Zimbabwe

Introduction

Zimbabwe is the beautiful country once known as Rhodesia. It is landlocked and surrounded by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. The northern boundary is set by the Zambezi River, and during the period of full flood, the huge mass of water contributes to create one of the best and most famous spectacles of Africa: the Victoria Falls.
Once the centre of a huge empire based on trade with Africa’s east coast, this country was originally home to the Khoisan.

Migrating farmers from West Africa, ancestors of today’s Shona tribe and the builders of Great Zimbabwe, arrived in the 9th century while 19th century upheavals in South Africa’s Zulu kingdom saw the Ndebele people flee from Zululand and settle in western Zimbabwe.

A British colonial takeover was next and the country spent most of the 20th century as Rhodesia; the subsequent liberation war was a protracted and bitter one, culminating in Zimbabwe’s independence only in 1980.

Zimbabwe boasts good infrastructure, an educated and friendly population and abundant resources. Its wealth has been built on agriculture, especially tobacco, as well as mineral exports and tourism. The country has some of the world’s biggest platinum and diamond mines.

Once known as the Breadbasket of Africa, since 2000, Zimbabwe has undergone an economic collapse, but things are finally changing and getting better.

In an ideal world Zimbabwe would be one of those country that literally sells itself on the tourism market, due to its mix of habitats, this glorious country can boast a stunning biodiversity and a long history of wildlife conservation.

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HWANGE

Along the Zambezi many wildlife parks and reserve constitute a crucial centre of interest for the tourism. Wildlife reserves do not only live along the river, like the famous Hwange National Park, which lies close to the Vic Falls area, bordering Botswana. Hwange boasts a tremendous selection of wildlife with over 100 species of mammals and nearly 400 bird species recorded. The elephants of Hwange are world famous, as much as the Mana ones and the Park’s elephant population is one of the largest in the world.

MANA POOLS & CHITAKE

Floating along the Zambesi from the North East, we go through different spectacular wilderness areas, declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, because of the outstanding natural beauty and magnificent ecological and cultural qualities.

The first two areas, Chiwore and Sapi, are hunting concessions, and we need to slide  a little south to reach one of the best places for safari on Earth ( at least for us ): Mana Pools National Park.

The name “Mana” means “four” in the local Shona language. This applies to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River. These pools are the remnant ox-bow lakes that the Zambezi River carved out thousands of years ago. These 2,500 square kilometers of river frontage, islands, sandbanks and pools, flanked by forests of mahogany, wild figs, ebonies and baobabs, is one of the least developed national parks in Southern Africa. The lower part of the Zambesi River, during the rain season, floods over the land, creating true lakes, which move back during the dry period. In these months many animals, looking for food, populate the area, making it one of the most sought-after places for the observation of wildlife in Southern Africa. The main characteristic of Mana Pools is the official invitation to explore the park on foot, the walking safaris here took the idea of walking with wildlife a step further. Or maybe, a giant step.

If you are ready for a thrilling and unforgettable experience, Mana Pools should be your next destination! Ask us about the secrets of Chitake Springs, and you will enter in a new dimension of photographic safari!

LAKE KARIBA AND MATUSADONA

Moving along the river towards Botswana we cross another hunting reserve, Charara, to reach, at its end, the Lake Kariba, a real fresh water inland sea, 280km long and 40 km at its widest.

This lake was born when the Zambesi river was dammed in 1950s. This dam changed completely the geography of this area, and required a massive operation of animal rescue, called Operation Noah, which went on for 5 years and saved around 6000 animals that were relocated to the mainland.

The surroundings of the lake, today, host a great variety of African mammals, from elephants to buffalo, predators, antelope and a stunning birdlife.

The best place to enjoy a safari on the lakeshore is the Matusadona National Park, where land activities are enriched with boat safaris in a unique landscape.

