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Introduction to Zimbabwe

introduction and general information

First-time visitors to Zimbabwe are often astounded at its beauty and immense history, with dramatic landscapes, impressive national parks and welcoming people. The landlocked country is also home to abundant wildlife and beautiful lodges that make for an exciting safari holiday. Zimbabwe's most famous landmark is the Victoria Falls that forms the boundary between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and it's often debated which country is superior for viewing the falls. While many opt to see the falls from both locations, two thirds of it falls in Zimbabwe and is generally considered to provide the most classic views of the spectacular falling water. The Victoria Falls National Park has neatly laid out paths opening onto viewpoints and visitors can also enjoy scenic boat cruises and helicopter rides over the Zambezi River. The Victoria Falls town offers cultural visits and dance shows while the nearby Hwange National Park is well stocked with wild dog and other African wildlife. The Eastern highlands, on the opposite side of the country, are fantastic for viewing natural features and diverse flora and fauna, while to the south-east of the country lies the Mutirikwi Game Reserve and the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, is filled with history and the museum and pottery centre are worth popping into, while less than an hour away one will find the Matobo National Park, a breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site of great cultural and spiritual significance. Scenic Harare gives visitors a good taste of Zimbabwe's culture and traditions and a city tour will provide an insight into the country's tumultuous history. Self-drive and guided itineraries are both possible in Zimbabwe and visas can be obtained that include Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana for a day visit to the Chobe National Park close to Victoria Falls. Allow us to help you plan a hassle-free holiday in Zimbabwe.

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Victoria Falls

The iconic Victoria Falls is one of the best known landmarks in the world and lies on the Zambezi River, the fourth longest in Africa. Although it is shared with Zambia in the north, approximately two thirds of the Victoria Falls are located on the Zimbabwean side with this country also boasting more classical views of the tumbling, crashing water. Here you will find breathtaking viewpoints such as Devils Cataract, Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls and the very popular Rainbow Falls, while the Batoka Gorge showcases dramatic, deep chasms that cut into the earth to create an impressive terrain. The Zambezi River also forms the northern boundary of the Zambezi National Park, a beautiful wilderness housing a large variety of game, where safari drives take visitors to see animals quench their thirst at waterholes and herbivores graze the plains. The small town of Victoria Falls acts as a crossroad for travellers from where many adventure activities can be booked, ranging from scenic flights over the falls to bungee jumping, white water rafting and zip lining. This area is also filled with craft markets and visitors can enjoy a variety of cultural tours. A ‘UniVisa' makes it easy to cross over into Zambia, while a day trip across the river to the Chobe National Park in Botswana is also a popular add-on. Victoria Falls offers many accommodation choices and we strongly recommend booking a Victoria Falls package deal that includes lodging, a selection of the most popular activities in the area, and transport. Be sure to book a sunset cruise on the Zambezi, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Suggested length of stay: 2-3 nights at Victoria Falls should be sufficient time to enjoy the main attractions with most travellers choosing to combine this with a more comprehensive southern African itinerary. Boutique Africa can assist you with hotel bookings and package deals.

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The Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe's premier wildlife viewing destination, famed for huge elephant populations and large herds of buffalo, giraffe, zebra, and sable and impala antelope. It borders Botswana and stretches from the edge of the Kalahari Desert into Zimbabwe, covering an immense 14 600 km² with scenery and vegetation that ranges from semi-desert scrub in the south, to forests, granite hills and valleys of mopane woodlands in the north. Overall the park is home to in excess of 100 mammal species and approximately 400 varieties of birds, offering easily accessible game viewing that is also private and peaceful due to the size of Hwange. Both day and night game drives are possible and many of the accommodation camps provide walking safaris, a rare treat. Wildlife sightings are most rewarding around the waterholes during the dry season from August to October, although Hwange is an excellent year-round safari destination. Linkwasha and Makololo are both private concessions in the south of the park, popular for their rich and abundant wildlife, while closer to Victoria Falls there is good game viewing around Shimba and Mandavu Dam. Accommodation can be as simple as a tent or a luxurious water-side lodge nestled beneath teak trees. Speak to Boutique Africa about your preferred choices. Most travellers fly into Victoria Falls and travel by road with a guide to Hwange, although some of the private concessions have their own airstrips. Suggested length of stay: Hwange is suitable for day visits although to truly immerse yourself in its magical wildlife a stay of 2-3 nights is recommended. With Victoria Falls only a few hours away, Hwange is a popular extension or as part of a broader itinerary in Zimbabwe.

