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Visit Zimbabwe

While former president Robert Mugabe has dominated news about Zimbabwe for the past three decades, his ignominious rule is but a blip on this great nation’s historical radar. 

Great Zimbabwe – a medieval city in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo – is one of Africa’s most important archaeological sites outside of Egypt. This remarkable settlement dates back to the 10th century and is a testimony to the business and engineering prowess of the Shona people, who migrated south from the Sahara Desert. The city coveres around 70 hectares and was an important trading centre, renowned from the Middle Ages onwards – some legends even peg it as the Queen of Sheba’s capital. At its peak, about 18,000 Shona lived here, benefitting from the wealth of local gold mines. Tour the ruins of the citadel and royal enclosure, ritual sites and burial grounds.

The Smoke that Thunders

Then, of course, there is the famous Victoria Falls, the world’s widest waterfall. It is known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke that Thunders”, for the smoke-like water vapour that rises noisily in a steady column day and night. Equally as magnificent is the might Zambezi River from which the falls are carved. 

 The might of Africa’s fourth longest flowing river is not to be messed with. During the Jurassic Period – around 150 to 200 million years ago, give or take – this area was covered in a thick layer of lava, which hardened into chunky, dark basalt rock. Later, a lake formed over it and softer clay and lime sediments began finding their way into the tiny cracks in the 300-metre deep volcanic rock base.  

 It didn’t take the Zambezi feeding into the lake long to find these weak spots. The river began pounding on the cracks day after day until, after hundreds of years, it eventually succeeded in cutting a zigzagging series of deep gorges into the ancient basalt rock. It is over the first of these gorges that the river – finally freed of the banks that wedge it in for 800 kilometres after the Chavuma Falls upriver – rushes with its full force to form the world famous Victoria Falls.

Best seen from above

While you can view part of the falls from viewing points, and even on the bridge that joins Zimbabwe to Zambia, the best bucket-list way to see it is from above, in a helicopter or small plane. And if you still need more adrenaline in Vic Falls, try whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, zip-lining or the gorge swing.

Sunset on the Zambezi

A trip to Zimbabwe would be wasted if not for a visit to one (or more) national parks. Hwange National Park, Gonarezhou National Park, Matobo National Park, Nyanga National Park and Chimanimani National Park are some of the most worthwhile. Chimanimani, for instance, is the gateway to the wildest, most rugged landscapes, with epic hiking trails, a thriving ecosystem and and the deepest quartzite caves in Africa. 

African sunset. Drops mic

Tourism and conservation are growing industries along the Zambezi River, with national parks and small lodges springing up along its banks on both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides. Two such parks are Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park and the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, home to some of the world’s last remaining “great tusker” elephants.

Meanwhile, Lake Kariba – the world’s largest man-made lake – has become a hotbed for tourism: think houseboat rentals, world-class sport fishing and natural hot springs. 

Ellies rule in Zim's national parks
 Best for: 

 Active Travellers; Adrenaline Junkies; Eco Travellers; Nature Lovers; Voluntourists

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