The Kalolo tribesmen were very spot on when they poetically named Victoria Falls Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning “the smoke that thunders.” One of the largest and prettiest falls in the world, Victoria Falls runs 2.5 kilometers wide, creating a lovely and thundering drop of waters.
The steady, cloudy sheets of water dramatically plunge 350 feet down the gorge and form powerful sprays that extend up to several miles. And the mist, which can be seen from five kilometers away, seems to dreamily cloak the falls and the surrounding vegetation.
The water curtains flow from the Zambezi River, which Zimbabwe and Zambia shares. And although the falls lies on the border between the two countries, many could attest that the view from Zimbabwe is far more majestic.
Naturally, witnessing the grand spectacle is the highlight of the visit, but you can also try several tourist activities that even more bring out Victoria Falls’ natural charm. You can bungee jump from Victoria Falls Bridge, go whitewater rafting below the falls, and have a scenic flight above the water fanfare. There is also Victoria Falls National Park, which features verdant vegetation and interesting wild animals such as giraffes, elephants, zebras, and hippos.
Any visitor will fall in love with Victoria Falls, perhaps as much as the medical missionary and explorer Dr. David Livingstone did in 1855. He was the first European to see the “thundering smoke.” Mesmerized, he named it after the queen.
Victoria Falls is one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World.”
Great Zimbabwe is the ruins of a grand architectural complex, which is believed to be erected from 1200 to 1450 AD. Spanning a total area of 722 hectares, Great Zimbabwe is the largest ruins in sub-Saharan and is the most renowned in southern Africa.
The ruins are highlighted by tall walls of granite stones. The stone materials are quite ordinary in architectural context, but what is remarkable is how the granite stones were held together without the use of mortar.
It is believed that a group of Shona-speaking people were responsible for this structure, although European colonialists first proposed that Arabs, Egyptians, Phoenicians, or Romans built this structure.
The entire complex is stunning for its size and magnificent for its construction. From its Hill Complex up the hill and to its Great Enclosure and Valley Enclosures below, Great Zimbabwe seems to have frozen in time, educating visitors on the ancient people’s history.
In 1986, Great Zimbabwe, whose name was said to be derived either from dzimba dza mabwe (large houses of stone) or dzimba-hwe (venerated stones), was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mana Pools National Park
Mana Pools National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a large conservation area that is attractive for its remoteness and untainted natural beauty. Located in Western Zimbabwe, the park covers an area of 2,196 square kilometers (848 square miles) and is set in front of the Zambezi River. It is characterized by lush vegetation, lakes, and sandbanks.
The Zambezi River flows into the flood plains in this region, permanently creating four inland lakes. The word four in Shona language is mana; hence, the name of the conservation area.
During the dry season, the park attracts diverse wildlife population. Animals, such as elephants, lions, crocodiles, zebras, baboons, warthogs, hippos, and more than 300 bird species, visit the area to eat and drink, which to visitors means a great opportunity for game viewing.
Game viewing can either be in the form of canoe safari, walking safari, and driving safari, all of which offer a pleasurable experience of watching the citizens of the forests.
Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park holds a very important position in the wildlife conservation and tourism in Zimbabwe. Covering an area of 14,600 square kilometers, it is the largest of its kind in the country and has a rich concentration of wildlife.
The park, which runs along the border of Botswana’s Kalahari Desert and is an hour away from Victoria Falls, is home to about 400 bird species and 100 mammal species, which include giraffes, cheetahs, lions, zebras, and antelopes. But the elephant and wild dog concentrations in Hwange National Park are considered to be one of the densest in the world.
To provide the wildlife population with a nourishing environment, the park features several manmade waterholes.
Game viewing is the park’s primary tourist activity, which can be done by walking, driving, and horseback riding. The park is also ideal for camping, with its exceptional camping sites and amenities.
Lake Kariba, which lies between Zimbabwe and Zambia, has a poetic charm. It is lined with mountains, highlighted by verdant vegetation, and surrounded by islands, creating a picturesque, breathtaking view.
Such a beautiful lake would never have existed if the Karima Dam hadn’t been erected on the Zambezi River. The dam, which stands at 128 meters, was used to produce hydroelectricity from the river.
Stretching up to 2,000 kilometers, Lake Kariba is one of the largest manmade lakes in the world, and perhaps the most vibrant with life. Several fish species thrive in the waters, while different kinds of birds hover above the lake. And along the shores are plenty of wildlife sanctuaries.
There is no shortage of activities in Lake Kariba. You can book a canoe safari, try bush walking, go game fishing, and visit the sanctuaries.
