10 reasons to travel or volunteer in Zimbabwe in 2019

5 November 2018

Despite often being in the headlines for the wrong reasons, Zimbabwe has remained on the bucket list of travelers in the know throughout the last two decades. The welcoming locals, abundant wildlife and unspoilt national parks make it a destination not to be missed.

Take the time to explore the multitude of World Heritage Sites (the country is the proud home to no less than five of these coveted sites), but also listen to the locals for tips on visiting the less well-known highlights.

 

Our 10 reasons to travel or volunteer in Zimbabwe:

1. Undisturbed game viewing

Zimbabwe has some of the most breathtakingly beautiful, wild and remote game rich regions anywhere in Africa.

Zimbabwe has been off the agenda of many travel agents for many years, with a reluctance amongst tourists to support the country’s tumultuous political regime. However, adventurous tourists will find that Zimbabwe truly lives up to its name as one of Africa’s finest safari and wildlife destinations. You’ll never find masses of people or vehicles crowding around an animal siting - if you’re in the know, its definitely worth giving it a go.

Traveling with a Conservation Travel Africa team who are immersed in Zimbabwe’s wildlife industry, means that you’ll achieve your dream safari holiday, whether your interests are conservation, safaris, tours, adrenalin activities, or a once-in-a-lifetime family adventure.

Yet to be rediscovered by the masses, the safari scene is unparalleled, the natural environment is varied and beautiful, and the welcome you will receive wherever you go is second to none.

2. Prolific wildlife

From the vast wilderness of Hwange National Park to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mana Pools (surely one of the most magical places on earth), and the world-famous Victoria Falls National Park, every single one of Zimbabwe’s National Parks are simply world class.

The wildlife doesn’t need to be sought out - whether its hippo, hyena and (sometimes disconcertingly) lions walking through your campsite on the banks of the Zambezi River, being surrounded by elephants at one of Hwange’s waterholes or watching a wild dog den in the Save Valley, spotting wildlife is definitely not a problem.

3. The people

Home to some of the most welcoming, resilient and long-suffering people in the world, Zimbabwean hospitality is incomparable.

Friendly service is something that comes naturally in this part of Africa, and whether you stay in a 5 star lodge, or a national parks campsite, the people are respectful and kind, willing to share their lives with you. For solo travellers, and especially solo lady travellers, the Zimbabwe experience is like no other, and we don’t hesitate to encourage travellers of all ages to visit.

There is a reason why visitors consistently talk about the friendliness and warmth of Zimbabwe’s people, and it is a testament to them, considering the lengths they have gone to simply survive.

4. Knowledgable guides

The Zimbabwe Guides Licence is renowned for being the most difficult and intensive wildlife guiding certification in Africa, and the vast amount of knowledge and experience which guides hold is incredible.

Guides who are able to take guests on guided walks and canoe safaris have to cover extra material and take additional exams to qualify. The training process for professional guides is usually at least three years, and requires an apprenticeship to be served under an approved guiding outfitter or safari company.

Renewed interest in Zimbabwe as a safari destination is fuelled in part by the superior expertise of the country’s professional guides, and their training in all aspects of wildlife, guiding behaviour, hospitality, photography, eco-tourism, bush lore and tracking.

 

5. Passionate conservationists

Operators that stayed during Zimbabwe’s lean times have invested their energy and funds in conservation and community projects, dedicated to securing the future of the country’s abundant wildlife.

Zimbabwe’s conservationists are some of the most passionate in Africa, who recognised the need early on to engage local communities in the conservation of their natural heritage.

6. The weather

According to a report from International Living Magazine, Zimbabwe ties with Malta as having the best climate in the world, with Zimbabwe scoring 100% on climate (and, interestingly, 75% on leisure). The country boasts more then 290 days of sunshine and a pleasant, temperate climate throughout most of the year. 

December to March is low season, where temperatures can get hot, and the days can be humid with short, well-needed rain showers, usually in the afternoons. Everyone in the country looks forward to the rains, so important for the wildlife and for the agriculture industry.

April and May are (in our opinion) the best months, weather-wise to be in the country. The lowveld (low altitude) areas of Victoria Falls, Kariba and Gonerazhou are lush and green, and the humidity falls dramatically in these areas. In the highveld areas, daytime temperatures range from around 25-28 degrees, and the nights are extremely pleasant.

June - September is prime time to visit Zimbabwe. Game viewing is at its best throughout the country, the days are bright and clear, with skies a brilliant blue all day long. Best of all? Absolutely no rain!

October and November, up until the first rains, can be stifling, particularly in the lowveld areas, but the game viewing is amazing, albeit dusty and dry. The fishing in these months is also fantastic, so a trip to Mana Pools or the Zambezi River is highly recommended!

 

7. Hidden gems

The country is at the perfect point where it is becoming increasingly sophisticated, but is quintessential hidden gem territory. From small eco-lodges in off-the-beaten-track locations, cultural home stays, mountain trails, waterfalls (other than Victoria Falls!) and family-run conservation projects, the country is just calling out to be explored.

Zimbabwe is proudly host to five UNESCO World Heritage sites, which include Mana Pools National Park and the Victoria Falls. A World Heritage Site is a natural or cultural site that the world community regards as having immense universal value. 

