This is a country blessed with great natural beauty, game reserves and mineral wealth. The diverse landscape changes from mountainous to wilderness to typical Bushveld. The country is also home to large animals and a large bird population. Zimbabwe is a country located in the southern part of the continent of Africa, between the Victoria Falls, Zambezi river, Kariba Dam and the Limpopo river. Zimbabwe is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the west, Zambia to the north and Mozambique to the east.
‘So lovely it must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight’ said David Livingstone of the supreme Mosi-oa-Tunya (‘The smoke that thunders’). This legendary traveler first saw the Falls from the Zambian side and his memory is enshrined in the nearby town of Livingstone. The views from the Zimbabwean & Zambian side are quite different, varying dramatically depending on the season and water flow.
The Falls are over a mile in length and boast the largest curtain of water in the world - over 500 million litres of water per minute casade over the falls and drop 100 m at Rainbow Falls on the Zambian side. Not surprisingly is it the seventh natural wonder of the world and fast becoming one of the top adventure destinations in the world.
The river is divided into a series of braided channels that descend in many separate falls. Below the Falls the river enters a narrow series of gorges, which represent locations successively occupied by the falls earlier in their history. Since the uplifting of the Makgadikgadi Pan area some two million years ago, the Zambezi River has been cutting through the basalt base rock, exploiting weak fissures, and forming a series of retreating gorges. Seven previous waterfalls occupied the seven gorges below the present falls, and Devil's Cataract in Zimbabwe is where the next cut back will form a new waterfall that will eventually leave the present falls lip high above the river in the gorge below.
Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park is one of Africa's finest havens for wildlife and is home to vast herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and has a very large concentration of giraffe. It is also home to many predators and endangered species plus very large and varied birdlife.
The park is situated on the main road between Bulawayo and the world famous Victoria Falls.
Hwange National Park covers just over 14 600 square kilometres. The Park carries 105 mammal species, including 19 large herbivores and eight large carnivores. Elephant make up the largest proportion of the biomass.
All Zimbabwe's specially protected animals are to be found in Hwange and it is the only protected area where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in reasonable numbers. The population of wild dog to be found in Hwange is thought to be of one of the largest surviving groups in Africa today.
The landscape includes desert sand to sparse woodland as well as grasslands and granite outcrops. Due to the lack of water, man-made waterholes were introduced to sustain the animals through the dry season. The park has an interesting variety of landscapes with one part running alongside the North-eastern end of the Kalahari Desert. The south is sandy with extensive forests and open grassland. A feature of the area is ancient fossil dunes - ancient sand dunes held together by vegetation.
The Matobo National Park forms the core of the Matobo or Matopos Hills, an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys commencing some 35 kilometres south of Bulawayo, southern Zimbabwe. The Hills were formed over 2000 million years ago with granite being forced to the surface, this has eroded to produce smooth "whaleback dwalas" and broken kopjes, strewn with boulders and interspersed with thickets of vegetation. Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation, gave the area its name, meaning 'Bald Heads'.
The Hills cover an area of about 3100 km², of which 424 km² is National Park, the remainder being largely communal land and a small proportion of commercial farmland. The park covers some beautiful scenery including some spectacular balancing rocks and impressive views along the Thuli, Mtshelele, Maleme and Mpopoma river valleys. Part of the national park is set aside as a 100 km² game park, which has been stocked with game including black and white rhinoceros. The highest point in the hills is the promontory named Gulati (1549 m) just outside the north-eastern corner of the park.
Construction starting in the 11th century and continuing for over 300 years, the ruins at Great Zimbabwe are some of the oldest and largest structures located in Southern Africa. At its peak, estimates are that the ruins of Great Zimbabwe had as many as 18,000 inhabitants. The ruins that survive are built entirely of stone. The ruins span 1,800 acres (7 km²) and cover a radius of 100 to 200 miles (160 to 320 km).
The ruins can be broken down into three distinct architectural groups. They are known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex and the famous Great Enclosure. The Hill Complex was used for as a temple, the Valley complex was for the citizens, and the Great Enclosure was used by the king. Over 300 structures have been found so far in the Great Enclosure. The type of stone structures found on the site give an indication of the status of the citizenry. Structures that were more elaborate were probably built for the kings and situated further away from the center of the city. It is thought that this was done in order to escape sleeping sickness.
What little evidence exists suggests that Great Zimbabwe also became a center for trading, with artifacts suggesting that the city formed part of a trade network extending as far as China. Chinese pottery shards, coins from Arabia, glass beads and other non-local items have been excavated at Zimbabwe.
Nobody knows for sure why the site was eventually abandoned. Perhaps it was due to drought, perhaps due to disease or it simply could be that the decline in the gold trade forced the people who inhabited Great Zimbabwe to look for greener pastures.
Mutare was founded in 1897 as a fort, about 8 km from the border with Mozambique, and is just 290 km from the Mozambican port of Beira, earning Mutare the title of "Zimbabwe's Gateway to the Sea". It is sometimes also called "Gateway to the Eastern Highlands". There is a border railway station on the railway line from Harare to Beira with a railways mechanical work shop.
