Zimbabwe, landlocked republic, Southern Africa, bounded on the north-west by Zambia, on the north-east and east by Mozambique, on the south by South Africa, on the south-west and west by Botswana and the Caprivi Strip of Namibia. It was formerly the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (later Rhodesia). The white government of the territory declared unilateral independence in 1965, adopting a republican form of government in 1970, and precipitating a war with black nationalist groups seeking independence under majority rule. In April 1980, following multi-party elections, Rhodesia became formally independent as the Republic of Zimbabwe.
The total area of the country is 390,759 sq km (150,873 sq mi). The capital of Zimbabwe is Harare.
Zimbabwe is one of the hidden gems of Africa, and is blessed with a good infrastructure and road network and many natural treasures: the spectacular Victoria Falls, the mighty Zambezi River, the mysterious Zimbabwe Ruins, the wilderness shores of Lake Kariba and Hwange National Park, one of the great game parks of Africa.
Zimbabwe also has the greatest concentration of elephant on the African continent.
Entry requirements for Zimbabwe
All visitors are required to carry a passport that is valid for six months beyond the intended length of stay. There should be sufficient blank pages for entry stamps upon arrival. Certain passport holders can purchase single entry visas at port of entry.
Requirements for obtaining a visa are:
- Valid passport
- One application form
This is a guide only – please check with your nearest Zimbabwean consulate for up-to-date information.
Summer: October to April.
Winter: May to September.
Summer days are hot and generally sunny in the morning with possible afternoon thunderstorms. Daytime temperatures can rise to 30ºC (86ºF) and night temperatures drop to around 14ºC (57ºF) to 16ºC (61ºF). The temperatures given are those for the main centres but it is considerably warmer all year round in the low-lying areas such as Kariba, Victoria Falls, and the Zambezi Valley. The rainy season runs from November to March, although the Eastern Highlands are damp for most of the year. Winter days are dry, sunny and cool to warm while evening temperatures drop sharply. Daytime temperatures generally reach 20ºC(68ºF) and can drop to as low as 5ºC(41ºF) at night. Please note: cold spells can occur (although this is the exception rather than the rule) so it is recommended to bring appropriate clothing, just in case!
Health requirements when travelling to Zimbabwe
You will have to get malaria prophylactics before entering Zimbabwe. When purchasing these, tell your doctor or pharmacist which areas in Zimbabwe you intend visiting. Start your course at least 24 hours before entering Zimbabwe and continue taking the pills for six weeks after leaving the country. If you suffer from side effects, try taking your malaria prophylactics at night after dinner. Precautionary measures that you can take to prevent contact with mosquitoes are: sleeping under a bed net or in a room/tent with mosquito proofing (remember to keep the flaps zipped at all times); spraying your accommodation with insecticide; making use of a mosquito-repelling lotion or stick; and wearing long-sleeved clothing, long trousers and socks when outside at night.
Any person entering Zimbabwe from, or via, a yellow fever or cholera-infected area must be in possession of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever and/or cholera. Tetanus immunisation is recommended.
Private medical services within Harare and Bulawayo are good. It is wise to bring with you any medicines which you may require. Medical insurance is strongly recommended.
We strongly recommend that you take out travel insurance, which includes curtailment and cancellation cover, as well as medical cover, upon confirming your booking.
When to go
Zimbabwe is an all year round destination. However there are certain seasons for special interest groups to take note of:
- For high adventure enthusiasts, white water rafting is most exciting when the Zambezi waters are low, generally from August to December.
- Best botanical months to visit the famous Vumba Botanical Gardens are December to May when the vegetation is lush and green, and also when most plants are in flower.
Zimbabwe’s popularity as a destination is gaining in leaps and bounds to the extent that seasonal differences are not as marked as in previous years. Traditionally, however, peak season is from July to October and middle season is from May to June. Note that availability is at a premium during these seasons, so you will need to book in advance.
Very importanat: packing space is limited on all modes of safari transport so you will need to restrict your baggage to 12–15kg (packed in a soft bag) including camera equipment.
Attractions and National Parks
The treasures of Zimbabwe are rich and varied, ranging from her great wildlife sanctuaries, mighty rivers and natural wonders, to her ancient art heritage left behind by iron and stone age man.
There are few appropriate superlatives that have not already been applied to this magnificent natural wonder of the world – in many ways it defies description. The Victoria Falls is the largest, probably the most beautiful and certainly the most majestic waterfall in the world. A trip to Southern Africa would be incomplete without visiting this memorable sight.
Visitors to Victoria Falls can also enjoy sundowner cruises on the Zambezi, fishing, walking amongst the game, take horse back trails, dare to go white water rafting on the rapids below the Falls, and, for the really brave, bungee jump 111m off the Victoria Falls Bridge!
Lake Kariba, The Zambezi Valley and Mana Pools
It took four years of incredible engineering to block the mouth of a narrow gorge in order to flood the Gwembe Trough and form the great Lake Kariba – a place of outstanding beauty and tranquillity.
A golden Kariba sunset, savoured over a cool sundowner against the backdrop of mountains and clear African skies is one of the true pleasures to be had here. At any time of the year, the lake and the Matusadona Game Reserve, which lies on its southern shore, offers the visitor relaxation, sport, entertainment, adventure and big game.
Situated in the middle of the Zambezi Valley lies the Mana Pools National Park, where a number of safari operators offer professionally guided canoe trails, affording the visitor the excitement of a close up view of an abundance of wildlife along the banks of the Zambezi.
Hwange National Park
Hwange is the largest and probably the most popular national park in the country. With a land area of more than 14 000km², the park boasts over a hundred species of animal and over 400 species of bird. Hwange is also one of the few great elephant sanctuaries left in Africa.
There are streams, waterfalls, lakes, forests, hiking trails, golf courses and many other mountain activities to be enjoyed in this region. The crisp mountain air and the lush scenery make this a favourite tourist destination.
The region includes Nyanga National Park, with its spectacular World’s View; 30 hectares of indigenous and exotic plants, which make up the Vumba Botanical Gardens, and the rugged Chimanimani Mountains, reaching over 2 400m, pose a real challenge to climbers.
The famous ruined city of great Zimbabwe lies about 30km from Masvingo and is the country’s premier national monument. Judging from the ancient iron tools, ceramics, pottery, gold and carvings discovered in the ruins, it is believed to date from the 12th to 16th century. The complex covers about 720 hectares with its huge granite walls, conical towers and fortresses. Tourist facilities are excellent and there are daily guided tours, a souvenir shop and a museum containing the archaeological artefacts recovered from the ruins.
Matobo Hills National Park
The Matobo Hills National Park near Bulawayo is another of Zimbabwe’s major tourist attractions. Covering an area of 2 000km², it contains fantastic rock formations, fine San (Bushman) paintings at Nswatugi Cave and a game park with 20 varieties of game including white rhino and the world’s largest concentration of black eagles. Picnic spots abound in the park and on the hill Malindidzimu “the legendary place of benevolent spirits”, lies the tomb of Cecil John Rhodes.