Many travelers to South Africa and Botswana extend their stay to visit the falls, which is located at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Zambezi River is over a mile wide before it is suddenly transformed from a tranquil river to a ferocious and thundering torrent which drops over a cliff, 354 feet high, into a narrow canyon called Batoka Gorge. The natives are calling it “The Smoke That Thunders”. A sunset cruise on the Zambezi river is a must, and for sure you should not miss the large families of Hippos, yawning out of the water for your best photo shot. The Zambezi National Park is at the doorsteps of the Falls, and after years of problems with poaching, wild game such as lions and leopards are gradually returning.
Hwange and Matobo National Parks
Both parks have been hunting grounds for the ‘big five’: elephants, rhinos, buffalos, lions, and leopards. You will pass many other animals solitary or in herds: hyenas, mongooses, monkeys, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, small and large antelopes, elands, kudus,crocodiles and many many more if we include snakes and birds.
Hwange National Park stands in the northwest part of the country, close to the border of Botswana and Zambia, and 62 miles south of Victoria Falls. It is the largest national park in Zimbabwe and home to the ‘big five’, plus giraffes and many species of wildlife.
Matobo National Park is a small park located south of Bulawayo. Besides game, the rock formations are absolutely spectacular and you will be treated to some of the marvels of nature. Spectacular landscapes and petro gilts have earned the park recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site. When you are in the Matobo hills, besides the rock painting, you should not miss Makindidzimu (place of benevolent spirits). Cecil John Rhodes called it the view of the world, and it is without doubt one of the most beautiful places in Zimbabwe. Rhodes chose this very spot to be buried. The Amalinda Lodge close by, with rooms built among the granite boulder rocks of the Mapotos, could be the strangest and most incredible accommodation you will ever experience.
The Main Cities
Harare is the capital and main city in Zimbabwe. It used to be called Salisbury until 1962, At an altitude of 4865 feet it is the leading financial and commercial center of the country with 1.6 million inhabitants. It is located in the heart of historic Mashonaland.
Bulawayo, the city of kings, is the 2nd largest city located in Matabeleland, 273 miles southwest of Harare. Various local nicknames relate to Bulawayo such as ‘the smoky place’, due to the extensive industrial development in the past. The city is also the hub of the National Railway because of its strategic central position in relation to Botswana, South Africa, Hwange National Park, and Victoria Falls.
The Eastern Highlands
Bordering Mozambique, the Eastern Highlands are formed by three ranges of hills and mountains, and it is there we find tea and coffee plantations and beautiful green meadows. It is a peaceful place with a cooler climate, panoramic sceneries, interesting walking trails, and scenic drives. The northern part is known as the Nyanga National Park, which used to be the private estate of Cecil Rhodes, a 19th century British magnate and key founding politician in the region. Mont Nyanga is the highest mountain of Zimbabwe (8514 ft). More to the south are the Vumba Mountains, where trails, deep gorges, serene lakes, waterfalls are all attractive sights to the passing traveler, who can also enjoy the local soft cheese, the fine coffee and the delicious local food.
Lake Kariba and Matusadona National Park
Lake Kariba is one of the world’s largest man made artificial lakes. For landlocked Zimbabwe it provides a seaside like resort with house boats and lodges, but it is probably more appreciated by the locals coming in for a fishing vacation than by overseas visitors. The southern shore of the lake is the northern border of the wild and rugged Matusadona National Park, which offers ‘the big five’ for a safari expedition. As you canoe or sail on Lake Kariba you will probably be treated to the sight of bathing families of elephants or drinking buffalos
This is the original place which after independence gave the new name to the Republic of Rhodesia. It is an ancient walled city which is by far the most well preserved in Sub Saharan Africa. It is a UNESCO world Heritage site located 15 miles outside the town of Masvingo. The construction of this enigmatic and fascinating ancient city goes back to AD1100, and its population in those days is estimated at about 20 000 people.