Zimbabwe Safari

The ultimate guide to your next Zimbabwe safari

Where to go Popular Zimbabwe Safaris About us
  • victoria falls
  • elephant in mana pools
  • canoeing lower zambezi
  • family safari
  • lake kariba
  • bee eater
  • mount nyangani national park

    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.


    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.

    • ilala lodge

      Day 1-2

      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.
    • okavango delta

      Day 3-5

      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.
    • lion

      Day 6-8

      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

      View the complete tour

      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.

      Highlights of Zimbabwe

      Highlights of Zimbabwe

        • magnificent falls

          Victoria Falls

          Tumbling down 100-metre-high cliffs surrounded by lush forest, Victoria Falls is, without a doubt, 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 known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders) and the spray it sends up is visible from 50 kilometres away. Stretching 1.7 kilometres wide, the falls span both Zimbabwe and Zambia, and on each side of the border there are pathways that 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, and offers a huge array of adrenaline sports and safari activities including bungee jumping, abseiling, white-water rafting and wildlife spotting from horseback.
        • canoeing down the zambezi

          Highlights

          Seeing Victoria Falls for the first time from the cliffside paths that offer spectacular views of the cascading water 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 centre 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, dinner or high tea onboard an old-fashioned steam train as it chugs through a wildlife conservancy, as well as game drives, horseback rides and walks in the nearby Zambezi National Park, which is home to the Big Five animals. To get your adrenaline pumping, you can go bungee jumping off the 111-metre bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia (said to be one of the best bungee jumps in the world), cage diving with crocodiles, swinging across the gorge, whizzing along a zip line, abseiling or get drenched tackling the rapids of the Zambezi River on a white-water rafting adventure.
        • bungee jumping from the falls

          Practical advice

          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, after the summer rains, the Zambezi River is at its fullest and the view of the falls at their most intense is dramatic. However, the huge 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 will 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 it’s essential to wear a good pair of walking shoes or hiking sandals. As the falls span Zimbabwe and Zambia, there are benefits to seeing them from both sides of the border. Zimbabwe has the 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 also swim in the Devil’s Pool, a natural rockpool right on the edge of the falls in Zambia. 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.
          • credit little makalolo

            Hwange National Park

            One of Africa’s top national parks, Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe’s northwest should be on any safari lover’s bucket list … Roaming Hwange’s savanna grasslands and woodlands are the Big Five and 100 other species of mammals – the park has the biggest diversity of mammals out of the world’s national parks. The Belgium-sized park is also home to some 50 000 elephants and is known for regular sightings of cheetah, leopard and lion, as well as one of Africa’s largest populations of the endangered wild dog and rare species such as roan and sable. Birdwatchers will be impressed with the 500 species recorded here. Visiting Hwange during the dry winter months of July to October guarantees spectacular wildlife sightings, as animals gather around the man-made waterholes in the park to drink. One of the big draws of Hwange is that it’s easily accessible – you can fly into Victoria Falls and either hire a car or get a road transfer to the park, an hour’s drive away. You can drive most of the park’s roads in a 2x4 vehicle, and there are many options of places to stay to suit a range of budgets – everything from campsites to luxury safari lodges. What makes Hwange so special is its lack of crowds. For all of its biodiversity, huge herds of elephants and ease of sightings in the winter months, the park never gets crowded, which means you have the space and the quiet to soak up the magic of the bush.
          • game viewing camp hwange

            Highlights

            Game viewing in Hwange is superb during the dry winter months. The park has no permanent natural water sources, so once the rains have stopped and the landscape starts to dry out from June onwards, animals have to rely on the manmade pumped waterholes for water … Animal sightings – wild dog, lion, leopard and cheetah are highlights – are easy to come by, but by far the mammals that Hwange is most famous for are its elephants. Around 50 000 of the giant creatures roam Hwange each year, and during the dry season from June to October, huge herds congregate around waterholes, making the park one of the best places in the world for elephant viewing. Along with game viewing by self-driving and guided game drives, you can also do horseback safaris – either short rides or multi-day adventures – and walking safaris, which give you a chance to immerse yourself deeper into the wilderness.
          • elephants in botswana

