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Landlocked Zimbabwe is a multi-faceted jewel. Here a visitor can gaze on hundreds of species of tropical wildlife, thrill to the experience of white-water rafting; scale chilly mountain peaks and savor the history of a people that goes back tens of thousands of years. This diverse country is rich in heritage and natural wonders.
From one end of the country to the other, the wildlife is so staggering in its profusion that it makes any safari through the game parks a voyage of discovery. Game drives in open safari vehicles are available, and the adventurous can walk or paddle canoes within feet of elephants. Other treasures include the ruins of ancient civilizations, massive stone constructions of culture whose roots are lost in the distant past. The Zambezi River has the best white-water run on the continent. With the emergence of an exciting modern artistic movement, local crafts centers offer artifacts of many cultures. Shona sculptures are a vibrant art form that makes full use of the country’s spectacular geological inheritance.
Mosi oa Tunya, the “Smoke that Thunders,” sends clouds of spray high into the air to “rain” down on the luxuriant forest that exists only because of the moisture from the falls. In addition to observing the natural spectacles of the falls and the rain forest that surrounds it, you can kayak, canoe or raft on the Zambezi River’s famous white water. Vendors offer plenty of crafts, including Shona stone sculptures. And you can participate in day and night game drives and walks in the nearby national parks and private reserves.
The Matopos hills are a world of knobby granite outcrops that look as if they have been transplanted from another planet. As soon as you enter the park, you are in another Africa. Here is an eerie panorama so brooding and mysterious that it has enchanted Ndebele kings and colonial settlers alike. Today, the visitor can gaze on the tombs of Cecil Rhodes and his deputies and, not far from these monuments to colonial ambition, the vestiges of very different people-cave paintings by ancient bush people depicting a world existed thousands of years before the name “Zimbabwe” was ever invented.
The ruined city of Great Zimbabwe, near Masvingo, is the largest and most significant ancient monument south of the Sahara. The towering dzembabwe (“stone houses”) are the remains of a city of some 20,000 Shone-speaking people, who prospered between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries. The city is an eloquent testimonial to the advanced culture of its African builders. The complex extends across 720 hectares and is constructed entirely without mortar-a million stones balance on one another.
Close encounters with as many as 35 large mammal species await the visitor to the sandveld and teak forests of Hwange, Zimbabwe’s largest national park. The density and variety of wildlife at Hwange, including more than 400 kinds of birds, is comparable with the world’s best. The park’s 500-kilometer network of game viewing roads is crisscrossed by great herds of elephant, buffalo, rhino, giraffe, zebra, graceful impala and score of predators, including lion, leopard and cheetah.
This park came into being when the mighty Zambezi was dammed in the late 1950’s, producing manmade Lake Kariba. The resultant new ecosystems sustain a large variety of wildlife. The lake teems with hippo, crocodile and huge shoals of the celebrated Kariba bream, tiny tasty kapenta, and the fighting tigerfish. Elephant, buffalo, countless antelope and the occasional black rhino come down to the south shore of the lake from Bumi Hills and the rugged wilderness of the park.
In the long, hot African summer, huge herds of elephant and buffalo wander across the old Zambezi River flood plain at Mana Pools. The river has shifted slightly north toward Zambia over the years, leaving thousands of pools and ponds in which water seasonally collects. The sandy alluvial soil supports lush grasses and acacia trees that are perfect for the big browsers. Mana Pools supports phenomenal numbers of antelope, lion, cheetah and wild dog.
On Zimbabwe’s eastern border, running some three hundred kilometers from north to south is a string of mountains that are quite striking in its rugged beauty. Forming a natural border with a neighboring Mozambique, the Eastern Highlands vary from the gently rolling countryside near Nyanga in the north to the fierce granite spikes of Chimanimani. The fabulous scenery of the Eastern Highlands makes them a natural holiday destination. Trout fishing, golf, bowls and horse riding are all enjoyed throughout the year, and there are several sumptuous hotels of an exceptionally high standard. Further south are the Vumba, an archipelago of misty peaks famed for their fabulous views into Mozambique. They are also home to the Vumba Botanical Gardens that are just a few minutes’ drive from the eastern metropolis of Mutare, containing shrubs and trees that have been gathered from all over the world. Overlooking the giant water lilies on the ornamental lake is a tea house which appears for all the world like an English cricket pavilion, uprooted from a village green in the Home Countries and replanted in the heart of Africa. At the southern end of this exquisite mountain chain, the volcanic peaks of Chimanimani are sharp and jagged. Most of them can be conquered with little mountaineering skill, and they are punctuated with hundreds of rivers, waterfalls and pools to entice bathers after a long day’s hike.
