Zimbabwe is a song which, once heard, is never forgotten; a mood to suit the needs of any soul, any time; a spell that binds all those who know her. Her voice brings forth many melodies.
A landlocked country in southern Africa, Zimbabwe derives its name from dzimba dzemabwe or “houses of stone” in Shona. Its use as the country’s name is in tribute to Great Zimbabwe, the site of the capital of the Munhumutapa Empire.
Zimbabwe is rich in geographic and topographic diversity and it boasts low-lying semi-desert in the northwest to lush highlands strewn with forests and lakes in the eastern part of the country.
Zimbabwean guides’ training has set a high standard for the safari industry. Zimbabwe safaris offer a true smorgasbord of activities: white water rafting, kayaking, canoeing, hiking and game viewing by foot, open vehicle and boat.
Favorite Accommodations in Zimbabwe
Little Makalolo Camp Hwange
Somalisa Camp Hwange
Camelthorn Lodge Hwange
Ruckomechi Camp Lower Zambezi
Mana Canoe Trail Zambezi Valley
Ilala Lodge Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls Hotel Victoria Falls
Zimbabwe offers a large variety of eco-systems, one of the African continent’s finest and largest concentrations of wildlife, a perfect climate and a rich safari history. The best game viewing areas of Zimbabwe are in the country’s northern National Parks. Hwange, Matusadona and Mana Pools are legendary, as well as world-renowned Victoria Falls.
Perhaps the single greatest scenic wonder in Africa, Victoria Falls has been attracting travelers for more than a century—since Dr. David Livingstone reported its existence to the outside world in the mid-19th century. This legendary waterfall, largest in the world, is created by the entire mile-wide Zambezi River plummeting into a huge chasm that separates Zimbabwe and Zambia. In the local language, Victoria Falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders.”
Sizable resort towns have grown up around the falls, both on the Zimbabwe and Zambia side. The most atmosphere-filled place to stay is the old Victoria Falls Hotel. There are numerous other excellent hotel choices to fit every taste and pocketbook.
It’s easy to spend three days in VF area. There is a wide variety of activities available in the region. Spend three unforgettable days taking trips on foot, or hop onto the optional ‘Flight of Angels’ for a panoramic aerial view, while enjoying the lavish service of the ornate Victoria Falls hotel, an opulent building in the grandest colonial sites after picturesque game viewing. There are numerous other excellent hotel choices to fit every taste and pocketbook.
Hwange National Park, the largest park in Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe’s wildlife showcase is best known for its big elephant herds intermingling with 40 other species of mammals and 400 species of birds. Hwange is a dry park (no lakes or streams) but waterholes created throughout the park attract and sustain an enormous array of animal life and provide excellent game viewing. Wildlife viewing is mostly done from open safari vehicles or at watering holes near camps and lodges.
LAKE KARIBA & MATUSADONA NATIONAL PARK
In 1958, the Kariba Dam created 120-mile-long Lake Kariba, an inland sea of great beauty that attracts abundant wildlife. The lake is famous for its “drowned forests”—upright remnants of trees left in the rising waters that created the lake. The blackened trees make picturesque perches for the lake’s exotic birdlife, and often one sees crocodiles and hippos in the lake’s waters. There are also big populations of elephant, lion, and cape buffalo. Some 40-50 rhinos inhabit the park, but they are intensely protected and can only be seen on special guided walking safaris. The lake is interesting in itself, with its fishing fleet, spectacular sunsets, and blue-black mountains sloping to its forested shores. There are a number of very good lodges in the region. We recommend at least two nights in the lake region, more if possible.
Matusadona National Park takes up 1400 square kilometers on Lake Kariba’s southern shore, and there are dense wildlife populations here. From the town of Kariba near the dam, short charter flights or high speed boats take visitors to safari lodges for wildlife viewing in small motor-powered boats or in open safari vehicles. Some lodges offer wildlife walks or canoeing, activities that include an armed professional guide for protection against wildlife.
MANA POOLS NATIONAL PARK & LOWER ZAMBEZI RIVER
Below Kariba Dam, the Zambezi River flows unimpeded for 167 scenic miles through a stunning wilderness that is perfect for canoe safaris. The canoe safari is one of Zimbabwe’s unique and best experiences. There is wildlife all along the river, with the largest concentrations in Mana Pools National Park (Zimbabwe side of the river) and Lower Zambezi National Park (Zambia side). Canoe safaris can last three to ten days and are available all year.
