Zimbabwe

Volunteering in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is the true home of Conservation Travel Africa, and we pride ourselves on being the Zimbabwe volunteer travel experts. The country's tourist industry, once one of the busiest in Africa, is well on the road to recovery and Zimbabwe is becoming a very popular destination for volunteers.

The reality of life in one of Africa’s most beautiful and unspoilt countries is quite different from the one portrayed in the international media. Zimbabwe offers something for every traveller - from the absolute wilderness of Gonarezhou and Mana Pools, the ruins and mystery surrounding Great Zimbabwe, the hustle and bustle of Harare to adrenaline activities and the magnificent waterfall at Victoria Falls.

Zimbabwe is rich in colour and the local people have retained their resolve, sense of humour and friendliness through recent difficult times.

Zimbabwe has a magic that has puzzled people for centuries, compelling them to come back again and again, each time the love becoming deeper than before. With wide, welcoming smiles, the Zimbabwean people, who love nothing better than showing off their country, make every visitor appreciate a life which is simpler and more peaceful than the modern day western world.

With some of the best game viewing in Africa, stunning natural landscapes and beautiful wilderness areas, Zimbabwe is an wildlife enthusiasts heaven.

“As political tension relaxes, wildlife enthusiasts and curious tourists are returning to Zimbabwe.” 

Paul Murray, The Bradt Travel Guide: Zimbabwe

 

Quick Facts

Population: 12.5 million
Capital: Harare
Currency: the US dollar has been adopted as the official currency
Language: English is the official language, spoken by the majority of people, with most of the population speaking Shona or Ndebele as a first language
Time difference: GMT +2 (Northern hemisphere wintertime), GMT +1 (Northern hemisphere summertime)
Telephone: country code + 263, international access code 00
Main airports: Harare International, Bulawayo International, Victoria Falls International

Shona phrases
Hello - Makadii (Ma-kah-dee-ee)
Goodbye - Tozoonana (Toh-zoh-oh-nahnah)
Please - Ndapota (Na-pot-ah)
Thank you - Maitabasa (My-ta-bah-sah)

Ndebele phrases
Hello - Salibonani
Goodbye -Hamba kahle
How are you (essential!) - Unjani
Thank you - Siyabonga

Weather and Climate
According to International Living Magazine in 2011, Zimbabwe ties with Malta as having the best climate in the world. With sunshine an estimated 90% of the year, who can argue with that?

Summer is from November to March where temperatures range from an average minimum of 15°C to an average maximum of 35°C with localised, intermittent rainfall. Winter is from April to early September and is dry, with an average maximum temperature of 25°C. Temperatures can drop to 5°C at night but frosts are rare except on high ground and the daytime temperatures are extremely sunny and comfortable.

History

The first Bantu speakers to arrive in present day Zimbabwe were the makers of early Iron Age pottery in the 3rd-5th century AD in south-east Zimbabwe. It is believed that Shona speakers came from South Africa from the 13th-17th century when the Kingdom of Mapungubwe was eclipsed by the Kingdom of Zimbabwe - evidenced by the ruins of the kingdom's capital at Great Zimbabwe. In 1834 the Ndebele people arrived, fleeing from the Zulu leader, Shaka and making Matabeleland their new empire. They drove the Shona to concentrate in northern Zimbabwe - today, central, eastern and northern Zimbabwe remains predominantly Shona, with the west Ndebele.

In the 1880s Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa Company arrived in Zimbabwe and by 1895 the name Rhodesia had been adopted to cover all the land between the Limpopo River and Lake Tanganyika. The region south of the Zambezi later became known as Southern Rhodesia with the region to the North later named Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

Following civil war in the 1970s, Zimbabwe achieved Independence in 1980 and Robert Mugabe's ZANU party took control of government. The first President was Reverend Canaan Banana who was succeeded in 1988 by former Prime Minister Mugabe and his united Zanu-PF party. Following compulsory land re-distribution and the collapse of large-scale commercial farming in the late 1990s, Zimbabwe became one of Africa's most food insecure nations. Runaway inflation in 2006 forced the re-valuation of the Zimbabwe dollar, with inflation peaking at 8000%, the removal of three noughts from bank notes and the issuance of a 100 trillion dollar bill.

The introduction of the US dollar in 2009 has brought an end to hyper-inflation and stability is returning to the country. Food, fuel and medical treatmentis readily available and people who fled abroad to other African states and western countries are slowly returning to resume their lives in this beautiful and welcoming country.

Travel Hotspots

The country is safe to navigate and there are is a good public transport system between Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, with the three cities accessible by bus and plane.

Victoria Falls or Mosi-au-Tunya (“the smoke that thunders) has the largest sheet of falling water in the world (1,708m wide and 108m high) and is located on the far western tip of Zimbabwe on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Victoria Falls is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. As well as the Falls being a definite must-see for visitors, Victoria Falls town is a lively centre for adventure. For white-water rafting the best time to visit is when the waters in the Zambezi are low (August - December) - these rapids have been referred to as the best one-day white-water rafting in the world. Please visit our Victoria Falls page for more details.

Hwange National Park: at 14,000 square kilometers, Hwange is a wildlife enthusiast's dream. With some of the most unspoilt wild areas in Zimbabwe, an abundance of elephants as well as leopard, lion, rhino, buffalo and over 100 bird species, a trip to Hwange should be on everyones To Do list.

Mana Pools National Park: Mana Pools is synonymous with the Zambezi River, elephants, lions, wilderness and remote beauty. It is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name “mana” means “four” in Shona, relating to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River, the remnants of four ancient ox-bow lakes. Spread over 2,196 square km, the Park is part of a region of 10,500 square km which has no physical boundaries and animals are able to move freely throughout the area.

Lake Kariba: the world's third largest man-made lake offers spectacular elephant and buffalo sitings on its shores as well as being home to the ferocious tiger fish! Take the 24-hour ferry from Milibizi near Victoria Falls to Kariba town and witness the beauty of remotest Zimbabwe.

Matopos National Park: located in the heart of Matabeleland 35km south of Bulawayo, the granite Matopos Hills were formed over 2 billion years ago and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The National Park is the oldest in Zimbabwe, established in 1926 as a bequest from Cecil Rhodes, who is buried in on the summit of one of the Hills. With excellent hiking, horse riding and game viewing, the Park is a safe, peaceful and beautiful place to visit.

Gonarezhou National Park: this rugged, remote and wild National Park is situated in south-eastern Zimbabwe, close to the borders of Mozambique and South Africa. Because of its remoteness and vast size, large tracts of Gonarezhou remain as pristine wilderness. Meaning “place of the elephants” in Shona, it forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park where animals can move freely between Gonarezhou, Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.

Great Zimbabwe: a ruined stone city in south Zimbabwe, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the 11th Century. One of its most prominent features are its 5m high stone walls, constructed entirely without mortar and the ruins are some of the oldest, largest and most impressive stone structures in Southern Africa. The city was built over a period of 300 years and it is believed that over 18,000 people lived there at its peak before being eventually abandoned and falling into ruins.

Getting to Zimbabwe

Volunteers arriving into Zimbabwe can fly into Harare International Airport, Victoria Falls International or Bulawayo.

Airlines flying direct to Harare from Europe, Asia and the US include Emirates, KLM, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways. All major airlines fly to Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport in South Africa from where you can easily transfer through to Harare or Victoria Falls using BA or South African Airways.

Victoria Falls also has a direct link to Cape Town - South Africa's beautiful "mother city".

 

 

Volunteer in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is number 14 on the New York Times list of "52 places to visit in 2015"


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