How to visit Great Zimbabwe
No visit to Zimbabwe is complete without a visit to the ruined city of Great Zimbabwe. Despite this, this gem is still relatively unknown and off the beaten path. It is 30 kilometres from Masvingo, 700km southeast of Victoria Falls.
Also known as Great Zimbabwe Ruins it is an iconic African Iron Age landmark and contains the largest ancient structures in sub-Saharan Africa. The stone walls are up to six meters thick and twelve meters high and are built of granite blocks without the use of mortar.
In 1531, Vicente Pegado, a Portuguese army captain described the area as follows:
“Among the gold mines of the inland plains between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers there is a fortress built of stones of marvellous size, and there appears to be no mortar joining them…. one of them is a tower more than 12 fathoms [22 m] high.”
Awe-inspiring, majestic and timeless, these structures were built by indigenous African people between AD 1250 and AD 1450. At the height of its power, Great Zimbabwe had over 18,000 inhabitants. The city was a main trading centre and fragments of pottery from as far as Persia and China have been found here.
The lack of crowds exploring the ruins today adds to their charm as you can explore alone and feel like you stepped back in time and imagine the place bustling with life as it once was.
WHERE TO STAY
Norma Jeane’s Lakeview Resort
A step back in time to another era is Norma Jeane’s lakeside resort with its beautiful gardens and genteel feel. The rooms and central area have a colonial feel and look. There are 8 catered hotel rooms, 4 self-catering lodges and 9 communal rooms with shared facilities. The gardens surrounding the lodge are lush and peaceful with incredible views overlooking Lake Mutirikwi.
Kyle Recreational Park Chalets
There are a number of basic but well maintained self-catering lodges at Kyle Recreational Park on the edge of Lake Mutirikwi north of the monument (approx 45 minutes drive). This is a good option for groups who want to be self-sufficient or private as there are 1, 2 and 3 bedroom lodges. You may also spot small game (monkeys, warthogs etc)
Lodge at the Ancient City
This hotel is inspired by and close to the ruins with stone walls and towers that mimic the ancient city. It is larger and therefore less intimate than some other options with an on-site restaurant and a variety of accommodation options from camping to rooms and free-standing suites.
ACCESS TO GREAT ZIMBABWE
The majority of visitors to the Masvingo area are Zimbabweans so the self-catering and self-drive accommodation has been well maintained but may be ‘old fashioned’ in decor and atmosphere.
If driving from Victoria Falls, Bulawayo or Harare, you will first drive to the town of Masvingo. The road is a tarred and fairly busy highway.
Upon arrival in Masvingo, follow the signs to Great Zimbabwe, and turn left off the A4 Beitbridge road. Here, the road is narrow but well maintained. The short dirt road to the ruined city is passable for most vehicles.
* 4-hour drive from Bulawayo or Harare
* 8-hour drive from Victoria Falls
This means that you’ll most likely need to stay overnight to allow yourself enough time to walk around the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.
or ask us to organise a guided tour of Great Zimbabwe Ruins from Bulawayo or Harare where a guide and host will drive you on your trip and bring the country to life for you.
$5 for Zimbabwe residents, $15 for other visitors. Please note this is subject to change without notice. See the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe site for current prices.
Trekking & Walking Safaris
Trekking & Walking Safaris offer something different for the discerning traveller. The original safari in Africa walking offers the chance to meet animals on their terms and must be done with an experienced guide who will both respect the animals and bring a great awareness of the natural world to you, the guests.
Walking safaris can either be based out of a mobile safari camp or from a fixed lodge. The fixed lodge experience allows luxury for those that need it and the mobile safari camps generally offer more adventure for those that are there for the rustic experience.
Walking safaris give you the chance to be in closer contact with the land and to learn more about it- there is no better connection, as you leave the comfort of a lodge or safari vehicle your senses awaken, you pay attention to the minutiae and you are literally grounded. I find they offer the rare chance to feel completely ‘in the moment’ and that in today’s hectic world it is this that is worth more than any other aspect.
