Things to Do in Zimbabwe
There’s a reason why Mana Pools National Park is known for being one of Africa’s best game-viewing destinations. Each rainy season flood plains here turn to vast lakes, making it mostly inaccessible to visitors. But as seasons shift and waters recede, animals from across the country begin to gather in search of water and food. Rare mahogany, baobab and ebony trees populate the surrounding forest, which is one of the least developed in all of southern Africa. The park is home to the biggest concentration of hippos and crocodiles in the country, as well as large populations of elephants and buffalo during dry season. Some 380 species of birds also call this place home.
While paddling the Zambezi, locals do all they can to avoid encountering Zimbabwe’s deadly crocodiles. That’s because these killer reptiles are known for using their strong jaws to latch onto prey, eventually drowning them in the rushing waters. But at the Victoria Falls Crocodile Park, visitors can get up-close to these massive beasts in the safety of a guided tour. During hatching season in December and January, lucky travelers may even get to hold baby crocodiles just days after emerging from their eggs.
Named for the thundering falls at its heart, Victoria Falls National Park is a lush rainforest that surrounds the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls. The park offers arguably the best views of the falls, providing more than a dozen overlooks for admiring the 5,604-foot (1,708-meter)-wide wall of water—known as the largest sheet of falling water in the world.
Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s largest and most historic game reserve. Just two hours drive from Victoria Falls, this park (about the size of Belgium) is home to more than 100 species of mammals and some 400 different types of birds, making it one of the most diverse game parks in the world. Packs of painted wild hunting dogs, buffalo, lions and leopards call Hwange home, as well as one of the largest elephant herds on earth.
Accommodations within Hwange range from exclusive lodges to tented camps and visitors can choose to explore the park on guided game drives, walking tours or even horseback safaris.
Lake Kariba is the largest artificial lake in the world. This massive reservoir was created in 1958, when the Kariba Dam was built to provide power and electricity to the surrounding areas. Today, a variety of fresh water fish, Nile crocodiles and even hippopotamuses live in the lake. Huge numbers of tiger fish make it an ideal spot for a weekend fishing trip, and a variety of unique birds attract avian lovers, too. Visitors can catch spectacular sunsets from lodges nestled along the lake’s edge, and houseboat holidays offer a quiet escape from the hustle of Victoria Falls.
Located the northeastern corner of Botswana, Chobe National Park encompasses more than 4,500 square miles (12,000 square kilometers) of floodplains, forest, swamps, and rivers. The park is known for having one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa; most notably, a large elephant population.
Bulawayo is Zimbabwe’s second-largest city and the nation's original capital. Its quiet streets don't have quite the same draw as Victoria Falls, but this once-industrial city is still worth a visit—particularly for those who want to experience Zimbabwe’s rich history and culture. The area's National Art Gallery houses a wide-range of local crafts such as baskets and clay sculptures, while its extensive collection of ethnographic artwork, like masks and headdresses once used in religious ceremonies, is one of the largest in the country. The slightly more dated Natural History Museum opened in 1964 and offers a detailed look at Zimbabwe’s pre- and post-colonial history, local culture and traditional customs.
Visitors to Bulawayo can also enjoy the cool shade of towering trees in Centenary Park and Central Park, or take a refreshing dip in the city’s only public pool. The Tshabala Wildlife Sanctuary, about eight kilometers outside city limits, is a popular stop for animal lovers, who can view giraffes, zebras and warthogs in the expansive savanna by foot or on horseback.
UNESCO World Heritage Site Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya), on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, represents the world’s largest sheet of falling water, though not the widest or tallest. Dr. David Livingston named the falls after the Queen of England. On a clear day, you can see the mist generated by the falls from up to 30 miles (48 kilometers) away.
Experience the spray of the largest sheet of falling water in the world as you stand on Victoria Falls Bridge. Spanning the Zambezi River, the former railroad bridge is now a tourist attraction where visitors can marvel at the Zambezi gorge. A unique platform for viewing the falls, the bridge is also the jumping-off point for numerous high-adrenaline sports.
Friendly staff, spacious rooms and informative guides are just part of what makes a stay at the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve a memorable experience. Whether it’s lounging by one of the resort’s pools or wandering the grounds on a guided walking safari, there’s plenty to do and see at this popular stop that’s stationed right inside a wildlife sanctuary.
Guests can enjoy breakfast overlooking the park’s landscape, where zebra and elephants graze on vast open plains, or embark on a game drive in hopes of spotting Africa’s Big 5 aboard one of the open-top safari vehicles. The reserve’s close proximity to Victoria Falls means easy access to other popular activities, like whitewater rafting and bungee jumping over Victoria Falls—making it a perfect one-stop spot for visitors looking to experience all the diversity and adventure this destination has to offer.
More Things to Do in Zimbabwe
The Batoka Gorge, located just below the powerful Victoria Falls, winds through 75 miles (120 km) of rocky cliffs and sparse mopane forests between Zambia and Zimbabwe. And while hiking along this gorge that reaches heights of 400 feet in some areas ranks high on things to do, it’s the thrilling one-day whitewater rafting adventures that draw travelers to Batoka Gorge. Rapids with nicknames like “The Ugly Sister” and “Oblivion” put adrenaline junkies face-to-face with their fears and have travelers emerging from the waters with epic stories of survival. In addition to embarking on wild rides and challenging hikes, visitors to Batoka Gorge can spot a variety of species of indigenous birds, witness baboons wandering along beaten pathways and get up close to some of the rare plants that help to make Batoka Gorge so scenic.
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