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.