Zimbabwe: Still & Always a Top Safari Destination
Even in the midst of a difficult political transition, Zimbabwe kept intact its most extraordinary touristic credentials: dramatic landscapes under a perfect climate, friendly and welcoming people, a wide range of historical and cultural attractions and a number of thrilling adventure activities… The most seasoned safari travelers find here premier game viewing in pockets of beautiful wilderness.
Ten years ago, Zimbabwe was considered the safari holiday destination par excellence for its unique array of assets; political unrest followed by economic collapse have, to a large extent, ruined this reputation – but not the attractions. African Bush Camps has never stopped operating in Zimbabwe, supporting its people, maintaining its natural assets, and not least sharing with our guests the beautiful wonders of the wildlife. Though, we feel we always have to update travellers about the situation and clarify our position.
What is the situation now in Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe is now run by an all-inclusive government which combines the old and the new regime. Right after it was formed in February 2009, this government put an end to a 9-digit inflation by introducing foreign currencies into the economy. The country is now preparing a new constitution before the next elections are held.
Before engaging into political discussions though, be aware Zimbabweans are sensitive to issues related with colonialism and the image of their country abroad; opinions are sharp and contrasted over the current political situation and it is advised to avoid giving opinions on their leaders.
The dollarization of the economy has sparkled a new sense of optimism and entrepreneurship among local business and has even attracted foreign investments. Life remains difficult for many Zimbabweans, but the new economic recovery and the return of tourists are both a positive factor.
Are there risks to travel in Zimbabwe?
Tourists in Zimbabwe are treated with warm welcomes where ever they go, and visitors encounter less risks than in other African countries. The general mood and atmosphere in the country is peaceful; a culture of friendliness and helpfulness prevails among the Zimbabwean people. Security is generally good and criminality is confined to a petty level – in fact, there have been no reported incidents of violence against tourists for several years. Also, tour operators and other service providers initiated a Police sector that specifically addresses the needs of travelers. They are visible as they patrol the streets of Victoria Falls and ensure the safety of tourists.Travelling around the country is safe and enjoyable, although it has in the past been complicated by logistical constraints.
In the past few years, tourists and backpackers travelling to Zimbabwe have probably been affected more by the consequences of hyper-inflation and economic collapse than by safety and political issues. Guests in safari locations have been protected from most of annoyances, though, travel warnings by Western governments before 2009 have strongly impacted their influx.
In April 2009, the US, Japan, German and most E.U. goverments removed these travel warnings to Zimbabwe. As further political developments may induce periods of tensions, it is advisable though to keep an eye on these advisory boards: Britain (FCO) – United States (Dept. of State) – Canada (Foreign Affairs) – Australia (Smartraveller) – New Zealand (SafeTravel), France (conseils aux voyageurs). Be aware that, for Zimbabwe as for any country, these boards tend to focus on alerting issues; we also feel there is some inertia and conservatism in the persistant warning statements regarding Zimbabwe. As in the media: Zimbabwe many times makes the headlines for the wrong reasons; visitors to the country get a very different – and pleasant – image.
For more relaxed presentations of the country, its history and the people, you may like to consult Wikipedia and Country Report.
We continue to monitor the situation and will advise if the situation raises new issues.
Remember: with so few guests visiting the country, Zimbabweans will give you a royal treatment! Most tourist professionals believe the country will actually be back to top shortly.
Is it not amoral to travel in Zimbabwe?
Mostly raised before the formation of the all-inclusive goverment, this issue still worries some fellow travellers. At African Bush Camps, we believe tourism has and will always be a positive factor in the development of the country. The Zimbabwean people are going through hard times and uncertain future; many of them desperately need support and protection to make their living, keep open to the outside world, and continue to preserve the beautiful country and wildlife. We remain dedicated to provide those living along the national parks employement opportunities, to support community-based development and conservation initiatives, and enable Zimbabweans develop cultural exchange around their passions, in a friendly atmosphere with people from around the world.
