Zimbabwe is a curious beast. Ravaged by wars and civil strife, it had a particularly tumultuous exit from the age of European colonialism in Africa. And while there are still lingering human rights complaints and authoritarian tendencies in the government here, the general consensus is that those dangers are slowly but surely subsiding. That means Zimbabwe is once again entering the safari fold, and beginning to re-magnetize intrepid travelers with the promise of its inselberg-studded backcountry, its teak forests and cypress-spattered hills; with its rugged Eastern Highlands where curious monkeys huddle against the cold breezes and its deep caves and underground riverways.
Of course, there are some mainstream attractions, not least of all the roaring wonder of Victoria Falls, and the up-and-coming metropolis of Harare – certainly one to watch! So, if you’re feeling adventurous and ready to throw caution to the wind, it’s worth considering this lost jewel of the African south for sure. So, what is there to see in Zimbabwe?
Victoria Falls: There’s a clear reason why tersely-named Victoria Falls is one of Zimbabwe’s must-see places. Like the eponymous towns of Niagara in the US and Canada, the settlement is just a stone’s throw from the roaring waterfalls that gave it its moniker. Thousands of people flock here to see the awesome sight every year too.They join the baboons in the jungles and delve into the Victoria Falls National Park just to the south of the center, gawping and gasping as the great curtain of water comes into view, cascading dramatically off its black-rock cliffs in plumes of steam and mist.
Visit the Kariba Dam: Kariba Dam is a super place to chill out with a bunch of friends. Located about 5 hours from Harare, getting a group of mates together and renting a houseboat from Kariba Town is an awesome way to experience the Dam – one of the largest artificial lakes in the world – and definitely one of the best things to do in Zimbabwe. As you sail along expect to see loads of game, including the Big 5 and some amazing sunsets.There’s also fishing to do, as well as visiting some of the islands here, so definitely allow yourself at least 2 days to get the best from this destination.
Matopos National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Matopos National Park is famous for the numerous boulders that rest on top of each other across the landscape. Much like Devils Marbles in Australia, there are some striking geological formations here that seem to defy gravity! Located near the city of Buolwayo, Matopos National Park is broadly split between 2 sections – the recreational area, which showcases the rock art caves, including traditional works by San people and the game area, which is where you’ll spot your rhinos and your leopards. Because if there’s one thing Matopos is famous for it’s rhinos
VISIT THE GREAT Zimbabwe Ruins: Fuelled by the Swahili gold trade and once the important capital of Rozwi culture, the Great Zimbabwean Ruins were part of a large operating civilisation settlement from the 11th to the 15th century. As such, these are some of the largest and most ancient structures in sub-Saharan Africa and an important UNESCO World Heritage Site. Allow yourself at least 4 hours to explore this Medieval city, which is actually very close to Mozambique and certainly one of the best things to do in Zimbabwe.
Hwange National Park: Zimbabwe’s largest park and one of the 10th largest in Africa, no trip to Zimbabwe would be complete without a game drive in Hwange National Park, definitely one of the best things to do in Zimbabwe. A short distance from Victoria Falls, I recommend 2 nights in this great national park so that you can enjoy both morning and evening game drives. Game drives include viewing hippos, elephants, baboons, wildebeest, impala, zebra, kudos, janet cats, African kangaroos, bush babies and giraffes.
Participate in one of the Traditional Dances in Zimbabwe: Dance occupies a crucial place in Zimbabwean culture. There are about 12 prominent traditional dances in Zimbabwe, namely Shangara, Mbira dance, Dinhe, Mbakumba, Muchongoyo, Jerusarema, Mhande, Isitschikitsha, Amabhiza, Ingquza, Chinyobera and Ngungu. The Jerusarema dance and the Muchongoyo are widely regarded as the most important and distinctive dances of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s traditional dances are mostly participatory, and often invite spectators to be part of the performance. With the exception of a few spiritual, religious or initiation dances, there are traditionally no barriers between dancers and onlookers. Even ritual dances often have a time when spectators participate. In natural settings, dances usually take very long hours, up to twelve hours or even days. This is common especially for religious dances such as the Mbira dance. If you visit Zimbabwe, be sure to catch one of these dances.
See the Balancing Rocks: Balancing rocks can be found all over the country, but the ones in Epworth, located at a 20-minute drive from Harare, are the most famous. These rocks are the second most popular tourist destination in the country.
Bulawayo: Bulawayo, one of the main commercial and tourist centers of Zimbabwe, is home to the world famous National Museum. It is also located close to other travel highlights such as the Khami ruins, and the Rhodes Matopos National Park, known for its humongous granite boulders. Colonial era architecture, historic sites, tree-lined avenues, exciting cuisines and great shopping opportunities also make Bulawayo a popular tourist destination.
