Zimbabwe is an amazing country with a beautiful climate, stunning
scenery, an abundance of wildlife and interesting cultures. The people
of Zimbabwe are friendly, and they truly take the time to make tourism
special for their guests. Home to the gorgeous Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
is an unmissable stop on any tour of Southern Africa.
Falls is widely considered to be one of Africa's must-see destinations.
It is spectacular! The scope and beauty of the falls is really
unimaginable, but what truly makes this destination special is its
adventure activities. Whether you're into whitewater rafting, bungee
jumping, cliff swinging, or more sedate activities like sunset river
cruises or elephant-back safaris, Victoria Falls will blow you away!
The best time of your to visit Zimbabwe depends on a few things: your budget and your taste for weather.
to its high elevation, Zimbabwe gets wonderful weather year-round.
Zimbabwe gets a rainy season and dry season, but the temperature in
most of the country remains fairly constant year round, with mostly
sunny days in the 20-30 degrees Celsius range (some lower lying areas,
including Victoria Falls may see higher temperatures than this during
the hot, rainy season).
If it's adventure you're looking for,
you're better off visiting in the dry season, when the safari tracks are
dry, the water levels of the Zambezi are low enough for rafting, and
the animals congregate at permanent water sources.
interested in photography, consider traveling in the wet season, when
the bird watching is amazing, the foliage is vibrant, the flowers in
bloom and the skies open up with impressive afternoon showers and
thunderstorms on almost a daily basis.
Zimbabwe is home to the big five (rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion and
leopard), hippos, zebra, an array of antelope species, African painted
dog and hyena - the list could go on forever!
concentration of game can be found in the wildlife parks, such as Hwange
(which shares a border with Botswana's Chobe National Park, and animals
can roam freely between the two) which is only a short drive from
Victoria Falls, making it easily accessible for safari-goers. Animals
also roam the countryside outside of national parks, which can make
driving on the roads particularly hazardous at dawn, dusk and at night.
of the rhinos in Zimbabwe have had their horns removed as a
disincentive for poachers, which can make them shy and hard to spot.
Elephants abound, as do many species of antelope, from the tiny impala
to the majestic kudu. Predators are harder to spot, especially in the
dry season, due to their natural camouflage and vested interest in
staying hidden from prey.
Zimbabwe is a wonderful place to see a myriad of bird species, from bee-eaters to herons and fish eagles.
Zimbabwe's staple food is sadza. The uncooked form of sadza is called
mealie-meal, and is a coarse corn-based flour, which is cooked in stages
to form a paste similar in texture to polenta. It is served with a stew
of vegetables and/or meat and 'rape', a vegetable similar to collard
greens. Most Zimbabweans eat sadza at every meal. Rice and chicken are
considered delicacies to many Zimbabweans, and are reserved for special
occasions such as weddings.
Zimbabwe is not 'known' for its
haute cuisine, but a decent meal can be found in many restaurants and
hotels. In Victoria Falls, you will find several small restaurants and
cafes that serve some wonderful dishes, but many serve only 'western'
food, often with a Mediterranean or Italian flair. If you'd like to
experience a traditional Zimbabwean meal, or even learn how one is
prepared, let us know and we will get you in touch with some
entrepreneurial locals who would be happy to share their knowledge, and
their delicious meals for a modest fee!
According to a recent survey we did, many people, even seasoned
travelers, are concerned about their safety when traveling in Africa.
It's easy to group what one knows about Nigeria or South Sudan with
what's happening in Sub-Saharan Africa. Or read about the political
climate in a country like Zimbabwe, and have fears that result from
that. Whatever the source of one's concern is, it is important to get
clear and accurate information before deciding that a country like
Zimbabwe 'just isn't worth the risk'.
One excellent way to get
clear and up-to-date information is to look at your own country's travel
advisory. This will provide excellent, up-to-date information about
political climate, crime, disease and other important factors to
consider when traveling. Be aware when you are reading this, however,
that they tend to err on the side of caution when writing their advice.
hope that as you read this and other sections of the Savanatrek
website, that you will gain a full appreciation for what you can gain by
visiting a country like Zimbabwe, and what the real risks actually are.
1. Road Safety.
It is not safe to travel at night in Zimbabwe. This is due to the poor
conditions of the roads, and the vehicles that travel them. (Imagine
driving at 100km/hr down the highway, around a blind curve with an
oncoming vehicle whose only lights on the front are indicators. Or
turning that blind corner to see a lorry stopped dead in the middle of
your lane with no lighting). If traveling by road, it is safest to hire a
driver with your hire car; they will know the hazards, know the roads,
know how to deal with checkpoints and will keep you much safer than you
can keep yourself. And give you an opportunity to spend some time
learning about the culture of Zimbabwe while you travel through the
* Book with us, and we can organise transfers for
you (go to your Trip Planner). We will find safe, efficient and
comfortable travel for you at a cost you approve of.
