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Zimbabwe Travel Information

Background and History of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe was the site of a large and complex African civilization in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was populated by descendants of the Bantu tribes, who had migrated from the north around the 10th century. Mainly pastoral, evidence of their lifestyle may be seen in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, near the present-day town of Masvingo. The first contact with Europeans was with the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century. Relations between the two were fairly stable – the Portuguese were largely concerned with ensuring communications between their colonies in Angola and Mozambique on either side of Zimbabwe – until the 1830s, when the region was thrown into upheaval by the northward migration of the Ndebele people from South Africa. The Ndebele, who espoused a Zulu warrior tradition, effectively enslaved the indigenous Shona people until the end of the century.

At this point, a new aggressive breed of colonists arrived in the form of British mining interests led by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC). They took control of the country – which they called ‘Southern Rhodesia’ – until 1923, when it became, nominally, a British colony. This followed a referendum (for whites only) on joining the Union of South Africa. Despite attractive terms from South African leader Jan Smuts, there was a heavy vote against the merger. From 1953–63, Southern Rhodesia formed part of the Central African Federation with neighboring Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland (now Malawi). In 1965, to resist decolonization, the settlers – with South African support – issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). This triggered a bitter civil war between the white minority government and fighters for African independence, ending only in 1980, with the granting of independence and the holding of a general election under British auspices, which was won decisively by Robert Mugabe’s ZANU party. 


People ad Cultures

Zimbabwe has many different cultures which may include beliefs and ceremonies, one of them being Shona. The Shona people have many sculptures and carvings of gods which are made with the finest materials available. The official Language is English,followed by Shona and Ndebele.

 Zimbabwe is named after Great Zimbabwe, the twelfth- to fifteenth-century stone-built capital of the Rozwi Shona dynasty. The name is thought to derive from dzimba dza mabwe ("great stone houses") or dzimba waye ("esteemed houses"). Cultural and religious traditions among the Shona, Ndebele and smaller groups of Tonga, Shangaan and Venda have similarities in regard to marriage practices and the belief in supernatural ancestors. All those groups called on the support of the spirit world in the struggle for independence, which was achieved in 1980. European culture and values indelibly shaped the urban and rural landscapes, particularly in terms of the use of space, and the structure and practice of government. Black Zimbabweans have assimilated more white Zimbabwean culture than vice versa. In these distinct cultures, which generally are referred to as African and European, the most obvious differences are economic. While the white minority lost political power after Independence, it has retained a disproportionate share of economic resources.


Geography and Climate

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country lying entirely between the tropics. The country is largely plateau, giving rise to many rivers which feed into two Africa’s greatest river systems; the Zambezi in the north-west and the Limpopo in the south-east. The Zambezi plain extends from man-made Lake Kariba, down to Victoria Falls, Africa’s biggest waterfall. Landscape of the plateau is bushveld, dotted with kopjes (rocky outcrops). The scenic Eastern highlands is the mountainous region.

The capital, Harare, is located in Mashonaland, which covers the eastern two-thirds of the country and is the area where most Shona-speaking people live. The second city, Bulawayo, is in Matabeleland in the west, where most Ndebele-speaking people live.

Summer is October to April and Winter from May to September. Summer days are hot and generally sunny in the morning with possible afternoon thunderstorms. Daytime temperatures can rise to 30 degrees and night temperatures drop to around 14 degrees to 16 degrees. The temperatures given are those for the main centres, but it is considerably warmer all year round in the low-lying areas such as Kariba, Victoria Falls and the Zambezi Valley.

Winter days are dry, sunny and cool to warm while evening temperatures drop sharply. Daytime temperatures generally reach 20 degrees and can drop to as low as 5 degrees at night.


Economy and Foreign Currencies

Zimbabwe’s economy is struggling. Half the workforce is unemployed; the economy contracted by 6.5% in 2005 and by November 2006, hyper-inflation had reached 1,100%. There are four main reasons: a catastrophic decline in the value of the Zimbabwean Dollar; the chaos in the vital agricultural and agro-industrial sectors caused by government policies on land redistribution; the drought that is afflicting the entire region; and the growing impact of the very high rates of HIV/AIDS infection on the workforce.

Approximately two-thirds of the population face food shortages and progressively become worse. The situation is now extremely serious and the immediate prospects of recovery are virtually zero without radical political change, which we are still seeing in the news headlines with the constant struggle.  