Lake Kariba is a laid-back holiday playground with a wide choice of activities ideal for families, a hot, tropical climate, fantastic fishing, lots of boating choices, houseboats, motorboating, sailing, watersports and wildlife and safari opportunities second to none.

VICTORIA FALLS

All that we meet between Matusadona and the Vic Falls are hunting concessions, so in tour description we simply jump to one of the most famous tourism attraction of the world.

There is no question that the Victoria Falls is a scenic wonder.  The magnificence of the mighty Zambezi tumbling into a black, rocky 100m-deep gorge is astonishing. Should you visit the falls at peak flow, you will also feel the ground trembling under your feet. The “thundering cloud of smoke” rising from the falls can be seen from kilometers, it creates magnificent rainbows and a very high level of moisture that gives rise to the extraordinary ‘rainforest’ of verdant vegetation which grows along the lip of the gorge opposite the waterfall. Visitors on the Zimbabwean side of the Falls are able to walk through the ‘rainforest’ along nearly two-thirds of this lip, enjoying by far the most rewarding view of the waterfall,  a stone’s-throw away across the yawning gap of the gorge.

There is also a Zambian side to visit the Falls offering different experiences.

The Victoria Falls National Park host many species of antelopes, cape buffalo, white rhinos, hippos and crocs and might be a different idea to stay at the falls, to escape the crowd of the town.

This is an Adventure Destination, and thrilling activities await you: bungee jumping, rafting, canoe in the rapids or, if you are very brave, try a Gorge Swing or a Flying Fox across the gorge. Of course, lovely cruises on the Zambezi, classic tours of the Falls, scenic flights and also a Steam Train trip are activities much more common and largely appreciated. To discover everything about Vic Falls send us an email.

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WILDLIFE

Wildlife parks in Zimbabwe offer excellent game viewing, all of them are Big5 parks.

Hwange offers abundance of general game, with over 100 species present; it claims to host the largest population of elephants in the world, mainly toward the end of the dry season, when they group up and congregate around the waterholes. Predators are often seen, with all three of big cats and an impressive variety of antelope, including some rare species like the sable and the greater kudu. Wild dogs are another highlight of the park.

Mana Pools and Chitake Springs are for sure the most special parks you might have the privilege to explore: here you are invited to leave your vehicle and walk, approaching wildlife on foot.

We suggest that you always do this with a reputable expert guide, but the walking safaris are open to anyone who enter the park.

Here the light is unique, bluish, reddish, penetrating through the canopies of the trees it creates a surreal landscape, where elephants, predators, antelopes and big packs of wild dogs will be perfectly framed. Only rhinos are very hard to spot. The landscape includes islands and sandbanks fringed by riverine forest and baobab trees against a backdrop of the rugged Zambezi escarpment.

You have probably seen images of elephants eating from high branches of trees standing on their hind legs: then you have seen a sought after image form Mana! Boswell is a very famous elephant, maybe the most common protagonist of such images.

In the Zambesi, crocs, hippos, and elephant crossing will be on the daily menu, and also the carmine bee eaters will grab your attention during the canoe safaris.

Land activities, walking safaris and canoe safaris will give you an unforgettable experience.’

Chitake Springs is the harsh place where big herds of buffalo and prides of lions, together with all the other most interesting animals will show up very close to you, always on foot.

Here walking safaris are the main activity.

Matusadona National Park offers an excellent game viewing too, including both species of rhinos. All the Big5 are regularly spotted in a completely different landscape from Mana and Hwange: sunsets over the lake, with the mountains in the background, are spectacular.

During the dry season large herds of buffalo may be seen at the lakeshore, populated hippos and crocs. Antelopes include sable and roan.

Land activities, as well as boat cruises and other water based activities are typical of this enchanted place.

BIRDLIFE

There are over 650 species of birds, making Zimbabwe a fantastic birding destination.

Like in Botswana, here we won’t find endemic birds, but nearly-endemic and migrant birds will be present throughout the year.

