Top 10 Reasons to Visit Zimbabwe
1. The magnificent Victoria Falls classified as one of the seven natural Wonders of the World.
2. Zimbabwe is home to five World Heritage Sites.
Great Zimbabwe National Monument
Khami Ruins National Monument
Mana Pools National Park,
Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
3. Lake Kariba is one of the largest manmade lakes in the world, with abundant game sightings and excellent angling for bream and tiger fish.
4. Zimbabwe features magnificent National Wildlife Parks including Hwange, Mana Pools, Matusadona and Chizarira.
5. Adventure activities abound and include canoeing on the lower Zambezi and Kayaking and rafting on the upper Zambezi, White water rafting and bungi jumping are just two exhilarating pursuits available in the Victoria Falls area. For high adventure enthusiasts, white water rafting is most exciting when the Zambezi waters are low – generally from August to December – and is often referred to as the best one-day white water rafting in the world.
6. Zimbabwe abounds in fascinating history and culture.
7. Canoeing down the Lower Zambezi affords an ideal opportunity to get close to nature.
8. Hospitality and friendliness of all Zimbabweans.
9. Magnificent scenic areas in the Eastern Highlands.
10. To help Zimbabwe rebuild their tourist industry, save their Wild Places and Wildlife as well as a few of Humankind’s World Heritage sites.
The Victoria Falls constitutes one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. The Local people call it “Mosi-oa-Tunya” the smoke that thunders and the Falls are remarkable. Remarkably preserved in its natural state, Victoria falls inspires visitors as much today as it did David Livingstone in the 1860′s.
The falls and the surrounding area have been declared National Parks and a World Heritage Site, thus preserving the area from excessive commercialization.
Dr. David Livingstone, I presume?
Scottish missionary David Livingstone first heard about Victoria Falls, known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, a full four years before he arrived there. The area was a sacred site for the Batoka and other local tribes. On the 17th of November 1855 Chief Sekeletu of the Makololo paddled Livingstone to an island in the Zambezi, known as Goat Island. Although the water was low at the time, it’s little wonder that he felt a “tremor of fear” as he approached the wall of spray.
The Great Zimbabwe
The ruins of this complex of massive stone walls undulate across almost 1,800 acres of present-day southeastern Zimbabwe. Begun during the eleventh century A.D. by Bantu-speaking ancestors of the Shona, Great Zimbabwe was constructed and expanded for more than 300 years in a local style that eschewed rectilinearity for flowing curves. Neither the first nor the last of some 300 similar complexes located on the Zimbabwean plateau, Great Zimbabwe is set apart by the terrific scale of its structure. Its most formidable edifice, commonly referred to as the Great Enclosure, has walls as high as 36 feet extending approximately 820 feet, making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert. In the 1800s, European travelers and English colonizers, stunned by Great Zimbabwe’s grandeur and its cunning workmanship, attributed the architecture to foreign powers. Such attributions were dismissed when archaeological investigations conducted during the first decades of the twentieth century confirmed both the antiquity of the site and its African origins.
Great Zimbabwe’s most enduring and impressive remains are its stone walls. These walls were constructed from granite blocks gathered from the exposed rock of the surrounding hills. Since this rock naturally splits into even slabs and can be broken into portable sizes, it provided a convenient and readily available building resource. All of Great Zimbabwe’s walls were fitted without the use of mortar by laying stones one on top of the other, each layer slightly more recessed than the last to produce a stabilizing inward slope. Early examples were coarsely fitted using rough blocks and incorporated features of the landscape such as boulders into the walls. Over the years the technique was refined, and later walls were fitted together closely and evenly over long, serpentine courses to produce remarkably finished surfaces.
Great Zimbabwe’s Inhabitants
Little is known about the Bantu-speaking people who built Great Zimbabwe or how their society was organized. The ruling elite appears to have controlled wealth through the management of cattle, which were the staple diet at Great Zimbabwe. At its height, Great Zimbabwe is estimated to have had a population greater than 10,000, although the majority lived at some distance from the large stone buildings. Only 200 to 300 members of the elite classes are thought to have lived within Great Zimbabwe’s massive edifices.
