Things to Do & See in Zimbabwe – A World of Wonders
Zimbabwe is truly a World of Wonders. From the ancient 11th century ruins at Great Zimbabwe, to the natural rock formations of Matobo National Park, some of the most spectacular safari opportunities at Hwange and Gonarezhou National Parks, the breathtaking beauty and awesome power of Victoria Falls, the enchanting and serene tea estates of Honde Valley and the adrenaline rush of the Mutarazi Falls skywalk, you can find it all here.
We begin our journey through Zimbabwe in Victoria Falls, a quaint town that is home to the world-famous waterfall of the same name. Located on the Zambezi river, on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls is the world’s largest waterfall, and one of the most visited sights in Africa. Known locally as “Mosi-oa-Tunya,” or “The Smoke That Thunders,” the noise and spray from the Falls can be heard and seen from over 40 kilometers away!
Apart from walking through the Mosi-oa-Tunya park to marvel at Victoria Falls from multiple viewpoints, there are two must-do activities in Victoria Falls. The first is a helicopter flight over the falls called the Flight of Angels, which gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire rainforest, the Zambezi river, the waterfalls, and the border with Zambia. The second is Devil’s Pool, where one can wade all the way to the edge of the Falls, and swim in the world’s ultimate infinity pool, overlooking a 100 foot drop on the very edge of Victoria Falls. Devil’s Pool can only be accessed from the Zambian side, but it is well worth the visit.
Another sight not to be missed in Victoria Falls is the Victoria Falls Hotel. Built by the British in 1904, the hotel was originally conceived as accommodation for workers on the Cape to Cairo railway. Today, it is one of the famous hotels in Africa, and one of the Leading Hotels of the World.
Hwange National Park
From Victoria Falls, we drive to Hwange National Park, the largest national park in Zimbabwe, which provides some of the best game viewing opportunities in Africa. The park is particularly well known for being one of the world’s greatest African Elephant reserves, with around 40,000 tuskers, but it is also home to lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, buffalo and more than 400 species of birds.
Matobo National Park
From Hwange, we continue East on to Matobo National Park, a part of the larger Matobos Hills region, an area of granite kopjes and wooded hills in southern Zimbabwe, 35 miles south of Bulawayo. Matobo Hills was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. Cecil John Rhodes is buried in the park. There is also a memorial erected by the Memorial Order of Tin Hats (MOTH) to commemorate the sacrifice of Rhodesian serviceman in World War 1 and 2.
To the west of the park is the Matobo Game Park, where visitors can see white and black rhinos, sable antelope, giraffe, zebra, impala, wildebeest and ostrich. Matobo Park also has several hiking trails, and caves with ancient cave paintings.
From Matobo, we continue our journey East, to the Great Zimbabwe historical site near Masvingo. Constructed between the 11th and 15th century by the Shona dynasty, Great Zimbabwe was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the Iron Age. The stone city spans an area of 7.22 square kilometers, and at its peak could have housed up to 18,000 people. The ruins consist of three groups of architectural structures known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex and the Great Enclosure.
The Great Enclosure which has the form of an ellipsis, dates to the 14th century. It consists of an Outer Wall and a smaller Inner Wall which encircles various structures. The main feature of the site is a Conical Tower between the Inner and Outer Walls. The Great Enclosure was built out of cut granite blocks without using any mortar.
Several artifacts have been recovered from the site of the Great Zimbabwe ruins. The most important are soapstone figures in the form of a bird. This figure became a national symbol and is still depicted on the national flag.
Gonarzehou National Park
From the Great Zimbabwe, we drive to the south-east, towards the border with Mozambique, to arrive at Gonarezhou National Park, one of the iconic wilderness areas of Africa. Gonarezhou, which translated from Shona means “The Place of Elephants,” has a large population of African Elephants, in addition to Cape Wild Dog, Hippopotamus, Giraffe, Zebra, Wildebeest, black and white Rhinos, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and Hyena. One of the most well known sights in the park is Chilojo Cliffs, sandstone cliffs towering 180 meters high and running for some 20 kilometers along the south bank of the Runde river.
One of the highlights of our visit to Gonarezhou is Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge. Perched high on a cliff overlooking a river filled with elephants, hippos and other wildlife, the Lodge has everything you need to rest and relax after a long day on safari including a shaded swimming pool, a sumptuous lounge, a library, a bar and dining room, all surrounded by beautifully tended gardens. The luxury rooms also have a private balcony with outstanding views of the river and its wildlife.
After 2 exciting days in Gonarezhou, with our safari vehicle chased by elephants, we proceed northward to the idyllic Honde Valley. Part of the Eastern Highlands mountain range, Honde Valley is an endless sea of greenery, with sloping tea plantations as far as the eye can see and a variety of bird species.
One of the highlights of our visit is the Wamba Tea Factory, where we learn about the process of making tea, from picking and transporting the leaves, to packaging and shipping it to consumers.
