Zimbabwe is one country that continues to baffle people, polarize opinions and confuse many, particularly its detractors. The country is grossly misunderstood and thus misrepresented mainly by those who have never been to the country, have never set foot or lived there. Despite the now tired, usual deafening screams to boycott the country that have basically amounted to naught, this small southern African jewel has defied all odds and continues to be the busiest tourist hub and beating heart of regional tourism.
To those not familiar with Zimbabwe or its geographical location, this is a small landlocked country in southern Africa bordering Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique. It is located between two great rivers: the Mighty Zambezi River to the north and the Limpopo River to the south. Zimbabwe is a regional tourism powerhouse and a popular destination with mostly European and North American travellers. It is a perfect all season destination with beautiful warm weather and spectacular golden sunsets.
Zimbabwe’s main attractions are the reason why the country continues to be the biggest draw of western tourists in Africa. This week’s article highlights some common reasons why people visit Zimbabwe and why they keep coming back. The list, although carefully considered, is not definitive or conclusive but offers an overview of commonly cited reasons by most loyal, frequent travellers to Zimbabwe. While unique individual experiences seem to be the motivating factor behind each return visit, one common attributing factor seems to be the amazing impression of the country and its people on the individuals. Listed below are some of those commonly cited reasons why people are attracted to Zimbabwe and keep returning.
A country’s resource is its people. Zimbabwe is one of a few countries where you find people that are wholeheartedly generous, peace loving, ever smiling and ready to welcome you into their homes. Zimbabweans of all races have an innate sense of pride in their nation, identity, their rich culture and history which they are ready to share with visitors and the outside world. The average Zimbabwean is by nature very resourceful and intelligent, with almost everyone fluently conversant in English, something not surprising considering the country has the highest literacy rate in Africa.
Another common thing about Zimbabweans in general is that they do not wallow in self-pity or sympathy. Like the state of their nation that continues to defy all odds, they too, are by nature very resilient and tend to thrive in bad situations. This explains why the country is so great and amazing. Anyone who has never been to Zimbabwe but has gone there with preconceived notions and certain reservations, they often leave with a different perspective: one of a relatively peaceful country with extremely polite and wonderful people.
The heart of Zimbabwe’s tourism is its unique safaris. The nature and uniqueness of the safaris is the reason for the country’s continued dominance in the region’s tourism industry. This too, shouldn’t be a surprise since Zimbabwe is the birthplace of the regional safari trade. The vast landscape, beautiful weather and diverse wildlife are contributing factors that make this small southern African nation a safari heaven. Natural attractions, national parks littered everywhere and world-class accommodations are perfect conditions for creativity when creating safaris, something which local Tour Operators excel in.
Zimbabwean safaris aren’t just limited to wildlife, game drives or game-viewing. They are diverse and include a variety of activities such as: birding, art, river cruises, canoeing, photographic and fishing safaris. They also incorporate popular activities such as helicopter rides over Victoria Falls, walking, hiking and trekking, regulated hunting, horse riding, wedding, honeymoon cruises, elephant-back rides, guided village tours including walking with lions and more – all of which can be experienced and enjoyed without limitations or the inconvenience of crowding.
Zimbabwe’s Natural Wonders
Very few countries in the region can boast of having a range of world-class natural wonders like Zimbabwe. The magnificent Victoria Falls tops the list and is the biggest attraction and tourist magnet in the entire region, if not Africa. The Falls, locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders), is the largest waterfall in Africa and one of the Wonders of the World.
The country is also home to the second highest waterfall in Africa, Mtarazi Falls located in the Eastern Highlands, another tourist hotspot and region that is host to other numerous waterfalls such as Pungwe Falls, Nyangombe, Chipungu, Nyamuziwa and Thomberutedza Falls.
Zimbabwe is home to two of Africa’s big rivers, the Mighty Zambezi (4th biggest) and Limpopo (6th biggest). The popular Balancing Rocks in Matobo and Epworth offer insight into the country’s geology and environment. The Chilojo Cliffs in Gonarezhou and Chinhoyi Caves popular for their blue sapphire waters are part of the attractiveness. The three mountains: Vumba, Nyangani and Chimanimani all located in the Eastern Highlands are part of the charm that makes Zimbabwe an attractive and irresistible destination.
