Overview of Zimbabwe
For a small, landlocked country in southern Africa, Zimbabwe offers an astounding variety of natural beauty and spectacular scenery. The country holds great appeal for active adventurers, outdoor enthusiasts and anybody with an appreciative eye for beauty. Famous sights include the majesty of the iconic Victoria Falls, the giant marble-like boulders of the Motopo Hills, the verdant mountains of the Eastern Highlands, the national parks teeming with wildlife, and the Great Zimbabwe ancient ruins. Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, is also impressive in many ways.
The Victoria Falls are Zimbabwe’s most popular tourist destination and one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Their mile-wide (2km) curtain of water plunges deep into the Zambezi Gorge creating a cloud of mist that can be seen up to 20 miles (32km) away. This area is renowned for being the ‘adventure capital of Africa’, offering a variety of high adrenaline activities, including one of the wildest days of whitewater rafting on earth, and a 364-foot (111m) bungee jump into the Zambezi River gorge from the bridge linking Zimbabwe to Zambia. If you’d rather lie back and relax, there are scenic flights over the area, game viewing adventures and tranquil sundowner cruises above the falls.
Wildlife flourishes in the untamed wilderness of the Zambezi Valley, in national parks, and on the shores of Lake Kariba, where hippo, crocodiles, buffalo, rhino, elephant and lion roam freely. Remote and protected wildlife reserves line the banks of the Zambezi River and the region offers some of the finest canoe safaris in Southern Africa, particularly the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Mana Pools, which is renowned for its outstanding variety of game. The saltpans and grassy plains of Hwange National Park support one of the largest concentrations of animals in the world, and is the largest game reserve in the country. Lake Kariba is treasured as a source of hydro-electricity, as well as for its fishing resources. It is a beautiful stretch of water studded with islands and the sun-bleached branches of dead trees, surrounded by mountains and forests. Houseboats offer a wonderful opportunity to relax and take in the spectacular sunsets, enjoy a variety of watersports, and spot the vast quantities of game attracted to the lake, including huge Nile crocodiles and hippos.
The ongoing social and political unrest in Zimbabwe, together with an exceptionally weak economy, has deterred many potential travellers from visiting Zimbabwe and experiencing some of the most breathtaking scenery and first-class game viewing safaris in Africa. Although visitors to the country are urged to exercise caution at all times and to remain aware of recent political developments, the main tourist areas, and national parks in particular, have been largely unaffected by the political situation, being far from the main cities where much of the instability exists. Ivory poaching, particularly of Black Rhino horn, has become a significant challenge for conservationists. In a desperate attempt to attract business, many game lodges are offering extremely competitive prices to travellers.
- English is the official language in Zimbabwe, although it is only spoken as a first language by a tiny percentage of the population. Several indigenous languages are spoken including Shona and Ndebele.
All visitors require travel itineraries, tickets, and documents for return or onward journeys, as well as sufficient funds for the duration of their stay. Visa fees, where applicable, are payable in US dollars. Fees vary depending on nationality and type of visa. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources. If travelling on business, you’ll also need multiple copies of a letter from your company and an invitation letter from a Zimbabwean company, both on company stationery.
The de facto official currency is the US Dollar (USD). The Zimbabwe Dollar (ZWD) was effectively abandoned as the official curency in early 2009 after runaway inflation. The South African Rand (ZAR) and British Pound (GBP) are also sometimes accepted. Major international credit cards are accepted in most of the larger hotels, restaurants and shops. Many smaller establishments still do not have credit card facilities. Diners Club and American Express are often not accepted. ATM facilities, dispensing USD, are available in the cities, although in smaller towns and rural areas you’ll need to bring cash.
- Electrical current is 220-240 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin rectangular blade plugs are common.