Skip to content

Why Go On A Zimbabwe Safari?

Zimbabwe is the home of a kingdom that dates back to the 11th Century, deep caves filled with quiet pools that were explored by US Navy divers, the largest artificial lake in the world by volume and the most impressive waterfall on the planet. This landlocked country is a great safari destination. It is known for its stunning landscapes, endless natural beauty, warm and friendly people, and some of the most amazing wildlife encounters.

Zimbabwe has two World Heritage Sites, Victoria Falls and Mana Pools. But there is so much more: Hwange’s wildlife, Matobo’s majestic leopards, Gonarezhou’s dramatic remoteness, and stunning sunsets over Lake Kariba. Zimbabwe is a great place to go safari.

Why go to Zimbabwe?

The country’s amazing wildlife, exceptional level of guiding, and diverse national parks are what make it so popular. This is why thousands upon thousands of tourists flock to this country every year. It takes communication seriously and has a large network of reserves.

Because of their rigorous training, Zimbabwe’s safari guides are regarded as some of the finest in the world. The course takes five years and covers everything, from basic first aid to advanced driving skills, weapons training, and learning the Latin names for all species of birds, insects, and plants. The course is so difficult that only five percent of the students make it through the written exams. Zimbabwean guides are renowned for their passion and knowledge about the bush combined with their fun-loving Zimbabwean senses of humor.

Because of its commitment to conservation, the country is also part of two huge cross-border parks. Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area is (KAZA), which covers Victoria Falls, Hwange, and Lake Kariba. It is approximately the same size as France. The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which includes Gonarezhou, is twice the size of Taiwan or the Netherlands. These transfrontier areas are a result of close cooperation between Southern African countries such as Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana. They help to preserve and protect natural and historic migratory routes for animals and their traditional habitats.

Zimbabwe has many outdoor activities that adventure travelers can enjoy, including game drives, nature walks, and water-based safaris within the national parks.

You will never be bored in Zim, no matter where you are – from the rush at Vic Falls to Hwange’s dry bush – the Milky Way is always above you, the sun rising in the morning, and the amazing hospitality of Zimbabweans to look forward too.

Where to go: The Best Safari Destinations In Zimbabwe

The Land of Giants: Hwange National Park

Hwange, pronounced “wang-gee”, is the most well-known and most visited park. It covers more than 14 600 kilometres/ 5 850 miles and is home to 107 mammal species. There are also over 400 bird species. Many birds flock to Mandavu Dam during mid-year dry seasons. The Nyamandhlovu Pan area is the best place to find elephants (between 45 000-60 000 live in Hwange). It literally means “Meat of the Elephant”. Hwange is often combined with Victoria Falls because they are so close. Although rhinos can be seen only on rare occasions, this is the best spot to see the Big 5 in Zim.

The Biblical Land: Matobo National Park

This is where Ophir is believed to be located. It is the Biblical land where King Solomon obtained ivory, gold, and exotic birds. It is now a protected area, where endangered white and black rhino are making a comeback. The granite outcrops make it a great hunting ground for Zimbabwe’s leopards. Its most well-known site is the “balancing rocks”, where large boulders are placed in a row without mortar or supports. Find out more about Matobo.

Gonarezhou National Park: Off the Beaten Path

Gonarezhou, which means “gone-arez-who” in the south of the country is a little-known gem. The most prominent landmark in this area is the Chilojo Cliffs (red sandstone) which are a stunning backdrop for game drives. They glow red under the setting sun and provide an impressive backdrop to late afternoon sundowners. Chivilia Waterfalls are another highlight, as they flow the fastest in the summer rainy seasons.

The Golden Child: Mana Pools National Park

Mana Pools, located up north is one of the most beautiful reserves in the world. Because it is located near the Zambezi River, large pools allow for wildlife activities such as canoe safaris. This is a great way to see elephants, hippos, and crocodiles. This is also a great place to spot endangered wild dogs or ‘paintedwolves’ in Southern Africa.

The Hidden Gem: Matusadona National Park

Matusadona is located on the southern shores of Lake Kariba. Its name comes from the Matuzviadonha Hills. This remote area is accessible only by light aircraft or 4×4 convoy, and is considered one the country’s hidden treasures. This is where you will find endangered animals like elephants, black rhinos, and buffalo, as well as the famous Matusadona Lion Prides.

