure activities on offer – such as white-water rafting – also have minimum age limits.
If you’re travelling over the border to Botswana or South Africa after your trip to Zimbabwe you must have unabridged birth certificates for your children.
Zimbabweans are some of the friendliest and most hospitable people you will ever meet, and travelling solo means that you’ll probably end up meeting and connecting with more locals than you would if you travelled in a group.
There are lots of options for solo travellers to Zimbabwe depending on your style of travel. You could start off your trip in the busy town of Victoria Falls and you’ll meet plenty of other travellers in bars and on activities who you could join up with to share the costs of travelling to other destinations, or you could join a guided group tour for a hassle-free holiday. If you prefer solo time, you can rent a car and explore parks and reserves on your own steam, or stay in lodges where you’ll be able to do guided game drives and walks in the bush.
Northern Zimbabwe is the best region for solo travellers. In this region, Victoria Falls is an obvious first choice for solo travellers, as you can meet fellow travellers at bars and hotels in town, and there are numerous activities on offer – everything from crocodile cage diving to bungee jumping – which are easy to book and organise once you’re there. Hwange National Park is also a good destination for solo travellers: stay at a lodge or safari camp and you’ll be on game drives with other guests, or if you want more solitude, then opt for self-driving and lodging in one of the park’s camps and explore the wilderness on your own. Also located in northern Zimbabwe, Lake Kariba makes a great choice for a single traveller if you’re looking to join up with other people, as you can book a spot on a houseboat and spend a few relaxing days cruising the lake and its islands. For adventurous travellers, Mana Pools National Park is a wilderness mecca – join a group walking or canoeing safari for an amazing immersion in the bush.
Getting an adrenaline kick (and meeting some new friends) on the adventure activities on offer in Victoria Falls, doing a self-guided trip around Hwange National Park and discovering waterholes teeming with animals on your own and going on a wilderness adventure in Mana Pools National Park on a walking safari or multi-day canoeing trip.
Solo women travellers to Zimbabwe should use the same precautions and awareness that you would when you travel alone anywhere in the world. You might find that you get more attention as a single woman (locals will likely to be interested to know where your husband is and to find out why you’re travelling on your own).
If you are going to be driving long distances on your own, be sure to let your lodge or hotel know when they should expect you in case you have any car problems on the way. It’s a good idea to hike with someone else or in a group but if you do go on any day hikes, let someone know exactly where you will be going in case you have a problem. It’s not recommended to drive to any very remote wilderness areas on your own: if you’re wanting to do some remote 4×4 trips then rather join a guided tour or team up with some other travellers.
Intimate camps in beautiful wildernesses, astounding experiences and blockbuster wildlife and sights are just some of the reasons that Zimbabwe is great for couples. If you want to get off the beaten track and as far away from other people as possible, you’ll find your escape in Zimbabwe’s remote corners, where you can either pitch your own tent under the stars or sleep in a luxury lodge with all the romantic touches.
Northern Zimbabwe has the best concentration of attractions and destinations, from the astounding sight of Victoria Falls and the adjacent town’s wealth of adventurous activities, the wildlife-teeming Hwange National Park, where excellent lodges on private concessions are all about low-key intimacy, to Lake Kariba, where staying on a houseboat and exploring the lake’s animal and birdlife is one of the most relaxing ways to while away a few days in Zimbabwe. Mana Pools National Park is an excellent destination for adventurous couples looking for off-grid wilderness, where staying in one of the park’s unfenced exclusive campsites is one of the country’s most unforgettable wild experiences.
Exploring rugged wilderness areas with few other tourists around, sleeping in a tent under the stars in Mana Pools National Park, romantic sunset picnics in the bush at a luxury lodge in Hwange, sundowners onboard a Lake Kariba houseboat and spending a night in a comfortable bed on a sleep-out deck in the middle of the wilderness.
Trying to do too much on your holiday is a romance killer. Instead of squeezing in too many destinations and experiences, adopt a less-is-more approach to your itinerary planning. It can take much longer to travel between places than you would expect, so factor that in when deciding where you will go, especially if you’re on a self-drive trip. In each park that you visit, plan to spend a few days there rather than just a night or two, so that you give yourself the chance to soak up the magic of time in the wilderness
Zimbabwe is once again firmly on the southern African safari map, for all the reasons that once made it a prime destination. The landlocked country is home to some of the finest game viewing in exceptionally beautiful wilderness areas, the great natural spectacle of Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, as well historical cultural attractions such as the ruins of the ancient civilisation of Great Zimbabwe and 13 000-year-old rock art.
