Great Zimbabwe

Balancing Rocks, Harare

Tourism is Zimbabwe’s fastest-growing industry. The country offers a large variety of scenery, one of the African continent’s finest and largest concentrations of wildlife, a perfect climate (an average of 7 hours of sunshine daily throughout the year).

Places of interest include the Victoria Falls (one of the seven wonders of the world), Hwange National Park, Kariba, Gonarezhou National Park, Eastern Highlands, the Great Zimbabwe Monument, and Nyanga.

Extremely rare white rhinoceros

The magnificent spectacle of African Wildlife is a key factor in Zimbabwe’s tourism success. Tourists are either moved or excited by a sight of a herd of elephants moving with a ponderous grace to a waterhole, or rolling in mud-baths like children at play; a lion moving stealthily in pursuit of its quarry, herds of skittish wildebeest or neat zebra, or the see-saw gallop of giraffe. The “Big Five” i.e. elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhinoceros can all be seen in their natural habitats in the country. As one of the progressive countries in Africa in the field of wildlife management, Zimbabwe has reserved 5 million hectares, or 13% of the country’s land area, as parks and wildlife estates, conserving one of the largest remaining concentrations of animal life.

Musi-o-Tunya (the smoke that thunders) aka Victoria Falls.

The world-renowned Victoria Falls, which the local Kololo tribe calls Mosi-oa-tunya (the smoke that thunders), is one of Africa’s most scenic and enchanting sights. Re-named after Queen Victoria by the first white man to see them, David Livingstone in 1855, when local people showed him. The Victoria Falls has 545,000,000 litres of water plunging every minute into a chasm 106 metres deep, making them the tallest and grandest water falls in the world. The Zambezi River at the falls is over 1.6 kilometres wide.

The Falls have been declared national parks to preserve the area from excessive commercialization and is one of the four World Heritage sites found in Zimbabwe.

Situated a few kilometres upstream is the Zambezi National Park with game reserves of elephant, hippo, crocodile, zebra, and many bird species, including the largest herds of the rare sable antelope.

The Victoria Falls National Park covers the area immediately downstream from the Falls, and incorporates the numerous gorges that comprised the Falls in earlier ages.

Visitors occupy their sunny days on boat cruises on the Zambezi River, or take flights in small planes to photograph the Falls from the air, or view them from its many vantage points on a walk through the luxuriant growth of the Rain Forest, which is kept perpetually wet by the falling spray.

For the daring tourist, the Zambezi River offers such recreational activities as white-water rafting and kayaking, as well as canoeing trips. Bungi jumping on the Victoria Falls Bridge is certainly not for the faint-hearted. With first-class accommodation, Victoria Falls is accessible by road, air, rail, and boat.

One of the greatest engineering achievements of the century, the construction of the 122 metre high Kariba dam wall has tamed the strength of the great Zambezi, and created one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. On the shores of the 5180 square kilometer lake, picturesque resorts play host to visitors who come to sail, water ski, sunbathe, fish for the fighting tiger fish, for which Kariba has become famous, or gamble at the casino. Kariba is also fished commercially.

Eastern Highlands
An area noted for its beauty is the Eastern Highlands, along the Zimbabwe border with Mozambique. The main gateway to the region is Mutare, which lies cupped within the mountains. A short drive away is the scenic Vumba, an area of ancient forest, sub-tropic plants, and arrays of ferns and flower gardens at the Vumba Botanic Gardens. North of Mutare is Nyanga, a region of mountains, waterfalls, and trout streams. Visitors can walk amid magnificent scenery, play golf, fish, and enjoy the mountain air. Accommodation is provided at National Parks, rest cottages, and at fine hotels.


Herd of elephants
Herd of elephants

Hwange National Park
South of the Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve, with over 100 animal species, and more that 400 types of birds. In this vast game reserve are some of the largest herds of the huge African elephant and buffalo on the continent. Other animals in the park include lion, eland, giraffe, rhino, zebra, sable, kudu, and waterbuck.
Several hotels are located in close proximity to the park, including the luxurious Safari Lodge, and in addition, there are lodges, cottages, chalets, caravanning, camping at Main Camp, Sinamatela, and Robins Camps.

Matusadonha National Park
This park lies on the wild southern shore of Lake Kariba, and is accessible by rough and tared road from Karoi or by water from Kariba. Matusadonha provides unrivalled opportunities for game viewing, both by road and by water. Safari companies conduct organized safaris into the area on an all-inclusive basis.

Hippos at Fothergill Lake
Hippopotami at Fothergill Island

Chinhoyi Caves Recreational Park
This park is near the town of Chinhoyi, and is one of Zimbabwe’s most dramatic minor tourist attractions. A camping and picnic site is available for visitors. The caves are on the road to Kariba, 130 kilometres northwest of Harare. Here, there is a huge natural shaft 30 metres across and 45 metres deep. At the bottom of this shaft is a pool of crystal clear waters that divers have proved to be 100 metres deep.

Kyle Recreational Park
Situated near Masvingo, the park is one of the most beautiful sites in the country. Surrounded by mountains and on the shores of Lake Mtirikwi, the park provides luxury rest camp accommodation for the traveller. An antelope, giraffe, buffalo, and hippo can be seen there, but the park is especially noted for the rare animals, such as the white rhino.

Other national parks are Mana Pools, Gonarezhou, Chimanimani, Chizarira, and Matopos in Bulawayo. The ideal time for game viewing in Zimbabwe is from July to October.

Cheetah & cubs
Cheetah & her cubs

Safari Areas
Hunting is not only a popular sport, but it also helps to manage surplus game population. In some areas, controlled hunting is essential to proper wildlife management.

There are several safari areas in the Zambezi Valley below Kariba Dam, where elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and all species of antelope are to be found. Many of these may be hunted by arrangement with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. These are normally open from the beginning of May to the end of September, and cater for approximately 200 hunters a year.

Hotels, Resorts, and Camping Sites
Some of the most popular city and resort hotels are:

  • Harare: Meikles, Monomotapa Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Jameson Best Western, Ambassador, Cresta Lodge, and Oasis
  • Bulawayo: Holiday Inn, Bulawayo Sun
  • Gweru: Midlands
  • Masvingo: Chevron, Flamboyant, Great Zimbabwe Hotel
  • Mutare: Manica, Christmas Pass, Wise Owl
  • Nyanga: MontClair, Troutbeck Inn
  • Kariba: Caribbean Bay, Lake View Inn
  • Victoria Falls: Elephant Hills, The Victoria Falls Hotel, Makasa Sun Hotel

Some of the safari lodges are Bumi Hills, Mahenye, Hwange, Katete, Chikwenya. Zimbabwe, however, has a wide range of self catering accomodation.

Air Zimbabwe, the national airline, flies from the capital city base Harare International Airport to the second largest city, Bulawayo, and also to the tourist destinations Hwange, Kariba, and Victoria Falls. Within the region, Air Zimbabwe flies to Johannesburg, Durban, Capetown, Lusaka, Lilongwe, Maputo, Beira, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Windhoek, and Mauritius. The foreign airlines with regional flights services are as follows:

LAM, the Mozambican Airline, Air Malawi, Aero Zambia, South African Airways, Conair, also of South Africa, Air Namibia, TAAG Angolan Airlines, Air Botswana, Air Mauritius, Air Tanzania, Kenya Airways, Royal Swazi, Uganda Airlines, Ethiopia Airlines, Egypt Air, Cameroon Airlines, and Ghana Airways.

Internationally, Air Zimbabwe operates four weekly services to London.

Zimbabwe also has a very functional railway system and bus and coach services.

Copyright © 2007 Embassy of Zimbabwe