Known for its diversity and breath-taking natural beauty, Zimbabwe might not be the first destination on most travellers’ bucket lists, but it’s well worth heading off the beaten track to explore this African gem. As well as the opportunity to get up close and personal with the country’s fascinating nature and wildlife and uncover an incredible history, one of the country’s major draws is its friendly people, who always provide service with a smile and go the extra mile to welcome visitors.
Located on the Zambezi River, approximately halfway between the river’s mouth and source, Lake Kariba is the largest artificial lake in the world by volume. It lies on the border between Zimbabwe and its neighbour Zambia, roughly 800 miles upstream from the Indian Ocean. Filled between 1958 and 1963 after the Kariba Dam was finished, the lake flooded the river’s Kariba Gorge, and is more than 140 miles long and can measure up to 20 miles in width!
Before the lake was filled, the area’s vegetation was burned to create a thick layer of fertile soil on the lake’s bed. As a result of this, an abundance of wildlife calls the lake home, with residents including kapenta and tiger fish, as well as birds such as the fish eagle and cormorant, crocodiles and hippos. If you’re lucky, you might even spot an elephant or two! The sunsets here are pretty incredible too.
The Great Zimbabwe Ruins
A must for history buffs, The Great Zimbabwe Ruins is made up of stone buildings built in the eleventh century. Amongst the oldest ruins in South Africa, this historical site is located close to the town of Masvingo in central Zimbabwe and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Eight soap stone birds were found in these ruins.
If there’s anything guaranteed to make you want to visit Zimbabwe, it’s Victoria Falls. Located close to the border with Zambia, this small town is less than 2km from the Zambezi River. In comparison to the rest of Zimbabwe, the town was relatively unaffected by the country’s troubles during the last few years, but has still become much more buzzing and vibrant since, offering an ideal base for anyone wanting to see the nearby waterfalls. Boasting an array of local shops and stalls, the town has also had a lot of money pumped into it recently, with new restaurants opening and hotels being refurbished. Tea on the terrace at the renowned Victoria Falls Hotel is a must, as is a wander along the rainforest pathways to the falls. Listen out for those monkeys chattering in the trees!
It’s the ideal place to start and end a safari and can be easily reached from Zambia and Botswana too.
Hwange National Park
Proclaimed a National Park more than 75 years ago, Hwange is located on the border with Botswana and houses a huge variety of wildlife and plants across its 1.4 million hectares. Known for its herds of buffalo and elephant, the park provides fantastic game viewing opportunities and is home to more than 100 different species of mammal including jackals, foxes, hyenas, leopards, giraffes, hippos, wildcats and much more! A number of white rhino were also introduced to the park recently.
The park is also home to a number of birds such as red-billed spurfowl, crimson-breasted shrike, Kalahari scrub-robin, cut-throat finch, red-eyed bulbul and southern pied babbler. Summer also sees the number increased by migratory species such as black kites and broad-billed rollers.