Less visited attractions which are definitely worth exploring are:

- Great Zimbabwe (UNESCO World Heritage Site - Culture)

- Nyanga and the Eastern Highlands

- Chizarira National Park

- Matobo Hills (UNESCO World Heritage Site - Culture)

8. Varied cultural history

Despite the nation’s colonial past, the Zimbabwean people have managed to retain much of their roots and ethnic identity. 

In the 13th and 14th centuries, Zimbabwe was the seat of one of the greatest African civilizations. The region was inhabited mainly by Bantu tribes, who descended from the north and lived a mostly pastoral lifestyle. The impressive structures that were constructed during this period can be found at the Great Zimbabwe National Monument in Masvingo.

  • Great Zimbabwe (UNESCO World Heritage Site - Culture)

The Great Zimbabwe ruins, with its massive curving walls constructed from millions of granite blocks fitted together without mortar, hosts the largest stone structures south of the pyramids. 

Great Zimbabwe, which means "houses of stone", is an ancient city situated 30 kilometers from Masvingo. Awe-inspiring, majestic and timeless, these structures were built by indigenous African people between 1250 and 1450. At the height of its power, Great Zimbabwe had over 18,000 inhabitants and was a main trading centre associated with gold trading. Fragments of Persian and Chinese pottery have also been found at this ancient site.

  • Khami Ruins (UNESCO World Heritage Site - Culture)

The Khami Ruins are the second most important archaeological site in Zimbabwe after the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. Khami developed and grew between 1450 and 1650, after the capital of Great Zimbabwe had been abandoned.

Both ruins belonged to the same cultural tradition and have the same lay-out in sectors, between the chief's residence and an open area with huts for the majority of the population. Imported goods like Ming porcelain and Spanish silverware were found, which shows that Khami was a major centre for trade over a long period of time.

The Khami Ruins are a national monument and are an impressive but unknown attraction in Zimbabwe.

  • Matobo hills (UNESCO World Heritage Site - Culture)

The Matobo Hills in southern Zimbabwe, are home to an outstanding collection of prehistoric rock paintings, the largest in southern Africa. The large boulders provide natural shelters and have been associated with human occupation from the early Stone Age. The hills and caves of the area are renowned for the 20,000 cave-paintings and petroglyphs, some of which are more than 13,000 years old. The unusual hill formations that dot the landscape are called “Bald Heads” by the local people.

The Matobo Hills still provide a strong focus for the local Zimbabwe community, which use the shrines and sacred places linked to traditional and social activities. 

Much of the country’s history has been written and played out within the confines of the Matobo Hills – from the time thousands of years ago when ancient bushmen used the granite faces as a canvas for their unique and extraordinary art, to more recent times, when black and white met in war and peace. The national park occupies 106,750 acres (43,200 hectares) and includes the scenic View of the World Hill, or Malindidzimu (4,700 feet ), where Cecil Rhodes is buried.
 

9. Your contribution counts

With Zimbabwe having been off the tourist radar for more than 20 years, the country’s government-managed infrastructure (National Parks accommodation and personnel, and government investment into wildlife safety and anti-poaching) has inevitably suffered. Many parks rely on the support of private organisations and NGOs to continue operating.

With the transfer of power in November 2017, the spirit of optimism which has laid dormant for so long, was released, and this is a great reason to book your trip as soon as you can - to harness this hope, and sustain the momentum to move forward. Recent events, such as the currency shortage and lack of imported goods, only makes it more important for tourism to grow. 

Tourism is now funding education and healthcare in rural communities, it is supporting conservation efforts, both through volunteering and through traditional safaris. Your visit to the country has a dramatic and long-lasting impact on whole communities and endangered animal species. 

 

10. Making a plan

Said as a single word, “Don’t worry, we’ll makeaplan”, the phrase is synonymous with all aspects of life in Zimbabwe, and goes some way to understanding the stoicism of the Zimbabwean people, and their ability to thrive through situations that would beat most people. “Making a plan” allows Zimbabweans to get up every morning and find a way to overcome the issues that are thrown in front of them.

How does this translate to your travel experience? Zimbabweans spirit of ingenuity and perseverance has produced a ‘can-do’, ‘no problem is too big’ mentality, where entrepreneurship thrives and a friendly smile goes a LONG way! Where someone you don’t know is willing to open their home to you, and will know someone who can show you something special, or help you with a particular problem. 

 

Why you should travel with Conservation Travel Africa to Zimbabwe

Our foundations are in Zimbabwe and our business was born from a passion inspired by our experiences in the country. We have the local contacts to customise an itinerary for almost every budget, and can deliver a tailor-made adventure which can include community engagement, volunteering, cultural trips and iconic wildlife experiences.

At CTA, we have a motto stemming from the Zimbabwean ‘makeaplan’ spirit: “Just ask, we can do pretty much anything”. To nowhere does this apply more than travels in Zimbabwe.

 

We say, when it comes to volunteering, or just visiting Zimbabwe in 2019, be the pioneers of rediscovery, visit before the floodgates inevitably re-open, and have a wild, remote and authentic travel experience. 

Be open to every experience - Zimbabwe is 2019’s destination.

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