The enormous walls are the best-preserved testaments of Great Zimbabwe’s past and the largest example of an architectural type seen in archaeological sites throughout the region. The function of these stone walls, however, has often been misinterpreted. At first glance, these massive nonsupportive walls appear purely defensive. But scholars doubt they ever served a martial purpose and have argued instead that cattle and people were valued above land, which was in any event too abundant to be hoarded. The walls are thought to have been a symbolic show of authority, designed to preserve the privacy of royal families and set them apart from and above commoners. It is also important to note that the walls surrounded and later adjoined huts made of daga (mud and thatch), linked with them to form a series of courtyards. Daga was also used to form raised seats in particularly significant courtyards, and was painted to enrich its artistic effect. Since Great Zimbabwe’s daga elements have long since eroded, the remaining stone walls provide only partial evidence of the architecture’s original appearance.
In addition to architecture, Great Zimbabwe’s most famous works of art are the eight birds carved of soapstone that were found in its ruins. The birds surmount columns more than a yard tall and are themselves on average sixteen inches tall. The sculptures combine both human and avian elements, substituting human features like lips for a beak and five-toed feet for claws. Excavated at the turn of the century, it is known that six of the sculptures came from the Eastern Enclosure of the Hill complex, but unfortunately their precise arrangement can only be surmised. Scholars have suggested that the birds served as emblems of royal authority, perhaps representing the ancestors of Great Zimbabwe’s rulers. Although their precise significance is still unknown, these sculptures remain powerful symbols of rule in the modern era, adorning the flag of Zimbabwe as national emblems.
The Matopos Hills
The fantastic shapes and deep valleys of the Matopos Hills were formed by river erosion over 2000 million years ago. The granite was forced to the surface, and eroded to produce smooth surfaces among broken hills, strewn with boulders and interspersed with chunks of vegetation. This landscape led to its name, “Matopos Hills”, meaning “Bald Heads” in Ndebele.
The Matobo Hills cover an area of about 3100km², of which 440 km² is National Park (the rest of which is communal land or commercial farmland). The Matopos Hills have an average height of 1,500 metres, and together they cover an area of about 3,100 km² extending across 80 km, east to west. Part of the Matobo National Park is set aside as a game park, which has been stocked with game including black and white rhinoceros. This covers some 100 km² of beautiful scenery including some amazing balancing rocks and impressive views along the Mpopoma river valley.
Today the Matobo National Park is one of Zimbabwe’s prime wildlife sanctuaries. In addition to the black and white rhinoceros, the Matobo National Park provides a home to a variety of antelope species (kudu, sable, eland) leopard, baboon, lizard, and a plethora of birdlife, including the highest concentrations of black eagle in the world. The Matobo National Park have trees and shrubs that are unique to the area, as well as flora and fauna found in many other parts of the world, which have grown naturally in this area. Vegetation ranges from the lichens of the desert-like hilltops to the luxuriant growth of valley swamps.
The Matopos Hills has a great deal of historical relevance in Zimbabwe. The estate of Cecil John Rhodes was once located at Matopos Hills and his grave is at a site called World’s View, on the summit of one of the hills. The graves of Sir Leander Starr Jameson and Sir Charles Coghlan are also at Matopos Hills, along with the memorials to Major Allan Wilson and the Shangani Patrol. The Matopos Hills had been fought over in 1893 by members of the Ndebele, a group of Africans that regarded the site as sacred.
Hwange National Park
The Land of Giants
Known as the land of the giants for its big elephant herds Hwange National Park is the largest park in Zimbabwe occupying roughly 14,650km². It is located in the northwest corner of the country about one hour south of the mighty Victoria Falls.
Situated on the edge of Kalahari Desert, a significant feature of Hwange is the absence of a natural water course. This means the wildlife relies on a series of waterholes that are fed by boreholes, many of which have hides that provide remarkable photographic opportunities whilst animals quench their thirst.
The diverse landscape is a haven for over 100 mammal and 400 bird species. Dense teak forests in the north gives way to Kalahari sandveld in the south. In between, open grassy plains lined with acacia lie alongside mopane woodland and islands of ilala palms. The park protects populations of all of Zimbabwe’s endangered species, elephants numbering in excess of 20,000 (up from around 4,000 when the park was proclaimed in 1929), and what is thought to be one of the largest populations of African wild dog left in the world. Large prides of lion and buffalo are frequently seen and there is a good chance of spotting leopard and rhino in addition to cheetah, sable, roan, giraffe and spotted hyena. The wild and woolly brown hyena also occurs here and is something of a rarity.