Victoria Falls: The Smoke That Thunders

This is the most popular attraction in Zimbabwe, and also the end-point of a safari. When you add their height and width, the Falls are known as Mosioa-Tunya, or ‘the Smoke That Thunders’. They are fed by the Zambezi River and offer adrenalin activities such as white-water rafting and visits to Livingstone Island.

The Riviera of Zimbabwe: Lake Kariba

Kariba was originally built to provide hydroelectric power to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is also known as the Riviera of Zimbabwe because of the numerous upscale houseboats found along its shores. It’s a great place to bird, and Spurwing Island, named after the African spurwinged goose, is proof of this. Spurwings are known for their ability to dive for fish. They are also very social and can live in groups of up 50 birds. Kariba is an underrated destination that offers a wonderful place to enjoy a beach holiday in the middle of safari country.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins

According to local Shona, the Zimbabwe Ruins were built by the Shona from the 11th century. They are believed to have been dry packed thousands of stones into complex patterns, towers, and staircases. On a land area of 1 780 acres (722 hectares), at least 20 000 people lived there between the 13th century and 15th centuries. It was once the main trading center for the Kingdoms of Mutapa and Munumatapa. Today, it is a World Heritage Site. These ruins are so important that the country was named after them: “Dzimba” means “houses” and “mabwe” means “stones”, making up the country’s “Zimbabwe” or the ‘Great Houses of Stone”.

Zimbabwe is a large country. First-timers should visit Victoria Falls, Hwange, and Mana Pools because they have the best infrastructure and are easy to reach. It is difficult to visit other places in this remote land, so only experienced travelers should do it.

Timing: When is the best time to visit Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe is a great example of Africa’s infinite complexity. The best time to travel depends on whether you are going on safari or to visit the Victoria Falls. Most travellers want to do both. This leaves less time to enjoy both. The reason is that the Falls depend on rain, while peak-season safaris rely on rain.
Safari High Season

Game viewing is best during the dry winter months (May to October). This is due to many factors:

The vegetation becomes less dense, which makes it easier for animals to be seen.
Many water sources can dry up and don’t move too far from each other, making it easier to locate them.
The daytime temperatures are cooler, making the climate more temperate.
You will feel more at ease if there are less bugs around.

However, this time coincides with the major northern holiday season, so it is imperative to book in advance to ensure accommodation and flights.

Victoria Falls under Full Flood

Victoria Falls is best seen in its entirety from February through May, or late summer to autumn. Because:

The Zambezi River is the main source of water for the Falls. It is also fed by rains from the Angolan Highlands. It takes several months for the first rains of summer to fall in November and then trickle down to Batoka Gorge in February.
The rainy season ends around March or April. This means that the Falls are’replenished” over this time.

It is important that you know that the Falls at their highest and fullest are difficult to photograph and see. The 500 000 litres / 132000 gallons of water that plunge over the edge create a lot of mist. This can make it hard to see the Falls and the noise can be deafening. To truly appreciate the Falls’ sheer size and take photographs, you can fly in a helicopter.

White-water rafting is unsafe due to the strong current and high water levels at this time of the year. The rapids of the water will make it dangerous to swim in Devil’s Pool and visit Livingstone Island. These activities can be done from August through December (Low Water Season), when the water levels are safer.

Enjoy the Best of Both May and July

You can see Vic Falls while the water is still high, and enjoy a great Zimbabwe safari. May, June, or July are good options. The safari will improve, but the Falls will start drying out and you won’t get the full curtain. The Falls will still be full-flood but it may be difficult to watch the wildlife from the first time.

You may find large portions of the Falls dry if you visit in September. Although the safari will still be great, you will find the Zambian side very barerock and the rest very diminished by October.

There are other things to consider

Hwange, Victoria Falls, and Lake Kariba all have high demand from local holidaymakers. It is peak safari season, and the Falls are still spectacular. If you wish to see them, book at least nine months or a year in advance.
Due to regional holidays, the Christmas-New Year period is very busy. The Victoria Falls will be less accessible than usual, and it is not recommended that you visit them during this time.