Why Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa known for its dramatic landscape and diverse wildlife, much of it within parks, reserves and safari areas. On the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls make a thundering 108m drop into narrow Batoka Gorge, where there’s white-water rafting and bungee-jumping. Downstream are Matusadona and Mana Pools National Parks, home to hippos, rhinos and birdlife.

Few African destinations can compete with Victoria Falls for sheer visual drama. At its full, roaring peak, the ‘Smoke that Thunders’ is one of the continent’s most mesmerising sights, leaving visitors lightly soaked and absolutely exhilarated at the same time. The falls are on the mighty Zambezi river, which means you can see them from either Zambia or Zimbabwe. Arguably, the best on-foot views are from Zimbabwe’s side – so lovely, in fact, that explorer David Livingstone declared they must have been gazed on by angels.

But while these views have won international fame, Zimbabwe is so much more than Victoria Falls: it is one of Southern Africa‘s most rewarding big game safari destinations.  

Zimbabwe’s flagship reserve is Hwange National Park, a short drive from Victoria Falls and home to a full cast of your favourite mammals, from lions, leopards and hyenas to big herds of elephant and buffalo, elegant antelope, giraffe and zebra. Add to these characters the wildlife of the Zambezi River – hippos, crocodiles and shy water buck and you’re on safari in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, where activities include game drives, canoe adventures and walking safaris.

Zimbabwe’s less well-known destinations offer some unique experiences that make them well worth the effort of getting there. Fly in to Matusadona National Park, set on the shores of Lake Kariba, a haven for rhinos and elephants and home to a thriving lion population. The far flung wilderness of neighbouring Gonarezhou National Park and Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve is hard to beat. Its remote setting makes this fly-in destination romantically adventurous and immensely rewarding, featuring big-tusker elephants, all the big cats and nearly 400 bird species. You may not see much wildlife at Matobo National Park, but it’s a lovely reserve of tumbled rocks sheltering ancient San (Bushman) paintings, ideal for short hikes and comfortable walks.

Destinations within Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls: adventure activities, safaris & iconic scenery

At 1 708 metres wide, the Victoria Falls is the most expansive curtain of water in the world and drops more than 100 metres into the sheer Zambezi Gorge. Visit Victoria Falls at peak flow and discover why it’s considered a Natural Wonder: the falls are immense, the towering column of mist is unique and the whole area is scenically beautiful. Plus the town of Victoria Falls is known as Africa’s Adventure Capital thanks to the wide range of activities on offer. Enjoy scenic flights, elephant-back safaris, bungee jumping, white-water rafting, game viewing and Zambezi River cruises plus access to places of interest such as local markets and traditional villages.

Hwange National Park: classic game viewing & bird watching

Hwange is the country’s most famous big game reserve and home to an abundant population of wildlife. Located a few hours’ drive from Victoria Falls, Hwange is home to the densest concentrations of elephant after Botswana’s Chobe National Park and is an excellent destination for Africa’s big predators.  Hwange National Park’s 1.4 million hectares support a mix of habitats, a diverse area that is shared between desert-adapted and woodland species, ensuring large numbers of animals all year round – elephant, buffalo, sable, roan, giraffe, wildebeest, impala and even gemsbok.

Mana Pools National Park: beautiful wilderness area, canoe safaris

Mana Pools National Park lies at the heart of the Zambezi Valley, where the Zambezi River meanders for 300km to the Mozambican border. It is a remote, wildlife-rich place with spectacular views of the river, floodplains, the tree canopy and the mountains of the Rift Valley escarpment over the border in Zambia.  Wild, remote little-visited Mana Pools lies along the Zambezi River, its forests and floodplains home to large herds of elephant, rare antelope and plenty of plains game. Its rivers are filled with hippo and crocodile, tigerfish and bream. Best explored on drives, guided walks and canoe expeditions, Mana Pools is a genuine wilderness area that delivers an exciting, off-the-beaten-track safari experience.

Matusadona National Park & Lake Kariba: lakeside living, big game & fishing

Kariba’s magical setting and tranquil atmosphere are as famous as its wildlife. Flanked by conservation areas, the lake attracts animals both big and small: hippos splash about in the shallows, elephant and antelope graze at the water’s edge, and African fish eagles perch on dead tree branches. Adjoining Matusadona National Park offers game drives, guided walks and boat safaris as well as tiger fishing and the best Kariba sunsets.

Gonarezhou National Park & Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve: pure Big 5 wilderness, phenomenal diversity & scenery

Zimbabwe’s crowd-free south is home to the Big 5 and rugged Gonarezhou is sure to impress alongisde the exclusive experience of Malilangwe, a private reserve bordering the park. Apart from the stunning scenery, visitors can expect to see rhino, elephant and buffalo plus big cats and wild dogs. The birdlife is truly amazing: Malilangwe has recorded 400 species of birds and boasts one of the world’s greatest concentrations of raptors, including 14 species of eagle.

Zambezi National Park: game drives & river cruises, close to Victoria Falls

Just upstream of Victoria Falls lies the Zambezi National Park, a wild and game-rich reserve stretched out along the broad, smooth-flowing Zambezi River. Drawing fewer visitors than neighbouring Chobe National Park in Botswana, this largely unknown reserve offers fantastic dry-season game viewing without the crowds: expect large numbers of elephant, buffalo, hippo and giraffe but keep an eye out for lion, leopard and even wild dog. The birdlife along the river is superb, and we’d highly recommend a river safari. If you’re staying in Victoria Falls, a day game drive around Zambezi National Park will give you a quick and easy taste of Zimbabwe’s diverse wildlife.

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