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Zimbabwe

Wild Zambezi waters and a venerable network of national parks
Overview

Despite its turbulent political history, Zimbabwe has one of Africa’s oldest national park systems, some of the continent’s finest wildlife guides, and one of the planet’s superstar attractions, Victoria Falls. Beyond the falls, Zimbabwe’s high plateaus, wooded savanna, and wetlands offer superb opportunities for wildlife viewing, fishing, boating, and more.

The natural starting point for any trip to Zimbabwe is Victoria Falls. Whether seen as an end in itself or a stepping-stone to points beyond, this most magnificent of African waterfalls is easily reached by air from adjoining countries, making it a worthy addition to any itinerary. The falls’ mile-wide, 355-foot drop is magnificent year-round, and the surrounding area offers unlimited outdoor adventures, including canoeing and white-water rafting along the Zambezi River.

Nearby, you’ll find Zimbabwe’s classic safari destination and its largest game reserve, Hwange National Park. Vast yet easily accessible, the park straddles a transitional zone between the burnt sands of the Kalahari and the savanna woodland and teak forest of the east. Among its hundreds of mammal and bird species are 30,000 elephants, whose antics you can spy on at close range from hides at the park’s water holes.

Zimbabwe’s ancient cultural roots are the focus at Matobo Hills, the country’s oldest national park. The striking granite outcrops here, sculpted by the elements into dramatic domes and spires, were home for millennia to San hunter-gatherers, whose vivid red-ochre paintings of battles, hunting expeditions, and African mammals have earned the park UNESCO World Heritage status.

North along the Zambezi River lies another UNESCO-listed site, Mana Pools National Park. This remote, undeveloped landscape is a paradise for game viewing and wildlife photography. During the December to March “emerald season,” the Zambezi’s floodplains explode with life as huge herds of buffalo and elephants come to drink at the park’s four permanent pools, joining year-round populations of hippos and crocodiles. Upriver, dazzling sunsets fill the big skies above Lake Kariba, a prime site for bird-watching, boating, and pursuing the elusive, razor-toothed tiger fish.

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Country Highlights & Attractions

  • Thrill to the roar of Victoria Falls, one of Africa’s great natural wonders
  • Raft the raging rapids of the Zambezi River
  • Spot giraffes, zebras, and vast elephant herds in Hwange National Park
  • Seek out ancient petroglyphs and rock formations in the Matobo Hills
  • Watch wildlife flock to the natural water holes of Mana Pools National Park
Wildlife

Wildlife in Zimbabwe

With some of Africa’s oldest national parks and best-trained guides, Zimbabwe offers excellent chances to see Africa’s “Big Five.” Legendary attractions include the massive elephant herds of Hwenge National Park and the seasonal explosion of migrating buffalo, impala, and other wild game at Mana Pools National Park.

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Kudu

Utterly handsome and standing proud at five feet tall, male kudu show off their impressive and instantly recognizable long, spiraled horns—often growing as long as they are tall!

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Elephants

With one of the largest elephant populations in the world, Hwange National Park—Zimbabwe’s largest and oldest game reserve—is the place to discover these iconic African giants.

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African Wild Dog

Zimbabwe is one of the last strongholds of the African wild dog, also known as the painted dog. Witnessing a pack of up to 30 individuals on the hunt is a thrilling spectacle.

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Lilac-breasted Roller

A relatively common bird in the dry woodland of Southern Africa, the lilac-breasted roller is a beauty to behold as it dives gracefully in search of insects.

Country Facts

Zimbabwe today seems to be known more for its recent tumultuous events and politics than for the natural beauty of its vast highlands and parks and their exceptional biodiversity, its rich culture and history, and exhilarating Victoria Falls. Your time in Zimbabwe on your CW safari is brief; staying in a historic hotel, there is plenty of time to take in the sight of the massive Victoria Falls of the Zambezi River on the border with Zambia.