“The Zambezi River and the floodplain is the main attraction. Here there are some specials. Rufous-bellied Heron and Long-toed Lapwing like the areas of fringing weed along the river banks and White-fronted Plover and African Skimmer favour the open sandbars for breeding; Collared Pratincole, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters visit in summer – the Southern Carmine Bee-eater colonies are vibrant with colour, with year-round White-fronted Bee-eater colonies along the steep banks. White-backed Night-heron do occur but are harder to find. Pel’s Fishing-owls are quite frequent around the National Park lodges and appear along the river at other spots occasionally.  Summer brings Woolly-necked Storks to the floodplain and through the woodlands you can find Ayres’s Hawk-eagle, Lilian’s Lovebird and Crowned Hornbill. Western Banded Snake-eagle and Red-necked Falcon can be spotted easily. The thickets produce Eastern Nicator, African Pitta, Red-capped Robin-chat, Bearded Scrub-robin and others. Collared Palm-thrush should be sought after in Ilala palm areas, whilst the cooler riverine has Black-throated Wattle-eye and Livingstone’s Flycatcher. Meves’s Starlings are just plain common! Purple-banded Sunbird and Collared Sunbird like the woodlands and riverine but Shelley’s Sunbird only occurs at wild mistletoe during the rains.”

“Matusadona and Lake Kariba. Being a clean and vast lake there is often not a lot to seen in the middle and bays, islands and estuaries are where you should look for waterbirds. Herons and egret fish the shores and amongst the water weed and to find night-herons it is best to explore the smaller narrowing channels overhung with dense trees up the river mouths. The Ume is great to explore and Western Banded Snake-eagles sit quietly in the tall trees and Senegal and White-browed Coucals forage low down; the wail of Trumpeter Hornbills resounds from riverine patches and down at the ground you can find Bearded Scrub-robins in the thicket tangles. You could be lucky and have a lion kill on the foreshores of Matusadona and get all the other vultures attending, with Bateleurs quartering the skyways and where African Fish-eagles are always calling. If you want Grey Crowned Crane try the Mukadzapela River of the park and look out for Black-bellied Bustards on the Panicum foreshores. Water Thick-knee and strident White-crowned Lapwings are common along the waterline; look out for Long-toed Lapwings where there are extensive stretches of Kariba weed – the shallow area between Zebra Island and the Kariba mainland is good when the water level is low. If you see a buffalo herd or rhino on the Matusadona foreshore check them out for Red and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers. If you on land, such as in the park or Bumi Hills, it is a good idea to search the dry thickets for Orange-winged Pytilia and Broad-tailed Paradise-whydahs could be near by – examine widowfinches carefully for the Green Widowfinch which is easily overlooked.”

“Hwange National Park. The park’s Bradfield Hornbill protected population is probably the highest in the world and the Yellow-billed Oxpecker probably the highest population in the subregion. The pans and surrounds are popular birdwatching spots withCommon Ostrich, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Woolly-necked and Saddle-billed Storks, Kori Bustards and Red-crested Korhaans, Southern Ground-hornbills, Secretarybirds, lapwings and a wide variety of waders, Collared and Black-winged Pratincoles, Three-banded Coursers, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Chestnut-backed and Grey-backed Sparrowlarks and many others to watch whilst you game-watch. Lion kills will bring in vultures and Marabou Storks and the park is an important area for many raptors including Bateleur, Tawny and Martial Eagle, African Hawk-eagle, Southern Pale Chanting-goshawk, Dickinson’s Kestrel, African and Eurasian Hobby, Red-necked Falcon and a wide of others plus harriers in the wet season. The pans themselves have herons and egrets, Dwarf Bittern, flamingos and ducks including Maccoa, Lesser Moorhen, terns and African Skimmer, and it is worth checking the more vegetated ones in the rains for Corn, Spotted, Striped and Baillon’s Crakes. The woodlands and drier bush and acacia have Southern Pied Babbler, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Arnot’s Chat, Kalahari Scrub-robin, Barred Wren-warbler and Stierling’s Wren-warbler, Tinkling Cisticola, Black-chested Prinia, Magpie Shrike and Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Meves’s Starling, Red-billed Buffalo-weaver, Orange-winged Pytilia, Shaft-tailed Whydah and Broad-tailed Paradise-whydah and Black-faced Waxbill.”   ( thanks to Birdlife Zimbabwe birdlifezimbabwe.org )

April to October

April to October is the best period, being the dry season, with many tourists only at vic Falls.