Of course a walking or hiking trip also offers the opportunity to stay active whilst on your holiday. Safaris are notorious for their gourmet delights with twice daily teas and sundowner snacks the norm and many find that they miss their daily movement after a week of daily game drives. Whether you do a full walking safari or visit a camp that offers walking amongst other activities it can be a pleasant change and a great advantage for the health conscious.
From specialist walking guides who conduct multiday walks between camps to walking ‘light’ with camps that offer walking as an optional activity, there is a plethora on offer. Although we couldn’t possibly cover all of it we can showcase some highlights. Zimbabwe is known as a walking destination, mainly because of the high standard of the guides there but Botswana is slowly beginning to offer more walking experiences.
We only recommend operators we know offer great guides and the very best safety standards, this is an area where it is worth ensuring you go with a great guide and our expertise will help you find the guide and level of
BEST REGIONS FOR WALKING
EASTERN HIGHLANDS TREKKING- The Eastern Highlands is a region of rugged mountains and scenic beauty. This natural holiday destination offers peace of mind and in a quiet peaceful environment with excellent walking and hiking trails.
MANA POOLS WALKING- Remote and beautiful, Mana Pools is famous for its walking safaris. The area’s sparse undergrowth and canopy of large trees allow for good visibility coupled with incredible beauty.
HWANGE WALKING- Known as ‘Zimbabwe’s Kruger’, the visitor is likely to be rewarded with comparable wildlife viewing opportunities and far less human presence.
OKAVANGO DELTA- Exploring this water wilderness on foot is exhilarating, walking safaris in the delta often also utilise some form of watercraft such as a dugout canoe given the nature of the terrain.
SPECIALIST WALKING GUIDES
ZIMBABWE AND BOTSWANA
BENSON SIYAWAREVA- A fully licensed guide in both countries, Siyawareva has run some of the region’s most significant camps (Little Makololo in Hwange, Savuti in Botswana), in addition to helming his own guiding operation for ten years. He reads the bush brilliantly and is thus an expert tracker.
LEON VARLEY- Leon Varley has been leading walking safaris in Zimbabwe’s finest National Parks since the early 1980s and is one of Zimbabwe’s most experienced guides. His experienced Ndebele trackers and support team have been with him almost as long.
STRETCH FERRIERA- Stretch has nearly 30 years’ experience in the area and over this time, has gained a wealth of knowledge of the bush and its residents in particular in Mana Pools.
DAVID FOOT- David has worked in the Kafue and Luangwa in Zambia, the Matusadona and Mana Pools in Zimbabwe the Nyika National Park in Malawi. He is now based in Botswana. With 32 years of experience under his belt, and his passion for the wilderness, its wildlife and birdlife he will bring the bush alive.
Affordable Botswana and Zimbabwe
For authentic, uncrowded wild Africa there is nowhere better than Botswana or Zimbabwe. Boasting incredible large reserves and massive wildlife populations. However, there is a misconception that Zimbabwe and Botswana are unaffordable destinations. Many travellers opt instead for the busyness of Kruger or the Masai Mara.
The main myth is that only luxury or high-end options are available however this is completely untrue. Particularly in the past few years many excellent mid-range and even budget options have come to life and today no matter what your budget or preference is we can build a safari or holiday in Zimbabwe or Botswana.
Accommodation ranges from safari camps, safari lodges, camping safaris, hotels, bed & breakfasts, houseboats to even self-drive and self-catering facilities. We have decades of experience of living, working and travelling in Botswana and Zimbabwe.
- Travel at the right time of year can greatly maximise your budget. June to September is the peak season and thus more expensive. Instead, check out the ‘shoulder season’ (typically April/May and October/November) or even the green season (January to March). Camps can slash their rates by up to 40% and if you choose your location carefully, the game viewing is still incredible.
- Personalised, first-hand knowledge is key to making sure that you are matched with the correct product for your price range and expectations. Using a local operator such as Zimbabwe Holidays helps ensure you get the right fit. We are familiar with products of all budgets and which offer the best experience and can access the best available rates 🙂 We also are always travelling and trying these ourselves. Nothing beats first-hand experience.
- Try deals at new camps. Many new camps have a reduced rate introductory offer while they are not as well known. This is where local knowledge comes in handy!
