African Travel Tips For Visiting Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s biggest draw is undoubtedly the majestic Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. But the country also has other natural and historical advantages to captivate travellers and invite them to return. Wildlife, fish and birds abound including a number of rare, scarce and abundant species making game viewing, bird watching, fishing and hunting popular activities.

Home to four World Heritage Sites, Zimbabwe has a high history of ancient civilisations that makes its friendly people stand proud, despite hardship. From the uncommon spray of the Falls on your confront, to a Lake Kariba sunset, a lush mountain escape to a river rafting adventure on the Zambezi, Zimbabwe is sure to leave you with memories as indelible as those of Livingstone and Rhodes when they witnessed the country’s riches.

CAPITAL: Harare

CLIMATE: Subtropical. The best time to visit is Apr-Oct when weather is mild with little rain. Winter (May-Aug) is dry and sunny. Rainy weather is Nov-Mar/Apr.

money: 1 Zimbabwe Dollar = 100 cents. You may take 15000 Zimbabwean dollars out of the country. There are no restrictions on foreign money brought in. If you don’t declare the foreign money you bring in, you’ll only be able to take out 500 US dollars. You may be asked to explain foreign money exchanged/spent in country. Hotel bills must be paid for with credit cards or in foreign hard currencies e.g. US dollar.

Users of credit cards are unprotected to a surcharge of about 3 percent on the total value of goods purchased. US dollar traveller’s cheques are recommended. Avoid street money changers who potential “no commission, best rates”, but then cheat on delivery. There are strict penalties for illegal foreign money trading. Several of the city’s large stores don’t accept American Express cards; travellers’ cheques are the most functional method of payment.

HEALTH: Yellow fever immunisation is basic if you arrive from an infected country or area. Visitors are also advised to take pre-arrival precautions against hepatitis A, polio, typhoid and malaria (depending on the area visited especially those outside of towns). Other health concerns include bilharzia (don’t swim in the rivers/dams or drink the water from them as it may be infected), sunburn, limited medical facilities and supplies outside of towns, AIDS and influenza (risk extends throughout the year).

LANGUAGE: English is the official language. Chishona and Sindebele are widely spoken.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:

1 January New Year’s Day

12 April Easter Monday

18 April Independence Day

1 May Workers’ Day

25 May Africa Day

11 August idols’ Day

12 August Defence Forces Day

22 December Unity Day

25-26 December Christmas

SHOPPING: Shona soft-stone carvings; woodcarvings; T-shirts; safari clothing; pottery; leather goods; basket ware; sculptures; textiles. Nail polish and old clothes can sometimes be swopped for carvings.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS: Christianity is the main religion, but in rural areas people have traditional beliefs. Western/European courtesies are observed. Return invitations are appreciated. Handshaking is the shared form of greeting. Dress is casual, but most hotels require more formal use, e.g. tie and jacket; business meetings require suits.

TIME DIFFERENCE: GMT+2

TIPPING: Ten-fifteen percent is shared.

TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS DESCRIPTION:

Victoria Falls:

Called by locals “Mosi-oa-Tunya” – the smoke that thunders, Victoria Falls is a World Heritage Site and undoubtedly the most majestic waterfall in the world; popular activities include walking by the rainforest, white water rafting, bungi jumps, flights over the falls, river cruises, and much more.

Lake Kariba rare scenery of dead trees rising from the depths of this huge man-made lake is especially beautiful during sunset; a popular way to enjoy the lake is on a houseboat with friends viewing the large numbers of crocodile and hippo, going game viewing at the Matusadona National Park or Tiger fishing – the largest Tiger fish ever was caught here and weighed 15.5kg.

Harare:

The capital city offers sightseeing at the National Gallery; National Archives; Queen Victoria Museum; Queen Victoria National Library; National Botanic Garden; Mbare Market; Chapungu village; tobacco auction floors; Mukuvisi Woodlands; Museum of Human Sciences; Harare Gardens; Cecil House; National Handicraft Centre; Africa Unity Square and The Residency.

Kame Ruins:

22 km west of Bulawayo is Kame Ruins, one of southern Africa’s magnificent Late Iron Age ruins, now a World Heritage Site showing the area was the seat of government of earlier civilisations.

Great Zimbabwe National Monument:

Ruins of an ancient African city, believed to have flourished between the 13th and 15th centuries AD, is the only one in existence south of the Sahara and a World Heritage Site; the country has taken its name from it and the famous Zimbabwe birds found at the site has become the national bird and been incorporated in the flag; visit the museum on the site, the Kyle as a hobby park and do game viewing by car or horseback nearby.

Hwange National Park:

The country’s largest national park, both in size and variety of wild game and bird life; also one of the few remaining elephant sanctuaries in Africa, with herds of up to 100 strong seen; the only area in the country where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in reasonable numbers and where the population of wild dog is thought to be the largest surviving in Africa today.

Mana Pools National Park:

Part of the Middle Zambezi Valley, Mana Pools is great number to some of the biggest concentrations of large mammals to be seen in Zimbabwe; it is also renowned for its varied and colourful birdlife and forms one of the last remaining strongholds of the black rhino; game viewing, hunting and canoe safaris are popular.

Bulawayo & Matobo:

Zimbabwe’s second largest city which stands on the site of the royal kraal of Lobengula, last of the Ndebele Kings; view the Natural History Museum, Railway Museum, Mzilikazi art and craft centre, Centenary park, central parks and National Art Gallery; 30 km from the city is Matobo National Park, a rare area of some 2000 square kilometres of enormous wind-sculpted rock formations. Cecil John Rhodes’ burial site and thousands of ancient rock paintings can also be found here.

Eastern highlands:

thriving natural surroundings characterise this vicinity with mountains, grassy plains, flows, waterfalls, mountain flowers, scarce birds, etc. contributing to panoramic views of exquisite beauty attracting character lovers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts; visit the Nyanga National Park, Mutare, Mutarazi Falls, Bunga Botanical save, Bvumba Botanical Gardens and the wilderness of the Chimanimani National Park.

Gona-re-Zhou park:

This park adjoins the Kruger National Park in South Africa and is home to some of the rarest bird and animal life in Africa. The bat-eared fox, suni, Liechtenstein’s hartebeest, nyala and roan antelope are to be found along the famous African elephants of this park, which are unlike any others in the world.

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