Victoria Falls is undoubtedly the adrenaline capital where ardent thrill-seekers and adventure travellers from all over the world rendezvous. This small town in western Zimbabwe is a popular destination for passionate adrenaline junkies and is known for its myriad of the craziest, most extreme, adrenaline pumping activities in a single location. The Zambezi River offers the best whitewater rafting experience in the world with grades IV and V rapids, and against one of the most dramatic river backdrops in the world. Rafting can also be done at the Pungwe River in Nyanga, Eastern Highlands.
While still in Victoria Falls, one can engage in other heart-stopping activities like gorge swinging, bungee jumping, micro-lighting, high-wire, helicopter rides, bridge walks, absailing and tightrope walking. One can also explore, experience and engage in other activities around the country like horse riding, mountaineering, scuba diving, river boat cruises, elephant back rides, walking with lions, hiking, camping and hunting. These activities have attributed to Zimbabwe being known and recognized as the adventure capital that appeals to adventure and thrill seekers of all ages and sizes.
Rich History, Culture & Diversity
Zimbabwe is a nation that prides itself of its rich history and culture. The country is home to unique remnants of ancient ruins that are of cultural and historical significance to understanding ancient African kingdoms and civilizations. Most common are the Zimbabwe Ruins in Masvingo and Khami Ruins in Bulawayo, as well as Danangombe in Gweru and the smaller Naletale Ruins in Shangani.
The country is also home to some of the best preserved ancient rock art in Africa dating back to the stone age. The rich history of this country and the region is evident in the rock art and ancient San inscriptions found at Inanke Cave in Matobo National Park and Domboshava Cave at the Domboshava National Park. Matobo Hills, a place of mystery and mystical powers, popular for spiritual pilgrimage, is a place that is of cultural, historical and spiritual significance to locals and the region, as well as of environmental and geological significance.
Zimbabwe is a melting pot of cultures and identities brought together by history. While the Shona and Ndebele are the two dominant groups, other minorities make Zimbabwe the amazing country and melting port of identities that it is, among which are the English, Asians, Dutch, Jewish, Portuguese, Greek, Sotho, Kalanga, Venda, Shangane, Manyika and Tonga. Putting political rhetoric aside, whatever one thinks, Zimbabwe is a relatively peaceful country where civility and respect of others make it one of the unique places in Africa.
One of Zimbabwe’s greatest resources is its wildlife. The country is home to a diverse range of wildlife, with national parks scattered throughout the country hosting rare and endangered species, some exclusive to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is also the only country that is home to all of Africa`s Big Five: buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. Hwange National Park is one of Africa’s biggest conservation areas that was set aside specifically to conserve wildlife in their natural habitat undisturbed; it is also the perfect place to see all of the Big Five plus more.
Despite a few challenges and sometimes controversial occurrences, Zimbabweans in general care about their wildlife and are deeply involved in serious conservation efforts to sustain, protect and preserve this great resource. Local Safari Operators together with other organizations such as Malilangwe Trust, Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage, Tashinga Initiative, Dambari Wildlife Trust,Painted Dog, Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust, Friends of Hwange and Tikki Hywood Trust are all involved in promoting various initiatives for that purpose.
Travelling to Zimbabwe has never been this easy. The country has been improving its airports to meet international standards and accommodate the growing influx of travellers. This, in turn, has seen an increase in domestic and international flights in and out of the country. Both Harare International Airport and the newly renovated Victoria Falls International Airport are major gateways into the country, with the latter also serving as major gateway to regional tourism destinations. The also newly-renovated Bulawayo’s Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport has also seen an increase in both domestic and regional flights.
International airlines operate several daily flights from Harare International. Air Zimbabwe, although undergoing transformation, together with BA Comair, Emirates, Ethiopian, Kenyan Airways, Namibia Airlines and SAA, all operate frequent flights into the country. Regular domestic flights operate daily from Harare-Bulawayo and Harare-Victoria Falls. Private charter planes are available and operate frequent flights at reasonable rates to areas not serviced by commercial airlines.
Zimbabwe boasts of an array of world-class accommodations to suit every type of visitor and that complement the country’s diverse landscapes. These range from first class hotels and resorts; luxury camps, comfortable B&Bs and guesthouses to affordable motels and inns.
The industry has also seen an upsurge in specialty boutique hotels to private rentals; luxury floatels (houseboats) to budget hostels, camps and caravan parks. Whatever one’s choice, Zimbabwe has the ideal accommodation, at the right place with all the relevant amenities and most importantly, it comes with the picturesque view that is exclusively Zimbabwean!
Great Zimbabwe Traveller provides a comprehensive travel guide on Zimbabwe. This story originally appeared on their blog on October 7, 2015. To read more of their stories, visit http://greatzimtraveller.com/