Zimbabwe - despite its current political and economic tensions - still offers superb wildlife experiences in some of the finest reserves in Africa, and its people are as warm and friendly as ever. Although visitors shouldn't become complacent when travelling through the country, life does go on as normal and, aside from long queues outside petrol stations and some shops, most visitors will not see evidence of a country in crisis. The road network which was once excellent, has today been neglected, but you can still get around fairly easily. A 4x4 isn't essential, but it is recommended and you should always travel in convoy with another vehicle. Most of the national parks and game reserves offer good camping facilities with hot showers and flushing lavatories. However, private and secluded campsites are also on offer and will require you to create your own bush camp with portable shower or bucket and a long-drop lavatory.
GONA-RE-ZHOU NATIONAL PARK
This park was once known as 'the home of the elephant', and provides a landscape of baobabs - or 'upside down trees' - scrublands, winding rivers and golden sandstone cliffs. Gona-re-zhou borders Mozambique’s wildlife reserves and South Africa’s Kruger National Park and is hoped to form part of The Great Limpopo National Park with South Africa and Mozambique in the future.
The park is usually only open during the dry season from 1st May to 31st October.
The park covers 1950 miles² (5,053 km²) and was created in 1967.
HWANGE NATIONAL PARK
This is the largest park in Zimbabwe and renowned for its massive population of elephants. It is a place that is greatly contrasted between the wet and dry seasons.
Dry Season: July to September is hot during the day but can drop to below freezing on particularly cold winter nights. During these dry months the animals are concentrated around the man-made waterholes, without which they would die.
The park covers an area of 5,656miles² (14,651km²) with an average altitude 3,300 ft (1,000m) above sea level.
KARIBA AND MATUSADONA NATIONAL PARK
Lake Kariba is like an inland sea in a landlocked country. Picturesque sunsets are a distinctive feature of Kariba, as are the bleached skeletal trunks and bare branches of dead trees that were drowned in the dam all those years ago. Matusadona National Park lies along the southern shores of Lake Kariba and is an excellent all-round safari destination.
Dry Season: It is dry from June to October and animals come to the lake to drink and graze along the banks. As the rain clouds build, October's heat is oppressive and temperatures exceed 86°F (30°C). The dry season is the best time to visit.
KARIBA & MATUSADONA SPECIALITIES
Matusadona National Park is 543²miles (1,407km²).
MANA POOLS NATIONAL PARK
This portion of the Zambezi Valley is a true wilderness area with one of the highest dry-season concentrations of animals in Zimbabwe. It is best known for its canoe safaris.
Dry Season: From June to October large numbers of animals come to the river to drink and graze along the lush banks during these months. The increasing build up to rain in October creates considerable heat with temperatures over 86°F (30°C).
MANA POOLS SPECIALITIES
The park is 845miles² (2,190km²), on the southern side of the Zambezi River downstream from Lake Kariba.
The extraordinary Matobo hills are full of hidden caves, sacred places and Bushman paintings. The massive rock formations of Matobo are awesome in their grandeur and create a unique atmosphere.
Dry Season: The cool dry season is from the end of April to August and the hot dry spell is from September to early November when temperatures get to 90°F (34°C), but humidity is low.
The park covers 164²miles (424km²).
The Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia are one of the wonders of the natural world. They are known as the ‘Smoke that Thunders’ (Mosi-oa-Tunya) by the local people because the spray and noise can be seen and heard from miles away. Around the falls is a riverine jungle that provides the perfect setting to view the five cascades. Antelopes can be seen in these areas and troops of baboons patrol the walkways. The Victoria Falls are shared by both Zambia and Zimbabwe and the area is deservedly known as the adrenalin and adventure capital of Africa.
The Zambezi National Park lies close to the falls. It stretches along the Zambezi River frontage and a spread of wildlife-rich inland forest and savannah.
Dry Season: May to October is usually dry and September and October allows better photo opportunities at Victoria Falls as there is much less spray, but the torrent is slightly less impressive. The dry season is also better for viewing game in the Zambezi National Park.
VICTORIA FALLS & ZAMBEZI NATIONAL PARK SPECIALITIES
Victoria Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world and a World Heritage site.
CHIZARIRA NATIONAL PARK
This park is considered to be Zimbabwe's most scenic national park, but the only way to see it is on foot with a guide. Chizarira is actually three parks: the Zambezi Escarpment - an area of deep green river gorges, The Uplands - an upland plateau which is prime wildlife country, and The Busi Valley - an area of wild and remote beauty along the wildlife rich banks of the Busi River. This is the right place to enjoy a walking safari. This is a malarial area.
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Information courtesy of the Game Reserve website
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