Located on the floodplains of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and offering superb wildlife viewing Mana Pools National Park is wild and remote. Mana Pools National Park a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site is synonymous with the Zambezi River, elephants, lions, wilderness and walking. This unique park is Zimbabwe’s second World Heritage Site, based on its wildness and beauty, together with the wide range of large mammals, bursting with a profusion of birds and animals, especially during dry season.
Mana Pools National Park lies at the heart of the Zambezi Valley, where the Zambezi River meanders to the Mozambican border. The park stretches across 2000km² of prime Zambezi riverfront vegetation, much of which is inaccessible except on foot and as a result is completely unspoilt.
The landscape includes islands and sandbanks fringed by dense forests of baobabs and indigenous trees, as well as the rugged Zambezi escarpment. Aside from the excellent walking safaris in Mana, the river adds another dimension to any safari as it is ideal for canoe safaris.
The name ‘Mana’ means ‘four’ in the local Shona language andrefers to four large pools formed by the river as it changed course thousands of years ago. These and smaller seasonal pools dotter further inland hold water all year round drawing all manner of wildlife and waterfowl during the dry season months of June to October. ‘Long Pool’, is the largest of the four pools, extending some six kilometres in a west-east direction. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favourite for the large herds of elephant that come out of the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink. Predators such as lion, wild dog and leopard are often sighted as Kudu, zebra impala and waterbuck graze on the open plains.
Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park
On The 22nd of June 2006, the Honourable Ministers of Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which saw the formation of the Limpopo-Shashe Trans frontier Conservation Area (TFCA). Later, on the 19th June 2009, the TFCA was renamed the Greater Mapungubwe TFCA to reflect the uniqueness of the TFCA.
Sandwiched between the Tuli Safari Area of Zimbabwe in the north and the World Heritage Site of Mapungubwe in the south is the Northern Tuli Game Reserve, of which Mashatu Game Reserve makes up 35%. This portion of Botswana is the initial component committed to the TFCA process. This will increase once the process commences.
It is well known that, whilst Mashatu Game Reserve is a favourite safari adventure destination, it is also renowned for its diverse and significant cultural history, which includes:
Early Stone Age sites, between 500 000 and one million years old.
The origins of the San and the Khoi people, going back at least 120 000 years.
The Mmamagwa Ruins on Mashatu predate Mapungubwe, which in turn predate Great Zimbabwe and Tumela in the Kruger National Park.
The Northern Tuli Game Reserve was the site of some of the Boer War Battles, the first being on the 20th of October 1899.
With the Limpopo Valley Airfield being a recognized port of entry into Botswana (there are Customs and Immigration Officers on site), it is expected that Mashatu will also become a stepping stone for international flights linking both the Kruger National Park and Johannesburg in South Africa with the attractions present in northern Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The park straddles the borders of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe and joins some of the most established wildlife areas in Southern Africa into a huge conservation area of 35 000km² (± the size of the Netherlands). This forms the core of the second-phase transfrontier conservation area (TFCA), measuring almost 100 000km² – the world’s greatest animal kingdom.
The park’s development was partly motivated by the ecological objective of re-establishing traditional migratory wildlife routes once fences between the three countries are dismantled. Besides biodiversity conservation benefits, the park may also provide a basis to generate revenue for conservation and local economic development through tourism.
While overlooking the ‘Land of Giants’ from the towering vantage points on Mmamagwa Hill, one is embraced by the stillness of time immemorial. Down in the valley, as far as the eye can see, lie the sweltering Mopane plains of the Northern Tuli Game Reserve – a sweeping wilderness of immense and unimaginable beauty; one that unfolds like an intricate tapestry into savannah, riverine forests, marshland, endless plains and sandstone outcrops. The ‘Land of Giants’ is a totally unpeopled wilderness in eastern Botswana. Here, at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers, you will unearth a diverse paradise thrumming with birds, plants, wild animals and insects.
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