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Mana Pools Nationalpark in Simbabwe, Bild: Great Stock / shutterstock

Zimbabwe and its natural treasures

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Zimbabwe is not one of those countries that immediately comes to mind when you think of a trip to Africa. However, the 390,000 square kilometre country in the heart of Africa has just as impressive wildlife as Kenya or Botswana and also some cultural monuments to offer.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Image: Yana Zubkova / shutterstock

Zimbabwe is home to one of Africa’s great natural sights, the Victoria Falls – even if only half: In the far northwest, the Zambezi forms the border with neighboring Zambia. Here the mighty river plunges 108 meters deep into the narrow Batoka Gorge. However, it is not only the height that makes this waterfall one of the most beautiful and impressive on earth, but also its width: the immense water cascade is more than 1700 meters wide. From February to May, the Zambezi reaches its highest water volume, the spray of the Victoria Falls can then be seen up to 50 kilometers away. No wonder that it is counted among the “seven natural wonders of the earth” by experienced travellers. If the mere sight of this natural spectacle is not spectacular enough, you can book a rafting tour on the Zambezi or a bungee jump.

Lake Kariba Zimbabwe

Kariba Reservoir Zimbabwe
Kariba Reservoir, Image: Lynn Yeh / shutterstock

A little further east, the Zambezi flows into the elongated Lake Kariba. Even though this is not a natural lake – it was created after the construction of a dam in 1959 – it is considered one of Zimbabwe’s great attractions. With a length of 220 kilometres, it is one of the largest reservoirs in Africa, and even the largest artificial lake in the world in terms of its water volume. There are several luxurious lodges on its shores, but the best way to experience the lake is on a houseboat trip. Part of the southern shore of Lake Kariba belongs to the Matusadona National Park, one of Zimbabwe’s eleven national parks. Since the interior of the park is rather difficult to reach, such a boat trip is the best way to experience the fauna of the national park: crocodiles, black rhinos, elephants, giraffes and antelopes can be seen on the shores as well as countless bird species, including flamingos and ospreys.

Mana Pools National Park

Only a few hundred kilometers away, in the far north of the country, lies the Mana Pools National Park. It is considered one of Zimbabwe’s most pristine natural landscapes and is on the UNESCO Natural Heritage List. A visit is worthwhile for the high density of large African animals such as elephants, Cape buffaloes, leopards and chimpanzees. A special feature are the natural lakes formed by the Zambezi River, which gave the park its name and carry water even during the dry season. Many of Africa’s water-loving animals such as hippos and Nile crocodiles can be observed here, as well as countless bird species.

Hwange National Park

Located in the east of the country, on the border with neighboring Botswana, Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s oldest and, with almost 15,000 square kilometers, the largest protected area. Its fauna alone includes around 100 species of mammals, including, of course, all of the “Big Five” that you definitely want to see on a safari holiday: elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros and cape buffalo. In fact, the elephant population in Hwange is one of the largest in the world. But African wild dogs, hyenas and the highly endangered black rhinoceroses, which have become rare in many parts of Africa, can also be seen regularly in this national park. Accommodation in the national park ranges from simple tented camps to luxurious lodges with glamping character.

Bulawayo

But Zimbabwe not only has natural sights to offer, but also urban hotspots. While the capital Harare is not attractive for tourists, the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, is well worth a detour: Many streets of the city consist of the typical British colonial architecture of the 19th century.

Great Zimbabwe National Monument

Great Zimbabwe National Monument
Great Zimbabwe National Monument, Image: bmszealand / shutterstock

Another cultural attraction is the Great Zimbabwe National Monument, which is located a good 300 kilometers (almost around the corner by African standards) east of Bulawayo. These are the ruins of “Great Zimbabwe”, the capital of the historic kingdom of Zimbabwe. The buildings, whose ruins are spread over a large area, were built between the 11th and 15th centuries. It is the most important ruin site in sub-Saharan Africa. Even Chinese porcelain has been found here, proving the city’s status as a major trading center.

Matobo National Park

The Matobo National Park, located about 40 kilometers south of Bulawayo, is known less for its wildlife than for its extraordinary landscape: gently rounded granite rocks form a landscape that is rather unusual for Africa. Hidden between the rocks are San Bushman petroglyphs, which are several thousand years old. But that doesn’t mean that there are no animals to be seen here at all: Although there are neither lions nor elephants, there is one of the largest leopard populations in southern Africa.

Chimanimani National Park

In the far east of the country, on the border with Mozambique, the Chinamani National Park with its surprisingly green hilly landscape, its gorges and lush green valleys forms an interesting and invigorating contrast to the otherwise rather dry and barren African landscape. The park includes the Chimanimani Mountains and extends to neighboring Mozambique. The highest peak is the 2436-meter-high Monte Binga, which lies just across the border in Mozambique .

Chinhoyi Caves National Park

Another extraordinary natural attraction is the Chinhoyi Caves, which are protected by the surrounding national park. The Chinhoyi Caves are stalactite caves; about 50 meters below the surface is an 80 to 90 meter deep lake, the “Sleeping Pool”, which impresses with its water shining in incredible blue