Known in colonial days as Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe gained its independence from Great Britain in 1980. The capital city is Harare. While nominally a parliamentary democracy, Zimbabwe’s government since independence has been under the uninterrupted control of President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe, who won election as Zimbabwe’s first prime minister in 1980, abolished that office and declared himself president in 1987, simultaneously abolishing seats that had been set aside for whites in Zimbabwe’s parliament. In ensuing decades, Mugabe’s government has repeatedly come under criticism for alleged corruption, vote-rigging, intimidation, and fraud, and his tenure has been marked by a prolonged economic downturn. Despite the challenges of daily life, Zimbabweans provide a warm welcome to visitors.

Language & People

Zimbabwe’s official language is English. Shona and Sindebele (also called Ndebele) are also widely spoken throughout the country, along with a number of tribal dialects. Zimbabwe’s population of 14 million is made up of many ethnic groups and subgroups with diverse local traditions, of which the Bantu-speaking Shona people are a majority, with about 82 percent of the population; the Ndebele are the second-most populous group, at around 14 percent. About half of Zimbabwe’s people are syncretic (practicing a religion that contains some Christian and some indigenous beliefs), about a quarter are Christian, and just under a quarter practice indigenous beliefs. Muslims and other minority religious groups account for the remaining 1 percent.

Food & Drink

As in many African countries, cuisine in Zimbabwe relies on a few staple foods, the main one being “mealie meal” or cornmeal, served porridge-style, and for lunch and dinner accompanied by a savory vegetable, meat, or fish stew. African lager-style beers are widely enjoyed.

Weather & Elements

Zimbabwe is an ideal year-round destination. Despite its location in a tropical zone, its high altitudes result in a pleasant, moderate climate. Coolest months are May to October (winter) with average temperatures in the 70s F, and the hottest months are November through April (summer) with temperatures ranging from the 70s to the high 80s F. There is rainfall in summer, usually occurring in the later afternoon or evening, with sunshine prevailing the rest of the time.

Best months for viewing mammals: Sep–Oct; for white-water rafting: Aug–Dec; for botany: Dec–May.

Entry Requirements & Visas

U.S. citizens: Passports and visas are required, and visas (current fee $60 for a single-entry tourist visa) may be obtained by paying in cash at the port of entry. You will require a multiple-entry visa if you are considering a day visit to the Zambia side of Victoria Falls (not included in your tour, but optional). For most up-to-date visa information, see the Embassy of Zimbabwe website: www.zimbabwe-embassy.us.

For visa and passport assistance services, we recommend Travel Document Systems: www.traveldocs.com.

Currency

Zimbabwe does not have its own currency at this time; the U.S. dollar, South African rand, and British pound are among the foreign currencies widely accepted throughout the country, and prices are usually displayed in USD. Botswana’s pula is also accepted in the Victoria Falls area. Zimbabwe is a cash society, and credit cards and travelers checks are accepted at very few establishments. All departure taxes and many entrance fees must be paid in cash with U.S. dollars.

***IMPORTANT: Accessing cash through credit cards or debit cards can be a challenge. We recommend arriving with sufficient cash. There tends to be a shortage of small currency notes in Zimbabwe. We therefore suggest arriving with smaller notes.

Immunizations & Health

No immunizations are required to enter Zimbabwe, with the important exception that proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for all travelers traveling from, or transiting through, a country with yellow fever transmission.

Malaria medication, hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations are also generally recommended for all travelers. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: www.cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.

Electricity

Alternating current of 220/240v and 50Hz is used in Zimbabwe. Plug types are typically the type D and the British G plug.

Phone & Internet

Zimbabwe country code: +263

International access code calling out of Zimbabwe: 001

  • Cell-phone coverage throughout Zimbabwe cannot be guaranteed at all times, especially in remote areas.
  • Internet access is also limited and is not guaranteed at all accommodations.

For more information about Zimbabwe, see the national tourism board website: www.zimbabwetourism.net.