|Hot, you can experience thunderstorms in Nov to Mar.|
Average Temperatures: 62/81
|Warm, with cool nights.|
Average Temperatures: 54/77
|Dry, with cold nights.|
Average Temperatures: 49/69
Average Temperatures: 50/80
Vast areas of unspoiled and virtually undiscovered protected wilderness areas make Zambia an undisputed favorite with dedicated safari fans. From ants to elephant’s, a bird’s nest to a pride of lions, experiencing many facets of the bush is the Zambian way.
The unspoiled nature of Zambia is perhaps its greatest asset. Walking safaris give visitors a unique insight into the natural world. The warmth of the Zambian people is legendary, as they welcome visitors to their ceremonies and festivals.
South Luangwa is one of the world’s most spectacular wildlife sanctuaries. It covers a vast area of 9,050 square kilometers bordered by the Muchinga Escarpment to the west and-for the most part-the mighty Luangwa River to the east. The park is home to a huge variety of mammals, including elephant, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, lion and large numbers of antelope. It is also the birthplace of the walking safari, which permits visitors the privilege of walking among wild animals in their natural habitat. The valley is a sanctuary for one of Africa’s most important elephant populations and was given the name “Last Kingdom of the Elephant” in a famous film about the area’s wildlife.
This spectacular wilderness area covers 4,636 square kilometers of primarily Woodland Park and encompasses numerous small rivers, including the beautiful Mwaleshi, that play an important ecological role. The park is particularly noted for its huge herds of buffalo, and a walking safari also reveals elephant, leopard, wildcat, hyena, puku, impala, zebra, and baboon and vervet monkeys. There is abundant birdlife with more than 350 species, including the crested Loerie, crowned crane, carmine bee-eater and giant owl.
The lower Zambezi lies along the northern bank of the Zambezi River, 100 kilometers downstream of Victoria Falls. It covers 1,092 square kilometers and is home to abundant wildlife, including elephant, hippo, buffalo, zebra, lion, leopard and a variety of birds. Game drives and walks often reveal lion, leopard and on occasion, cheetah. Canoe safaris and fishing on the Zambezi offer an excellent opportunity to see a variety of game and birdlife.
Kafue is one of the world’s largest national parks. Its 22,400 square kilometers spill into three of Zambia’s provinces and encompass a vast and impressive range of scenery and wildlife: lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and almost every species of birds. The only noticeable absentee is giraffe. The lovely Kafue River and its spectacular tributaries contribute to the great diversity of landscape that makes this park interesting and rewarding to visit. Northern Kafue is dominated by the Busanga Plains, a vast area of rolling flood plain fed by the Lunga River System, which recedes in the dry season, stranding herds of hippo in shallow pools. The rich variety of birdlife provides an added attraction and includes the wattled crane, the crowned crane and the openbill stork.
Located on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, the enormous Zambezi River plunges 103 meters into a chasm almost 2 kilometers in length. In full flood, the water makes a thundering roar creating towering clouds of spray that create multitudes of sparkling rainbows and constantly drenches the opposite cliff in rain. Victoria Falls is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Livingstone Museum features African pre-historical and historical artifacts, and memorabilia related to Scottish missionary David Livingstone and his exploration of this area in the 1850s. The National Museum displays a collection of archaeological and anthropological relics, including a copy of a Neanderthal skull estimated to be over 100,000 years old.
Warm days; you can experience thunderstorms in Nov to Mar.
Average Temperatures: 63/90
Dry, with cool nights.
