Tourism arrivals on the up

For decades prior to its well-publicised political turmoil and economic collapse, Zimbabwe was the preferred African tourist destination for many travellers. The diversity of its tourist offerings, the quality of its infrastructure and the warmth of the locals’ welcome, ensures that the experiences of holiday makers are both enjoyable and memorable.

Now Zimbabwean tourism is back in business. For a number of years travel warnings to Zimbabwe have been in place, but there are no such restrictions in place now. As with all countries, caution is required. But it is worth mentioning that our country, despite the publicity surrounding its politics, has an outstanding record when it comes to tourism safety.

Many tourist facilities managed to remain open during troubled times over the past decade and are now beginning to reap the rewards of their optimism and investment as the numbers of tourists steadily increases.

Direct flights

There has been talk for some time about the resumption of international flights and a number of airlines have been reviewing their position. Other than SAA, Emirates was the first major airline from Europe to take the plunge in early 2012 and KLM followed suit in November of that year. Both airlines offer three flights a week.

The fullness of the flights is testimony to the demand and it would seem that with continued stability, other airlines will no doubt follow suit in a bid to capture their share of a growing and potentially very lucrative route. Domestically, plans are underway to expand regional services.

There are many wonderful things for the visitor to see and do – with a wide variety of budgets and levels of comfort. Facilities include numerous designated camping areas, ‘over-lander’ facilities, B & Bs, and mid-range to up-market hotels, safari camps and resorts.

Zimbabwe is best known for the mighty Victoria Falls and Hwange Game Reserve – but it has so much more to offer. The Great Zimbabwe Ruins (Masvingo) and Khami Ruins (Bulawayo) are two of the world’s most unique and well-preserved ancient cities, while Kariba Dam, extending over 220 km in length is a unique engineering feat of its time and remains a formidable sight. It became a very popular tourist destination because of its range of tourist facilities including houseboats, game viewing and fishing. But in recent years, with Air Zimbabwe’s troubles, Kariba became somewhat isolated. It remains very popular with anglers and still attracts numerous international and local competitors for the annual Tiger fishing tournament held in October. Plans are under way to resume air services.

Stark contrast

In stark contrast to the raw might of the Falls and vast open expanses of Kariba, is the extensive Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe which embraces Juliasdale, Nyanga, Melsetter, Chimanimani and the Vumba. The area boasts numerous magnificent mountainous granite formations and wonderful forests and again there is a variety of accommodation. The area is distinctly cooler than the rest of the country and offers a very different range of activities.

Only three or four hours’ drive from Harare, the area is a popular destination for walkers, birders, trout fishermen and golfers. The golf course at Leopard Rock in the Vumba area, boasts what can only be described as one of the most unique and picturesque golf course anywhere in Africa.

Zimbabwe is acknowledged as having some of the best game viewing in Africa. Due to the foresight of those in authority in the early part of the last century, large tracts of land throughout the country were set aside as National Parks and Game Reserves.

Photo safaris

There are 12 significant Parks, with the most well-known being Hwange in the North-West and Gona-re-Zhou in the South East, but all have very different landscapes and something different to offer.

Photographic safaris have become increasingly popular over the years and Zimbabwe also boasts an amazing variety of birdlife.

The Matopos area, for example, 45 km south-east of Bulawayo, has a huge number of bird species and there the visitor may be lucky enough to see the rare Black Eagle.

In the Matobo Hills there are also numerous ancient San Bushmen rock paintings and local operators will organise tours with experienced and knowledgeable guides. Zimbabwe is reputed to have one of the highest densities of ancient rock art in the world. A popular destination in the area is ‘Worlds View’ characterised by massive granite rock formations.

One of the features of holiday destinations in Zimbabwe is that they haven’t been over developed or over commercialised. Destinations are not crowded with tourist vehicles and there are still plenty of places to go to simply to chill out and see wildlife in its natural state.

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