Zimbabwe is fast becoming one of the most popular African safari destinations. A country that easily wins peoples’ hearts, with many truly wild areas still to explore, Zimbabwe has so much to offer. Here are just 10 reasons you should go to Zimbabwe now.
(Updated Feb 2019)
1. There’s a spate of new openings
The last few years have seen so much investment in Zimbabwe – a sign of the faith travel companies have in the country and its tourism industry. The famous Bumi Hills, overlooking Lake Kariba, was purchased by African Bush Camps and treated to a US$4 million refurb. The company – owned by Zimbabwean former guide, Beks Ndlovu – have also opened several other camps in the country recently, from Mana Pools to Hwange National Park. Verney’s Camp opened in Hwange in 2018, located in a new, more remote area of the park. And Victoria Falls is booming: Great Plains Conservation is opening a new lodge on the Zambezi River in 2018 and Old Drift Lodge opened in May 2018, also on the river bank.
2. Explore less-visited safari areas
Though there are popular areas of Zimbabwe, there are plenty of parks where you’ll find hardly any other tourists. Take a journey south to Gonarezhou National Park where you’ll find luxury lodges Chilo Gorge and, in the Malilangwe Private Reserve, Singita Pamushana. This beautiful part of Zimbabwe is much wilder and more rugged than other parks and has benefitted from staunch conservation and anti-poaching projects. You’ll also find ancient Bushmen rock art, which you can visit mid-safari.
3. Support conservation…
Zimbabwean safari camps and lodges are some of the best at giving back. A number of projects have been running around the major national parks for many years, helping to combat human-wildlife conflict (for example, lions attacking villagers’ cattle, which results in the lion being killed) and poaching. Staying at responsible lodges, who donate or run their own foundations, means you’re helping to fund these projects.
4. …and communities
Alongside conservation, local communities are also a big focus for ethically-minded companies such as Singita, Wilderness and African Bush Camps. Camps like these support locals through employment and training opportunities, but also by helping to set up sustainable industries in areas in which there were none and helping fund schools and sport programmes. On an individual basis, you can check out Pack for a Purpose, which provides a list of things communities need that you can easily bring in your suitcase.
5. The guiding is excellent
Zimbabwe is known for its high standard of safari guiding. Guides here go through extremely intensive training, far more than any other African country. As a result, and also due to the solid Zimbabwean education system (most guides are Zimbabwean, as it’s very difficult to hire foreigners), the guiding experience is extremely good. And as it’s so often the guides that make the safari, this is a huge plus for Zimbabwe.
6. See the famous Mana Pools elephants
You may have seen the famous images of elephants balancing on their hind legs, trunks reaching up to get to the top branches of a tree. This is rare behaviour that several elephants have taught themselves in Mana Pools. Boswell is one of the originals, and he’s been teaching some of the other bulls, such as Fred Astaire, to do the same. You can see Fred and Boswell on your next visit to Mana Pools, an incredible park (great for walking safaris) that borders Zambia, on the other side of the Zambezi River.
7. Visit ancient ruins
The Great Zimbabwe ruins are little known, but are one way in which Zimbabwe’s appeal goes beyond safaris and wildlife. These ruins were thought to have been the king’s royal palace, built between the 11th and 15th centuries, and forming part of the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe. Visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site with an expert guide to learn more about the ancient history of southern Africa.
8. Lots of new flight routes open up the country
As Zimbabwe becomes increasingly popular, airlines are launching new routes to match demand. Victoria Falls is growing fast and its international airport now sees Kenyan Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Emirates flying in, making access much easier. For instance, there’s no need to fly via South Africa. Domestically, the country plans to open up many of its old routes, better linking Zimbabwe’s key destinations.
9. The UniVisa means you can easily tie it in with Zambia and Botswana
Until the UniVisa was introduced, travellers from outside southern Africa had to purchase visas for each country. The new visa combines Zimbabwean and Zambian visas (for up to a month), meaning there is no need to buy separate ones at an extra cost – particularly ideal when visiting Victoria Falls, where attractions lie on both sides of the falls. With the UniVisa, you also get daytrip access to Botswana, the nearest destination being Chobe National Park.
10. Tourism is essential
Back in late 2017, a historic, peaceful ‘coup that was not a coup’ happened in Zimbabwe, and the dictator Robert Mugabe was overthrown. Since then, there have been further economic and political issues, but the tourism industry has continued to operate as normal. Zimbabwe has always been a safe country to visit and it is a place that you can actively support through tourism. Interested to know more of the current climate? Read this.