Zimbabwe is a country which has had its fair share of political and economic issues in recent years that have overshadowed the country’s beauty and wildlife draw. But today the government is stable and the overinflated Zimbabwean dollar has been replaced by the US dollar – the consequences of this are that there is no better time to book a trip to Zimbabwe for those looking for a superb African holiday with some of the best guides and safari sightings that Southern Africa has to offer. A testament to this is the abundance of high quality guides that have stayed in the country and the amount of filming taking place for wildlife documentaries, including the BBC who have multiple projects in Zimbabwe (The Hunt, 2015 and an epic series due in 2017 called Dynasty which is set to rival the BBC Earth series, both of which had filming crews at some of our favourite lodges for extended periods of time).
Zimbabwe continues to have a huge amount of growth and development of existing and new hotels and lodges, which is a very positive sign in the tourism industry as well as for the country as a whole. Combining this with national parks teeming with wildlife and natural beauty, warm and friendly people, and comfortable and contemporary properties, makes Zimbabwe a superb tourist destination. It is a breathtakingly stunning country with dramatic landscapes and vast wilderness that has so much more to offer than one initially realises. Zimbabwe is most famous for one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls). It also has a further four UNESCO World Heritage sites listed: Mana Pools National Park, Great Zimbabwe National Monument, Khami Ruins National Monument and Matobo Hills. All of these sites are possible to visit on a trip to Zimbabwe.
Food & Drink
Zimbabwe surprises with its food – in a good way! It has mainly an international cuisine, delicious and plentiful. When on safari all food and non-premium drinks are usually included, and given the remoteness of the bushcamps the quality and large range of options are superb. There are usually plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and a variety of meats on offer. No game meats are served in safari lodges in Zimbabwe for conservation and ethical reasons, therefore, most meals with contain chicken, lamb, fish, beef or pork as the main choice of meats. Snacks and drinks are regularly provided between meals, so you rarely go hungry! At the hotels around Victoria Falls you can expect to pay UK equivalent prices for food and drink, although imported wines and spirits can be more expensive.
When to Travel
Zimbabwe lies south of the equator and therefore has opposite seasons to the UK, making it a perfect winter sun destination for those needing an escape from the long, grey days. However, Zimbabwe has a year round warm climate making it a good destination at any time of year. Generally days are bright and sunny and nights clear and cool depending on the time of year. Temperatures and rainfall are directly influenced by altitude. The highveld and eastern highlands are cooler and the lowveld and the Zambezi Valley hotter, with summer temperatures often soaring well over 35 degrees Celsius.
There are currently no direct flights to Zimbabwe from the UK, so the choice that you have to make is where to fly via and which airline to use. The most convenient is normally to fly via Johannesburg and then connect up to Victoria Falls or Harare from there. There are flights via Dubai straight into Harare which can also work well, as well as options with Kenya Airways which works for trips combining time in East Africa.
UK passport holders require a visa to enter Zimbabwe. This is purchased on arrival in the country at immigration by cash payment (at the moment the amount is USD50 per person).
If you are travelling via South Africa with children you will be required to present an unabridged birth certificate for each child, and possibly sworn affidavits permitting them to travel from parents not travelling. Please ask us for more details.
The guides in Zimbabwe are some of the best in Africa. Their experience in walking safaris and canoeing safaris is second to none. Some of the most famous names in African guiding are based in Zimbabwe and are well known on sites such as ‘YouTube’ for the up-close and relaxed encounters that you can experience with big game, particularly on foot.
The infrastructure in Zimbabwe is better than some of its neighbouring countries. There is a domestic flight network with Air Zimbabwe, but the routings do not cover all areas of the country, so although most internal travel is by air, some sections can be pricey as it will be by light aircraft. Distances are vast and therefore road transfers are limited to certain areas, but these can be very lengthy drives and therefore have to be planned carefully into the itinerary, and may be worth the extra spend to fly in. Self-driving is possible but is not something we recommend for most trips due to the time constraints and logistics.
As we’re not medical experts we feel it is essential you contact your GP regarding vaccinations and the like for travel to Zimbabwe. What follows is some suggestions, but they must be verified by a medical professional. In addition to such vaccinations as you’d routinely have for living in the UK, further boosters are recommended for Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Diptheria. Malaria exists in Zimbabwe. Please consult your GP for advice on what malarial precautions to take.
We also like these guys, but again you must talk to your GP first: The Travel Doctor, an interactive website providing specialist health information for travellers plus customised lists of travel medicines, vaccines and malaria tablets for holiday makers, global adventure travellers and expeditions.
Money & tipping
The Zimbabwean dollar has been phased out since 2009 due to hyperinflation, and is no longer accepted at all in Zimbabwe. Therefore, although a variety of strong currencies are accepted in Zimbabwe, the most widely accepted and best to use is the US Dollar (US$).
Safari kit and etiquette
If you’re spending time on safari, there are some things you should pack in addition to your usual holiday luggage. These are our suggestions:
- Neutral coloured clothing (avoid blue, black or white as these attract Tsetse fly)
- Multiple layers – you will experience significant temperature variation in the course of one game drive
- Mosquito repellent (we recommend at least 50% Deet)
- Sun hat
- Good sturdy walking or trail shoes
Travellers Code of Conduct
- We provide all of our clients with a “Travel Facts” document upon confirmation of your booking. This details useful facts and travel advice for your chosen destination, including restaurant recommendations, reading tips, basic language, cultural traditions, climate information and brief historical overviews. We feel that this offers a useful insight into the country you are visiting, and can help you interact with local residents in a more sensitive, well informed manner. Please try to take the time to read this information before your visit, if at all possible.
– A number of the countries in which we operate holidays are religious societies with a widely observed set of customs. Always respect these norms, particularly when visiting religious buildings.
– To the best of our knowledge, all of the hotels, lodges and camps within our portfolio operate stringent measures to minimise water usage. Many of our destinations have issues with water supplies to a certain extent so feel free to raise any possible wastage should you encounter it during your stays, either with the accommodation or with us upon your return.
– Please ask before taking photographs of people, and respect their wishes should an individual not be happy to be photographed. We find that friendly requests and a smile are usually met with assent.
– Strive where possible to make your own contribution to environmental practices within the destination you are travelling. This might include minimising your electricity usage, avoiding smoking in protected areas, sticking to marked roads at all times while self-driving, avoiding coral while snorkeling and safely disposing of all litter (recycling where possible).
– Where possible, try to purchase from local suppliers. This includes shopping for souvenirs, eating out in restaurants and booking further excursions during your free time. In areas where haggling is an accepted part of daily life, don’t become angry or offended if you are unable to obtain what you perceive as a fair price for an item. We emphasise to local suppliers that our clients should never be taken on unsolicited shopping trips, but if this does happen, try to retain your sense of humour, provide a firm refusal to participate and tell us about this on your return. We pass on all feedback from every trip undertaken with Holiday Architects to the relevant local suppliers, who share our commitment to travelling with sensitivity.
– Please don’t remove any indigenous items from their natural habitat and attempt to bring them back as a souvenir. This particularly applies to coral, shells, plants and food in the natural world, and to cultural artifacts and antiques.
– If you are unsure about anything relating to the above, please feel free to ask our local suppliers or your Holiday Architects specialist. All of these people either live or have travelled extensively in the country you are visiting and will be more than happy to offer their considered advice.