2. Political Safety.
People often have fears that they will be caught up in the political
climate of the country that they visit, and with some places this is a
real risk. In Zimbabwe, both the ruling party (ZANU-PF) and their main
opposition (MDC) are committed to promoting tourism as a source of
income for the country. This means that as a rule tourists are not
dragged into the political scene. That said, it is still prudent to
NEVER discuss politics with the people you meet, or even the people
within your own travel party until you leave the borders of Zimbabwe
behind you. Zimbabweans are often suspicious of anyone who is willing to
discuss politics, and you are unlikely to get straight answers anyway.
You'll find that, despite what you may read about in the news, for most
Zimbabweans life carries on as normal, regardless of the political
climate, and that mostly people just want to get on with the business of
3. Crime. Violent crime is not terribly common in
Zimbabwe. As with any travel destination, it is important to be aware
of petty theft and pick-pockets. There are certain areas of Zimbabwe,
mostly in the bigger cities, that warrant extra caution, and your
country's travel advisory is likely to say that these areas should be
completely avoided. These include the high density suburbs, where
poverty is at its highest, and people their most desperate. These are
areas where we advise that you NOT travel alone, without a local guide.
At Savanatrek, we know that if you are interested in meeting real
people, average Zimbabweans, that sometimes it will mean going to places
that are considered unsafe. If this is something that would interest
you, we can organise opportunities for you to engage with different
communities, at times and in ways that are much safer, and provide you
with a local guide who can ensure you are aware of dangers and help
ensure your safety.
In addition, you should take precautions
to protect yourself, like keeping photocopies of all important documents
in a separate place, keeping passports and valuables locked away or in a
money belt (only put extra cash in here. Don't put the money you plan
to use during the course of your day) and avoid wearing flashy jewelry
or carrying expensive cameras or phones in the open.
During malaria season (the wet season and for a few months after) it is
particularly important for you to protect yourself. Visit your travel
doctor before leaving home and get all necessary vaccines and
medications before your trip. Be aware that HIV/AIDS rates are high in
Zimbabwe, though the rates have dropped in recent years (UNaids
estimates 14.7% of the adult population of Zimbabwe was affected in
2012). Don't travel without comprehensive medical insurance, including
coverage for air evacuation, and bring all necessary prescriptions and
regular medications with you. Drink only bottled or purified water
(purified by boiling or other means, filtration is not sufficient).
Avoid swimming in still or stagnant water (Bilharzia is a risk, as are
5. Wild Animals. Although a risk we often
shrug off, the concentration of game that is likely to be seen can pose a
real risk for people. It's not just the scary carnivores and venomous
snakes that can hurt you in Africa! When on safari, it is important to
follow your guide's recommendations at all times. Don't go on walking
safaris unless your guide has a high-powered rifle (they are almost
never needed, and a good guide will keep you safe without ever needing
to take aim, however this remains an important safety protection).
Driving at dusk and dawn make the roads particularly hazardous due to
the concentration of game that is out and about (again we recommend
hiring a driver!). African wildlife is dangerous, so be cautious, keep
your distance and follow your guide's instructions!
With its tropical climate moderated by high altitude, the weather in
Zimbabwe is pretty perfect. With average highs in the 20s (Celsius)
year-round, it's pretty easy to enjoy your time, without ever getting
too hot. The nights in the dry winter season can be cold, however,
sometimes dropping as low as 2 degrees Celsius. Most of Zimbabwe
consists of high plateau, highest in the Midlands, and with mountains to
the East. Lower-lying areas see warmer weather.
season falls between November and March. During this time, you can
expect warm, sunny days with spectacular afternoon rain and
thunderstorms. Temperatures are at their warmest in the rainy season.
dry season falls between May and September. You can expect little to no
rainfall during this time, with pleasantly warm days and fairly frigid
nights, particularly from late June to early August.
The people of Zimbabwe mostly belong to one of two major language
groups, the Shona and the Ndebele, with English being the official
language of Zimbabwe. The Ndebele live mainly in the West of Zimbabwe,
in Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and many places between and around. The
Shona people live mainly in the East and Midlands, including in Harare.
This does not mean that you won't find Shona in Bulawayo and Ndebele in
The Shona people mostly speak one of four main dialects:
Kalanga, Zezuru, Manyika and Ndau. These dialects have a common
vocabulary, and similar intonation and grammatical features. The Ndebele
people speak Sindebele, a 'click' language related to Xhosa and Zulu.
