Zimbabwe's Safari Spots

Contributed By John BerryPopular Safari Destinations
Safari Seasons
Getting Around

One of Africa's better safari locations, Zimbabwe has a diversity of habitats and good game concentrations particularly in the Hwange region and along the Zambezi River. The prime safari areas include Matusadona, Mana Pools (World Heritage Site), Hwange and Bulawayo/Matobo hills. Zimbabwe's safari industry is supported by reasonably good infrastructure and boasts Africa's most highly qualified Professional Guides. Walking and canoeing safaris, particularly in combination are amongst the best safari options in Africa

Victoria Falls is a "must-see": a World Heritage Site, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, twice the height of Niagara Falls and one-and-a-half times the width "Vic Falls" is considered to be Africa's "adrenaline centre," yet still contains a few traces of its pioneering and colonial past. The best safari season is from May to end October.

Popular Safari Destinations

Matusadona - situated on the shores of Lake Kariba, Matusadona National Park is one of the last wild sanctuaries of the endangered Black Rhino and is now considered to have the highest natural population density of lions in Africa. Matusadona is ideal walking safari territory and boasts some of the regions finest safari lodges and bush camps - the area is worth visiting year round.

Mana Pools - Zimbabwe's second World Heritage Site situated on the southern bank of the Zambezi River. Mana's floodplain plays host to a profusion of game during the dry season from June to October. The area is spectacular with the Zambian escarpment acting as a backdrop.

Aside from the excellent walking safaris in Mana, the Zambezi River adds another dimension and is ideal for canoe safaris. The southern shoreline in Zimbabwe has two excellent safari lodges and is renowned for its "backed up" fly camps that offer an ideal means for exploring this unique area.

Hwange National Park - ranks amongst the finest of Africa's game reserves - it arguably sustains a greater diversity and variety of wildlife than any other conservation area in the world. Hwange is situated on nearly 2 million hectares of Kalahari Sand and holds no permanent water - gameviewing is therefore excellent with large populations of big and small mammal species and particularly strong concentrations of Buffalo and Elephant. Hwange, especially around Main Camp is very popular - there is also a selection of first class private safari camps and lodges in the more secluded and quieter areas of this massive park.

Victoria Falls - World Heritage Site and one of the natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls is recognised as one of Southern Africa's prime tourism drawcards. The falls, flowing at just under 33 million cubic metres per second at peak during April are truly spectacular and represent the largest curtain of falling water on earth.

Any safari in southern Africa should include a stop-over at Vic Falls - we recommend a maximum stay of two nights unless you're doing a rafting expedition. Vic Falls is an important hub into the more attractive safari destinations elsewhere in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana.

Bulawayo/Matobo Hils - Bulawayo, meaning "place of slaughter" is one of Zimbabwe's oldest and most historically important towns.

The Motobo Hills ("matobo" - 'bald-headed ones') are best described as "a moonscape of endless granite humpbacks" covering an area of approximately 2000 square kilometres - a region packed with history and legends of Shona dynasties, Ndebele armies, British colonists and the many wars that they fought. The area is well known for its impressive rock art paintings and the site of Cecil John Rhodes' grave. It is also believed that the Motobo Hills have the highest concentration of Black Eagles in the world.

Eastern Highlands - this north-eastern sector of Zimbabwe is not in the ordinary sense a wildlife destination. It is however well known for its wonderful mountainous and legend-filled landscape, birdlife, botanical attractions, trout fishing and excellent hiking and walking trails.

The Eastern Highlands are off the main safari circuit and should ideally be tackled on a self-drive basis.

Safari seasons in Zimbabwe
For safari planning purposes, Zimbabwe has three basic seasons:

1. A cool to cold dry season from late April to August when temperatures can drop to freezing on higher ground at night - Hwange can get particularly cold.

2. A hot dry season from the end of August through to mid November. During this time water becomes very scarce and the game congregates in big numbers at remaining sources. Temperatures in the Zambezi Valley become very uncomfortable in October and November before the rains start.

3. The rainy season usually commences in mid November and lasts through the summer to early April. Game viewing generally deteriorates at this time of year - Matusadona is one notable exception where excellent game sightings can still be made on the Kariba shoreline.

The best game-viewing season is generally from late May until November. September sees the start of the inbound bird migrations and birding remains excellent throughout the wet season.

Getting Around
By Air:
The primary international airports are in Harare and Victoria Falls. The national carrier, Air Zimbabwe provides reasonably reliable scheduled services between Harare, Kariba, Hwange, Victoria Falls and Bulawayo. Private air charter companies use Harare, Kariba and Victoria Falls as hubs for chartering into the remoter safari camps.

By road:
Zimbabwe has an impressive road infrastructure by African standards particularly between the major centres and within the Eastern Highlands. Car hire is available but expensive - best suited for exploring the east and south-east of the country. Victoria Falls and Kariba are connected by a very poor dirt road within the country and the domestic airlink is recommended - there are two alternatives, drive on the Zambian side (6.5 hours, potholed tar) or take the Kariba/Milibizi Ferry (22 hours along lake Kariba).

By rail:
The rail network is not extensive, serving Bulawayo and Victoria Falls best. The rail safaris between the two towns are very successful.

Provided By: The Zambezi Safari And Travel Co. Ltd.

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