Safari in Zimbabwe: What You Need to Know to Plan Your Trip
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A vast raw landscape of floodplains, rocky escarpments, powerful rivers, and a myriad of wildlife, make Zimbabwe a wonderful safari destination.
Landlocked in southern Africa, the country was, unfortunately, more known for its political and economical turmoil rather than wildlife. But things are changing and traveling here is generally safe, so it’s a great time to explore the amazing natural diversity this country has to offer.
However, there are many variables to consider when planning a safari in Zimbabwe. Between figuring out where and when to go, deciding on activities and accommodation, it can be quite time consuming to put everything together.
That’s why we are sharing useful information to help you plan your unforgettable trip to Zimbabwe and make the most of it!
What is the best time to visit Zimbabwe?
You should be pleased to know that Zimbabwe can be visited year-round, but the best time is from May to September.
During the dry season, from May to October, animal viewing is at its best thanks to the wildlife congregating at waterholes and rivers. There is also less vegetation. All of these make it easier to predict where the animals would be and increase the chances of spotting them.
If you plan to head to Victoria Falls, the best time to visit is also from May to September.
The high season lasts from July to October but only the falls will get crowded. The rest of the parks don’t see that much tourist traffic.
And if you really want to have the parks for yourself, visit during the low season, from November to April. However, kindly note that the weather isn’t so pleasant from October to February and the peak rainy season is from December to February. This means that some of the parks and lodges might be closed.
What can I do in Zimbabwe?
A country of superlatives, thanks to Victoria Falls and Lake Kariba, much of Zimbabwe’s tourism still revolves around wildlife viewing.
Some two-thirds of Victoria Falls are located on the Zimbabwean side, including the main falls themselves. The walk along the top of the gorge is astounding, following a path with various viewpoints.
The national park protects the south and east bank of the Zambezi River. A notable feature is a rainforest that grows in the spray of the falls. It is home to ferns, palms, and unique trees such as mahogany. As for the animals, you may spot elephants, Cape buffalos, southern white rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, elands, and a variety of antelopes.
The park doesn’t offer any accommodation, but you can stay in campsites in the adjacent Zambezi National Park.
Photo credit : JackyR
The largest national park in Zimbabwe is also among the top 10 largest in Africa.
Located on the road from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls, it is the most accessible and convenient park for visitors. During the dry season, access is possible in any sturdy vehicle, but during the wet season, 4WD is a must.
Some 400 species of birds and 107 types of animals call this park their home. The main attraction is the enormous number of elephants: around 40,000 tuskers are found roaming the park.
Also, Hwange National Park is home to a large population of Cape wild dogs. Brown hyenas, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, and cheetahs also live here.
The park was split off from Victoria Falls National Park in 1979 and hosts a variety of wildlife, such as lions, elephants, Cape buffalos, elands, leopards, antelopes.
Gonarezhou National Park
Hidden in the country’s southeast corner is Zimbabwe’s second-largest national park, Gonarezhou National Park.
Virtually an extension of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, it is home to an abundance of wildlife and a staggering variety of landscapes. You can spot giraffes, zebras, buffalos, lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, antelopes, and plenty of bird species.
It is, however, most well-known for the elephant population - more than 12,000 live in the park. They are skittish and somewhat aggressive, though, thanks to years of poaching so be careful if you decide to go on a self-drive safari.
Photo credit: Babakathy
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this park is known for its remoteness and an abundance of wildlife. You are literally guaranteed close encounters with zebras, crocodiles, zebras, elephants, and lions. It’s also quite likely you’d be able to spot wild dogs, leopards, and cheetahs.
What sets this park apart from the others is that you are allowed to walk in the park without a guide. Considering that there’s an abundance of animals – especially elephants – roaming freely in the park, it’s mandatory to stick to the park rules. And, if you are a first-time visitor, walking with a guide is highly advised.
Kindly note that the park closes during the rainy season, from January to March.
Photo credit: Susan Adams
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Matobo National Park is known for the most majestic granite scenery in the world. The landscape of otherworldly balancing rocks, kopjes – giant boulders balancing on top of one another – soon makes you understand why the park is considering the spiritual home of Zimbabwe.
It is divided into a recreational park and a game park. The latter might not have an abundance of wildlife – because of poaching – but it’s one of the few places where you can see both white and black rhinos.
Also, the park is home one-third of the world’s eagle population, so you may be able to spot black eagles and Cape eagle owls.
Is Zimbabwe suitable for a family vacation?
Zimbabwe’s incredible wildlife and beautiful natural wonders make the country a great choice for a family safari.