- Keep in mind that good value does not mean a lack of creature comforts, while you may not get the private plunge pools and butler service that has become common in lodges that charge thousands of dollars per night many affordable options offer incredible guiding, more than comfortable rooms (hot running water, central swimming pools, etc), great locations for wildlife viewing and much more
Get in touch for great deals and please be sure to let us know your budget and expectations when enquiring- there are so many great options and we want to make sure that we connect you to the correct one for you!
New Activities in Zimbabwe
For this month’s blog, we would like to highlight some of the new activities that have recently opened up in Zimbabwe. Most of these are based in Victoria Falls, with its bustling tourism industry and reputation as an ‘adventure capital’. These activities really help to diversify what is available in town, and now there is much more on offer than simply adrenaline activities.
Further afield, horseriding safaris are now offered to guests at Imvelo Safaris Hwange lodges and an incredible new zip line and suspension bridge have opened in the Eastern Highlands- the ‘Skywalk’ and ‘Skyline’ with the aim of attracting more visitors to this beautiful region of Zimbabwe.
NEW IN VICTORIA FALLS
The Elephant Encounter affords guests the opportunity to unobtrusively interact with some of the biggest personalities in Africa, in a pristine wilderness environment overflowing with raw natural beauty. Guests spend time and connect with elephants in the most positive and natural way possible.
A number of art workshops led by an experienced tutor. The experience caters to everyone from beginners to professionals. You can choose to paint on a Breakfast Cruise, to paint a group of habituated elephants, to go on a village tour and more!
This constellation based activity sees you guided to a clearing in the African bush, surrounded by unobtrusive lanterns where you can lie back on cushions and chairs for a one-hour presentation on the African Night Sky. The talk combines astronomy with local folklore regarding the constellations historical, cultural and folklore tales.
Skydive and enjoy a ‘Flight of the Angels’ over the Falls in one! The Skydive Tandem Company offers skydiving with a 30-minute scenic flight and stunning views of Victoria Falls included.
Stay active and experience the culture and surrounds of Victoria Falls on a Victoria Falls Bike Tours. These guided tours allow you to learn about local culture, mythology, history and the natural wonders of the area in a way that will leave you enriched and informed. They offer 3-hour, half day or full day tours.
Imvelo Safari Lodges are thrilled to announce the launch of daily horseback riding activities for guests enjoying a safari at Bomani Tented Lodge and Camelthorn Lodge in the south of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s premier national park.
MUTARAZI ZIP LINE AND SUSPENSION BRIDGE
The SkyWalk consists of two suspension bridges allowing for the first time a full panoramic view of the Mutarazi Falls and its surroundings. One is 30m and takes you over the lip of the Falls and the other is 90m that is above the entire Falls.
The ‘SkyLine’ is the most beautiful zip line in the world. Depending on the weather you may find yourself flying through clouds or crystal clear skies over the 2nd highest waterfall in Africa. At an estimated height of 500m and flying for 400m at 50-70km/h it is both uplifting and exhilarating.
The Timeless romance of Rail Travel
There’s a certain magic to rail travel that can’t be found on a plane or on a vehicle. A voyage on a luxury train manages to combine adventure with total relaxation. The soothing rhythm of a steam engine, the timeless elegance of parquet flooring, plush upholstery, exquisite service and all the while an ever-changing view to toast outside the windows.
The cuisine and wine pairings can only be described as sublime and without television or Wi-fi in the public areas, time melts away. Some journeys are meant to be savoured.
A common misconception is that luxury rail journeys are expensive. However, this isn’t the case with most rail journeys coming in at cheaper than similarly luxurious hotels whilst including more. An example is that the Rovos Rail three-night adventure from Johannesburg to Pretoria comes in at USD$2050 per person sharing in a standard suite. This price includes accommodation, meals, excursions, all beverages including alcohol, 24-hour full room service and laundry. By using the train as your method of transportation you also save the cost of your airfare (on average USD$200 one way on this route). That leaves you paying USD$616 per night all-inclusive for a truly special experience. This is comparable to many mid-range safari lodges.
