Zimbabwe Travel Guide
Ever since a widely reported financial crisis tanked its currency into oblivion, many would-be visitors have been avoiding Zimbabwe. In the years since though, the US Dollar has taken over as the de facto currency, re-introducing stability to the economy, enabling it to recover.
Prices are much cheaper than they have been in the past, making this country with sprawling game reserves, ancient pre-European ruins, and one of the grandest waterfalls in the world a must-visit while in Southern Africa.
Currency: U.S. Dollars
Languages: English, Shona, Sindebele, various indigenous languages
What To Do
Despite the reputation that this area of the world has for being a place where tourists come to go on safari only, this nation has its share of human history as well. The ruins of Great Zimbabwe is testament to this fact, as this walled city served as the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe between the 11th and the 15th centuries.
Covering as much as 722 hectares at its peak (the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara), Great Zimbabwe is said to have provided habitation for as many as 18,000 at its peak. While this site was built by native Zimbabweans, the white ruling minority censored any archeologists that dared to suggest that they had erected such works.
Once independence was secured in 1980 by black nationalists, they renamed Rhodesia after this complex of ruins.
Khami is another set of ancient ruins that is well worth your time. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, this former city was once home to the Kingdom of Butua. Formed shortly after the approximate abandonment of the great city of Great Zimbabwe, it is thought that it was formed from the diaspora of people fleeing it due to shortages of resources.
It lasted over two hundred years, before it was ransacked by Rozvi rebels. Walking amidst its layered walls, you will gain a new respect for the civilizations that were emerging here just before the Europeans arrived on the scene.
While the two previously mentioned attractions are well worth a spot on the travel itinerary of any visitor to Zimbabwe, there is no question that the lion’s share of arrivals come here dead set on seeing Victoria Falls.
One of the greatest waterfalls in Africa, if not the world, this cataract is also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or The Smoke That Thunders. It is known as the largest waterfall in the world in terms of the amount of water that passes through it, as almost 1,100 cubic metres of water tumbles over its edge every second.
It is twice as high as the American Niagara Falls, and twice the width of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Yet, for all the power this suggests, there is a place where visitors can swim to the edge in relative safety.
The Devil’s Pool is an eddy of calmness right at the precipice of the falls, and with a rock formation forming a ledge that prevent competent swimmers from plummeting to their death (although some still do every so often), it is possible to do something truly hair-raising on holiday in Southern Africa.
Do note that this feature is located across the border in Zambia, so don’t forget your passport when leaving your guesthouse/hotel on the Zimbabwean side.
Zimbabwe also has its fair share of game reserves, with Hwange National Park being considered to be among the best of the lot. Covering over 14,000 square kilometres of land, it is the largest park in the country.
There is a considerable population of wild elephants in this reserve, as well as the greatest concentrations of gemsbok and brown hyenas, both of which are threatened species in Southern Africa.
There are a number of safari companies that operate within the park, with camps set up for the use of their guests, so be sure to book a tour with one as soon as you enter the country.
Matobo National Park is another natural refuge that is well worth your time, as it not only protects white rhinos, leopards and impalas, but it home to a number of interesting geological features known as kopjes.
Formed from granite that welled its way to the surface as magma over 2 billion years ago, this super hard rock has taken all this time to be worn down into the exposed hills and small mountains that exist today.
What to Eat
During your time in Zimbabwe, make an effort to have some Sadza with one of your meals. Considered to be this nation’s unofficial national food, this cooked cornmeal takes on the appearance of a very thick form of porridge.
It is often served on the side with various greens and meat mains, making it the perfect contrast to the stronger flavours of meals you’ll be having here.
Feel like having something a bit lighter? Opt for some Dovi. This peanut based stew combines chicken with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and spinach to create a flavourful experience that will satisfy your insides as well as your taste buds.
Southern Africa is typically not known for its indigenous sweets, but Mapopo candy is a happy exception to this rule. To create this treat, a papaya fruit is cubed up and then put in a saucepan with ingredients such as sugar, the zest of a lime and a pinch of salt.
Once it reaches the right temperature, the concoction is then cooled, then formed into candies that are then wrapped in wax paper and sold to eager kids.