Zimbabwe was once considered the crown jewel of the southern Africa safari circuit, with enormous parks, abundant game, and spectacular landscapes. But with the economic and political challenges of the past decade or so, it’s reputation has slipped. However, tourism in Zimbabwe is slowly making a coming back. I have traveled throughout Zimbabwe and the country offers a different safari experience then neighboring Botswana or South Africa. Here are a few reasons you should consider a safari to Zimbabwe.
The Best Guides in Africa
The Zimbabwe Professional Guides have long been considered the best trained in Africa. The criteria and system for licensing is the most intensive program on the continent and requires a minimum of 4 years but usually takes 6 or 7. Their extensive training includes advanced first aid, shooting and firearms courses, oral exams in front of a board of professional guides, a series of written exams, and a 7-day practical exam in the field. All the guides I have encountered in Zimbabwe are passionate about wildlife and sharing this knowledge with visitors.
Due to the quality of the guides, exploring the African bush by foot on a walking safari is a must-do while on safari in Zimbabwe. There is nothing as thrilling as tracking big game in the bush! During my recent visit to Zimbabwe I spent hours in the bush with my guide (Spike at Camp Hwange) tracking lions and elephants. He was like a walking encyclopedia and full of knowledge about the trees, plants, and the ecology of the bush. My walking experience in Zimbabwe was certainly one of the highlights of my many safaris to Africa.
Exceptional Game Viewing
Hwange National Park has wildlife in large numbers. An estimated 44,000 elephants live here one of the largest populations in Africa (seeing over 500 elephants a day in the dry season is common). The park has over 450 lions, more than at any point in the park’s history. The Ngamo plains in southern Hwange currently boast the strongest population of cheetah in Zimbabwe, with estimates of 42 in the whole of Hwange. Hwange National Park also has a healthy number of rare African Wild Dogs, estimates put the number in excess of 120. Buffalo, giraffe, zebra, antelopes and other game are also common. Mana Pools National Park, along the Zambezi River in northern Zimbabwe, is also home to a diverse and large populations of big game. While the Matobo Hills National Park boasts one of the highest concentrations of leopard anywhere in Africa and is one of the last bastions of both black and white rhino in Zimbabwe.
Fewer Travelers means Exclusivity
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Zimbabwe was the place to visit for an African safari. But Zimbabwe has endured a decade or more as an outlier on the African safari circuit. This means that this incredible, high-quality safari circuit sees fewer visitors than other top safari destinations in Africa like Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. As such, it’s rare to see more than a handful of other vehicles while on safari in Hwange National Park, especially in the far south of the park where there is no public access. Several lodges are located on private concessions within Hwange Park and these areas are accessible only to guests, ensuring an exclusive experience of the bush.
A Zimbabwe safari offers incredible value with nightly rack rates at 4-5 star lodges/camps generally between $300-$600 all inclusive. A range of safari styles are offered as well, from mobile camping to mid-range and luxury lodges. Many of the lodges are accessible by road so it may not be necessary to book expensive charter flights.
Amazing Variety of Destinations
Zimbabwe offers more than the classic wildlife safari. A rich culture and history can be seen throughout the country. The granite domes of Matobos National Park has hundreds of historic rock paintings and the amazing Great Zimbabwe Ruins are all that remains of a once-thriving civilization. You can join a canoe safari and paddle down the Zambezi River or try your luck catching a toothy tigerfish. Of course there is the famous Victoria Falls, one of the greatest waterfalls in the world.
If you’re a safari veteran looking for a new destination or planning your first safari to Africa, consider Zimbabwe. The friendly people and incredible wildlife will make for an unforgettable adventure.
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