Another misconception is that you can’t see the country you are travelling through when travelling by train. However, this is also untrue, there are many options that combine rail travel with touring such as the ‘Shongololo Express’. The ultimate in touring, this train offers a true safari experience, by rail. The train traverses South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. A variety of off-train excursions are undertaken in a fleet of air-conditioned vehicles that maximise comfort while travelling comfortably during the night, the Shongololo Express saves you precious time, arriving each dawn at a new destination and allowing you to truly see a great variety of sights.
If you would like to experience the romance of a golden age of travel, of crisp white tablecloths, crystal glassware, epic views and epicurean delights contact us today.
Family-Friendly African Safari
When you think of you may not think of it as being a family-friendly holiday. However contrary to popular belief you can comfortably experience thrills of the African bush with your family. Today, children are specially catered to with children’s programs that are imaginative, immersive and engaging.
Here are our top tips on what to consider when picking the perfect destination for your dream trip:
- Make sure the lodge or camp allows children and check the age limit carefully.
- Check if the lodge has family suites available. If not what are the sleeping arrangements?
- Book a private vehicle. This will allow you greater flexibility than on a shared vehicle meaning you can opt for shorter drives or more frequent stops. Flexibility is key when you have little children.
- Stay somewhere with a pool- this will be invaluable in entertaining them on long hot days.
- Canoeing or walking safaris are generally not suitable for children under the age of 12.
- Find out what activities are on offer for children and if they offer a children’s programme.
- Bring a camera and/or binoculars for your children to use. It will help keep them interested and busy while game-viewing.
- Give children an animal checklist to tick off what they have seen and keep them interested and occupied.
Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia all offer great child-friendly options and these can be paired with a city break such as Cape Town or even a few days at the beach in Zanzibar.
Picking the right place to go is vital and it is key to have first-hand knowledge of what is both safe and enjoyable for children to do in the bush and this is where we come in! We have children and we live here and often travel with them so we can really advise you on what will suit you best. In today’s busy world, we believe that time out with your family is precious and we will ensure you get the best experience possible.
Combine Sporting Challenges and Safari!
Zimbabwe has a great sporting history and legacy – maybe due to its wonderful climate and beautiful outdoor areas. Taking part in one of many sporting challenges whilst visiting is the perfect way to achieve and
Having taken part in the annual Victoria Falls half marathon and the multi-day Matobo Heritage Trail Run I can attest to the feeling of triumph and comradeship that occurs at these events. There is no better way to kickstart your trip before some time relaxing in one of the country’s many wild areas- or combine with a stay in nearby Botswana, Zambia, Namibia or South Africa.
Below is a list of the most popular events in Zimbabwe and the links to the relevant event sites for more information. We have a long history of taking place in and planning people’s accommodation and touring around these events so please don’t hesitate to get in touch and start your adventure today!
Trail Running Events
May 09th to 13th
Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wild Run
A 92km, 3-day trail running safari experience through the culturally significant & wildlife-rich bushveld of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area.
From the ancient Mapungubwe citadel in South Africa, to the savannah of Botswana’s Tuli block, across the mighty Limpopo River and along the gigantic Shashe River, through rural villages, past huge Baobabs & along ancient elephant trails etched into stone in Zimbabwe… this is the ultimate safari-on-the-run experience in one of Africa’s most sought-after big-game areas.
The Matobo Hills World Heritage Trail Run
The event is held over two days, with day one covering 30 km and day two covering 20 km. Runners followed GPS trails through the spectacular scenery of the Matobo Hills National Park. A small event with great camraderie and support throughout and the chance to view ancient rock art, incredible gorges and rocky outcrops, rural village life and great birding.
Umfurudzi Trail Run.
Umfurudzi Park is just 100km from Harare. This National Park has amazing landscapes and stunning waterways and offers day trippers and campers a wealth of outdoor activities.
The Umfurudzi Trail Run has four different route options available, offering 7.5km,12.5km, 25km and 50km Trail Run all with spectacular scenic routes.
The Far & Wide Sky Run
Described as Zimbabwe’s most challenging ultramarathon. The run takes place in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands in the beautiful wilderness areas of the Mutarazi Falls and Nyanga National Parks.