Mana Pools, where the Zambezi flows through a wide valley, is a wildlife paradise with an abundance of hippos, lions, elephants, and cape buffaloes, seen in the background of spectacular bird watching. In recognition of its ecological significance, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Adjacent to Mana Pools are several safari lodges that offer wildlife drives and walking trips. Two nights is a minimum stay here, and we recommend three because it takes time (and expense, if you charter a flight) to get to some of the lodges. Mana Pools National Park is closed from the end of November to the first of April because of the rainy season. Some lodges on the Zambia side remain open all year using riverboat access from the Kafue/Zambezi River confluence.
THE EASTERN HIGHLANDS
Stretching some 180 miles from north to south along Zimbabwe’s eastern border is a mountain chain known as the Eastern Highlands, a place of striking beauty that reminded homesick British settlers of Scotland. The highlands range from gentle, rolling moorlands to the rugged granite peaks of Chimanimani National Park. The attraction here isn’t wildlife—it’s great hiking and fabulous scenery unlike any other place in Africa. The Eastern Highlands are popular in regional tourism for hiking, golfing, horseback riding, and birdwatching. There are several luxurious hotels and resorts.
Further south is an archipelago of forested peaks called the Vumba Mountains (meaning “misty mountains”), home of the Vumba and Bunga Botanical Reserves, with their amazing range of shrubs and trees gathered from all over the world. The Vumba reserve is of special interest to birders, and includes an English country garden and teahouse on an ornamental lake. At the southern end of the Eastern Highlands is Chimanimani National Park, accessible only to hikers. This hiking paradise has big sandstone peaks, savanna valleys, wildlife that includes baboons and antelopes, and there’s wonderful birding.
GONAREZHOU NATIONAL PARK
Bordering South Africa and Mozambique lies Gonarezhou (“place of the elephant”); Zimbabwe’s most recently created park. This 5,000-square-kilometer park is not yet on the beaten track—it’s a place your friends probably haven’t been! It’s a true wilderness and an extraordinary landscape that shelters a profusion of rare species. In time, it will become more formally linked with the wildlife parks in adjoining countries. As wildlife is reintroduced to Gonarezhou, it may become one of the largest private reserves in all Africa. Foot safaris are possible here, and the park is worth a two-night visit if you are touring Eastern Zimbabwe. There are several fine lodges in the area.
Built by the Shona ancestors of modern Zimbabweans, Great Zimbabwe is one of the most extraordinary man-made remains in Africa and the most significant ancient monument south of the Sahara. The modern nation of Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) took its name from this haunting, ancient city, which prospered between the 12th and 15th centuries. A long granite wall, a citadel, and number of stone buildings remain, and there is a small museum. It’s a pleasant place to walk around in, especially in the mornings and evenings in order to enjoy the changing light. The Great Zimbabwe Hotel (a Zim Sun hotel) is just a few minutes from the entrance gate and the Touch the Wild Lodge is nearby. An excellent road connects Great Zimbabwe with Harare.
MATOBO NATIONAL PARK
Matobo National Park is one of Zimbabwe’s prime attractions, and is just an hour’s drive from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. The park is a wondrous world of granite rock outcroppings with walking trails, spectacular scenery, and ancient San rock paintings. There are a number of lodges in the area, and the wildlife possibilities include white rhino, giraffe, zebra, and leopard. Matobo also has the world’s largest concentration of nesting black eagles. The park includes the stone ruins of Khami, capital of the Torwa civilization that once flourished here, and the burial sites of 19th century Ndebele chieftain Mzilikazi and colonial kingpin Cecil Rhodes.
ZIMBABWE CUSTOM SAFARIS
12-DAY Mana Pools and Cape Town Sample Itinerary
This unique itinerary offers plenty of time to explore a wide variety of eco-systems in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools before continuing on to Vic Falls and finishing with a few days touring in the Cape.
ITINERARY IN BRIEF
Day 1 Arrive in Harare, overnight at Guinea Fowls Rest B&B
Day 2 Shared charter to Mana Pools, transfer for 3 nights at Kanga Camp
Day 3-4 Safari activities in Mana Pools interior from Kanga Camp
Day 5 Game-drive transfer across Mana Pools for 3 nights at Zambezi Expeditions Camp
Day 6-7 Game viewing activities in Mana Pools riverfront from Zambezi Expeditions Camp
Day 8 Shared charter to Victoria Falls, transfer for 2 nights at Ilala Lodge
Day 9 Day at leisure to explore Victoria Falls from Ilala Lodge
Day 10 Scheduled flight to Cape Town, via Joburg, for 3 nights at Welgelegen Boutique Hotel
Day 11 Shark Safari & private Cape Peninsula Tour, overnight Welgelegen
Day 12 Half-day scheduled Cape Town City Tour, overnight Welgelegen
Day 13 Morning at leisure, transfer to airport for international departure
Review the full itinerary here.
