Zimbabwe, officially the Republic of Zimbabwe and formerly Southern Rhodesia is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the continent of Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three official languages: English, Shona (a Bantu language), and Ndebele (also a Bantu language).
Zimbabwe began as a part of the British crown colony of Rhodesia. President Robert Mugabe is the head of State and Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Morgan Tsvangirai is the Prime Minister. Mugabe has been in power since the country’s long war for independence. Although initially during the 1980s his administration was credited with improving the standard of living and the economy, his rule has been characterized by gross economic mismanagement, hyperinflation, and reports of human rights abuses.
Since the Land Reform programme in 2000, tourism in Zimbabwe has steadily declined. After rising during the 1990s, (1.4 million tourists in 1999) industry figures described a 75% fall in visitors to Zimbabwe in 2000. By December, less than 20% of hotel rooms had been occupied. This has had a huge impact on the Zimbabwean economy but since 2004 Tourism has been on the up and country still have amazing things to offer the interprid traveller and wildlife enthusiasts. Zimbabwe boasts several major tourist attractions. Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, which are shared with Zambia, are located in the north west of Zimbabwe. The Victoria Falls National Park is also in this area and is one of the eight main national parks in Zimbabwe, largest of which is Hwange National Park. The Eastern Highlands are a series of mountainous areas near the border with Mozambique. The highest peak in Zimbabwe, Mount Nyangani at 2,593 m (8,507 ft) is located here as well as the Bvumba Mountains and the Nyanga National Park. World’s View is in these mountains and it is from here that places as far away as 60–70 km (37–43 mi) are visible and, on clear days, the town of Rusape can be seen.
Zimbabwe is unusual in Africa in that there are a number of ancient ruined cities built in a unique dry stone style. The most famous of these are the Great Zimbabwe ruins in Masvingo as famous as Great Zimbabwe. When the ruins of Great Zimbabwe were excavated by treasure-hunters in the late 19th century, five of the carved birds they discovered were taken to South Africa by Cecil Rhodes. Four of the statues were returned to Zimbabwe by the South African government at independence, while the fifth remains at Groote Schuur, Rhodes’ former home in Cape Town.
The Matobo Hills are an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys commencing some 22 miles (35 km) south of Bulawayo in southern Zimbabwe. The Hills were formed over 2,000 million years ago with granite being forced to the surface, then being eroded to produce smooth “whaleback dwalas” and broken kopjes, strewn with boulders and interspersed with thickets of vegetation. Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation, gave the area its name, meaning ‘Bald Heads’. They have become famous and a tourist attraction due to their ancient shapes and local wildlife. Cecil John Rhodes and other early white pioneers like Leander Starr Jameson are buried in these hills at a site named World’s View. Balancing Rocks are geological formations all over Zimbabwe. The rocks are perfectly balanced without other supports. They are created when ancient granite intrusions are exposed to weathering, as softer rocks surrounding them erode away. They are often remarked on and have been depicted on both the paper money of the Zimbabwean dollar and the paper money of the Rhodesian dollar. The ones found on the current notes of Zimbabwe, named the Banknote Rocks, are located in Epworth, approximately 9 miles (15 km) south east of Harare. There are, however, many different formations of the rocks, incorporating single and paired columns of 3 or more rocks. These formations are a feature of south and east tropical Africa from northern South Africa northwards to Sudan. The most notable formations in Zimbabwe are located in the Matobo National Park in Matabeleland.
The Mana Pools are a cluster of lake lets that are fed by occasional floodwater. They attract vast numbers of aquatic birds and are rich in fish. Large numbers of game frequent the area, especially elephant, buffalo, hippo, rhino, crocodile, various antelope, lion, leopard and wild dog. The game reserve is open from May to October. Accommodation is available in the park.
What makes Mana Pools particularly special is it’s unique scenery coupled with the large variations of animal and bird life created by its rich and wild heritage. Mana Pools is the only game park in Zimbabwe holding carnivores and the larger mammals in which visitors are allowed to walk unaccompanied – this is of course done at your own risk.
Winters (May to September) are like luscious Mediterranean summers with warm, sunny days and cool, clear nights. There is never any snow, not even in the eastern highlands, but overnight frosts and freezing temperatures are not uncommon anywhere on the plateau.
Most of Zimbabwe’s rain falls in brief afternoon deluges during electrical storms in the summer months (October to April) and bring little relief from the humidity.
Constructed between 1955 and 1958, and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1960, Lake Kariba remains one of the continent’s most ambitious water projects, and is the third-largest artificial body of water in Africa. The massive walls span a perimeter of 579m (1 900ft) and stretch 282km (175 miles) across the landscape to cover a total of 5 000km² (1 930 sq.miles). The walls are 24m (79ft) thick at the base and 128m (420ft) high. A fascinating diversion is to take a walk along the top of the dam wall to feel the pounding of the massive turbines. The shores of the great lake are a wildlife haven and are surrounded by some Zimbabwe’s finest parks, reserves and wilderness areas, all of which are rich in game and popular draw cards.
Perhaps the country’s most significant legacy, the majestic stone-walled ruins of Great Zimbabwe comprise the most impressive medieval site in Africa south of the Sahara. This architectural and archaeological gem, about 30km (19 miles) from Masvingo, was established more than 1000 years ago by the Karonga, ancestors of the local Shona, and comprises a fascinating series of stone walls. The walled city harboured no fewer than 10 000 citizens – a fatal mistake that led to overpopulation and the abandonment of the citadel in the 1450’s. Excavation of the site has provided evidence that medieval Africa was indeed highly sophisticated. Guided tours take visitors through the Hill Complex – once known as the Acropolis – thought to have been the monarch’s residence. The walls of the Great Enclosure are 5m (16ft) thick and 11m (36ft) high and were built with nearly a million stone “bricks” over 100 years in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Fleet Foot has over the years come across all kinds of Nationalities who require different means of travel and comfort and we know best to advice a particular client to enjoy the ultimate in Africa’s highlights. Combination safaris by Fleet Foot give the client the following options in one single itinerary:
With Fleet Foot’s mobile offices in Namibia and Botswana and our sister Travel companies in neighboring countries we can offer the following shorter excursion safaris: