Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe is definitely worth a visit. It has always offered great game experiences. Although there is a political downside to visiting here, Zimbabwe is similar to the Africa of 40 years ago—it probably offers the most classic wildlife experience in Africa. Tourism to Zimbabwe benefits people and wild places, and if you have a taste for adventure you are in for a wild surprise.

Mana Pools is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance and also one of the most loved and unspoiled wildlife areas in Africa. The park is on the southern side of the Zambezi River and has the spectacular escarpment as its remarkable backdrop. Photographers will find plenty here to fill their cards. The focus of the wildlife activity is on the waterfront area of the Zambezi, where wild dogs, elephants, buffalo, lion, hippo and numerous plains game come to drink.

During the dry season, from July onwards, elephants (such as the famous Boswell) standing on their hind legs and reaching up to pick the ripening Albida fruits from the trees have become a real highlight for photographers. The light in the Albida forests along the river is quite extraordinary, especially at dawn and dusk when the light through the leaves and the dust creates a warm orange glow.

Mana offers old school safaris at their best with legendary guides setting up camps for guests and offering game drives and walking. There is no off-road driving, but the freedom to set off after game on foot is a privilege not afforded in many national parks in Africa. Motor boats are not permitted in Mana, which is probably a blessing. But if you have a penchant for adventure and want to photograph from the water, consider a multi-day canoe trip down the river, camping on islands and enjoying a wonderful perspective of the park. Canoeing is not everyone’s thing and does include inherent dangers.

There are private concessions bordering the park, which allow boat activities, walks, canoeing and all the freedoms you could want. There are also hotspots away from the river, such as Chitake Springs and Kanga Pan, which draw in amazing wildlife including lions, buffalo, wild dog and leopard. Many people regard the wild Mana Pools as their ultimate wildlife experience.

This vast Lake Kariba, which stretches for 280 kilometres, was created in the 1950s when the Kariba Dam dammed the Zambezi. The iconic leadwood trees above the lakeshore are still standing after more than 60 years. When the valley was flooded, “Operation Noah” was implemented—game animals were saved and are still protected at Matusadona, on Lake Kariba’s southern shore. The camps on the shores are one of the options for visitors, and they all offer great guiding, boat trips and game drives. Alternatively it’s possible to book a houseboat, which is a novel way to explore. The park offers the Big Five including rhino and also wild dogs. While the area offers wonderful landscapes, fishing and a relaxing diversion from other areas, its game viewing is not as diverse or as plentiful as it once was.

This is the largest park in Zimbabwe covering 14 650 kilometres and stretching west to Botswana and including a variety of scenery and vegetation including Kalahari, forest, granite hills and mopane. Originally the core area was the hunting ground for the Ndebele king, Mzilikazi, in the 19th century and was proclaimed a national park in 1929. There are no natural water sources in the park, and the enormous elephant population is sustained through artificial waterholes. During the dry season from August to October the concentration of elephants at these waterholes is extraordinary, and you can sit in hides and watch family after family stream to the water holes in processions. Hwange is also a much loved park and a great destination offering excellent viewing of lion, leopard and wild dog. Due to its large size, it’s also possible to enjoy an excellent wilderness experience within the park and more especially in the private concession areas.

Until 20 years ago, Zimbabwe was the place to see the Victoria Falls. It has arguably the best views of the falls, especially if you are visiting during the dry season. It is from Zimbabwe that you can best see Main Falls and the Devil’s Cataract. You can also look across to Zambia and see the Eastern Cataract. The Falls are more than 1700 metres wide and 100 meters high and are breathtakingly when you are photographing them on foot from within its spectacular rain forest. But photographers should also be wary not only of the deadly dangers of slipping by getting just too close to the edge but also of damage to cameras. During the months of March and April there is so much water that it comes in all directions, and umbrellas are simply not good enough protection. Generally, the waterfall rainbow is at its best in the mornings until about 10 am, at which time it starts to rise out of the gorge. The view from above is also stunning—take advantage of the options of flying over the falls.

Vic Falls is a young, fun adventure centre with a smorgasbord of activities including bungee jumping, river rafting and flights over the falls by helicopter, micro-light and ultra-light. There are some great hotels within sight of the Falls, as well as others which are located a bit further out of town in private concessions and also within the Zambezi National Park. As commercial as the falls has become, in retains the same breath-taking views that so captivated David Livingstone when he first gazed upon them.

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This 5000 square kilometre park in southwestern Zimbabwe is part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park that embraces Kruger National Park in South Africa and Limpopo Park in Mozambique. Although it is the second largest park in the country, it is one of the least visited, and people looking for an extraordinary experience can find it here. The wildlife can be quite wild and skittish, but you can find the Big Five as well as amazing scenery including the Chilojo Cliffs. Adjoining the area is Pamushana, which is a private concession that supports hospitals and school children and has an excellent record for community work. The game viewing experience is outstanding.

This area west of Bulawayo is a fantastic landscape of tumbled granite rocks that has been inhabited for centuries and includes some of the highest concentrations of rock art dating back some 17 000 years. It has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The game is prolific and includes white rhino, leopard and sable antelope.