Zimbabwe’s political challenges and economic troubles have been well-documented over the years but despite the upheavals, the beautiful country has kept its tourist credentials firmly intact and travellers frequently return raving about all they have seen on their Zimbabwe safari. And well they should, for the country is stuffed to the brim with staggering landscapes, friendly people, and top-notch safari experiences. But where should you go? And how should you begin your planning? Well, right here of course! We’ve rounded up our 10 must-visit hotspots and how to include them in your Zimbabwe safari. Ready, set, plan…
1. Marvel at Victoria Falls
It will come as no surprise that our first recommended stop for a Zimbabwe safari is the country’s most famous and fabulous sight – Victoria Falls. It looks good on postcards but it’s even better in the flesh and if you’re heading to Zimbabwe, it would be rude not to pay a visit. With its own international airport, it’s the perfect place to start or end a trip and can be used as a base point for just about any Zimbabwe safari. Almost all of our Zimbabwe routes start or end in Victoria Falls – simply have a look for the one that fits your travel style and add camps, lodges and locations to suit.
2. Sleep out under the stars
If your middle name is ‘adventure’ then check out Little Makalolo’s infamous star beds for your Zimbabwe safari. The raised sleeping platforms overlook the wildlife-spotted Madison Pan in Hwange, and once you’re tucked up under the fluffy duvet, it’s just you, the wildlife and the exquisite celestial show above. Add a night in the star beds to any itinerary that goes through Hwange. ‘Zimbabwe in Style’ is one of our favourite trips – and it even includes a little R&R in Mozambique when you’re all safari-ed out.
3. A little bit of luxury
Zimbabwe is definitely our favourite rough and rugged destination, but if you’re looking for a spot of luxury amongst the bucket showers, a Zimbabwe safari will have you covered for that too. Try Singita Pamushana for all out, fairy-tale luxury in your very own private reserve, Malilangwe. Or how about the Elephant Camp at Vic Falls, an intimate, Afro-chic lodge with some of the best views of the world-famous waterfall?
4. Venture out on a walking safari in Hwange
In our opinion, no Zimbabwe safari would be complete without a walking safari, most specifically in Hwange. And what is it about Hwange that makes for such good wildlife-watching on foot? Firstly, the guides are some of the best on the continent, and secondly, the terrain is rather good-looking: think forested woodlands, granite hills and sprawling valleys that seem to last forever. Try a walking safari from firm favourite Davison’s Camp, or Somalisa Expeditions for a bush camp experience, or take things one step further and add on a stop in Zambia’s South Luangwa to really make the most of your walking trip. Our trip, ‘An Adventure in Zambia and Zimbabwe’, will show you how to do it.
5. Discover Gonarezhou
If we really had to choose, we would pick ‘An Exploration of Southern Zimbabwe’ as our favourite trip for a Zimbabwe safari. Not only does it spend time in hot spots Victoria Falls and Hwange, it also includes the wilderness of Gonarezhou. An unexplored gem in the south of the country, the park is home to herds of majestic elephant, and an array of rainbow-coloured birdlife. And you’ll probably be the only people there. Magic.
6. Canoe in Mana Pools
Another top-pick from the Timbuktu team for a Zimbabwe safari is a canoe expedition in Mana Pools.The beautiful national park sits on the lower section of the Zambezi and floating along the mighty river amongst herds of elephant and harrumphing hippo is a tranquil yet totally thrilling way to wildlife-watch. Our trip, ‘Walking Safaris and Canoe Expeditions’, does exactly what it says on the tin; we recommend adding Ruckomechi Camp for a short morning or afternoon paddle, or go the whole hog with the Mana Canoe Trail for an epic three nights on the water.
7. Cruise on Lake Kariba
One of the greatest, man-made lakes in the world, Kariba is a vast, shimmering spectacle, framed by the inky-black Matuzviadonha Mountains and surrounded by truly excellent game. The best way to see it is undoubtedly from the water and there are a variety of water-based modes of transport to choose from. We rather like the Matusadona Luxury Safari Cruiser, a sleek, seven-person yacht that will take you from pods of hippo to prides of lion in one nautical mile. Add it to the ‘Ultimate Zimbabwe’ trip and you’re sorted.
8. Visit the rock paintings at Matobo
Our guide to your Zimbabwe safari has so far focused on activities (which are some of the best on the continent, in our humble opinion), but if you’re a bit of a culture vulture don’t rule out Zimbabwe just yet. Matobo is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Southern Africa and home to a selection of fascinating rock art paintings, dating back almost 100,000 years. The area is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and the rocks and caves are definitely worthy of a visit. If this sounds like your cup of tea, check out our trip, the ‘Wonders of Western Zimbabwe’, for details on combining Matobo into your Zimbabwe safari.
9. Escape to the beach
It might be a landlocked country, but it’s not as hard as you might think to get your fix of ‘Vitamin Sea’ and powdery sand on a Zimbabwe safari. The easiest coast to head for is probably Mozambique, via a flight to Johannesburg, and then up to Maputo. Our ‘Wildlife and Waterfalls’ trip combines time in Vic Falls and Hwange, before jet setting you out to the beautiful Quirimbas Archipelago in Mozambique, but you could just as easily add on somewhere in Vilanculos or Inhambane to keep costs down.
10. Where else can I go?
The country’s central location, smack bang in the middle of the continent’s greatest safari destinations, makes it easy to turn your Zimbabwe safari into a multi-country trip. If Botswana is also on your bucket list, check out the ‘Elephant Encounters’ trip that combines Vic Falls with Chobe, the Central Kalahari, and even the world-famous Okavango Delta. For something a bit simpler, start with the ‘Vic Falls and Okavango Delta Explore’ trip and add destinations to your heart’s content…