Pearl spotted owlet in Hwange National Park
Zimbabwe is a Big Five safari destination, and the superb Hwange National Park is its flagship reserve, best known for its massive herds of elephants and excellent sightings during the dry winter months. But there’s more to safaris in Zimbabwe than just animal spotting on game drive: it’s one of the best countries for doing walking safaris –
Mana Pools National Park is one of few national parks in Africa that allows unguided walking – and its canoeing safaris along the Zambezi River are epic adventures that immerse you fully in the natural world. What’s so special about Zimbabwe is how uncrowded its parks are: wherever you go, you’ll be able to enjoy the peace and quiet of the bush without the traffic jams and crowds of other reserves in Africa.
And then there are more bucket list experiences, whether it’s wild camping in the magical wilderness of Mana Pools, 4x4ing in remote and under-visited reserves, hiking in the misty mountains of the Eastern Highlands or cruising Lake Kariba on a houseboat. Luxury lodges and intimate camps are spread out in Zimbabwe’s most magnificent wild places, which means that safaris – even in off-the-beaten-track places – can always be done in style.
Added to all that, Zimbabweans are among the friendliest and most welcoming people you’ll ever meet.
There’s far too much to see in Zimbabwe to cover the country in one trip – you’d need several holidays here to really explore its wilderness areas try out the wealth of remarkable experiences on offer. The range of safari activities on offer also draws people back: once you’ve done a safari by game drive, you’ll want to try walking and canoeing safaris.
As with all safari destinations in Africa, Zimbabwe has different seasonal attractions, and a great reason to return for repeated visits is to experience the country at different times of the year. During the dry winter months – the most popular time to travel – wildlife viewing is exceptional, but there are also attractions to travelling in the rainy season when the green, verdant landscapes are at their most beautiful and birdlife is at its most abundant, with hundreds of migratory species taking up resident in the parks in reserves. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s most famous attraction, is very different various times throughout the year: after the summer rains from February to May, the Zambezi River is in its full flow and at its most dramatic (although views can be obscured by mist), while at drier times of the year – from August to October – when the river runs lower, the views are better, though the falls are less dramatic.
The wide range of habitats in Zimbabwe – from the forested valleys of Matobo Hills National Park, the watery wilderness of Lake Kariba and Matusadona National Park, to the floodplains of Mana Pools National Park, and the mopane woodlands and savannas of Hwange National Park support an incredible diversity of animal and plant life. The country is home to an astounding 500 species of birds, 199 mammal species, 130 species of fish and some rare species such as sable antelope.
What sets Zimbabwe apart from its southern African neighbours is the chance to experience superb game viewing without the crowds. Even in Hwange National Park, the most popular reserve in Zimbabwe, you’ll see few other tourists – a very different experience to famous parks in other countries, where traffic jams at a roadside sighting can dampen the feeling of being in the wilderness.
Credit: Shearwater Canoeing
Zimbabwe’s walking safari opportunities are exceptional, so if you’re wanting to immerse yourself in the bush, this is where to do it. Zimbabwe is also one of the few places in Africa where you can do canoeing safaris: paddling yourself down the mighty Zambezi River, camping on remote islands and coming within a thrillingly close distance from animals such as elphants on the shore is one of the continent’s greatest wilderness experiences.
For many people on a short holiday to Zimbabwe, the town of Victoria Falls and the nearby easily accessible Hwange National Park in the country’s north-western corner make for a perfect combination of a blockbuster natural wonder, stellar landscapes, exciting adventure activities and superb wildlife viewing.
Also located in the north of the country, Lake Kariba is a popular destination for a wildlife-by-water holiday. Stay on a houseboat for a few days to cruise the lake and spot the Big Five on the shores of Matusadona National Park, which lies on the edge of Kariba.
Mana Pools National Park, to the east of Lake Kariba, is one of Africa’s greatest wilderness areas home to an abundance of big game, and a safari destination for more adventurous travellers – you’ll need a 4×4 to explore the park fully. In the park you can camp in the wild and do canoeing and walking safaris that immerse you completely in the bush. Granite boulders in Matobo National Park
One of the best places in Africa to see rock art, the scenically stunning Matobo National Park in the southwest of Zimbabwe has 3000 sites which date back more than 13 000 years dotted throughout a magical landscape of towering granite boulders. The park is easy to explore in your own car, and it’s also known for its leopard and white rhino sightings and huge number of eagle species.