All Zimbabwean students are required to study both English and either
Shona or Ndebele at school.
Shona people are proud, resourceful
and enterprising. In response to the total economic collapse in 2008,
many people with the means sought opportunities in neighbouring
countries or overseas. Many of the people who remained had hard
struggles ahead of them. A strong sense of community, and duty to
family, pulled many of these people through the financial crisis. It is
not uncommon to see people salvaging and selling whatever they can in
order to feed their families and pull ahead in this world.
in Zimbabwe tend to put a great importance on wealth and the appearance
of wealth. There are a high proportion of luxury vehicles on the road,
and people both respect others who appear wealthy, and expect respect
for their displays of wealth. Respect is very important in Zimbabwean
An interaction with a Zimbabwean can go well or go
poorly, based on whether they feel respected by you or not. Respect can
be shown by using a calm demeanour, using titles and honorifics where
appropriate, showing genuine interest in a person and their culture, and
using courteous language. Being overly direct or abrupt is often seen
as disrespectful in Zimbabwe, and can close doors that would otherwise
be wide open to you.
Showing respect by showing interest in
others, asking about their day or their family or their culture, will
facilitate a positive experience in Zimbabwe. People are more likely to
be open with you, and amny will go out of their way to help you to have a
positive experience. And you'll walk away with the added bonus of some
interesting conversations and some eye-opening interactions
A Brief History of Zimbabwe
The earliest inhabitants of
Zimbabwe are believed to have been the San people (often referred to as
'Bushmen'). The San people were largely displaced to less fertile lands
(they now mainly inhabit the Kalahari desert) or were assimilated into
the new cultures that came with the Great Bantu Migration.
- trade with Mozambique made the Shona kingdom one of Africa's
wealthiest and most powerful nations. Great Zimbabwe was built (the
ruins from which Zimbabwe takes its name). Sometime in the 15th Century,
the Shona moved away from Great Zimbabwe (in Midlands) to their main
settlement in Harare, in Mashonaland.
1880s - The Ndebele people
moved into the south-western areas of Zimbabwe, under the leadership of
Mzlikazi. Mzlikazi was succeeded by Lobengula. Lobengula was the second
and last Ndebele King.
1888 - Lobengula was tricked by Cecil
John Rhodes into signing away rights to the land, opening it up to
mining prospectors and other colonists. Rhodes formed the British South
Africa Company and settlers moved into the area from South Africa in
search of gold and wealth.
1896 - the first Chimurenga (war of
liberation) was fought, with the Shona and Ndebele peoples joining
forces against a common enemy. Rhodes prevailed, and it was more than 60
years before any uprising was again attempted. Under the government of
Rhodesia, the Shona and Ndebele people alike were displaced from their
homes, denied access to education, denied the right to vote or hold
political office and were fully segregated from white society, in a
mirror of the Apartheid reign in South Africa.
Mid 1960s - the second Chimurenga was fought.
- Great Britain demanded that the government of Rhodesia guarantee
racial equality and plan for majority rule, under threat of sanctions.
The Rhodesian government issued the Unilateral Declaration of
Independence. Guerilla war followed, and continued until 1979.
- Zimbabwe's first multi-party general elections were held, with Robert
Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Unity (ZANU) succeeding to
secure the leadership. While black Zimbabweans had gained some political
control, white Zimbabweans continued to hold economic strength, and
most of the farmlands.
1999 & Early 2000s - ZANU-PF moved to
create better economic equality between white and black Zimbabweans,
with an acceleration of the land re-distribution policy that had been in
place since the early 1980s.
1999 - the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) was formed as an opposition to ZANU-PF. In 2005, the MDC
split into two factions: one led by Morgan Tsvangirai, the other by
2007-2008 - The economy of Zimbabwe completely collapsed. Many Zimbabweans left the country at this time.
- the two factions of MDC won a combined majority of votes at the
general elections, and a power-sharing deal with ZANU-PF was facilitated
by the South African Development Community (SADC), leaving Robert
Mugabe in power as president, and giving Morgan Tsvangirai the position
of Prime Minister.
Current Political Climate
in Zimbabwe has improved since the famine that accompanied the economic
collapse in 2007-8. The people of Zimbabwe do not discuss politics
openly, as a rule, and are largely content to continue living life under
whichever leader holds power. The Shona people are naturally peaceful,
and very resourceful and enterprising, and it is common to see people
doing whatever work they can find to feed their families.
MDC remains the main opposition to ZANU-PF, but it seems unlikely that
there will be any change in leadership before the death of Robert Mugabe
(he is now in his 90s).