Zambezi River Cruise lets you explore the mopane forest and savannah regions of the Zambezi River and presents a wide spectrum of African wildlife. The area is brimming with herds of sable antelopes and is also home to lions, elephants and giraffes. The main entrance to the park is located very close to the Victoria Falls town and you can choose from game drives, fishing expeditions and guided hikes.
Chinhoyi Caves: Located close to the Chivero National Park is an impressive natural structure known as the Chinhoyi Caves. This group of caves hosts a fascinating collection of embedded fossils that are truly worth a watch. The biggest highlight is the Sleeping Pool, a crystal clear lake that dives to depths of 130m and presents an exciting diving site.
ARTS/ENTERTAINMENT IN ZIMBABWE: EATING, drinking, dancing, art and music have become routine activities that many people go through without giving much thought. So routine have these activities become that very few people appreciate the fact that food, drink, dance and music are the components that strengthen cultural values, preserve heritage and preserve history, build community character and enhance community engagement and participation in the economy. Did i experience all the above in Zimbabwe? Not really but The Maestro, a large lounge venue outside Harare served mean Mojitos. That really salvaged my opinion of Zimbabwe. Those Mojitos were to die for. The jury is still out on Zimbabwean beer especially Zambezi laager and Chibuku. To any Zimbabwean reading this blog, I AM NOT HAPPY WITH THE BEER CHOICES IN ZIMBABWE.
ARTS: A deep semblance of Zimbabwean culture, tradition, social beliefs and way of life is expressed explicitly through art. With every artwork, creativity is a key element to ensure that the artwork’s message is plainly conveyed, but with some art pieces, only the artist can decipher the meaning. Zimbabwe has a vibrant art sector that targets both tourists and local people. For art enthusiasts visiting Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, the National Gallery is one way to take in the talents of the nation’s artists. But, the artists who sell their works street-side are not to be overlooked. Granite stone, ceramic, metal, beads, fizzy drink cans and wood are some of the materials used to make artwork found in Harare art centers. The National Gallery of Zimbabwe, the center of recognition of Zimbabwean artists in the world, has been in existence for almost 60 years.The gallery is devoted both to the presentation of contemporary art and to the preservation of Zimbabwe’s visual heritage. It’s also home to a collection of paintings, masks, images and sculptures, both ancient and modern, from across the continent.
Nightlife: Zimbabwe has an eclectic mix of entertainment avenues, but high-end bars are of the greatest abundance. There are numerous resort areas and countless designer boutiques in Zimbabwe but the economic crises did affect the operations of such entities. When you are in a big city such as the capital, Harare, on nights out the big cities call for a dressing to the nines. While fully packed up with the western nightlife choices, Zimbabwe’s night scene has quite a distinct personality of its own. There is such a lot to try and do and in this country ranging from vocalizing, disco dancing and acrobatic shows to dinner shows, western-style pubs and clubs. Zimbabwe is multicultural, consequently, multiple activities influence the nightlife making it different and multi-blended, interesting and eclectic. The diverse nightlife in Zimbabwe makes it appropriate and completely conducive for different individuals with different interests and tastes.
Cuisine in Zimbabwe: The cornmeal-based dietary staple of Zimbabwe is also the national dish, called sadza. Sadza to the Zimbabweans is like rice to the Chinese, or pasta to Italians. In fact, sadza re masikati , or “sadza of the afternoon” simply means lunch. Sadza re manheru, or “sadza of the evening” means dinner. Sadza is made from cornmeal or maize, and eaten with relish. Relish can be any kind of vegetable stew, but nyama, (meat), such as beef or chicken, is common among families who can afford it. Sadza is cooked slowly until thick, like porridge. Other traditional foods are peanuts, beans, butternut squash, gem squash, green maize (or corn on the cob), and cucumbers. Avocados are plentiful and cheap. Bowara , or pumpkin leaves, can be eaten fresh and are commonly mixed into stews, like dovi (peanut butter stew).
Meat and game such as beef, springbok (African gazelle), kudu (large antelope), and goat are eaten, the larger game reserved for special occasions. At more expensive restaurants, crocodile tail, shoulder of impala (a type of antelope), and warthog may be on the menu. During the summer, open-air markets sell dried mopane worms (spiny caterpillars) and flying ants by the pound. Both can be eaten fried and are said to taste chewy and salty. Flying ants fly in dense clouds around any source of light during the summer, and can be eaten live. The wings are torn off, then the bodies are eaten. The taste is considered slightly buttery. You can source more information on the net on Zimbabwean cuisine.
Please note that if you visit Zimbabwe and they dont serve of the dishes above, it is your own problem. I am responsible for what I write, you are responsible for what you read and adopt.
Last but not least, if you have any other favourites not on this list, please get in touch and let us know about them and make sure to check with the nearest embassy/government of Zimbawean website for entry requirements into Zimbabwe, vaccination recquirements, exchange rates and the usual toppings needed to enter a country. TRAVEL SAFELY!!!!