            Practical advice

            There are private luxury lodges both inside and outside of the park which offer fully-inclusive rates, while inside the park there are three Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority camps … which have affordable lodges, self-catering cottages and campsites, as well as exclusive camps and wild campsites. Talk to us about arranging a travel package to meet your budget. You can explore much of Hwange in a two-wheel drive car, but some camps are only accessible in a 4x4. Unlike other parks in Zimbabwe, Hwange is accessible in the wet summer season (November to April), although it’s very hard to spot big game during these months and it’s best to go only if you’re a keen birdwatcher. July to October are by far the best months of the year for wildlife viewing Hwange (although October is brutally hot), but be sure to book ahead for lodging during this peak season.
            • hippo lake kariba

              Lake Kariba

              Lake Kariba is landlocked Zimbabwe’s answer to the seaside: a massive manmade lake that provides a magical combination of water and wildlife … Situated in the north of the country and sharing a border with Zambia, Lake Kariba is best explored by a slow cruise on a houseboat over a few days. Whiling away hours spotting birds, hippos and crocodiles from the deck couldn’t be more relaxing, but you can also spend your days on smaller tender boats or canoes going fishing and spotting wildlife in Matusadona National Park on the lake’s shores.
            • relaxing in lake

              Highlights

              Cruising Lake Kariba on a houseboat is one of Zimbabwe’s top experiences. Spending a few days on a boat is the perfect way to unwind and soak up the magic of this vast watery wilderness and its beautiful islands … Matusadona National Park lies on the southern shores of Lake Kariba and is home to the Big Five, as well as 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 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 attraction of the lake, and there’s an international tigerfishing tournament held here each October. Houseboats offer fishing trips, or you can book a specific fishing safari.
            • walking safari lake kariba

              Practical advice

              June to October is the best time to visit Lake Kariba for wildlife viewing, although be aware that September and October are extremely hot months … Don’t be tempted to swim in the lake, and be careful when you’re 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.
              • landscape

                Mana Pools National Park

                Regarded as being both Zimbabwe’s best park and one of the finest wilderness areas in Africa, Mana Pools National Park is a superb safari destination … Situated at the northern most point of Zimbabwe straddling the Zambian border, Mana Pools is remarkably beautiful: a riverine wilderness on the Zambezi River of pools, floodplains, baobab trees and forests that feels totally remote and never gets crowded. The park is famous for its huge elephant herds and is known for great sightings of lion and leopard as well as being one of the best places in Africa to find endangered wild dogs. The appeal of the park is not just its wildlife – it’s how you get to experience the bush in immersive ways: staying in unfenced campsites in the midst of the wilderness and going on walking and canoeing safaris to see animals without the noise of a car. Mana Pools is also one of the only parks in Africa where you can walk without a guide (although this isn’t recommended for safety reasons unless you have a lot of bush experience).
              • elephants mana pools

                Highlights

                Staying in one of Mana Pool’s exclusive unfenced campsites along the Zambezi River is a highlight for many intrepid visitors to the park … Booking one of these campsites for just your group means you’ll be able to have a totally wild experience in the bush with no one else around – just the wild animals that might wander in between your tents. Mana Pools is one of Africa’s best places to do walking safaris – the thin vegetation means that visibility is excellent, so you’ll have the chance to get up close to big game. In addition, the walking guides in the park are among the best in Africa. Canoeing safaris in Mana Pools are an incredible way to experience raw nature at its best: you spend your days paddling along the Zambezi past pods of hippos and scores of animals drinking on the banks, and at night time you’ll camp under the stars on untouched islands.
              • walking safari mana pools

                Practical advice

                It’s essential that you book ahead for a stay in Mana Pools, whether you’re going to be staying at a luxury camp or at one of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s campsites or lodges … Since the campsites are unfenced, it’s not advisable to camp with young children under the age of 12 – rather stay at a lodge. It’s important that you stay vigilant of animals when you stay in a campsite: always keep your distance from any animal, never leave food lying around and don’t stray too far from your tent at night. The park has a “carry in, carry out” policy, so you’ll need to burn your combustible trash every night in camp and take your non-combustible trash back out with you. It’s highly recommended that you have a 4x4 if you’re self-driving in Mana Pools. While you are allowed to walk without a guide on the floodplain area, it’s not advisable to do it unless you are very experienced in the bush. It’s best to book a guided walking safari instead. The ideal time to visit Mana Pools is during the dry season from June to October when vegetation is at its driest, making wildlife sightings much easier. Many roads Mana Pools are closed the rainy season between November and April. During this period, the best way to see the park is on a canoe safari.

