Zimbabwe on the Rise

May 2, 2016  By: Gretchen

Stepping into the bush after a long journey can be a jolt – a pleasant one, but a jolt nonetheless. The bustle of airports and crowded airplanes disappears almost instantly, washed away by the sounds, sights and smells of nature. The trees almost radiate a sense of calm, though there is life among their branches. The smells depend on the season – fresh and redolent with moisture during the wet season, a bit of smoke with a sweet rot in the dry season. Once a bit more acclimatized to the surroundings, it is possible to pick up movement – birds in the foliage, a majestic sable in the distance. En route to the lodge, more antelope species appear from the bush while baobabs tower over the vehicle as if to guide it.Zimbabwe is one of Southern Africa’s treasures. This landlocked country features natural wonders like Victoria Falls, the mighty Zambezi River and more than a dozen parks and reserves (three of which are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites) filled with myriad wildlife. Zimbabwe is also home to many man-made wonders including Lake Kariba; one of the world’s largest engineered bodies of water (and a photographer’s dream), Great Zimbabwe; the largest stone structure ever built south of the Sahara, and incredible, unique rock art sites dotted throughout the country.Zimbabwe is just being rediscovered by savvy travelers, though it is still under the radar. Front-runners of travel will find that the country has all of the features of other safari destinations, along with a strong value proposition for the level of luxury on offer. It is also where some of the best safari guides on the continent are found. Zimbabwe’s guide training is extremely rigorous (certification can take more than six years!), and those that make it through to certification are exceptional, translating into incredible safaris for visitors.

Hwange National Park is an easy add-on to any Victoria Falls visit. A short flight or a 90-minute drive from the Falls, the park offers an incredible array of wildlife including cheetah, lion, leopard, wild dog and approximately 45,000 elephants, whose numbers are larger than visitor numbers, making any time spent in the park a very exclusive experience! Myriad activities are available to visitors including traditional game drives and walks, horseback riding, train safaris, watching wildlife from underground blinds, mountain biking and more! Here’s what some recent AAC travelers had to say about their visit to Hwange.

For a truly unique experience in the remote African wilderness, look no further than one of the most biodiverse places in Southern Africa. Singita Pamushana is carefully tucked away in the pristine and wild landscape of the Malilangwe Trust bordering Gonarezhou National Park. Malilangwe, meaning ‘call of the leopard’ in the local Shangaan language, is a bio-refuge that is home to myriad wildlife including the Big Five, the ‘small six’ (a collection of small antelope), and more than 500 species of birds, including 14 different species of eagle. Rare species such as wild dog, black rhino and brown hyena are also found in Malilangwe.There are only six vehicles operating within the 130,000 acres of the Malilangwe Trust. Guests at Singita Pamushana effectively have the reserve to themselves offering an exclusive experience unlike any other.Mana Pools National Park is known for its remoteness, its elephants, and its lions. Mana Pools is also synonymous with the Zambezi River, canoeing safaris, and wild beauty. Hippopotamus, crocodiles and a wide variety of aquatic birds are abundant here as are eland, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, baboon, monkey, zebra, and warthog. The Mana Pools are also a favorite of lion, leopard, spotted hyena and cheetah. When AAC Journey Specialist Anisha visited last year, she had her first ‘true’ mobile camping experience, which made her fall in love with the destination.Mana Pools captured my heart – the canoeing, the stunning Zambezi River and the incredible guides made it an unforgettable experience!Finally, not far from Zimbabwe’s ‘second city’ of Bulawayo, travelers can visit one of southern Africa’s most interesting rock landscapes. Weather-shaped granite dominates the landscape of Matobo National Park and frames stunning vistas. Hiking, rock art tours, a visit to Cecil Rhodes’ grave and cultural visits are the highlights of a stay. The rock formations and myriad cultural activities certainly contributed to Matobo’s UNESCO World Heritage status, though it’s worth noting that Zimbabwe’s largest concentration of leopards can be found here as well. See what AAC Journey Specialist Diana loved about Matobo here.

Zimbabwe has been a neglected destination over the last decade due to negative press about its political situation. While much of the news was true, some was overblown, and it impacted perceptions greatly, causing a sharp decline in tourism numbers. Things are stable now and new leadership is in place. Both foreign and local companies are reinvesting in tourism and other industries, with the result that camps have been refurbished, and new facilities are coming online. This is great news for Zimbabwe’s parks and wildlife, and travelers are once again discovering all that Zimbabwe has to offer.

The biggest problem that today’s tourists to Zimbabwe will face is trying to choose how to spend their precious holiday time – there is so much to see. Now is the time to go! Be an early adopter – before the rest of the world arrives on its doorstep.

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