The area was the site of Chief Mutasa's kraal. In 1890 A.R. Coquhoun was given concessionary rights and Fort Umtali (the fort later became Mutare) was established between the Tsambe and Mutare Rivers. The word mutare means "a piece of metal". The name was probably given to the river as a result of gold being discovered in the Penhalonga valley through which the Mutare River runs. In 1891 the location was moved to a site now known as Old Mutare, about 14 km north of the city centre. In 1896 the construction of the railway between Beira and Bulawayo led to the town being moved a third time so that it was closer to the railway line - compensation was paid by the British South Africa Company to the townspeople for the cost of moving. The town was proclaimed a municipality in 1914 and in 1971 it was granted city status. The name was officially changed from Umtali to Mutare (its original native name) in 1982.
When Vasco da Gama rounded Africa in the late 1400s he pulled into the beautiful protected bay of Inhambane to replenish stocks and to explore. He took an immediate liking to the place and its people and named it Terra de Boa Gente or ‘Land of the Gentle People’. It took another 40 years before the Portuguese established a trading post and settlement and sadly the friendly people of Inhambane were rewarded by lives of slavery. Thousands were removed through this inhumane practice, which continued well into the last century.
Inhambane, which is one of the oldest settlements on the East Coast, was an important port. Although large ships seldom call here any longer, it still has the largest fleet of working dhows in the country. In the old quarter of town is the 170 year old Cathedral of our Lady of Conception where a rusted (and somewhat perilous) ladder leads to the top of the spire, offering grand views of town and harbour.
You should also take in the old governor’s house on the waterfront, the fascinating railway station (it has a workshop filled with old stream trains and memorabilia and men clanking away on old machinery) and the mercado which sells a colourful array of spices, prawns, fishes, vegetables and cashew nuts. You can also take a dhow trip across the harbour to Maxixe.
Limpopo Transfrontier Park
The establishment of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is a process that will link the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, Kruger National Park in South Africa, Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe, as well as two areas between Kruger and Gonarezhou, namely the Sengwe communal land in Zimbabwe and the Makuleke region in South Africa. The total surface area of the transfrontier park will be approximately 35,000 km2. The establishment of the Transfrontier Park is the first phase of creating a bigger transfrontier conservation area measuring a staggering 100,000 km2.
Situated on the tip of the African continent, South Africa has often been described as a world in one country. It has a wealth of natural beauty, pristine wilderness areas, warm and friendly people, cosmopolitan cities and excellent infrastructure - making South Africa a favourite safari destination.
Kruger National Park
The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, this national park of nearly 2 million hectares, SANParks - Kruger National Park is unrivalled in the diversity of its life forms and a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies.
Truly the flagship of the South African national parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. Man's interaction with the Lowveld environment over many centuries - from bushman rock paintings to majestic archaeological sites like Masorini and Thulamela - is very evident in the Kruger National Park. These treasures represent the cultures, persons and events that played a role in the history of the Kruger National Park and are conserved along with the park's natural assets.
Compared to other Southern African countries, Mozambique has considerably lower numbers of wildlife. This is due to Mozambique’s civil upheaval, during which large-scale organised poaching systematically removed almost all big game from the bush. Mozambicans were unfortunately reduced to hunter-gatherer status and in some areas even locusts and ants were harvested almost to extinction. Birdlife has recovered to some extent but only the most remote areas offer the chance to view African wildlife, including the Big Five – but it must be on foot and with experienced guides.
Maputo Elephant Reserve is home to about 400 elephants, which migrate between South Africa and Mozambique. The birdlife is varied and abundant, but infrastructure is minimal and roads are poor. Camping is an option at either Ponta Milibangalala or Ponta Dobela, but the water in the wells there needs to be purified before drinking.
Reserva do Niassa is a remote area that has provided refuge to around 12,000 elephant and the last of Mozambique's buffalo, sable and roan herds. Independent visitors are not encouraged, as this area is currently being redeveloped, however, it is possible to go into the area with a game guard ranger. The nearby Jurege River proved excellent game viewing (though it is dry from June to December).
Although the Bazaruto Archipelago consists of five islands (in size order: Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Santa Carolina and Bangue), only Bazaruto and surrounding reefs are officially within a National Park. These waters are home to over 80% of all marine fish families of the Indo-Pacific. Resident Minke and Southern right whales abound in this area, alongside common, spinner and bottlenose dolphins and the highly threatened dugong.
Vilanculous is located 700 km north of Maputo on the San Sebastian Peninsula. It is a small bustling seaside town with a welcoming atmosphere. There are a lot of little shops to explore and a lively market where you can find fresh produce and every kind of fish imaginable. As soon as it is getting dark it is time to experience the splendid nightlife of Vilanculous and its bars and restaurants. The days are spent at the beautiful beaches or with day trips to one of the islands of the magnificent Bazaruto Archipelago. Furthermore you can go diving, fishing and sea kayaking or have a look to the great diversity of birdlife of the Coastal Wildlife Sanctuary.