Zimbabwe’s second largest city of Bulawayo – close by to Matobo – is an attractive and charming place to spend a few days exploring museums, while the nearby reconstructed Khami Ruins are worth exploring to learn about the country’s ancient past. To the east, the sprawling stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe are a must-see for any history and culture buff: Zimbabwe’s greatest archaeological site is as atmospheric as it is fascinating.
The Chilojo Cliffs in Gonarezhou National Park | Credit: zimbabwetourism.net
If you’re up for a 4×4 adventure far off the beaten track in south-eastern Zimbabwe, the little-visited Gonarezhou National Park, which forms part of the Great Limpopo National Park with South Africa and Mozambique, is an untamed and underrated wild area. The second largest park in the country boasts a rich wildlife diversity, abundant birdlife and big herds of elephant and buffalo, as well as growing numbers wild dog, the rare nyala antelope and dramatic scenery of baobab-dotted plains, mopane woodland and towering red sandstone cliffs.
Mutarazi Falls, Nyanga National Park
For a totally different climate and landscape, travel to the Eastern Highlands, which stretches along Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique: a magical region of mountains and forests that is popular for hiking, birdwatching, horse riding, golfing and fishing. In the north of the highlands, Nyanga National Park is home to Zimbabwe’s highest mountain and tallest waterfall and a wonderful five-night hiking trail, while the central Bvumba Mountains is an excellent birding destination, and Chimanimani National Park in the south offers some serious mountain hiking.
Botswana is a high-end safari destination, with a lot of luxury camps and lodges and a policy of low-impact tourism, limiting the number of tourists staying in conservation areas, which means that safaris there can be a bit pricey.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe also has abundant game and beautiful wilderness areas (and a low density of visitors) – but with a lower price tag. Some of Zimbabwe’s parks, such as Hwange, are particularly easy to explore on your own (even in a two-wheel drive vehicle) and offer affordable lodging options, including campsites and self-catering cottages inside the park.
When comparing Zimbabwe VS South Africa, one can easily see that a South Africa Safari has it all.
South Africa consists of cultural cities with excellent attractions, restaurants, hotels, museums and shopping, Big Five game reserves and beautiful beaches, desert, mountain and forests, and all the outdoors activities you could dream of.
However, when looking at South Africa vs Zimbabwe, landlocked Zimbabwe might not be able to compete with South Africa in terms of diversity.
But what it does have are some truly wild and rugged national parks and far fewer tourists, so if getting away from it all is your priority, then a Zimbabwe Safari may be just what you’re looking for.
Most of South Africa’s national parks and reserves are fairly easily accessible, with easy roads and lots of accommodation options, while many of Zimbabwe’s parks are less developed and more difficult to reach, but the 4×4 adventures and wild camping in Zimbabwe are superb.
Difference between South Africa and Zimbabwe:
South Africa has beaches, desert mountains and forests.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country with wild and rugged national parks and much fewer tourists.
South Africa reserves are all easily accessible with easy roads and lots of accommodation.
Zimbabwe’s parks are less developed and more challenging to reach.
Zimbabwe has fantastic 4×4 adventures and wild camping.
Northern Zimbabwe is the country’s most popular region for wildlife safaris, as it’s home to a number of game-rich wilderness areas. In the northwest, Hwange National Park is the biggest reserve in the country, conserving one of Africa’s largest elephant populations (an estimated 40 000 animals), as well as the other four of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo), one of Africa’s biggest wild dog populations, and unusual antelope such as sable and roan. It’s also one of the only places in the country where you can see giraffe.
Next to Zimbabwe’s most visited attraction – Victoria Falls – the Zambezi National Park is a convenient safari destination for visitors to Zimbabwe who are short on time and aren’t able to visit some of the country’s other reserves. The park is home to the Big Four (there are no rhino), as well as a wide range of other animals, from giraffe and wild dog to sable antelope and eland.
Also in the north but further east of Hwange, Matusadona National Park lies on the shores of Lake Kariba National Park, and offers fantastic Big Five sightings – particularly buffalo, lion and leopard – as well as the rare roan and sable antelope and lots of hippos and crocodiles in the water.
Near to Matusadona, Mana Pools National Park is a rugged, untamed wilderness area where the game viewing is superb. The park is known for its big herds of elephant, large numbers of buffalo, high density of endangered wild dogs and regular sightings of cheetah, leopard and lion.
