Zimbabwe is a landlocked country covering an area of 390 757 km2 (150 872 sq. mi) and is renowned for its dramatic landscape and diverse wildlife, much of it within parks, reserves and safari areas. Although seven terrestrial ecoregions are recognized in Zimbabwe, the country is mostly savanna landscape and some moist and mountainous Eastern Highlands that supports a tropical evergreen forest. Around 270 mammalian species and over 600 birds occur in Zimbabwe, making it a great safari destination for enthusiastic travellers.
The main highlights of Zimbabwe include:
The Victoria Falls
This is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the “largest waterfall on Earth” with a height of 108 m and 1708 m wide, hence known to pour 500 million litres of water every minute at its peak. The falls lie within the Victoria Falls National Park, which is conjoined with the Zambezi National Park both parks covering an area of 56 000 hectares. Four of the big five mammals occur here, but Lions and Leopards are difficult to spot. Elephants and Buffalo are common especially along the Zambezi River. Other mammals include Southern Giraffe, Chacma Baboon, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Common Reedbuck, Vervet Monkey among others. Over 400 Bird species are known to occur here including African Finfoot, African Skimmer, Allen’s Gallinule, Brown Firefinch, Collared Palm-thrush, Half-collared Kingfisher, Osprey, Pel’s fishing-owl, Slaty Egret, Squacco Heron, Western Banded Snake Eagle, White-backed Night heron, Bat Hawk, Northern Grey Sparrow among others. A wide range of activities can be done here and includes the visit to the Falls, Game drives and Night drives, Helicopter Scenic Flights, Bungee Jumping, White-water Rafting, Sunset Boat Cruise on the Zambezi River, Tiger Fishing, Canoeing, Village Tour, Craft Market Tour, Livingstone Island Tour with optional dip in Devil’s Pool, Horseback Nature Trails among others.
Hwange National Park
Covering a surface area of 14 650 km2 (5 655 sq. mi), this park is the oldest and largest national park in Zimbabwe, hosting over 100 mammalian species and over 420 bird species. Besides the Big Five: Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard, other mammals include various antelopes, African Wild dog, Spotted and Brown Hyeana among others. Birding specials include Bradfield’s Hornbill, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Meyer’s Parrot, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eurasian Hobby, all 5 species of Rollers, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Miombo Tit, Miombo Rock-Thrush, Southern Hyliota, Arnot’s Chat, African Golden Oriole, Coqui Francolin, African Hobby among others. Activities include Game Drives, Guided Walking Safaris and Guided Horseback Safaris.
Matobo National Park
This 44 500-hectare area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as “The home of the Balancing Rocks”, owing to its distinctive rock landforms rising above the granite shield that provide abundant natural shelters and have been associated with human occupation from the early Stone Age right through to early historical times. Besides being an Intensive Protection Zone for endangered Black and White Rhino, the Matobo Hills continue to provide a strong focus for the local community, which still uses shrines and sacred places closely linked to traditional, social and economic activities. The Matobo Hills have one of the highest concentrations of rock art in Southern Africa dating back at least 13,000 years. Over 80 mammalian species have been recorded here. Although there are no Lion or Elephant, the park has one of the largest Leopard populations in Southern Africa. Other mammals include, Southern Giraffe, Tsessebe, Rock Hyrax, Greater Kudu, Sable, Klipspringer among others. Around 300 bird species have been recorded here including 35 diurnal and 9 nocturnal raptor species. High diversity of raptor species is due to the availability of prey; the Rock and Yellow-spotted Dassie. Special Birds to this area include African Hawk-Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Martial Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Brown and Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Lanner and Peregrine Falcon, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Mottled Swift, Southern Hyliota, Cape Batis, Purple-crested Turaco, Boulder Chat, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Lazy Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Striped Pipit, Cape Longclaw, Red-collared Widowbird among others. Activities here include Game Viewing, visit to Cecil John Rhodes’ Grave, Fishing, Boating, Walking Trails, Rhino Trails, Bird Watching and visiting the Rock Paintings.
This is one of the Zimbabwean National Monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Site covering an area of 80 hectares. The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are a unique testimony to the Bantu civilization of the Shona Tribe between the 11th and 15th centuries. It is also a unique artistic achievement which has struck the imagination of African and European travellers since the Middle Ages, as evidenced by the persistent legends which attribute to it a Biblical origin. Being the fifth largest man-made structure, it is worthwhile to take a guided walk through these ruins.
Gonarezhou National Park and Save Valley
Located in the south-eastern lowveld part of Zimbabwe, this 500 000-hectare park is part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier National Park that includes the infamous Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Gaza National Park in Mozambique. Being a bit further from main roads the park receives few tourists and boasts of some amazing diversity of landscapes, features, and growing wildlife populations. The well-known prominent feature of the Park is the Chilojo Cliffs, which are sandstone cliffs towering 180 meters high and running for some 20 kilometers along river bank. The name “Gonarezhou” means place of elephants hence the park has a healthy Elephant population among other mammalian species that include Lion, Cheetah, Buffalo, Leopard, Southern Giraffe and several antelopes. Special to this area is a very secretive antelope, the Nyala. Over 400 bird species occur in this area including specials like Peregrine Falcon, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Brown-headed Parrot, Collared Palm Thrush, Senegal Lapwing, Mosque Swallow, Mottled Spinetail, Eastern Nicator, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Gorgeous Bushshrike, Green Malkoha among others. Activities here include Game drives, Walking Safaris, visit to Chilojo Cliffs and Chipinda Pools, Hiking, Boat trips, Fishing, Horseback riding and Nature walks.