              Holiday and safari styles

              South Africa’s Top Attractions

              • Big Five safari in Zimbabwe

                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.

                big five elephant

                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. 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.

                rhino

                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.

              • Birding safari in Zimbabwe

                african pitta
                African pitta

                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.

                african spotted creeper

                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.

                lillians love bird
                Lillian’s lovebird

                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.

              • Romantic getaways in Zimbabwe

                romantic sundowners lake kariba

                A holiday 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.

                romantic bush walks

                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 holiday is getting off grid and back to basics, there’s plenty of that in Zimbabwe. Hire a 4x4 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.

              • A relaxing safari holiday in Zimbabwe

                ilala lodge
                Ilala Lodge

                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.

                relaxing matusadona

                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.

                sundowners

                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.

              • Walking safaris in Zimbabwe

                walking safaris zimbabwe

                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.

                linkwasha camp hwange

                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 unending 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 elephant, 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 sites.
                • Elephant’s Eye in Hwange NP, offer walking safaris that showcase the best of the park and its surrounding, fenceless concession.

              • Photographic safaris in Zimbabwe

                elephants in lake kariba national park

                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.

              • An adventure safari in Zimbabwe

                With its vast wildernesses, 4x4-only areas, wild campsites and even wilder animals, Zimbabwe is full of endless adventures.

                gorge swing victoria falls
                Gorge swing, Victoria Falls

                If you like your 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.

                mana pools hippo

                For longer adventures, you can launch off on 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 an 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 with a qualified guide are an adventurous and 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 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.

                mana pools self drive safari
                Credit: Manapools.com

                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 and have some 4x4 experience, then head to Gonarezhou National Park in the south-east, where you’ll find rough roads, unfenced campsites and not many other tourists in a beautiful landscape of sandstone cliffs and mopane woodland that is home to some 11 000 elephants roam and a host of other animals. Another 4x4-only adventure 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.

              • Active safaris in Zimbabwe

                Zimbabwe is a perfect destination for an exciting active holiday: the country is full of outdoors activities in the bush and the mountains.

                matobo national park

                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.

                bush walks

                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.

                horseback safari zimbabwe

                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.

                tigerfishing lower

                Fishing is a popular activity in Zimbabwe, and there are several places where you can cast your line: catch tigerfish, 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.

              • Foodie holiday in Zimbabwe

                ilala lodge cuisine
                Cuisine at Ilala Lodge

                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.

              Where to go

              Regions of Zimbabwe

              • Eastern Highlands

                autumn in eastern highlands
                Credit: Taisequa Estate

                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.

                hiking nyangani

                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.

                • Highlights of Eastern Highlands

                  Zimbabwe’s oldest national park, Nyanga National Park is made up of beautiful landscapes of rolling hills, 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.

                  bvumba botanical gardens

                  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.

                  chimanimani

                  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.

              • Southern Zimbabwe

                Southern Zimbabwe stretches along the border with South Africa, and Beitbridge – the busiest border post in southern Africa – is a main entrance point for self-drivers to Zimbabwe. Most destinations in the south are easily accessible for self-drivers: 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 stop. Meanwhile, to the centre of the country, Great Zimbabwe is a must-see: ancient archaeological ruins tell a fascinating story about Zimbabwe’s past. Less easy to reach – and therefore visited by few tourists – Gonarezhou National Park in the south east is a truly rugged wilderness with amazing wildlife diversity and birdlife.

                chobe river
                Credit: Be My Travel Muse
                • Highlights of Southern Zimbabwe
                  rhinos in matobo national park