South of Lake Kariba, Chizarira National Park is an off-the-beaten-track wilderness of dramatic gorges and ravines where you can spot four of the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo) as well as some rare antelope, although the density of animals is low, and many people visit the park more for its scenic beauty and walking safaris than for wildlife viewing.
In southern Zimbabwe, Matobo National Park isn’t a prime wildlife destination (animal density is low, and the park doesn’t have elephant or lion), it does have some highlights: great sightings of white rhino – black rhino is present but harder to spot – the greatest concentration of leopard in the country and more eagle species than anywhere else in the world.
In remote south-eastern Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park boasts an incredible diversity of animal life: 500 species of birds and 150 mammal species, including growing numbers of wild dogs and lions, rare species such as nyala antelope and 11 000 elephants. It’s also the only park in southern Africa which has all six of the smallest antelope species.
Northern Zimbabwe is the most visited region of the country. As it’s home to two of the country’s most popular attractions – the bucket list sight of Victoria Falls and wildlife-teeming Hwange National Park – as well as the water wildernesses of Lake Kariba and Matusadona National Park and the untamed landscapes of Mana Pools National Park, it’s easy to see why northern Zimbabwe attracts so many visitors.
For very different landscapes from the savanna of the north, the mountainous Eastern Highlands, which runs along Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique, is a photogenic region characterised by lush verdant forests, rolling hills, misty valleys and dramatic peaks. The national parks and mountain ranges that make up the Eastern Highlands have plenty of opportunities for birdwatching, hiking, horse riding, fishing and playing golf.
While southern Zimbabwe is less visited than the north, the region has many attractions, beautiful scenery and magnificent parks. The ruins of Great Zimbabwe and Khami, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, offer a fascinating glimpse into Zimbabwe’s ancient past, while the millennia-old San rock art in the hills of beautiful Matobo National Park is unmissable. Laid back, attractive Bulawayo, the country’s second biggest city, is a great place to spend a few days exploring, while more intrepid safari travellers will find their mecca in the raw wilderness of Gonarezhou National Park.
Zimbabwe is home to an incredible wealth and diversity of experiences, with something to offer just about any kind of traveller.
Zimbabwe’s most popular experience – and a bucket list one for many travellers at that – is viewing Victoria Falls, the world’s largest sheet of falling water and one of Africa’s greatest natural spectacles. There are a few ways to see the breathtaking falls – on foot (which comes with a lot of spray), from a helicopter or on the back of a tiny microlight.
In terms of wildlife experiences, Zimbabwe’s excellent game parks offer self-drive (with some adventurous 4×4 routes) and guided game driving to see the Big Five, huge herds of elephant, rare and endangered species such as wild dog and sable antelope and hundreds of bird species. But game driving is not the only way to get close to Zimbabwe’s wildlife – you can also go on walking safaris and experience the wonders of the bush on foot in Mana Pools National Park, Matusadona National Park and on private concessions in Hwange National Park. Another way to explore Zimbabwe’s wilderness areas is by canoe. You can do multi-day canoeing safaris on the Upper Zambezi River near Victoria Falls, or on the Lower Zambezi through Mana Pools National Park and to more the remote safari areas beyond.
If you prefer a more sedate way to spot game, staying on a houseboat on Lake Kariba is the answer. These floating hotels cruise the lake’s calm waters and provide a relaxing way of seeing game on the lake shore – either from the comfort of the houseboat deck or from smaller tender boats. Fishing for tigerfish in Lake Kariba is also one of Zimbabwe’s most popular activities.
For adrenaline seekers, Zimbabwe has endless adventures to offer. In just the town of Victoria Falls alone there’s white-water rafting on the Grade 5 rapids of the mighty Zambezi River, bungee jumping, horseback safaris, gorge swinging, zip lining, abseiling and crocodile cage diving. Outside of safari-related activities there are plenty of other adventures to be had across the country, from hiking and mountaineering in the forested mountains of the Eastern Highlands to exploring the Chinhoyi Caves.
History buffs will love the ancient archaeological sites of Great Zimbabwe and the Khami Ruins, where you’ll be able to walk around atmospheric stone ruins that tell fascinating stories about the country’s past. Zimbabwe is also home one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of rock art in the hills of Matobo National Park, where some 3000 sites (some going back as far as 13 millennia) are scattered. Going on hikes to discover these ancient works in Matobo’s granite galleries is one of the best rock art experiences you can have in Africa.
