Your definitive guide to Zimbabwe
Welcome to Zimbabwe. What you will encounter is a comprehensive and insightful journey through Zimbabwe’s most memorable attractions; a country brimming with prolific wildlife and lush landscapes. Zimbabwe is a hidden gem in Africa’s safari circuit. Curate your experience and allow us to do the rest for you.
Our Recommended Tour
Victoria Falls, Hwange and Matusadona National Park
Starting in Victoria Falls, where you’ll stay for two nights to explore this southern hub, you’ll visit Hwange National Park which is the largest park in Zimbabwe. The African Wild Dog population is thought to be one of the biggest in Africa at the moment. You’ll also be able to see lion, leopard, spotted hyena, cheetah and very large herds of elephants - only if they want to be seen, of course. Matusadona National Park is the next stop. Lake Kariba shoreline forms part of this park and therefore affords visitors a great combination of land and water safari activities. The park is also one of the last remaining places where you can spot Black Rhino.
Welcome to Zimbabwe! Victoria Falls is one of the most sought-after tourist destination in both Zimbabwe and Zambia respectfully. Coupled with visits in some of the best national parks in the area and you have a winning African adventure …On arrival at Victoria Falls Airport, you will be collected and transferred through to your hotel where you will spend the next two nights at Ilala Lodge. There are many activities to fill your day in Victoria Falls, the least of which is a visit to the famous Victoria Falls waterfall. We can custom-design any activity package around what you want to experience. Whether it’s bungee-jumping, river rafting or helicopter flights (to mention a few), please let your Discover Africa consultant know so that we can put something together for you. The more you book, the better the rates we can obtain for your peace of mind and budgeting.
You will be transferred to the airport this morning where you will connect with your seat-in-charter flight to Hwange National Park. On arrival, you will be collected by a staff member from the establishment and transferred to the lodge. Get ready your first game drive. Be sure to keep your camera ready to optimize your chances of getting great photos …Hwange is known for its population of African wild dogs, thought to be one of the biggest in the entire continent. It’s also one of the few places that one can find a Black Rhino in Africa. There is no set itinerary at The Hide as it really depends on you how much or little you would like to do. Meal-times are normally a good chance to catch up with everyone and plan the rest of the day or the following morning. As a general rule, we go out-and-about at the same time as the animals – usually mornings and late afternoons or evenings. However, the scope and scale of Hwange’s wildlife are such that there is generally always something to see. We don’t limit the number of activities you can do, so if you can’t sit still, you could do an early morning walk followed by a morning drive after breakfast. In the afternoon you could head out again, stopping off for a sundowner and a night-drive back to camp.
A direct seat-in-charter flight takes you from Hwange to Matusadona National Park. And a boat transfer from the airstrip takes you to your next destination. Changa Safari Camp is situated on the shores of Lake Kariba and allows for water and land-based safari activities. Not only game drives and walks, but boat safari’s and fishing trips form part of the package when visiting this iconic location …Matusadona National Park is home to many animals that were relocated with the “Operation Noah” project and is also known for its big herds of buffalo. The remoteness and isolation of the park provide an exclusive game viewing experience and the many bird species that can be found here make this park a must-see safari destination for any wildlife fan.
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.
When to visit Zimbabwe?
- JanuaryJanuary 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.
- FebruaryFebruary 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.
- MarchMarch 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.
- AprilThe 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.
- MayMild 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.
- JuneTemperatures 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.
- JulyJuly 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.
- AugustAugust 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.
- SeptemberTemperatures 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.
- OctoberNicknamed “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.
- NovemberThis 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.
- DecemberDecember 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.
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.
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 elephants on the shore is one of the continent’s greatest wilderness experiences.
- Travelling to Zimbabwe
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.
- Travel in Zimbabwe
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 4x4 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.
- Wildlife in Zimbabwe
Northern Zimbabwe is the country’s most popular region for wildlife safaris, as it’s home to a number of 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.
- Cultures in Zimbabwe
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.
- Languages of Zimbabwe
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.
- Is Zimbabwe safe?
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.
- Shopping in Zimbabwe
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 jewellery, 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 jewellery, 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 centres 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, jewellery and crafts, while there are two craft markets that sell a large variety of sculptures, jewellery, masks and small crafts that make for perfect gifts.