Eastern Highlands Area
The Eastern Highlands extend north and south for about 300 kilometres (190 mi) along the Zimbabwe/Mozambique border. It consists of three mountain groups; the Nyanga, Bvumba and Chimanimani mountains. This Montane grassland and shrubland Biome has higher rainfall hence tropical forests that hosts unique mammals and birds besides breathtaking sceneries. The Chimanimani National Park is referred to as the “Hikers Paradise” as there is not much road network but hiking trails through the rugged mountains habitat with breathtaking views of gorges and mountain springs. This 171 km2 park has fewer visitors and give one a much greater sense of isolation and a feeling of being very much in touch with wild nature. Wildlife species found in the area include Eland, Sable antelope, Bushbuck, Blue Duiker, Klipspringer and an occasional Leopard. The area around Vumba Mountains is a birding paradise with specials including Swynnerton’s Robin, Orange Ground-Thrush, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Chirinda Apalis, Bronzy Sunbird, Olive Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, Roberts’s Warbler, Livingstone’s Turaco, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Eastern Saw-wing, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Rufous-bellied Tit, Spotted Creeper, Cabanis’s Bunting, Augur Buzzard, Singing Cisticola, Whyte’s Barbet, Red-throated Twinspot, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Square-tailed Drongo, White-eared Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird among others. Activities here include visit to the Bridal Veil Falls, Cave Exploration, Mountain Hiking, Walking Trails, Scenic & Game Viewing and more importantly Bird watching.
Nyanga National Park
This park covers a surface area of 47 000 hectares of green hills and perennial rivers. The highest mountain in Zimbabwe, Mount Nyangani (2 593 m, 7 544 ft.) Mammals here include Greater Kudu, Reedbuck, Klipspringer and several other antelopes; predators, including Leopard and Hyaena. The park is best known among wildlife conservationists for its populations of Blue Duiker and Samango Monkeys. Archaeological, historical and cultural sites of the Ziwa people are also present here. The area is one of the top birding spots with special species including Blue Swallow, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Whyte’s Barbet, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, African Firefinch, Barratt’s Warbler, Scarce Swift, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Yellow bellied Waxbill among all the others found in the Vumba Area. Activities include hiking Mount Nyangani, visiting Mtarazi Falls, Zip-line and Sky-bridge, Fishing (Trout), Hiking Trails and Canoeing.
Chinhoyi Caves National Park
The Chinhoyi Caves consists of a subterranean system of limestone and dolomite caverns and tunnels which have been inhabited by humans since the first century. The local name for the cave’s pool, Chirorodziva (“Pool of the Fallen”) comes from an incident that occurred in 1830, where members of the Angonni tribe attacked the local people and threw their victims into the cave to dispose of them. The main cave contains a pool of cobalt blue water. Activities here include guided tour to learn the geology, history, flora and fauna, Swimming in the Blue pool, Visit the Chinhoyi Cave Museum and Hiking.
Mana Pools National Park
This 219 600-hectare park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a RAMSAR site as well (Wetlands of International Importance). Mammals here include huge herds of Elephants, Cape Buffalo, Plains Zebra, Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, African Wild dog, Brown Hyeana among others and it has the biggest concentration of Hippopotami in the country. Over 380 bird species have been recorded here offering some of the best birding opportunities the Zambezi River has to offer. Some special birds in these area include Thick-billed Cuckoo, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Lilian’s Lovebird, Eastern Nicator, Shelley’s Sunbird, Red-throated Twinspot, Common Redshank, Grey Plover among others. Activities include game drives, walking safaris, lion tracking, Canoeing and Fishing.
Lake Kariba Recreational Park and Matusadona National Park
Within this Recreational Park, lies the largest artificial lake by volume, the Lake Kariba. Located along the mighty Zambezi River, this lake exhibits coexistence of humans and nature. The Matusadona National Park is situated on the shores of Lake Kariba and comprises of 1400 km2 (540 sq. mi) of diverse flora and fauna. Matusadona is an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) and home to several relocated black rhinoceros and was also set up to rejuvenate other herds of endangered species. The Big Five occur here; African Elephant, Black Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Lion and Leopard. Several antelope species found here include Waterbuck, Common Impala, Sable and Roan Antelope, Plains Zebra among others. Over 375 bird species have been recorded in the area and specials include Grey-hooded Gull, White-winged Tern, Rock Pratincole, Crowned Eagle, Black Heron, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Eastern Nicator, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Thrush Nightingale, African Pitta, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Western Osprey, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Mottled Spinetail, Bohm’s Spinetail, White-browed Coucal, African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron, Red-throated Twinspot, Cape Parrot, Bat Hawk, Narina Trogon among others. A wide range of activities are offered here including Game Drive, Guided Walking Safaris, Horseback Safaris, Tiger Fishing, visit to the Kariba Dam Wall, Boating, Sunset Boat Cruises, House Boats and a visit to the Crocodile Farm.
Chizarira National Park
This is a large remote area of 2 000 km2 of wild, untouched flora and fauna is endowed with magnificent gorges, plateaus and flood plains. It has four of the Big Five, with Rhino missing in the park. There are good populations of Klipspringer, Common Impala, Greater Kudu, Roan Antelope, Lion, Leopard, Spotted Hyeana among others. The Nile Crocodile can be found lying on the shoreline. Over 360 bird species have been recorded here and sought after birds recorded include the African Broadbill, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Western Nicator, African Emerald Cuckoo and the rare and elusive African Pitta. Chizarira is also home to the Taita Falcon which breeds within the Park. Activities here include game drives, Gorge Hiking and Bird Watching. Walking Safaris are excellent in this beautiful rugged countryside which happens to be remote and rarely visited.