Zimbabwe attracts wildlife enthusiasts, active holidaymakers and lovers of the outdoors with its game parks, beautiful wilderness areas and exciting outdoors activities such as canoeing and walking safaris, but there’s also more to the country for other travellers. History and culture buffs will love exploring the fascinating archaeological ruins of Great Zimbabwe, as well as discovering the ancient rock art of Matobo National Park, while walkers and hikers will find their mecca in the beautiful rainforests and mountains of the Eastern Highlands.
While Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park are easily accessible destinations for anyone, if you’re going to be exploring other areas of the country on a self-driving holiday, it helps if you’ve got a taste for adventure, as travelling around Zimbabwe does come with some challenges.
However, Zimbabwe does suit all travel styles, whether you like to stay in luxury camps and lodges and explore the country’s parks and reserves by chartered plane, or if you prefer to get off-grid, driving your own 4×4 on muddy tracks in remote wilderness areas where you can camp in the wild.
Travellers from Europe, the UK, Canada and the USA need a visa to visit Zimbabwe. You can obtain a visa from the Zimbabwean embassy in your country but it’s easier to just get one on arrival at the airport or at the border crossing. Your passport needs to be valid for at least six months and have enough blank pages. You also need to show your return ticket to your country and have sufficient funds to cover you while you’re in Zimbabwe. You will also need to have US dollars in cash (in small notes if possible) to pay for your visa (for Europeans and Americans the visa is US$30, for British and Irish nationals it’s US$55 and for Canadians it’s US$75). Tourist visas are granted for visits of 30 days (single entry visa) or 60 days (multi-entry).
From the US or Europe you can fly to Zimbabwe via Johannesburg in South Africa. Several airlines operate two-hour flights from Johannesburg to the capital of Harare, as well as Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. There are flights from other African cities such as Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Gaborone to Harare.
Alternatively, you can easily drive from South Africa to Zimbabwe: it’s a six-hour journey from Johannesburg to the Zimbabwean border crossing at Beitbridge. If you’re in a hired car, tell your rental car company that you will be crossing a border so that they provide you with the appropriate paperwork.
There are domestic flights between Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, and private charter flights between luxury camps and other destinations within Zimbabwe, as well as an air taxi service that flies between Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Lake Kariba and Mana Pools National Park. Most travellers choose not to use Zimbabwe’s unreliable public transport options, instead opting for private road transfers between destinations such as Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park, private bus companies or car rental.
Driving yourself is the best way to explore the country and get off the beaten track. The tarred roads are generally in good condition and after many years of fuel shortages, petrol and diesel are usually available (although it’s a good idea to fill up whenever you can and carry and extra jerry cans of fuel with you). One of the main challenges of a self-drive holiday in Zimbabwe is the number of police roadblocks all over the country. As long as everything in your car is in order and you have the right paperwork then you shouldn’t have a problem at the roadblocks. If you do have to pay a fine, you should ask for the receipt.
You don’t need to hire a 4×4 to drive around Zimbabwe, but you will need a car with high clearance if you’re planning on driving in the national parks.
It’s a good idea to have both a GPS as well as a paper map book for navigating.
The currency in Zimbabwe is the US dollar. Some places will accept South African rands, Botswana pula, pounds and euros but you may get a bad exchange rate. Since 2016, the country has been experiencing a shortage in cash. Bond notes – worth the same as US dollars – were introduced as legal tender and can be used for any purchases in Zimbabwe but have no value outside of the country so be sure to spend them before you leave.
Because of the cash shortage, there are few ATMs that dispense cash. Instead you will need to bring along enough US dollars in cash to pay for things like fuel and other sundry items. You can pay with debit and credit cards in hotels, restaurants and lodges. We’ll advise you on where you will be required to make payments in cash. Bring along plenty of small denominations for buying things like curios.
While most people who visit Zimbabwe have a trouble-free holiday, you do need to be aware of some risks so that you stay safe on your travels.
When you’re in a city or town, take care when you’re driving at night and avoid walking at night if you can. Don’t ever display your valuables or expensive jewellery and never leave belongings in your car, and be aware when you leave ATMs or banks.
If you’re going on a self-drive adventure, make sure your doors are always locked and your windows rolled up. Be cautious of where you stop.