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Guides

Andrew Esterhuizen

Andre Esterhuizen (better known as ‘Chap’) gained Zimbabwe’s notoriously stringent Professional Guide qualification when he was just 22 years old, testimony to his dedication to this chosen career path. Born in Bulawayo, Chap attended the elite Christian Brothers College before serving his apprenticeship in the safari industry, although his experience in the outdoors began a long time before that during many childhood wilderness and camping trips with his family. Chap has worked as a freelance guide in many wild areas of Zimbabwe, as well as in the Selous in Tanzania, and, more recently, in Hwange and Matobo National Parks, where walking in historic areas is a specialty.

Andy Trivella

Andy was brought up in West Nicholson, Zimbabwe, a rural outpost of Matabeleland, where his father was an executive with an extensive cattle ranching, beef, and canning operation. Early years were spent on the farm followed by boarding school at Milton Secondary in Bulawayo. He served his apprenticeship as a tool, jig, and die maker but the day he qualified as a journeyman was the day he quit the workshop to follow a life outdoors in the African bushveld, always his first love! Licensed as a professional safari guide since 1999, he has worked in every big game park in Zimbabwe, as well as to Liuwa Plains and the Lower Zambezi in Zambia, specializing in Hwange National Park, famous for its elephants, and in Matopos National Park, famous for its black rhino.

1 Zimbabwe Safaris

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Safari: Victoria Falls & Undiscovered National Parks 10 Days / 9 Nights

Activities: Guided Walks, Cultural Visits, Spot the Big Five, Classic Games Drives, Boats and BeachesWhether soaring in a helicopter above the dramatic tumble of Victoria Falls or tracking elephant on foot through pristine grassland, Zimbabwe offers memories to last a lifetime. Explore Hwange National Park via 4x4, spotting cheetah, hippo, elephant, impala, zebra, and much more as you go

Highlights & Departures
Flight + Safari 13 Days / 12 Nights from $7,198 USD per person
  Safari Only from $5,498 USD per person
trip details

Highlights

  • With a knowledgeable guide, follow trails along the rim of Victoria Falls.
  • Get closer than you imagined possible to wild elephants inside a lodge’s innovative underground “look-up” blind.
  • Walk through conserved farmland into a remote village, where you’ll likely be joined by local children on their way to school.
  • Discover the fascinating history of Africa’s Cape-to-Cairo rail line as you ride along a stretch of it through Hwange’s backcountry.

Departure Dates


May 3-May 12Jun 13-Jun 22Oct 3-Oct 12

Also available as a Private departure - choose your own dates!

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Dry Season

Grass is short, so it’s easy to spot wildlife that is concentrated near waterholes.

Temperate Season

Ideal Safari season – wildlife is easy to track, and the weather is temperate.

Rainy Season

Tropical downpours mean an ideal season for birding and photography.

Light Rains

Cooler weather & nighttime rains mean animals are more active during the day.

Jan, Feb & Mar: The green season in Zimbabwe is a lush time to explore the bush without the crowds. Birding is excellent and Victoria Falls are at their height of volume. This is the wettest time of year in terms of rainfall. Average high: 90F. Average low: 68F.

Apr & May: Pleasant temperatures and fresh, clear weather make this an ideal time for a visit. Vegetation is still thick but, wildlife is active and birding remains excellent. The falls still put on a show with spray strong enough to soak you. Average high: 80F. Average low: 53F.

Jun, Jul, Aug, Sept & Oct: The high season in the parks and at the falls. Plenty of sunshine and a dry climate make it ideal for game viewing. Victoria Falls is most popular at this time with mid to low water levels allowing a full appreciation of the site. Average high: 82F. Average low: 50F.

Nov & Dec: The parks and the falls quiet down. The weather is hot and humidity on the rise but the wildlife sightings are excellent as they concentrate around water sources. With the onset of the rains, the opportunity to see newborn animals is good. Average high: 87F. Average low: 64F.

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