Zimbabwe is a wonderful, friendly, and welcoming destination situated on a high plateau in Southern Africa, which lies between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers.
It is a unique and fascinating tourist destination, endowed with many wonders, such as its warm and friendly people and unique culture, its rich history and heritage, its pristine wildlife and nature reserves, the majestic Victoria Falls, the Great Zimbabwe national monument, the mythical Lake Kariba, the mighty Zambezi River, and the mystique of the Eastern Highlands, which are among the leading tourist attractions of Africa.
These wonders have made Zimbabwe one of the favourite locations in Africa for tourists.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, bordered by Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa, and Botswana. The climate is generally warm, with a daily sunshine average of seven hours all year round.
The African country is a multicultural society where people of different races live in harmony.
Harare is the country’s capital and commercial and industrial centre. It is a modern but not very complicated city, characterised by flowering trees, colorful parks, and contemporary architecture.
Harare, as a tourist destination, has many interesting sites and friendly people, and everyone who travels to the city finds it warm and welcoming. The city’s major highlights are the National Heroes Acre, the Balancing Rocks, Lake Chivero, and the National Art Gallery.
Five-day tour of Zimbabwe
Before the beginning of the 2012 World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair in Harare, we, along with other journalists, went on a five-day tour of Bulawayo, Hwange National Park, and Victoria Falls.
On the first day of the tour, which started on October 12, we took a bus trip to Bulawayo and spent the first night at the Rainbow Hotel.
In Bulawayo, we went on a city tour and visited the city centre, shopping centers, flea markets, affluent suburbs, and high-density townships.
Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe after Harare, with a metropolitan population of about 700 000.
It is the nearest large city to Hwange National Park, Matopo National Park, and Victoria Falls.
The next day, before leaving for Hwange National Park, we made a short trip to Matobo National Park, which is located about 35km south of Bulawayo, and visited several archaeological sites, including caves where bushmen lived, and the tombs of Cecil Rhodes, Leander Starr Jameson, and several other leading early white settlers, which are located on the summit of Malindidzimu, the “Hill of the Spirits”.
Matobo National Park forms the core of the Matopo Hills, which is an area of granite kopjes and wooded valleys.
Bushmen lived in the hills about 2 000 years ago, leaving a rich heritage in hundreds of rock paintings. There are over 3 000 registered rock art sites. In the many crevices and caves, clay ovens and other historical artifacts have been found.
The Matobo Hills is an area of high botanical diversity, with over 200 species of tree recorded in the national park, including the mountain acacia, wild pear, and the paperbark tree. There are also many aloes, wild herbs, and over 100 grass species.
The national park also has a wide diversity of fauna, including 175 birds, 88 mammals, 39 snakes, and 16 fish species.
Next we headed for Hwange National Park and spent one night at Hwange Safari Lodge, which is situated just outside the borders of the national park.
Hwange National Park is one of the most preferred destinations in Zimbabwe. It is the largest game reserve in the country, covering roughly 14 650 square km.
The park lies in the west of the country, on the main road between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
Hwange is home to the renowned big seven: the elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, rhino, hippo, and crocodile.
Zimbabwe’s national parks feature 100 species of mammals, 400 bird species, and approximately 1 000 tree and shrub species.
Gravel roads traversing the parks allow visitors to drive through and admire the wilderness at the same time. Many safari operators offer both day and night trips through these parks.
The next day we went for a game drive in Hwange National Park and spotted giraffes, antelopes, baboons, crocodiles, and warthogs.
Then, we set off for the majestic Victoria Falls and stayed at a’Zambezi River Lodge for three nights, which is located on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, the fourth-longest river in Africa.
On the first day of our stay, we went to see Victoria Falls. We took a path through the rainforest which leads to Victoria Falls.
Before getting to the falls, we visited the statue of David Livingstone, who was a Scottish explorer in Africa and the first European to see the falls.
As we came out of the forest, we saw the most spectacular sight in Zimbabwe.
Torrents of water running over a cliff, plummeting down toward the bottom of the gorge, throwing a cloud of mist up into the air, which is why the locals call it Mosi-oa-Tunya - the Smoke that Thunders. Its name could also be translated as the Cloud that Thunders.
Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. It stretches 1.7km and is more than 100m high.
There are dozens of different viewing areas from which one can admire this marvel of nature. There are also companies that offer helicopter rides over the falls, known as the Flight of the Angels.
Victoria Falls area has become known as the “world’s adventure capital”.
It offers tourists adrenaline-rush adventures like the famous 111m bungee jump and white water rafting. For visitors looking for more sedate activities, there are boat cruises, fishing, elephant rides, game drives, canoeing, and golfing.
The following days, we went for the Lion Encounter, where a lion rehabilitation programme is being implemented, and walked with lions, which was a great and unique experience.
We also went for elephant interaction, took a cruise boat on the mighty Zambezi River, and visited the crocodile farm.
And after three days of getting to know, enjoying, and admiring the beauty of Victoria Falls, we took a flight back to Harare to attend the tourism fair to share our experiences with other people interested in the pristine wildlife and nature of Southern Africa.
There are other prime tourist destinations in Zimbabwe, including Lake Kariba, Great Zimbabwe, and the Eastern Highlands.
Created along the Zambezi River through the construction of a dam, Lake Kariba is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the world, measuring 280km long and 40km at its widest. The massive body of water is home to about 40 different species of fish, as well as crocodiles and hippos.
Great Zimbabwe is an archaeological ruin, located near the town of Masvingo in southeastern Zimbabwe, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe and the royal palace of the monarch. Construction of the monument began in the 11th century and continued until the 14th century. The national monument, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, provides evidence of a burgeoning African civilisation that flourished long before the arrival of European settlers.
The Eastern Highlands is a mountain range in the east of Zimbabwe. The range forms Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique.
The Eastern Highlands offers visitors a wide range of adventures for their relaxation and enjoyment. These include hiking and horse riding trails, bird watching, historical monument exploration and study, and ample opportunities to admire the picturesque landscape.
One of the world’s highest waterfalls, the 762m Mutarazi Falls, is a major attraction in the Nyanga area of the Eastern Highlands.
• This article has been abridged from one that appeared in the Tehran Times