Make sure that you stock up on fuel whenever you can, as petrol stations don’t always have availability. Be aware that traffic lights are often not working and that there are potholes in the roads – always drive carefully and wear seatbelts. Unless you’re in a town or city, don’t drive at night as rural roads are unlit and often have vehicles with poor lighting, as well as livestock and animals on them.
When you’re on safari, be aware that you’re in a park or reserve surrounded by wild animals which should always be treated with caution. Never try to feed animals and be careful when you’re around monkeys or baboons as they can try and steal food from you and get aggressive. When driving yourself around parks, keep a safe distance from animals and never leave your vehicle except in designated areas.
If you go on a walking or canoeing safari, make sure that your guide is accredited and follow their instructions at all times – if you encounter an aggressive animal such as a hippo or buffalo, you need to follow your guide’s direction to stay safe.
It’s customary to tip lodge staff for their service, but you don’t need to tip them every day – you do it only at the end of your stay. Lodges usually offer a communal tip box for cleaning and restaurant staff, and the tip for your guide and tracker is usually put in an envelope or separate envelopes and handed to them directly or to the lodge manager.
If you’re travelling with children, note that many lodges will not accept children under a certain age and some don’t allow children at all. We’ll advise you on the age limitations for children upon your enquiry.
Most restaurants and hotels serve international food that tends to be heavy on meat. If you are a vegetarian or have any other dietary requirements, be sure to let your lodge know in advance so that they can prepare food for you. Many lodges are very remote and don’t get daily food deliveries, so they do need to know about food preferences beforehand.
In terms of local food, sadza is Zimbabwe’s most common dish: maize meal cooked to a thick porridge-like consistency, which is served with stewed meat or vegetables and sauces. Other popular dishes include dovi, a stew made from peanut butter, nhedzi, a wild mushroom soup, cornmeal cake known as mupotohayi, bota, a breakfast porridge made with peanut butter and jam, and mapopo, a candy made from papaya.
The most popular drink in Zimbabwe is beer (Zambezi lager is the national brew), though you’ll find South African wines and a range of spirits, both local and imported, in restaurants and hotel bars.
In Zimbabwe, it’s customary to tip waiters in restaurants (10 to 15% is standard), and to give car guards who watch over your car in supermarket or shopping mall car parks US$1, and give porters a small amount for carrying your bags.
Most people leave tips for their safari guide and lodge or camp staff. Some lodges will offer a suggestion of how much to tip (a range of about US$5 to US$20 per guest per day) and most lodges will let you know what the tipping practice is in terms of how the tips are handed to the staff – either in envelopes to the manager or to the guide or in a tip box at reception. It’s not necessary to give a tip every day as it’s mostly done at the end of your stay.
It’s usual for Zimbabweans to exchange greetings and ask “how are you?” to be responded with “fine thanks, and you?” before they proceed with their conversation. It’s considered impolite to launch straight into your conversation without first exchanging these greetings. Traditionally it’s also considered impolite for a younger person to address an older person first.
Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls have the most options for supermarkets and shops if you need to stock up on goods for camping or buy any gear for your holiday.
Zimbabwe has some truly beautiful and unique art, crafts and curios to buy in shops and markets and from the artisans themselves. Look out for carvings in wood and stone (although be aware of buying carvings made out of hardwood which are contributing to the country’s deforestation), semi-precious stone jewelry, paintings, woven baskets and all sorts of crafts made out of recycled and natural material. Many hotels have a small curio shop where you can buy arts and crafts, and there are art galleries, boutiques and curio shops in towns and more informal curio markets where you can bargain for crafts.
In Harare, you’ll find art galleries selling traditional as well as contemporary Zimbabwean art, and boutiques for jewelry, furniture, pottery, hand painted fabrics, leatherwork, clothes and sculptures, and the Newlands Art and Craft Market for Shona sculptures, while Bulawayo also has a good selection of art galleries, craft centers and curio shops.
There’s an excellent array of curio shops, galleries and boutiques in Victoria Falls, where you can find everything from small cheap souvenirs to authentic art. The Elephant’s Walk Shopping Centre has upmarket shops for art, jewelry and crafts, while there are two craft markets that sell a large variety of sculptures, jewelry, masks and small crafts that make for perfect gifts.
Zimbabwe has 16 official languages: English, Shona, Ndebele, Shangani, Sotho, Venda, Kalanga, Nambya, Chewa, sign language, Tonga, Chibarwe, Ndau, Tswana, Koisan, and Xhosa. Shone, Ndebele and English are the most widely spoken languages. While travelling in Zimbabwe in tourist areas you’ll find a lot of people who speak English.