                  With 3 000 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 incredibly beautiful and is a haven for white and black rhino, and also boasts Zimbabwe’s largest concentration of leopard. While Matobo is suitable for self-driving in a 2x4 vehicle, but it’s also a fantastic place to do a walking safari and experience the landscapes and wildlife on foot. Another archaeological treasure in the south of the country 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 definitely worth spending at least a day here and it’s a good idea to hire a guide to take you through the history of the site so that you know what you’re looking at as you explore the stone walls and passageways.

                  khami ruins

                  To the west of Great Zimbabwe is another UNESCO World Heritage-awarded archaeological site - the Khami Ruins – which has been partially reconstructed to create a fascinating historical sight which is definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area. Close by, Bulawayo is used by some travellers merely as a stop off point, but Zimbabwe’s second city has a lot of charm to tempt a stay of a few days, from graceful colonial architecture to interesting museums.

                  wild dogs gonarezhou

                  In a remote corner of south-eastern Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe’s second largest reserve, is a real untamed wilderness with no tarred roads, only unfenced campsites and few visitors. Amongst magnificent landscapes of 200-metre-tall red sandstone cliffs, huge floodplains and vast mopane woodland roams a huge diversity of animals, from wild dog and lions to nyala antelope and some 11 000 elephants. Gonarezhou forms the vast Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park – an ambitious conservation project that is still under development – with South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park.

              • Northern Zimbabwe

                For many visitors the gateway to Zimbabwe is Victoria Falls’ international airport. The town of Victoria Falls is a great place to start a Zimbabwe holiday, as not only can you see the famous waterfalls, but there are also loads of exciting adventures on offer in the town and its surrounding area – everything from horseback safaris in the nearby Zambezi National Park to thrilling white-water rafting in the Zambezi River.

                white water rafting

                An hour’s drive away from Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park is easily accessible and also suitable for self-drivers without a 4x4, and a great destination to combine with spending a few days in Victoria Falls. 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’s game viewing to do from the houseboat itself, but you can also stay at a lodge on an island or on the mainland in Matusadona National Park, where you can spot the Big Five.

                lake kariba

                If you travel to Lake Kariba it definitely makes sense to head further east and add Mana Pools National Park to your itinerary. Mana Pools may not be Zimbabwe’s most easily accessible reserve (you’ll need to have a 4x4 to explore on your own), but this unspoiled wilderness is undoubtedly one of Africa’s greatest parks and an excellent place to do walking and canoeing safaris.

                • Highlights of Northern Zimbabwe
                  flight over victoria falls

                  Victoria Falls is Zimbabwe’s most visited attraction and one of Africa’s most thrilling natural wonders: a wide expanse of cascading water roaring down 108-metre-high cliffs. Once you’ve seen the falls on from the mist-drenched footpaths, you can get an aerial view in a helicopter – or for the brave – from the back of a tiny microlight. Besides waterfall-related activities, there are plenty of other adventures on offer in the town next to the falls and in the surrounding area. You can get your heart pumping on a white-water 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.

                  elephants hwange 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, both black and white rhino, lots of lion 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 huge 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 simply soak up the sun on deck. Matusadona National Park, which lies on the shores of Lake Kariba, is a wonderful Big Five reserve where you can do wildlife viewing either from boats on the lake or from lodges in the north of the park or on islands. The park is particularly good for buffalo, leopard, hyena and lion, while more than 240 species of birds, including an impressive array of water birds, will keep the birders happy.

                  bee eater matsudona

                  For a wild safari adventure, there aren’t many better places on the continent than Mana Pools National Park, a haven for abundant animal life – huge elephant herds, lots of buffalo, high concentration of wild dog as well as lion, leopard and cheetah in an exceptionally beautiful riverine habitat. You can explore the park by 4x4 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 travellers 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 leopard.

              • Almost all visitors from abroad fly to South Africa. The main hub for international flights is OR Tambo International Airport on the outskirts of Johannesburg, but some carriers also operate international flights to Cape Town and/or Durban.