The Sky Run is an incredible ultramarathon trail run that can be run in a relay by three runners, two runners or by a single contestant. The total distance of the SKY RUN is 52.2 km however it can be run in relay teams of 2 or 3 runners.
PPC Matopos 33 Miler
Zimbabwe’s most popular ultra-marathon. The Matopos 33 Miler is the ultimate test of endurance. The run takes place in one of Zimbabwe’s most spectacular national parks. beautiful winding roads of the Matobo National Park, passing Malindidzumu, the Limpopo to Zimbabwe escarpment and then onto the city of Bulawayo.
There is also a 21km half marathon, the relay race (6 runners doing 9km each) or the 5km fun run – all along the same route. This truly historic marathon first took place in 1963.
Road Running Events
July 21st Victoria Falls
Econet Victoria Falls Marathon
One of the most scenic runs on the continent attracting runners from 24 countries worldwide. This race is one of the most scenic, wild and fun runs on the African Continent. Crossing the spectacular bridge border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the route offers great views of the Falls and river.
And with the routing through the Zambezi National Park, chances are good you may spot some wildlife. The official sunset cruise and after party are also extremely fun and well organised.
October 9th, Harare
PPC Msasa Marathon
The fun-filled event takes place in the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare allowing easy access to any destination pre or post race.
The 42km marathon begins at the PPC Msasa plant, where runners overcome the hot weather in a race that ends at Old Hararians Sports Club. 21 km and 5km fun runs are also available and this is a fun-filled family event with food and entertainment after the race.
Mountain Biking and Trail Riding
July 7th to 9th
Zambezi Cycle Challenge
The three-day stage event covers a distance of between 50 to 80 km each day. The event is a mixture of tough trails, rolling Jeep tracks and majestic scenery all taking place in the Zambezi National Park amidst herds of elephant and buffalo. Safety is well covered by professional personnel and the overall organisation is first class making this THE “must do bucket list” MTB event of central Africa.
Matobo World Heritage MTB Challenge
The Matobo Hills World Heritage MTB Challenge (referred to as the Matopos Heritage Challenge) is held each year and encompasses three days of superb mountain bike riding crossing the Matobo Hills World Heritage Site from west to east, south to north, and lowest to highest points. It includes exclusive permission to ride in the Matobo Game Park, home to Zimbabwe’s most significant rhino herd, as well as riding through numerous rural areas and private farms, all within the Matobo Hills.
How & why to combine your Zimbabwe safari with a beach break…
Wondering why to combine your safari with some time at the beach?!
- Africa has many fantastic and little known #beach destinations.
- The excitement of a #safari and it’s early starts can be tiring- rejuvenate with a few days at the beach before heading home.
- If you are travelling in a group doing both will mean there’s something to suit everyone’s taste.
- Many of these options have a great price point- it’s very affordable!
- Africa is a continent of contrasts and you deserve to see more than one side of it!
Here at Travel Wild we have years of experience at combining your Zimbabwean Safari with time at the beach. This means we ensure it couldn’t be easier for you. Some options that work well are listed below. Contact us to find out more about any one of these or other options such as Cape Town or Namibia.
There are connections via Johannesburg to Maputo, Inhambane and Vilancoulos– we work to ensure the smoothest connections for you and to make sure these work in your favour.
The beauty of Mozambique’s long Indian Ocean coastline is undeniable. There are popular beaches like Tofo, off-shore marine parks, the Quirimbas Archipelago; a 250km stretch of coral islands and the Bazaruto Archipelago farther south which protects rare marine life including dugongs. Given all these options we can definitely find the perfect place and standard of accommodation for you.
Daily flights from Harare via Nairobi with a small wait time in Nairobi. These flights are often very reasonably priced.
We recommend Zanzibar for it’s incredible value, family friendly qualities and for combining time at the beach with incredible culture and cuisine. With some of the continents most scenic and beautiful tropical beaches Zanzibar offers the quintessential ‘beach holiday’ experience. Many resorts offer packages at incredible prices but it’s hard to know which offer true value… we can help with years of experience we know which are family friendly- offer the best service and have access to the best beaches.
