Blessed with abundant sunshine, striking scenery and one of the most stunning waterfalls on earth, Zimbabwe's natural beauty is world-famous. Home to determined locals full of creativity, enthusiasm and hope, expect a warm welcome and generous hospitality. Overlook Zimbabwe and you'll miss an important piece of Africa's ancient heart.
Zimbabwe Tours & Travel
All our Zimbabwe trips
At a glance
|Capital city:||Harare (population 1.6 million)|
|Language:||English, Shona, Ndebele|
|Time zone:||(GMT+02:00) Windhoek|
|Electricity:||Type D (Old British 3-pin) Type G (Irish/British 3-pin)|
Best time to visit Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is located in a tropical zone but due to its high altitude, the climate remains temperate and comfortable all year, making it a suitable destination to visit all year round. May to October is the dry winter season and if wildlife watching, these months are perfect for easy viewing because animals flock to watering holes seemingly just for you. November to April is wetter and hotter but brings about a stunning, lush landscape that serves as a brilliant backdrop to photos.
Culture and customs
Other British influences are evident, with sports like cricket and rugby having a following and the British custom of tea drinking common throughout the country. Even though most Zimbabweans live in poverty and have endured many struggles, generally they still have a huge amount of kindness to bestow upon visitors. Travellers can expect to receive warm hospitality from most locals, who have a humble and somewhat inspiring approach to life.
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
Travellers will be able to find a range of dining options in Zimbabwe, from international cuisine to local traditional fare.
Things to try in Zimbabwe
1. Nhedzi Soup
This wild mushroom soup is a national specialty and a good option for vegetarians in a country where game meat prevails in most restaurants and hotels.
This dried sardine-like fish is popular throughout Zimbabwe, where refrigeration isn’t available to all. Mainly sourced from Lake Kariba, visitors can order kapenta with a side of sadza (maize meal) in most restaurants.
3. Zambezi Beer
Zimbabwe’s national beer is locally brewed in Harare and widely available throughout most of the country. It's perfect for washing down lunch or dinner on a hot summer's day.
Geography and environment
History and government
The land of Zimbabwe has been occupied since the 9th century, with tribes first emerging in the Limpopo Valley before starting to occupy the highlands. Zimbabwe's early society developed into a series of kingdoms which traded commodities such as gold and copper with other nations. The Great Zimbabwe ruins are a remnant of this illustrious time in Zimbabwean history and can be visited while travelling in the Masvingo area.
Portuguese settlers arrived in the 16th century, having a devastating effect on the empire. Trade was halted and a series of wars rendered the empire near collapse at the dawn of the 17th century. The British arrived in the late 19th century, by way of Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company, which lobbied to colonise the area and control the land (and precious minerals within). By 1898 the area of Zimbabwe was known as Southern Rhodesia (with modern day Zambia known as Northern Rhodesia).
The Shona and Ndebele (along with other indigenous tribes) staged revolts against their colonisers, which were largely unsuccessful and lead to displacement, with land unfairly being allocated to European settlers, rather than local tribal people whose ancestors and families had lived there for centuries. In part, this issue of disproportionate allocation of land would return to haunt modern Zimbabwe many years later.
Although controversial, colonial rule endured until Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980, with Canaan Banana serving as the first President. In 1988, changes to the constitution enabled Robert Mugabe to become President. By the 1990s ethnic tensions, confrontation and political instability were changing the face of modern Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans had endured demonstrations, displacement, violence, drought, food shortages and forcible land removal. The unstable economy, wildly fluctuating currency value and drop in tourism revenue translated into widespread poverty for many Zimbabweans. With the highest inflation rate in the world, Zimbabwe still suffers economic difficulties mainly due to the collapse of the once-strong agriculture sector. Despite this, Zimbabwe's people are irrepressible, the landscapes are as beautiful as ever and tourists have begun to return to experience the natural wonders and exotic wildlife of this great land.
Top 10 Animal Encounters of Zimbabwe
1. Sable Antelope
Zimbabwe’s national animal can be found grazing in herds in the woodlands and savanna of Zimbabwe. Lean, graceful and powerful, the sable antelope is considered one of the most magnificent antelope in the animal kingdom.
Prides of regal lions strut through Zimbabwe’s parks and reserves. Head on safari to find them stalking prey, at play or lazing in the sun – lion-spotting is one of world’s most sought after wildlife experiences for a reason, they are simply breathtaking to behold.