The other highlight of our trip is our visit to Mutarazi Falls, which at 772 meters is the highest waterfall in Zimbabwe, and the second highest in Africa. Here, one finds one of the most exhilarating activities in Zimbabwe, the Mutarazi Falls Skywalk, a bridge on which you can walk across a 762 meter chasm, with stunning views of the Valley and the Falls, and the Mutarazi Falls Skyline, a 90 meter long zipline where you can zip across the same chasm at 50-70 km per hour.
One of the best places to stay in Honde Valley is Aberfoyle Lodge. Situated in a very special part of Zimbabwe with rolling tea plantations, riparian forests and the Nyamkombe river surrounding the lodge, you feel as though you are in an oasis of true serenity. The rooms have just been renovated and are beautifully decorated.
Each one is named after a special bird found in the area, and is unique in the sense that the colors of the bird make up the colors of the interior decor of that room. All the food is organically grown on-site including the honey, pepper, coffee and tea that are served at the estate. A wide range of indoor and outdoor activities are available at the Lodge including billiards, table tennis, swimming, bird walks, golfing, ziplining, white-water rafting, fishing, mountain biking and tours of the nearby Tea plantations.
Nyanga National Park
After 2 restful days in Honde Valley, we proceed northward to our final destination on our tour of Zimbabwe, Nyanga National Park. Some of the key sights in the park include the Nyangombe waterfall, the World’s End viewing platform, where one gets a spectacular view of the Eastern Highlands and the valley, and Mount Nyangani, the highest mountain in Zimbabwe, at a height of 2,592 meters or 8,504 feet.
There is a path to trek all the way to the top of the Mount Nyangani. The trek takes about 2-3 hours. The park also has spectacular flora and fauna including trees with stunning red leaves, and several forms of wildlife including kudu, reedbuck, buffalo and some lions and leopards.
After an exciting week touring Zimbabwe from Victoria Falls to the Eastern Highlands, we drive back to Harare to fly back home. Rest assured, we will be coming back to Zimbabwe, sooner than later.
Kia Ora – New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful and exciting destinations on the planet. From the stunning vistas of the Southern Alps, to the hot springs and geysers and traditional Māori cultural experiences in Rotorua, the award-winning wineries of Auckland, and Hobbiton, the home of The Shire from the Lord of the Rings series, New Zealand absolutely takes your breath away. Adventure seekers will find New Zealand, the country that invented bungee jumping to be paradise. From jumping off the Sky Tower in Auckland or the Queenstown Kawarau Bridge Bungy, the world’s first bungy jump, to racing in a speedboat in Shotover canyon, skiing, ice-climbing and a host of other adventure activities, New Zealand delivers an adrenaline rush, like no other destination.
The North Island
Our journey begins in the city of Auckland, on the North Island. Located on a narrow isthmus between the Manukau harbour on the Tasman Sea and Waitemata harbour on the Pacific Ocean, Auckland is a beautiful city with spectacular beaches and hiking trails, award-winning wineries, and exciting cultural and adventure activities, including the adrenaline pumping SkyWalk and SkyJump, a 192 meter jump from the top of the Sky Tower.
Beyond the city, the Auckland region has several quaint destinations a short ferry ride away from the city, including Waiheke Island, known as the ‘island of wine’ for its many award-winning wineries, and Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano with hiking trails all the way up to the summit.
Next, we visit Hobbiton, the movie set where director Peter Jackson filmed several scenes in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and The Hobbit film series. Once a family owned farm called the Alexander Farm, Peter Jackson and his team built an elaborate movie set including 37 hobbit holes, associated gardens and hedges, a mill and a double arch bridge, and a 26 ton artificial oak tree to transform the location into the Shire, the home of the Hobbits in J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous books.
Today, visitors can take a 2 hour guided tour of the movie set and visit such locations as Bagshot Row, the Party Tree, and Bilbo’s Bag End home. The tour is one of the most popular attractions in New Zealand and is booked well in advance.
Finally, we visit Rotorua, famous for the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, which has over 500 hot springs and mud pools, and at least 65 geyser vents. There are two geothermal sites in Rotorua called Te Puia and Wai-O-Tapu with world-famous sights like the Pohutu Geyser, the Artist’s Palette, and the Champagne Pool. Rotorua is also known as a center of Māori (indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand) culture, and offers several opportunities to explore traditional Māori arts & crafts and cuisine.
The South Island
Located on the edge of Lake Wakatipu on the South Island of New Zealand, Queenstown is a little slice of heaven on earth.
An enchanting mix of natural beauty, epic film locations from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, beautiful resorts, exceptional cuisine, and adventure sports like jet boating, and the world’s first Bungy jump, Queenstown will surely steal your heart. Some of the must do activities in Queenstown are the Skyline Gondola, the Shotover jet speed boat ride, and a day tour to Milford Sound.
The Skyline Gondola takes you up to the top of Bob’s peak for breathtaking views of the Queenstown area, and provides access to the Skyline Luge, and the Stratosfare restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner.
The Shotover Jet, one of the world’s most exhilarating jet boat rides, enables visitors to experience the beauty of the Kimiākau (Shotover River) Canyons, and learn about the Ngāi Tahu, the indigenous Māori people of the Queenstown area, while traveling at over 90 kilometers per hour over water as shallow as 10 centimeters.