However, the malaria risk is high throughout the year and highest from November to June in places such as the Victoria Falls. Therefore, malaria precautions are mandatory. Aside from taking malaria pills, don’t forget to use insect repellent and protect your skin from mosquito bites by wearing long trousers and long sleeve shirts.
Kindly note that not all malaria tablets are suitable for young children and toddlers shouldn’t take the medication.
With that being said, older children (from 12 years old) are able to take the malaria medication without any issues and will likely have a lot of fun in Zimbabwe.
Many lodges offer a lot of activities suitable for younger children such as guided walks and bushcraft lessons. And older children (12- 14 years & up) can join walking safaris or canoeing trips.
Is Zimbabwe expensive?
Zimbabwe has been known in the luxury travel market for its excellent 4-star intimate and deluxe safari camps which offer excellent rates in comparison to the other countries in Southern Africa.
Neighboring Botswana is more expensive, whereas Zambia is the same as Zimbabwe.
More recently, however, Zimbabwe has started to offer ultra-luxury safari options, which makes sense in a country that is rapidly emerging as the new hot spot in the area.
Photo credit: Tamuka Travel
Accommodation is a big part of a safari in Zimbabwe and the luxury and ultra-luxury options are quite plentiful. Many lodges have been refurbished to cater to this segment.
If you’d like to save money, stick to fewer destinations in your itinerary and spend a longer time in each place. Also, campsites in which you pitch your own tent are a good option if you’re on a tighter budget.
If you are willing to travel during the low season, you have a greater chance of finding more affordable accommodation rates. But do note that some parks may be inaccessible because of the rain. Hwange National Park, however, can be visited year-round although some lodges close during the peak rainy season.
Photo credit: Natureways Safaris
All of the country’s national parks and reserves offer superlative wildlife viewing.
The walking safaris offer an incredible chance to get up close and personal with the animals.
The day and night game drives give travelers the opportunity to witness the tremendous diversity of wildlife, including the legendary Big Five animals.
No trip to Zimbabwe is complete with a visit to its marvelous Victoria Falls, one of the most amazing natural wonders on the planet. And while you are in the area, a canoe trip on the Zambezi will be truly rewarding.
All travelers to Zimbabwe need a passport (valid for 6 months) to visit and most nationals need a visa.
European Union citizens – except those from Cyprus and Malta-, as well as US citizens can obtain a visa at arrival. There’s also the possibility to obtain an eVisa, valid for 3 months, and the fee may be paid online or on arrival.
Since 2014, Zambia and Zimbabwe introduced a universal visa called KAZA Visa for some nationals, including British, American, and most of the EU nationals. It can be obtained upon arrival in either country and is valid for 30 days of travel within the two countries.
Note: At the time this article was written (March 2020), Zimbabwe is still listed by the US authorities under level 2 travel advisory: exercise increased caution due to crime and civil unrest.
Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required when you enter the country after visiting another country with risk of yellow fever transmission. And because it is a malaria zone, you should talk to your healthcare provider and take the appropriate medicine.
Recommended vaccines for those visiting Zimbabwe include hepatitis (A&B), typhoid, cholera, and rabies. The routine vaccinations – such as polio, influenza, chickenpox, pneumonia – are also recommended.
Zimbabwe’s unstable economical past has greatly affected the currency. Technically the official currency is the Zimbabwean RTGS Dollar ($). But the hospitality sector has been allowed to operate in foreign currency. This means the de facto currency in Zimbabwe is the US Dollar.
Do make sure to check with your safari operator whether you can use your international card and how much cash you can carry. Cash withdrawals from international cards are not permitted.
Inflation has been high for many years in the country, so always pay attention to the prices and double-check them. Recently, the inflation has just hit a new decade high.
What to pack for a safari in Zimbabwe?
As a general rule, comfortable and casual clothing is recommended. If you have quick-dry ones, it’s even better as you are likely to do some washing while on a safari.
Game drives generally take place in the morning or afternoon, so a light jacket should be in your luggage.
To make it easier, here is a list of useful items you should consider packing for your safari in Zimbabwe:
- Quick-dry clothes in natural colors (khaki, green, beige)
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Shorts/light skirt
- Lightweight windbreaker / waterproof jacket
- Lightweight trousers
- Warmer jacket
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat
- Insect repellant
- Binoculars & camera
- Day pack & water bottle
- Medicine (malaria pills, Aspirin, ibuprofen, and Tylenol)
Do note that the luggage allowance on a small flight is usually 20kg / 44 kg (and includes the hand luggage) so make sure to pack light.
Excited to discover the abundance of wildlife and spend time in the midst of nature? Book a camping safari in Zimbabwe and let yourself be amazing of what this country has to offer!