Zimbabwe has it all: beautiful landscapes, warm and friendly people, the best climate in the world, plenty of activities and attractions both cultural and natural: you have all the stuff a dream holiday is made of. Add to this very good infrastructures, plenty of tourist facilities and well-skilled people with a wonderful sense of service, all of it relatively cheap and exempt of mass tourism, and you understand why Zimbabwe is your destination of choice.
Zimbabwe has something to offer everyone: Raw, natural, untamed wilderness just waiting for visitors, with some of the most premier game watching in Hwange national park, Mana Pools or Matusadona. Not only amateurs of natural wonders will be stunned by the Victoria Falls, the crowning glory of Zimbabwean natural beauty, one will also be amazed with the grandiose mysticism created by the spectacle of the granite boulders at Matobo Hills. Adrenaline seekers will love bungee jumping and white-water rafting at the Falls, while adventurists turn to canoëing and walking safaris along the mighty Zambezi River. Amateurs of culture and history will be delighted with the discovery of bushman paintings at Matopos, and the mysterious Ruins of ancient Great Zimbabwe. They may also love the stone sculptures in Harare and the visual arts exhibitions at the National Gallery in Bulawayo!
Dramatic landscapes, teeming with wildlife, beautiful national parks, rugged mountains and lush forests, provide the greatest wilderness experiences, thus making Zimbabwe a prime safari destination. Zimbabwe is renowned in Africa for the high quality of its guides, and the standard of lodges. The decline in tourism in the past years in Zimbabwe provide even greatest opportunities for unparallel wilderness experiences, far from the safari highways known in South Africa, Kenya or elsewhere.
Zimbabwe’s national parks offer great opportunities for game viewing. There is a good chance you will see several the Big Five (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino), as well as girafes, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, monkeys, antelopes… Zimbabwe is one of the last rhinoceros havens with both white and black rhinos. Other rare species to be found in Zimbabwe include the wild dog, nyala, the king cheetah and the samango monkey.
Good infrastructure make it relatively easy to move between different parks and enjoy different environments. Hwange national park is just about one hour south of the Mighty Victoria Falls, in the northwest corner of the country. On the edge of the Kalahari desert, it features desert sand to sparse woodland as well as grasslands and granite outcrops, and hosts over 400 species of birds, more than 100 different mammal species including up to 30,000 elephants. Further South to Bulawayo, Matobo Hills National Park is also easy to access; another World Unesco heritage site, it features not only valuable game viewing, but also amazing landcapes of granit constructions, and interesting history. More difficult to reach but highly rewarding is Mana Pools by the Zambezi river, in the North of the country. It has some of the most spectacular river scenery and game-viewing, with superb opportunities to get close to game coming to the Zambezi to drink. Another great water-based safari experience is at Matusadona park, on the Southern shore of lake Kariba, between Victoria Falls and Manap Pools.
Nature has given Zimbabwe one of the finest climates in the world: it is warm without being oppressive and with a average sunshine ranging from four to ten hours per day (and sun shine 90% of the year!). This is because the generally high altitudes compensate for the tropical latitudes. Generally, the days are bright and sunny, the nights clear and cool. Even during the rainy season, the sun will brighten most of your days!
November to April are the summer months (green season) while winter is from May to July, with a generally dry weather. The period August to October is very hot and dry. Both temperature and rainfall are directly influenced by altitude. To better understand seasons in the region, please check our safari seasons information.
The dry season (June to October) is generally better for game viewing, but the shoulder season (May) and the beginning of the green season (November to April) may be very pleasant as well. You will benefit decreased rates in our camps and safaris during those seasons.
The country is generally not prone for malaria, except in selected areas (Hwange, Victora Falls, Mana Pools…).
Be our guest
As we specialize in Zimbabwe safaris, we have set up permanent and mobile tented camps to cover most of the amazing safari destinations. Please visit our safari camps in Zimbabwe, choose a safari itinerary, or contact us for a tailormade safari proposal.