Zimbabwe continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Despite a power-sharing government headed by Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai that pledged to improve the lives of Zimbabweans the country still faces a mammoth task consistently frustrated by political infighting. Even though the economy has slowly improved from it's worst nadir, millions are still dependent on food aid and disease outbreaks only compound the situation.
But behind the grim data lies one of southern Africa’s most beautiful countries. And despite being forced to sacrifice so much, Zimbabweans have not lost their humour or resolve. With so few visiting the country, those who do can expect royal treatment. They need you. While the world’s media focuses on the fall of Zimbabwe, visitors will see a very different image of the country. From the absolute wilderness of Mana Pools National Park, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and the mountains looking over Mozambique in Eastern Zimbabwe, to fine dining in Harare or bungee jumping over Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe offers something for everyone.
Zimbabwe is no longer nearly as cheap as it once was, but its richness in culture and colour remain. Colonialism remains etched in all sorts of ways, but local traditions are visible. If you’re willing to join a tour group, or pay and plan your own trip, then a country of charm, political intrigue and magnificent wilderness awaits. Oh, and Zimbabwe’s got one of the world’s best climates…even the worst government can’t destroy that.
Mana Pools National Park
This magnificent 2200-sq-km national park (admission US$15; 6am-6pm) is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and its magic stems from its remoteness and pervading sense of the wild and natural. The word mana means four in the Shona language, and refers to the four pools around the park headquarters that are popular with crocs and hippos.
Hwange National Park
This National Park (admission US$15 per day; 6am-6pm) is particularly popular because it’s one of the easiest parks to reach and wildlife viewing is good, especially during the dry season (September and October), when animals congregate near waterholes. It has one of the largest herds of elephants in the world. A good viewing spot is at Nyamandhlovu Pan, 10km from Main Camp.
Matobo National Park ('The Matopos')
Matobo Hills is home to not only the greatest variety and density of birds in the world, an amazing landscape of daunting granite mountains and outcrops that stretch for thousands of kilometres, but Zimbabwe’s largest concentration of ancient San rock art. Cecil Rhodes was so mesmerised by Matobo Hills that he asked to be buried there – and he was.