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Bulawayo and Matopos

Vibrant and charming, Bulawayo is Zimbabwe's second largest city where broad, tree-lined avenues are bordered by slowly fading Victorian colonial buildings. With its airport and good network of road links it is a popular entry and exit point to Zimbabwe, used frequently by those travelling between Matobo Hills National Park and Victoria Falls, Harare or Hwange National Park. The city's collection of interesting museums, pretty parks, and arts and crafts shops make it well worth a stop, while the location of many reserves within its immediate vicinity make it a popular point for a travel break. Bulawayo is home to the Natural History Museum, showcasing a vast collection of gemstones representing Zimbabwe's astounding natural wealth, as well as the Railway Museum housing an interesting collection of steam locomotives. Just out of town along the Old Falls Road, the Mzilikazi Arts and Crafts Centre offers a range of locally crafted souvenirs, while the Botanical Garden is a serene location to while away a few hours. The Matopos National Park lies less than an hour from the city and is one of the most arresting and under-rated in Zimbabwe, peppered with red-tinged granite koppies and wooded valleys rich in history and ancient rock paintings. World's View is a spectacular vantage point from which to survey the park and also houses the tomb of Cecil John Rhodes, while white rhino and leopard are among the game found in the park. Suggested length of stay: Bulawayo is a mini-introductory course into the wonders of Zimbabwe and although most travellers don't opt for a lengthy stay, a night or two could be easily spent in the city while enjoying a good selection of restaurants, shopping, and exploring the surrounding area's natural and historical wealth.

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Great Zimbabwe

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Africa's second largest stone-built archaeological site after the pyramids. Located in the south-central Masvingo Province, they are believed to have been constructed in around 1100 AD and consist of a collection of granite walls embellished with turrets, towers, platforms and elegantly sculpted stairways that have been referred to as “unparalleled elsewhere in Africa and beyond”. Although still a source of much mystery as to its function, it is known that the ruins stand in a location that was once the epicentre of an industrious southern African empire, with trading links stretching as far away as India, Persia and China. The monument consists of three main areas: The Hill Complex with stunning and strategically valuable views over the surrounding region; The Valley Complex believed to have been the location of both the royal treasury and the queen's residence; and The Great Enclosure, an awe-inspiring collection of vast walls concealing inner passageways, ruined buildings, and the iconic conical tower. Our knowledgeable guides will show you the best route and the main sites worth exploring. Suggested length of stay: Great Zimbabwe can be explored in a morning so this location can be included as part of a break on the travel route, or as an overnight stop.

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Kariba Lake

Lying along the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, Lake Kariba is a uniquely special place, boasting incredible natural beauty and a wealth of African wildlife. It is the fourth largest man-made lake in the world, created when a dam was built across the Zambezi River in the late 1960s. Although highly controversial at the time, Lake Kariba is now a wildlife paradise where fish eagles swoop over the river, scores of hippos and crocodiles bask on the shores, and lions hunt on the grassy plateaus. The lake is also a fishing hotspot and one of the most popular in Africa, renowned for its fighting tiger fish that test the skills of any angler. The Zimbabwean side of the lake covers approximately 1 000 km of shoreline with calm water and numerous islands, as well as a designated recreational park. Game viewing is possible both on foot and in a safari vehicle with most accommodation establishments offering meals, game drives and outdoor activities such as fishing in an all-inclusive package deal. Besides lodges it is also possible to stay in a fully serviced houseboat while drifting around the lake at your leisure. The Matusadona National Park lies on the lake's southern shores amongst remote wooded hills, housing abundant game and excellent safari lodges. A little further down the Zambezi River one will find the Victoria Falls, making these two locations easy and convenient to include in the same travel itinerary. Suggested length of stay: In order to absorb the tranquil surrounds of Lake Kariba we suggest a 4-5 night all-inclusive stay. With food, lodging and leisure activities taken care of, all that's left to do is relax and enjoy. Call Boutique Africa today to book a dreamy escape on serene Lake Kariba.

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