Hippos are a common sight while cruising on Lake Kariba. Watch them wallowing on the shores and lurking beneath the surface of the water. Although they look quite harmless, hippos are actually quite territorial and can get fierce, so don’t get too close.
4. African Wild Dog
Saved from the brink of extinction, the African wild dog is a recent conservation success story. While not completely out of the woods, population numbers have risen of late and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to encounter some of these highly intelligent canines while travelling in Zimbabwe.
5. Black Rhino
Sadly, black rhinos are on the critically endangered list due to poaching and loss of habitat. Zimbabwe still has pockets of these beautiful beasts and it’s possible to find them in reserves and protected areas.
6. White Rhino
Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park is home to a significant population of rare white rhinos. Track them on foot with a local guide and be mesmerised at the sight of these enormous creatures quietly grazing in the protected valleys.
Keep your eyes peeled for these ancient reptiles that are expert at blending in with the scenery. Their menacing presence looms just under the water level – watch out for them while cruising Zimbabwe’s channels and rivers.
This timid animal scares easily, so you’ll have to remain quiet if you hope to get close to one. With unique corkscrew-like horns, they are easy to spot but harder to capture on camera as they are great at making swift departures.
Large groups of the mighty African elephant can be found wandering the terrain of Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Imposing and inspiring, elephants are one of the most beloved animals in the world – see why for yourself in Zimbabwe.
10. African Fish Eagle
The national bird of Zimbabwe is swift, nimble and majestic. Abundant near bodies of water, witnessing an African fish eagle swoop on the water and capture its prey is an unforgettable travel moment.
While Zimbabwe lacks glitzy malls and heaving retail precincts, there are plenty of markets, galleries and workshops full of handicrafts and handmade wonders.
It's also a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Things to buy in Zimbabwe
1. Shona Stone Carvings
The Shona people have lived in Zimbabwe for thousands of years and have cultivated a rare talent in carving stone. Their craft is widely appreciated by the international art world, so support local artists by picking up a creative carving straight from the source.
2. Local Music
Zimbabwean music is lively, moving and steeped in history. Featuring drumming, marimba, mbira, singing and chanting – pick up a CD and bring the spirit of Zimbabwe home to share with friends.
3. Batik Fabric
Zimbabwe has an impressive array of batik, known as sadza cloth. Featuring wildlife and scenes of daily life, they make great bedspreads, wall hangings and tablecloths.
Festivals and Events in Zimbabwe
Harare International Festival of Arts
Held annually, this festival is jam-packed with exciting things to see and do, like watching energising dance and music performances, browsing eclectic stands at craft markets and indulging in food and festivities at night.
Bulawayo Music Festival
Held every two years, this music festival attracts classical musicians from all over the world, but also features local musicians who give energetic performances using traditional instruments.
Zimbabwe International Film Festival
See the brightest African filmmaking talent shine at this festival that showcases short features and documentary films made by local film-makers - a great way to learn about local culture and what it means to live in contemporary Africa.
FAQs on Zimbabwe
Espresso coffee in a cafe = US$1
Bottle of beer = US$3
Meal in a mid-range cafe or restaurant = US$10
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Mar 29 Good Friday
Apr 1 Easter Monday
Apr 18 Independence Day
May 1 Worker’s Day
May 25 Africa Day
Aug 12 Heroes’ Day
Aug 13 Defense Forces Day
Dec 22 Unity Day
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Dec 26 Boxing Day
Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/Zimbabwe/public-holidays
Zimbabwe visas are required by most nationalities, including from the EU, US and Australia. All nationalities should check with their nearest Zimbabwe Embassy for more information. For most nationalities, Zimbabwe visas are available at the point of entry. If you plan to purchase your visa on arrival you will need US$ cash. The cost is approximately US$30/45.
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Zimbabwe Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for Zimbabwe
1. Be considerate of Zimbabwe’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.
3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
4. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!
5. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.
6. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
7. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
8. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
9. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.
10. Avoid purchasing ivory or other products harvested from endangered animals.
|The Last Resort||Douglas Rogers|
|Where We Have Hope: A Memoir of Zimbabwe||Andrew Meldrum|
|When a Crocodile Eats the Sun||Peter Godwin|
|Nervous Conditions||Tsitsi Dangarembga|
|Butterfly Burning||Yvonne Vera|