There’s a high risk of malaria in most of Zimbabwe, and the highest risk months are during the rainy season from October to May. Consult your doctor or travel clinic about getting malaria prophylactics before your trip. Even if you do take prophylactics, you should take care not to be bitten. To prevent mosquito bites, always use repellent on your skin and clothes, wear long trousers and shirts in the early morning and evenings and if possible, sleep under a mosquito net.
Tap water in towns and cities generally isn’t safe to drink so stick to bottled water. Safari lodges often have their own safe water supply or provide treated water.
There have been recent outbreaks of typhoid and cholera in different areas of Zimbabwe. To prevent getting sick, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, always drink mineral, boiled or treated water and eat food that has been thoroughly cooked.
Bring all the medication you need to take for your whole trip from home.
You should also bring along a comprehensive first aid kit that includes antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, antidiarrheal medication, antibacterial ointment, antimalarial tablets, rehydration electrolyte sachets, insect spray and repellent, water purification tablets and bandages.
There is no risk of yellow fever in Zimbabwe but you will need to show a yellow fever certificate if you have entered the country having visited another country with yellow fever risk.
It’s advised that travellers to Zimbabwe have updated vaccinations for tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A, as well as vaccinations for typhoid, cholera, hepatitis B and tuberculosis. The rabies vaccination is recommended if you’re going to have contact with animals or if you’re going to be in a remote location far from medical assistance.
There are several private emergency medical service systems that provide both road and air ambulances to evacuate you from the remotest corners of Zimbabwe and get you to the closest private clinic for treatment. If you have an emergency and cannot get yourself to a private clinic in either Harare or Bulawayo, call EMRAS on +263 242 250011 or ACE on +263 24 2302 141.
There are private clinics in Harare and Bulawayo, and you should only use a private clinic if you have an emergency or health problem. Private clinics require patients to pay in cash before they are treated.
You should get comprehensive travel insurance that includes coverage for any activities that you plan to do, such as white-water rafting or hiking. Make sure that your medical insurance covers you for emergency medical evacuation.
If you rent a car, it’s advisable to get comprehensive car insurance to cover yourself for any damage to the vehicle.
A meal for two at a mid-range restaurant costs around $40.
Entrance fees for national parks range from US$10 to US$30 per person per day depending on the park.
With so many activities on offer throughout Zimbabwe, there’s no average price. In Victoria Falls, activity rates range from $20 for a guided tour of the falls to US$190 for a full day of white-water rafting and river boarding. Canoeing safaris cost from US$170 per person per night, while hiring a guide in Mana Pools National Park costs US$25 per day.
Most of your safari activities at camps and lodges will be included in the price of your safari. We create bespoke safari packages to meet your budget.
Like many other southern African countries, the best time The Victoria Falls are at their peak in March and April, but the best time to visit Zimbabwe for game viewing is during the dry winter months. to visit Zimbabwe is during the dry winter months of June to October for optimal wildlife viewing.
During this time when water is scarce and the vegetation is sparse, animals congregate around rivers and waterholes, making viewing particularly easy. Out of the winter months, July to September is the busiest period for tourists.
The rainy summer season of November to April is the least popular time to visit Zimbabwe, as spotting wildlife is hard, some roads are inaccessible and the weather is hot and humid.
Mana Pools National Park is closed from November to April, and some Zimbabwe camps and lodges also close between January to March. Many roads are also closed in Gonarezhou National Park between November and April.
However, if you’re a birder, the best time to visit zimbabwe would be during the rainy months because it is easier to spot scores of migratory species. The wet season is also when the landscapes are at their most lush and beautiful, and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to see newborn animals in the parks. During this off-peak season, you can also get better room rates.
While you can view Victoria Falls year-round, you’ll get a different experience viewing the falls depending on when you visit.
From March to May, after the seasonal summer rains, the Zambezi River is at its highest, and you’ll be able to see the falls in full dramatic flow, although the huge amount of mist and spray can obscure views.
From March to around June, white water rafting is closed because of the high water levels. From June, when water levels start decreasing, you’ll have excellent visibility viewing the falls.
June to September is the best time to visit Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls when the river is low enough for good visibility.
The best time to visit the Zimbabwean Eastern Highlands is during the dry winter season from May to October when you’ll have warm sunny days.