15 DAY CUSTOM ZIMBABWE WALKING SAFARI with South Africa: Hwange, Mana Pools, Vic Falls and Marakele
This custom itinerary mixes luxurious lodges in South Africa’s Marakele region and Zimbabwe’s stunning Mana Pools with a unique multi-night walking safari in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park ending with a few nights in charming Vic Falls.
ITINERARY IN BRIEF
Day 01 Arrive in Johannesburg, overnight at City Lodge at OR Tambo Airport (1 nt)
Day 02 Private road transfer to Marakele National Park, transfer to Marataba Safari Lodge (4 nts)
Day 03-05 Game viewing activities from Marataba Safari Lodge
Day 06 Private road transfer to JNB, overnight at City Lodge at OR Tambo Airport (1 nt)
Day 07 Scheduled flight to Harare, light aircraft transfer to Mana Pools, Ruckomechi Camp (3 nts)
Day 08-09 Wildlife viewing in the Mana Pools area from your base at Ruckomechi Camp
Day 10 Light aircraft transfer to Hwange National Park, Little Makalolo Camp (1 nt)
Day 11-12 Walking safari in Hwange (2 nts)
Day 13 Conclude walking safari at Linkwasha Camp (1 nt)
Day 14 Light aircraft transfer to Victoria Falls Airport, transfer to Victoria Falls Hotel (2 nts)
Day 15 Full day to explore Victoria Falls area from Victoria Falls Hotel
Day 16 Transfer to Victoria Falls Airport, scheduled flight to JNB for international departure
Review the full itinerary here.
13 DAY CUSTOM FAMILY SAFARI IN SOUTH AFRICA AND ZIMBABWE: Sabi Sands, Hwange and Vic Falls
Day 5: Fly JNB to VFA (flight booked separately, estimate below), where you are met and transferred to The Elephant Camp for 2 nights in a Family Tent including all meals, local brand drinks, complimentary in room mini bar, lunch at the Lookout Cafe (on request and including drinks), return Victoria Falls Airport transfers, 2 transfers into Victoria Falls town per day and laundry. Around 3:30pm, you’ll be transferred to the waterfront for a Sunset Cruise (about 2 hours on The Zambezi Royal) including snacks and local brand drinks. Return transfer to camp for dinner.
Day 6: After breakfast, you’ll be collected at 09:00 for transfer to the helipad where you’ll board a Scenic Helicopter Flight (about 12 minutes, $14pp government fee must be paid direct). Following this, by about 10:00am, you’ll be transferred nearby for a guided tour of the falls and surrounding rainforest on foot (includes entrance fee of $30pp). After this, you have lunch at the Lookout Cafe (meal & drinks here are included in the Elephant Camp rate). This afternoon, you can visit the local school, do some shopping or return to enjoy your room and dinner at Elephant Camp. Complimentary lodge activities include: sundowners at Batoka Gorge, meeting the Wild Horizons elephants (does not include a ride), interaction with Sylvester the Cheetah Ambassador (at Managements discretion), birding and nature walks on the concession, village tour and a visit to the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. All meals and overnight are at Elephant Camp.
Day 8-9: You have two full days to enjoy wildlife viewing activities near Ngamo Pan in Hwange National Park from your base at Camelthorn Lodge. Activities include: game drives, game walks, night drives, day excursions, hide sits, a school tour and village visit.
Day 10: Shared road transfer to Ngamo Siding where you board the Elephant Express and ride the rails for about 70 kilometers along the border of Hwange National Park. The trip takes around two hours depending on the game viewing from the train. You disembark at Impofu Siding where you are met and transferred to Nehimba Lodge. Your 3 night stay in a Family Chalet includes All meals, local brand drinks, 2 scheduled safari activities daily, National Park fees, transfer from Shapi airstrip and laundry.
Day 11-12: You have two full days to enjoy wildlife viewing activities in the central woodlands of Hwange National Park from your base at Nehimba Lodge. Activities include: game drives, walks, night drives, all day excursions, hide sits and night drives.
Day 13: Shared road transfer to Victoria Falls, about 4 hours, where you connect a regional flight to JNB (flight booked separately, estimate below) for your international departure.
Zimbabwe Safari Destinations
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