Average Temperatures: 50/85
Dry, with cold nights.
Average Temperatures: 43/78
Average Temperatures: 48/93
From its golden plains to the eternal snows on Mount Kilimanjaro, nowhere is there such an abundance of wild animals as in Tanzania. Although Tanzania shares the Rift Valley and the great Serengeti Plain with its northern neighbor, Kenya, it has a magic of its own. As your eyes move from the curved horizon upward to the clear blue sky, they meet the majestic snow-covered peak of Mount Kilimanjaro nestled in the clouds.
Spend your days winding your way through kopjes, observing the animals that shelter there. Follow the pug marks of the leopard along a river bank, and keep your eyes peeled for lions hiding in the tall grass. At dawn, watch the mist roll over the 102 square mile Ngorongoro Crater veiling the natural treasure that awaits you below.
The Serengeti or “endless plain” as the Masai call it, has the largest population of migratory animals in the world. Most of the 9,000 square mile Serengeti is open plain broken by small hills, patches of acacia woodlands, swamps and lakes. The famous migration generally begins in May, with wildebeest, zebra, eland and gazelles moving from the south and reaching the Seronera area by July. From July through September the highest concentration of game is in the northern sector, which includes Kenya. The migration reverses direction in October.
The world’s largest intact caldera is located in an exceptional geographical position, forming a spectacular bowl of about 265 square kilometers with sides up to 600 meters deep, creating the perfect stalking ground for up to 30,000 wild animals at a time. The crater floor consists of a number of ecological environments that include grassland, swamps, forests and Lake Makat, a central lake filled by the Munge River. These various habitats attract a variety of wildlife to drink, wallow, graze, hide or climb. Although animals are free to move in and out of this contained environment, the rich volcanic soil, lush forests and spring-source lakes on the crater floor tend to entice both grazers and predators to remain. Ngorongoro Crater is presently one of the most likely areas in Tanzania to see the endangered Black Rhino.
This beautifully unspoiled national park covers 2,600 square kilometers of grassland and floodplains, and a large proportion of tall acacia woodland just south of the large open grass plains of southern Maasailand. Drives through the park enjoy wide views to distant variously purpled formations of volcanic mountain ranges. Tarangire also has regions of quite dense bush, but with high grasses and huge old baobab trees instead of the green forests of Manyara. The land is hilly and dominated by the impressive valley of the Tarangire River, which attracts good numbers of migrant animals during the dry months, especially between July and September.
Though Lake Manyara is relatively small (325 square kilometers) and has only one road, on the western shore of the lake, there are a striking variety of trees and a large lake where over 380 species of aquatic birds have been recorded. Manyara is also famous for its lions, which have the unusual habit of napping in trees. The vegetation in this area is also ideal for buffalo, giraffe, rhino, zebra and impala.
Located in eastern Tanzania, this scenic area boasts an impressive variety of game, birds and wildflowers. Much of the Nyerere is low lying, with altitudes ranging from 110 to 1,200 meters. Running through its center flows the vast Rufigi River. Together with its tributaries, the Great Ruaha, Kilombero and Luaga, the Rufigi makes up East Africa’s longest river basin. An unusual combination of steep wooded hills, open Miombo woodland and grassy plains and marshes interlace with lakes and dry sand rivers.
At 19,340 feet, Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain. Five different routes can be followed to the summit. Three of the routes require technical climbing skills, and the other two routes require very little or no technical climbing skills. On the ascent to the summit you pass through forest, alpine, semi-desert and snow-covered landscapes that offer the opportunity to see abbot’s duiker, elephant, buffalo, eland, black-and-white colobus monkey and leopard. These climbs are for those who are up to the physical challenge and want the reward of seeing the view from the apex of Africa.
Hot, you can experience thunderstorms in Oct & Nov.
Average Temperatures: 59/81
|Daily thundershowers, with cool nights.|
Average Temperatures: 60/77
|Dry, with cold nights.|
Average Temperatures: 57/74
Average Temperatures: 56/79
|Nov – Jun in the Serengeti National Park; Jun – Oct in Tarangire National Park|