                The national carrier SAA, operates an extensive network of flights between Johannesburg and a large number of major cities in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and elsewhere in Africa.

                rhino
                Black rhino and calf in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve

                Most major international carriers operate direct flights between their home country and South Africa, among them Air China, Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, EgyptAir, EL AL, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad, Iberia, Kenya Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar, RwandAir, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic,. Particularly coming from a major European city such as London or Paris, there might be dozens of indirect options and you can save a lot of money by shopping around.

                namaqua daisies
                Each year the landscape of Namaqualand bursts into bloom as a carpet of wildflowers cover the earth | Credit: Northern Cape Tourism

                It is also possible to enter South Africa overland from the neighbouring countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, but you’d only be likely to do so as part of an extended overland trip through Africa.

                There are overland borders with the Kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland, the former surrounded entirely and the latter on three sides by South Africa. It’s highly unlikely anybody would enter South Africa directly via either of these small countries, but some itineraries pass through them (Swaziland in particular) in which case any visitor who requires a visa should apply for multiple-entry.

              Back to regions

              When to go

              When to visit Zimbabwe?

              • January
                Except a lot of rain during January
                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
                hornbill
                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
                cheetah
                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.
              • April
                elephant in zimbabwe
                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.
              • May
                lion in zimbabwe
                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.
              • June
                game viewing
                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
                canoeing mana pools
                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
                elephant
                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.
              • September
                cheetah
                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.
              • October
                elephants in hwange
                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.
              • November
                african thunderstorm
                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
                birding safari
                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.

              Why Zimbabwe?

              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.

              lions in hwange national

              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.

              canoeing in zimbabwe

              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 elephants on the shore is one of the continent’s greatest wilderness experiences.

              Type of traveller

              What type of traveller are you?

              • Travelling as a couple in Zimbabwe

                couple travel in zimbabwe

                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.

                • Highlights

                  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.

                • Practical advice

                  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. 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

              • Solo travelling through Zimbabwe

                solo travel in zimbabwe

                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 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.

                • Highlights

                  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.

                • Practical advice
                  • 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 4x4 trips then rather join a guided tour or team up with some other travellers.
              • Family safari holidays in Zimbabwe

                family travel in zim

                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.

                family travel game drive
                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.
                family travel in zimbabwe imvelo lodge
                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.

                • Highlights

                  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.

                • Practical advice
                  • 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.

              Budgeting for Zimbabwe

              Budgeting for a Zimbabwe safari

              • Budget travel in Zimbabwe

                camping mana pools

                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.

                Try our African Safari Cost Calculator
              • An affordable Zimbabwe safari

                hwange national park

                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. Arranging a group tour with your operator will save on costs and afford you the opportunity to meet new people.

                Try our African Safari Cost Calculator
              • Luxury Zimbabwe safari

                linkwasha camp
                Linkwasha Camp

                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.

                Try our African Safari Cost Calculator

              The Basics

              • Travelling to Zimbabwe
                harare airport

                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
                microflight oveer victoria falls

                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
                hwange national park elephants

                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.

                lake kariba

                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.

                wild dogs in zimbabwe

                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.

                leopard

                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.

                gonarezhou national park

                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
                • ndebele people
                  Ndebele ceremony

                  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?
                police in zimbabwe

                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
                a market 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.

              Travel advice

              Travel advice for Zimbabwe

                • Visa requirements for Zimbabwe

                  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).

                • Vaccinations for Zimbabwe

                  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.

                • Health care in Zimbabwe

                  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.

                • Emergencies in Zimbabwe

                  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.

                • Lodges in Zimbabwe
                  lodges in zimbabwe

                  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.

                • Tipping in Zimbabwe
                  service excellence in zimbabwe

                  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.

              • Zimbabwe or Botswana

                okavango delta
                The Okavango Delta’s stunning colours

                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.

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              • Botswana vs Namibia

                cape town
                South Africa has some of the best beaches in the world

                South Africa has it all: 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. Landlocked Zimbabwe can’t compete with South Africa in terms of this diversity, but what it does have is some truly wild and rugged national parks and far fewer tourists, so if getting away from it all is your priority, then Zimbabwe 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 4x4 adventures and wild camping in Zimbabwe are superb.

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