Formed by hundreds of granite hills, Matopos Hills reveals a picture of an interesting landscape. Its name in Ndebele language literally means “bald heads” because of its rugged surface tempered by smooth patches of land.
Weathering and river erosion millions of years back were responsible for the formation of this regal landscape, producing deep valleys and high peaks and scattering rocks in different places and positions. And today, Matopos Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is not only a piece of wonderland but also a lavish habitat for a number of wild animals.
In fact, a portion of its area is dedicated to the Matobo National Park, a prime wildlife sanctuary with a thriving community of leopards, antelopes, baboons, lizards, cheetahs, zebras, and other wildlife species. The park also has abundant birdlife, which includes secretary birds, martial eagles, fish eagles, and francolins. But the most famous of all is the black eagle, whose population in the park is the largest in the world.
Completing the scenery in Matopo Hills are diverse vegetation, centuries-old rock art paintings of the Bushman tribes, Ndebele sacred sites, and archeological sites.
Harare, formerly known as Salisbury, serves as the capital of Zimbabwe. Rising from the ground are old and historically significant buildings and connecting the places are concrete streets. Harare is a picture of urbanity, but it remains to be a mirror of the country’s history and identity.
Proof to this are The National Archives, where a collection of diaries, journals, and notebooks on the country’s history is safely stored, and The National Gallery, a repository of historical collection and Shona soft-stone carvings.
Of course, nature-oriented attractions also extend to this city. Over 900 species of wild trees and shrubs can be found in the National Botanic Garden, while a diverse collection of wild animals, such as giraffes, reed bucks, zebras, wildebeests, and impalas, populate the 277-hectare Mukuvisi Woodlands.
The Kopje, Chapungu Sculpture Park, Harare City Library, and Queen Victoria Museum should also be part of the itinerary. But shopping for local products and handicrafts would still be the ideal climax to a Harare vacation, as this is a perfect way to take home a tangible memory from Zimbabwe.
Chimanimani Mountains is a collection of stellar peaks running along the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The greater part of the Chimanimani Mountains is on the side of Mozambique, but the Zimbabwe part of the mountain range is captivating enough to attract tourists. In fact, the Chimanimani Mountains National Park, although not as popular as the other conservation areas, is a beautiful place to observe a wildlife setting.
The park treats visitors to a grand view of an unspoiled environment filled with plant species such as wild orchids, cedar trees, and wild sweet peas. Here you will also find rare trees and an ancient mahogany tree.
Rainforests also add to the charm of the area, enhancing the already lush setup of the mountain range. Complementing the scenery are mountain springs, streams, and waterfalls, the most prominent of which is the Bridal Veil Falls.
With 186 bird species and a large population of elands, the park is a haven for anyone interested in bird watching and game viewing. And because of its natural landscape, the mountain range is also perfect for hiking and rock climbing.
Nyanga National Park
Richly covered by fertile green, Nyanga National Park is the oldest national park in Zimbabwe and one of the first to be designated as one. Its landscape is accentuated by hills, cliffs, and peaks, which collectively form an authentic wilderness setting.
Like any other national parks in the country, Nyanga National Park hosts a wealth of wildlife species, including lions, buffalos, hyenas, and different types of antelopes. Game viewing, therefore, is a popular activity in the area.
Aside from wild animals, the park also has several trout species, which can be found in the rivers and dams strewn across the area. This makes fly fishing a worthwhile activity.
In addition, Nyanga National Park plays host to Mount Nyangani and Mutarazi Falls, the highest peak and the highest waterfall in Zimbabwe, respectively.
Hiking the trails of Mount Nyangani is for the adventure-seeking souls. From up the mountain, an awe-inspiring view of the Nyanga District and some parts of Mozambique is graciously displayed. The Mutarazi Falls area, meanwhile, houses one of the park’s camping grounds.
Nyanga National Park also presents itself as a beautiful venue for boating, swimming, and horseback riding.
Savé Valley Conservancy
Since 1991, Savé Valley Conservancy has been aiming to preserve wildlife species, especially those that are in the endangered status. It covers an area of 3,400 square kilometers.
The conservancy originally looked at saving black rhinoceros, which was then in the danger of extinction. But over the years, other wild animals were introduced to the conservation area, completing an impressive and diverse wildlife community.
Today, aside from black rhinoceros, you will find leopards, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, giraffes, elands, hippos, zebras, baboons, elephants, painted dogs, and other wildlife in the conservation area. Several bird species also make a home in Savé Valley Conservancy.
Certainly, an environment as rich as this can offer exciting activities such as walking safari, photography safari, fishing, canoeing, abseiling, and mountain biking.
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