There are direct flights 5 times per week from Harare to Lilongwe in Malawi.
The country of Malawi is defined by the enormous Lake Malawi- it’s actually as large as an inland sea. The lake’s southern end falls within Lake Malawi National Park – sheltering diverse wildlife from colourful fish to baboons – and its crystal clear waters are popular for diving and boating. accommodation options that can be overwhelming- luckily we have the inside track and can advise you of exactly where to stay and what to do.
Any questions? We are sure you have lots and we are here to answer them! Get in touch with us today!
Laura & Brent’s visit to Hwange Bush Camp
The camp was really easy to find for a self-drive – head to Sinamatella and then take the road from there to Main Camp. A little past Mandavu Dam, we turned right taking the road towards Robin’s camp and 16 km’s later there is a small sign on the right saying Private Camp. Hwange Bush Camp is less than 2 km’s from there. The camp is situated in a small depression lined with Mopane trees, there are six very simple walk-in safari tents, comfortable with 12-volt lighting but no frills.
Tents have their own flush loos and a bucket shower system. (When you want a shower the staff heat water over an open fire and then come and fill your bucket for showering.) It works fantastically well, but it also makes you get the job done with minimal fuss – you don’t want to get caught all soaped up having finished the water in the bucket!
It’s an early wake- up call just before sun up and then there is tea and coffee with a simple breakfast around the log fire. Having rubbed the sleep out of your eyes, it’s time to start on the activities. It’s all about walking here, and the earlier you get out, the more chance of stumbling across fresh tracks to follow.
Spike is knowledgeable, kind and ready to share his passion for the African bush. He is extremely professional, safety conscious and tailor makes his walks according to client’s abilities and interests. He does not force the issue and is always respectful to the animals in whose environment he shares.
We spent 2 wonderful nights here, the staff led by Spike, were brilliant, the meals are all cooked over an open fire and would show some of the Michelin guys a thing or two! The camp was simplicity itself but lacked nothing!
This is about as far from the rat race one can get, a chance to experience a little piece of Africa like it was before man’s influence, a place to reawaken your soul and get back to basics. We highly recommend it.
5 Reasons to choose an Escorted Tour in Zimbabwe
For any traveller visiting an unknown country can be daunting and Zimbabwe can pose more of a challenge with little accurate information available online. The country actually lends itself to driven tours with a good tarred road network and attractions spread far and wide (and often far from commercial airports).
It is possible to tour the entire country including it’s many and varied attractions from Great Zimbabwe’s awe-inspiring ruins to Mana Pools National Park and Cecil Rhodes moving grave overlooking the unusual Motopos National Park. There is so much to see and do in this great country.
We think one of the best ways to see the country’s many charms is to take an escorted tour- this is where you travel with a driver who also acts as your guide throughout your trip. These trips appeal to those who enjoy the ‘doing’ and ‘experiencing’ instead of merely seeing; getting off the beaten tourist tracks; and who take a deep interest in their surroundings.
5 Reasons to choose an Escorted Tour
- It is Hassle Free. Your driver and guide will organise everything from checking fuel, oil and water levels, ensuring that vehicles have all the required safety gear, to navigating and dealing with any police roadblocks etc.
- Seeing the countryside. Driving allows you to view the countryside and countless small moments and small beauties in ways that flying never can. The scenery along the route is spectacular and many will find the traditional homesteads interesting.
- The Flexibility. As much as possible this is your schedule- choose to stop and explore when you see something of interest, wake up late if you prefer, eat where and when you want.
- Your Driver/Guide and soon to be friend! We cannot emphasise enough how much is revealed to you by being accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide. Your driver/guide will answer your questions as you go and show you hidden local gems as well as explaining the rich tapestry of flora, fauna, culture and history of the country.
- Meeting the People. Above all, Zimbabwe is known for its people – proud, warm, friendly – a people eager to share their country, their culture, and their hospitality with you.
Contact us to enquire about tailor making your escorted tour today- we will offer sample itineraries but don’t hesitate to make changes! This is your holiday and every aspect from which style of lodging, which guide and which vehicle is in your hands!