The jewel in the crown however is Milford Sound, New Zealand’s most famous travel destination, and a place that Rudyard Kipling once called “the eighth Wonder of the World.” The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound, a fjord, 15 kilometers inland from the Tasman Sea, is itself breathtaking.
The fjord itself is surrounded by steep rock faces that rise over 1,200 meters (3,900 feet). Some of the most imposing peaks include The Elephant, a peak that resembles an Elephant’s head and rises 1,517 meters (4,977 feet) and The Lion, which resembles a crouching lion and rises 1,302 meters (4,272 feet). There are also two permanent waterfalls, and multiple temporary waterfalls, especially when it rains.
The combination of Milford Sound’s peaks, waterfalls, local wildlife including crested penguins, bottlenose dolphins and various species of birds, and activities like boat cruises, sea kayaking, diving or flightseeing, make this day trip a truly unforgettable experience.
The Story of Tripvana
With COVID-19, it seems the entire world has come to a stand still. Flights are grounded, hotels are empty, and cities are like ghost towns. Several have asked – will the travel industry every return to normal? Our answer is simple: Travel is not an industry, and “normal” must be re-defined.
At tripvana, we believe that travel is a way of life, our path to self-discovery. From the beginning of time, everything we have learned about people, cultures, nature, science & technology can be attributed to this innate need to explore our universe and understand our place in it.
We also believe that our pre-COVID perception of “normal” is no longer relevant. Pre-COVID, the “normal” travel experience was commoditized, fragmented, and transactional. Post-COVID, travel must be completely personalized.
There are five key trends which validate these two core beliefs. While these trends were already present pre-COVID, they have now accelerated and become firmly entrenched in our consciousness.
- Multi-generational family travel – Living through a pandemic has sparked a re-evaluation of people’s priorities. 91% of millennials want to take a multi-generational trip including children, parents, and grandparents, at least once a year
- Private, exclusive experiences – Consumers want unique, private excursions and exclusive lodging options including family run lodges, villas and boutique hotels that give them both privacy and an authentic flavor of the destination, its people, cuisines and cultures
- Remote destinations and outdoor activities – Travelers are craving the great outdoors and seeking itineraries focused on distant locations with wide open spaces and a wide range of passive and active excursions – from wildlife safaris to birding tours, biking, and trekking
- Cultural, heritage & ancestry travel – 86% of millennials want to experience a new culture on their travels, and a whole new class of travelers is emerging who want to re-trace the roots of their parents and grandparents, up to eight generations back
- Resurgence of travel advisors – Travelers are increasingly seeking the help of experts to plan their trips. 60% of millennials are willing to pay more for destination knowledge, and 82% are willing to pay more to take the hassle out of travel planning
Given the accelerating trend towards personalized travel, let us explore the problem with crafting personalized trips today. There are four key steps for personalized travel: Research, Planning, Booking and Management. Currently, consumers are having to spend 45 days and visit 140 websites on average to navigate these four stages. Why is this the case?
- Research is about exploring various destinations, activities and accommodations. However, 80% of travel experiences, particularly in more remote destinations, have no high quality image or video content online. Whatever content is available is highly fragmented across multiple travel sites and niche travel blogs
- Planning requires expertise to create an optimal day by day itinerary, but online travel sites offer no support for itinerary creation, nor do they offer any access to any travel advisors who have deep, local expertise on destinations, activities and accommodations
- Booking is about making reservations, but currently reservations are scattered across multiple sites, and travel documents are fragmented across multiple formats and channels (email, PDF documents etc.)
- Management is about making any changes to a booked itinerary, but making even simple changes requires contacting multiple customer support personnel, who often treat customers like a number, instead of a person
At tripvana, everything we do, is based on one guiding principle – “nirvana is a journey.” As every individual’s journey to nirvana is uniquely personal, we believe that every trip on that journey must also be uniquely personal. Therefore, we have designed a new process where every trip starts with YOU the customer, defining what it is that YOU want from your travel experience:
- Customers visit our site and view high quality image or video content, including VR & AR content, that provides an authentic understanding of various cultures, traditions, cuisines, historical events, ecological issues, natural phenomena and local communities, around the world
- Customers then save their favorites, create aspirational travel boards that capture all the elements of their dream vacation, and push a button to get connected to trusted, destination-specific experts who help craft unique, customized itineraries, often including exclusive activities and accommodations
- Customers can then book everything from one site including all the customized tours & activities and any flights, hotels or cars they wish to book independently
- Finally, customers can access all their travel documents in one place while traveling and contact a single person for any itinerary changes, thus greatly simplifying itinerary management
By offering customers a unique combination of content, customization and convenience, tripvana enables customers to focus their efforts on envisioning their perfect trip, while leaving it to us to make it a reality.
Further, we build a long-lasting relationship with each of our customers, enabling us to serve you better by suggesting new experiences that are more relevant for your individual journey to nirvana.