October might be very very hot in low areas like Mana Pools, but from a photographic point of view, Sept and Oct are our favorite months to photograph wildlife.

Skies are clear blue and no rain should occur. Towards October the scarce water sources will force animals to group at the few waterholes ( except along the Zambesi itself, but the waterhole around it will be crowded ) and will offer the best photographic opportunities mainly in areas like Chitake Springs ( a remote and wild area close to Mana Pools )

Hwange and Matusadona follow the same seasonality, Mana Pools is flooded between December and March.

November to March

This is the rainy season, most camps in Mana Pools along the Zambesi will be closed.

In this period, with regards to game viewing, the calving season and the bird watching offer the best opportunities of the year. Of course worst the disadvantage is the high tax of humidity.

As usual, in the green season, animals are harder to spot but the reward might be worthy.

Visit Vic Falls

Vic Falls deserve a different box, since they rely on the water level to astonish people: they might be “out of water “ from September/October until February, with water rising slowly reaching a peak around May- June: when full, the spray of these mighty falls can be so strong as to obscure the view of much of the Falls, leaving viewers drenched. In the low water season though, some special activities will be possible in the Zambian side, like swimming in the Devil’s pools during a visit at Livingston Island. Interested? Take a look at the Zambia page!

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MALARIA

Malaria is present in all the country, throughout the year, with the wet season  ( Oct to May ) being the more risky.

In some remote areas like Chitake Springs the tse-tse fly is still present.

Months from October to April carry the higher risk and taking all precautions, included an adequate prophylaxis is strongly advised.

It is essential to take all possible precautions to prevent mosquito bites, also in low risk areas, with suitable clothes, repellent,  mosquito nets.

Please go to your travel clinic in time before your departure, in order to have the appropriate suggestion for your specific case from a specialized doctor, who may prescribe prophylactic tablets to prevent malaria.

Be also aware of the fact that malaria can be contracted also if under prophylactic tablet, so in case  of symptoms like headache, muscular and joint pain, fever, shacking chills and in some cases nausea, diarrhea and fatigue consult a doctor immediately and  advice you travelled in malaria risk areas.

Symptoms usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite, even if some kind of infection can appear up to 4 years after the original bite and malaria tablets may delay the appearance of symptoms.

Vaccinations for Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Polio should be reviewed and updated if necessary. Yellow fever vaccination certificate required for travellers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travellers having transited more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

VISA

A Visa to enter Zimbabwe is required by several nationalities, please read the full details listed in this link.

A fee must be paid to get in the Country, and depending on your Country of origin it may change.

For most of the Countries the Entry Fee will be USD 30 for a single entry and 45 for a double entry.

Passport Requirements

All Categories need:

• Passport valid for a least 6 months from your date of entry.
• Return ticket to your country (or enough money to buy one)
• Sufficient funds to cover your stay in Zimbabwe
• Enough blank pages in your passport to fit the required entry visa.

CURRENCY

After the collapse of the Zimbabwe Dollar, Us Dollars are now the official currency.Bring cash in small bills (USD of recent emission ) as withdrawal at ATM is almost impossible, due to a severe cash shortage in the country.

Credit Cards are not welcome everywhere (or sometimes card machines just don’t work).

ELECTRICAL PLUGS

In Zimbabwe the power sockets are of type D and G. Check out the following pictures.We always recommend to bring a universal adaptor.

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