Credit: Be My Travel Muse
Southern Zimbabwe stretches along the border with South Africa, and Beitbridge – the busiest border post in southern Africa – is the main entrance point for self-driver safari goers to enter Zimbabwe.
Most southern destinations are easily accessible for self-drivers on a Southern Zimbabwe safari. In the west, the pleasant town of Bulawayo and the scenic rock-art-filled Matobo National Park draw visitors, and the nearby Khami Ruins make for an interesting historical holiday.
Meanwhile, to the center of the country, Great Zimbabwe is a must-see on your Zimbabwe holiday. Ancient archaeological ruins tell a fascinating story about Zimbabwe’s past.
Less easy to reach on a Zimbabwe Holiday (and therefore visited by few tourists), Gonarezhou National Park in the southeast is a truly rugged wilderness with incredible wildlife diversity and perfect birding-safari opportunities.
Highlights of Southern Zimbabwe
With 3000 rock art sites (some dating back as far as 13 000 years) scattered amongst its towering boulders, Matobo National Park is one of the best places in Africa to see rock art.
Added to its archaeological importance, the park of forested valleys and granite kopjes is also stunning and is a haven for White and Black rhinos. Matobo National Park also boasts Zimbabwe’s largest concentration of leopards.
While Matobo is suitable for self-driving in a 2×4 vehicle, it’s also a fantastic place to do a walking safari and experience the landscapes and wildlife on foot.
Another archaeological treasure in the country’s south is the thousand-year-old ruins of Great Zimbabwe, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The rambling stone ruins are scattered across a 2000-acre area: the millennia-old remains of palaces of the ancient Kingdom of Zimbabwe.
It’s worth spending at least a day here on your southern Zimbabwe holiday. It’s a good idea to hire a guide to take you through the site’s history so that you know what you’re looking at as you explore the stone walls and passageways.
To the west of Great Zimbabwe is another UNESCO World Heritage-awarded archaeological site, the Khami Ruins. The Khami Ruins have been partially reconstructed to create a fascinating historical site worth a stop if you’re in the area on your southern Zimbabwe holiday.
Close by, Bulawayo is used by some travelers merely as a stop-off point. Still, Zimbabwe’s second city has a lot of charm to tempt a stay of a few days, from graceful colonial architecture to interesting museums.
In a remote corner of south-eastern Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe’s second largest reserve, is an untamed natural wilderness with no tarred roads, only unfenced campsites, and few visitors.
Amongst magnificent landscapes of 200m (656ft) tall red sandstone cliffs, huge floodplains, and vast mopane woodland roams a massive diversity of animals. Gonarezhou National Park houses wild dogs and lions, nyala antelope, and some 11 000 elephants.
Gonarezhou forms part of the vast Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, an ambitious conservation project still under development.
- Bordering on South Africa, southern Zimbabwe is easily reached if you’re driving from Johannesburg: the drive takes around six hours. The Beitbridge border post is extremely busy, and if you travel at peak times, particularly in December and January, you may have to wait for hours.
- Try to get to the border early in the morning, avoid travel on weekends and avoid using the touts to get you across.
Bulawayo is a good starting point for your Zimbabwe holiday, especially if you want to explore the south. There are several flights a day to the city from Johannesburg in South Africa.
- It’s best to visit Gonarezhou National Park during the dry months of June to October when wildlife viewing is at its best. During the rainy season, from November to April, parts of the park are closed, and from January to March, some lodges are shut. Matobo National Park is also best during the dry season, while some lodges may be shut in late summer (January to March).