A Brilliant Past and an Outstanding Future
Yes, the country is still beset with political and economic difficulties but none of this affects visitors who book their stay with travel agencies and prepay most of the trip.
Independent travellers will however find life rather more difficult given the chronic shortage of cash in the country. Elections in 2018 promise more uncertainty.
Despite all this, it remains many people’s favourite country in the region with great wildlife viewing, wonderfully friendly and welcoming people, fascinating cultures and stunningly photogenic scenery and geological features.
But the fact that Zimbabwe is still ‘out of bounds’ for many visitors means that today, with a couple of exceptions, you have the national parks almost to yourself.
Zimbabwe has a number of national parks and each is excellent in its own way, although not all of them offer the ‘full-on’ game viewing opportunities that many people are looking for on their first safari.
True, as with all its regional neighbours, poaching and illegal hunting has become a problem in some parks, but in others, the impact is hardly noticeable with rich and diverse concentrations of wildlife.
The Big Five are still present in some of Zim’s parks although if you take the critically endangered rhino out of the equation, the remaining ‘four’ obligingly present themselves with a good deal of regularity.
Other parks with fewer animals on show will blow your mind away in scenic terms. Two of them, Gonarezhou and Chizarira offer you an unparalleled wilderness experience such that you can spend a week in them and expect to see no other tourists, while some other national parks simply offer marvellous relaxation breaks.
Humans, however, have had no noticeable impact on the magnificent birdlife in all the parks and this attracts serious birders to Zimbabwe in their droves.
So my recommendations for the safari visitor are various. If this is your first trip and you want to ‘tick off’ all the major animals on your checklist, be sure to start with Hwange National Park which has huge concentrations of game in the dry season.
If you’ve been on several previous safari trips and want something different, more than just the Big Five and you especially want to get away from the crowds, Zimbabwe’s parks are for you.
Either way, I would definitely recommend booking with a small or specialist safari operator and making sure you are not ‘consolidated’ into a much larger group for your game drives.
And if you don’t want to sit in a bumpy, dusty game drive vehicle for the whole of your two to three weeks but want to combine great game viewing with scenic and cultural pursuits – well you won’t find a better all-round destination than Zimbabwe.
Finally of course, to optimise your game viewing opportunities, plan your visit for the dry season which is best throughout the country from June through October.
Paul Murray is a travel writer, author of the Bradt guidebook to Zimbabwe and is closely involved in promoting tourism to Zimbabwe.
All opinions and letters published on Zim Community News have been independently written by individuals . Their views are, therefore, their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Zim Community News. The editors of Zim Community News also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.