Zimbabwe is a country that many have heard of, but often know very little about. It doesn’t always make the headlines for the right reasons, whether it’s an unfortunate weather incident, the devaluation of their currency or internal politics. And it’s not always the first destination to spring to mind when contemplating an African holiday. Don’t let this fool you though. Zimbabwe is a stunningly beautiful country with a rich history, amazing wildlife and some of the loveliest people you’re ever likely to meet. Need more convincing? Here are five great reasons to go to Zimbabwe.
1. Experience Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls is arguably the most well-known landmark not only in Zimbabwe, but in all of Africa. Named ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ by the Kololo tribe who lived nearby in the 1800s, this spectacular curtain of water stretches for over two kilometres.
The mist created by the falls can be seen from a significant distance away. You can tour the falls from the Zimbabwe side in just two hours, with several vantage points allowing you to get that perfect photo.
The falls are also the centre for a number of different adventure activities. White water rafting, scenic helicopter flights, bungee jumping and ziplining are all possible and can be booked locally – depending on how brave you’re feeling!
2. Visit the Great Zimbabwe Ruins
Great Zimbabwe is home to number of ruins that make up the remains of the once vast Munhumutapa Empire. This was their seat of power and the complex is made up of three distinct architectural groupings known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex and the Great Enclosure.
The Hill Complex was the home of the king and the summit offers stunning views over the surrounding area. A cave here also acts as a giant megaphone, allowing sounds to be carried throughout the valley below. All three areas are made up of large granite blocks that date from the 13th century and are in excellent condition.
85% of them are originals, which isn’t bad considering the entire complex was built without the use of mortar! The entire site can be explored in about 4 hours. Its culture and history is a great contrast to the scenery and wildlife found throughout the rest of this incredible country.
3. Spot the famous ‘Big Five’
You’ll spot other usual suspects such as giraffes, zebras and hippos, alongside trickier to find animals including cheetahs, painted dogs and crocodiles. While the park isn’t as well known or as popular as Kruger in South Africa, this means that it’s generally less crowded. In off-peak times it can sometimes feel like you’ve got the place to yourself!
A particular highlight is the viewing platform overlooking a large waterhole. This allows you to see the animals from a whole new perspective. You’ll enjoy the rare sight of a variety of different creatures socialising and coexisting together.
4. Marvel at ancient rock art
It’s a little-known fact that Zimbabwe is home to one of the most significant archaeological sites in Africa. Dotted around Matobo National Park in the southwest of the country are some 3,000 rock art sites.
Thought to be up to 10,000 years old, these UNESCO-listed sites include some of the finest San paintings in the world. The San were some of the earliest hunter-gatherers in southern Africa and their paintings of animals and human rituals reveal much about their culture.
Check out the White Rhino Shelter, Pomongwe Cave and Bambata Cave for some of the best examples. As the park is free of lions, elephants and buffalo, you can also explore the rest of Matobo by foot.
5. Meet the friendly locals
After 37 years under the rule of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe is a country that’s now very much open for business. From natural wonders to epic wildlife experiences, Zimbabweans are keen to show you all that their country has to offer.
Nowhere is the warmth and hospitality of the locals more evident than at a safari lodge. Expect to be welcomed in with open arms and big smiles. Safari guides also go through a challenging 4-5 year certification course, which is one of the most difficult on the continent. So you’ll be out spotting elephants with some of the world’s finest naturalists.