Looking forward to a classic Zimbabwe holiday

Very soon, we’re going on a 23-day trip to Zimbabwe! We’ll be borrowing cars and self-driving around the country, spending time with family and friends along the way. We’re going out there with special friends who we met in Oxford. They haven’t been to Zimbabwe before, and we’re looking forward to showing off our much-loved country.

– View Classic Zimbabwe Holiday in a larger map –

UPDATE: You can now read the details of each leg of our Classic Zimbabwe Holiday here.

We’ve created the ultimate trip that shows the best of Zimbabwe in a relatively short space of time. We’ll visit busy cities and remote wildernesses; we’ll see historic sights and natural wonders – showing a range of what Zimbabwe has on offer. All the photos and details will be posted right here – including budget ideas, practical advice and self-drive information – so stay tuned!

It will be an interesting time to visit: The presidential elections and the United Nations World Travel Organisation conference are both happening in Zimbabwe in the next couple of months, setting the stage for potential milestones in Zimbabwe’s history.

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Here’s what I’m looking forward to in particular:

Classic Zimbabwe holiday1. Getting into the holiday mood in the capital, Harare

I can’t wait to visit (and re-visit) the restaurants, craft markets, coffee shops and animal sanctuaries. Spending a few days in Harare will be a good way to ease into the holiday vibe before things get cranked up a notch.

2. Camping in the unfenced wilderness of Mana Pools

They say that camping is the only way to experience the true spirit of Mana Pools, one of Africa’s last truly wild, unspoilt game parks. Animals will be so close that they’ll brush past our tents at night. This won’t be “luxury camping” – it’ll be good old-fashioned DIY stuff. I’m nervous but excited and will definitely be sleeping in the middle of my tent!

3. Getting close to wild animals on foot

We’ll be going for walks in the unfenced Mana Pools National park, where lion, elephant and other animals freely roam – this is their territory. Mana Pools is one of the few wildlife areas of the world where humans are allowed to get out of their vehicles and walk in the animals’ natural habitat – without a specialized guide, if they so choose. We’ll keep a respectful distance between ourselves and the animals, enjoying the priceless experience of seeing them without barriers.

4. Taking a ferry along the length of Lake Kariba, one of the biggest man-made lakes in the world

Saving ourselves a long drive (1250 km/776 miles), we’re taking the ferry from Kariba Town to Mlibizi. This overnight voyage will capture the spirit of two popular Zimbabwean holiday pursuits: houseboat vacations and sunset cruises. Now all I have to decide is whether I’m brave enough to swim in the centre of the lake during one of the ferry-stops, and risk death by crocodile attack!

5. Seeing Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world

This will be my third time to see Victoria Falls – and I know it will still be a highlight. Victoria Falls will stop me in my tracks and make me re-think my place in the world, as true splendour always does. This time we’ll be shown Victoria Falls by a guide, so I’m looking forward to learning new things about it. We’ll also have a birds-eye view of it when we go for a helicopter ride known as “the flight of angels”.

6. Getting pampered at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

After roughing it in the bush, I think we’ll really appreciate the soft beds and private balconies at this tasteful lodge, voted one of the top ten stylish safari resorts in Africa.

7. Seeing a sunset from an elephant’s back

Horse safaris have long been acclaimed as one of the best ways to see animals because they help you get much closer to the wild animals. I wonder what it will be like doing a safari from atop an elephant instead?

I’ve had mixed feelings about humans interacting with animals that belong in the wild, but these experiences are carefully controlled by people who say they have the animals’ welfare at heart. I’ll ask all the big questions about the ethics and background of these human-animal encounters, as I know that readers will be interested to hear more.

8. Meeting Sylvester

After the elephant ride, there’s a chance that I can meet Sylvester – someone I’ve wanted to see for a long time. Sylvester is a 3 year-old cheetah, who was rescued after his mother and siblings were killed in the wild by a lion. Unfortunately he was too young to have the skills to survive in the wild. Sylvester is now a “cheetah ambassador” – helping educate people about the plight of cheetahs as an endangered species. Cheetahs are my favourite wild animals, and I’ve been a fan of Sylvester on Facebook for years. We tried and failed to meet him last time we were in Victoria Falls, so as you can imagine, I’d be over the moon if it worked out this time!

9. Walking with lions as they prepare for life in the wild

The lion rehabilitation programme in Victoria Falls breeds lions for release into the wild, and we’ll be lucky enough to spend time with the young lions in the bush, as they learn the skills they’ll need to survive.

10. Seeing the Zambezi gorge from an adrenalin-seeker’s perspective

The operator Wild Horizons has an exciting array of highwire activities that are equally as daring as the bungee jump. I did the zipline last year, and will be cheering on my gutsy friends doing the 165-metre gorge swing this time! We’ll also be doing the tree-top canopy tour that opened earlier this year.

11. Experiencing “the Flight of Angels”

Only a birds-eye view (or angel’s-eye view) can truly demonstrate the magnitude of Victoria Falls. In this case, we’ll be seeing it from a helicopter. This has been on my bucket list for a long time!

12. Climbing the Matobo Hills

These enormous granite outcrops near Bulawayo are filled with a sense of myth and timelessness. It will be a thrill to get to know them better.

13. Walking in the footsteps of ancient civilisations at Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe is an African Iron Age city located in the centre of the country, and is also the origin of the country’s post-independence name. The name of this blog, “Great Zimbabwe Guide” is a wordplay on that, so it’s high time that I featured this ancient city online!


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What would you include in your classic Zimbabwe holiday?

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Beth is the founder of Great Zimbabwe Guide Travel Blog: Zimbabwe’s first and longest-running independent online travel guide, created in 2010.

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