The agricultural base relies on tobacco and other cash crops, including sugar, coffee, cotton and maize, as the main export earners. Livestock rearing is also important. The mining industry produces gold and nickel, mainly for export, as well as smaller quantities of a host of other minerals including silver, emeralds, lithium, tin, iron ore, manganese, cobalt, coal, diamonds and a number of rare metals. Large coal deposits and hydroelectric plants supply the country’s power stations. The manufacturing industry was well developed by regional standards: food processing, metals, chemicals and textiles were the main components. In the service sector, tourism grew rapidly in the period after independence, but the industry has now all but vanished.

Although Zimbabwe is better developed than many of its neighbors (especially as regards basic infrastructure such as roads, telecommunications, water and electricity), much of this benefit has been squandered or allowed to disintegrate through neglect.

The Victoria Falls community, being entirely dependant on tourism, is keenly aware of the need to safeguard the industry and to ensure that visitors have a positive and memorable experience. At a distance of 878km from the capital, Harare, and 439km from Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo, Victoria Falls operates as a microcosm of its own.

Visa and Passports

A valid passport is required valid for 6 months from return date. SA. Passport holders will be able to obtain single-entry visa stamp at their port of entry into Zimbabwe at no cost. We recommend clients check requirements with visa authorities well in advance.

Health and Vaccination information

All visitors coming to Zimbabwe from infected areas are requested to possess vaccination certiicates against cholera and yellow fever. It is not advisable to swim in the country`s rivers and dams as they may be infected with bilharzia and the recent outbreak of cholera (2009).

Remember to get malaria prophylactics before entering Zimbabwe. Take precautionary measures to prevent contact with mosquitoes, like : sleep under a bed net or in a room/tent with mosquito proofing, spray your accommodation with insecticide; make use of a mosquito repelling lotion or stick; and wear long sleeved clothing, trousers and socks when outside at night.

Recommended vaccinations : Tetanus.

It is advisable to obtain medical insurance prior to arrival. Medical services within Harare and Bulawayo are very good. All main towns have well-stocked pharmacies, but it is recommended that you bring any medicines you may require.

Transport and Airports

Air Zimbabwe, BA Comair and SAA offer frequent flights to the various Zimbabwe cities such a Harare, Bulawayo , Kasane and Victoria Fall.  Harare Airport being the international airport, receives a number of international flights. Additionally Air Botswana flies into Kasane, Chobe, just a 90-minute road transfer (and often a game drive itself) to the Falls and in addition Nationwide, BA Comair and SAA all fly into Livingstone, Zambia, just a 30-minute transfer across the bridge border into Zimbabwe, Vic Falls. There is a good road network from the South African border at Beit Bridge right through to the Falls


Accommodation Standards

Concerntrating on the Vic Falls, there is establishments to suit all budgets and group size in the area. There are about 2,400 Beds in 12 of the major hotel and lodges and  1,000 Beds In Nine Main Properties On The Livingstone Zambia Side that attracts visitors to the the Vic Falls on the Zimbabwe border. From Guesthouses to Campsites there is a further 3,200 Beds in Vic Falls area. African Sun Hotel group manages a majority of the hotel portfolio in the Harare and Bulawayo, Vic FAlls area which are 3 or 4 star full service hotels with a collection of other hotels groups such as Sun international offering superb accommodation and facilties in the Vic Falls concerntrated areas.

Attractions and Wildlife Destinations

The treasures of Zimbabwe are rich and varied, ranging from her great wildlife sanctuaries, mighty rivers and natural wonders, to her ancient art and heritage left behind by iron and stone age man.  Here are some of the highlights.

Victoria Falls - most popular and largest and most probably the most beautiful majestic waterfall in the world. This World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World features in a list of the top 25 African attractions of the year 2008! it is by far an awe-inspiring experience – the sight, the sound, the smell; the humbling feeling that here indeed is Nature’s Supreme Masterpiece. The Victoria Falls is a safe tourist destination and the least affected by political tensions that arise. This area is very much a adventure hub with much to offer. Enjoy sundowner cruises on the Zambezi River, tour of the Vic Falls, fishing, horse back safaris, bridge tours, white water rafting, bungee jump, helicopter flights, elephant back experiences, walking with lion and many more. It is also a great base from where you can explore the surronding game reserves such as Chobe National Park and Hwange National Park.

Lake Kariba, Zambezi Valley and Mana Pools - Lake Kariba is a large, man-made lake and reservoir located on the Zambezi river, about halfway between the river`s source and mouth, about 1300 kilometers upstream from the Indian Ocean. The lake lies along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe side of the lake has about 1 000 kilometres of shoreline. Often elephants can be seen swimming between the shore and islands and the lake is also a  great tiger fishing spot, a very challenging fighting game fish!

Situated in the middle of the Zambezi Valley lies the Mana Pools National Park, where the excitement of a close up view of an abundance of wildlife along the banks of the Zambezi. Canoeing trips is recommended in the Mana Pools area.

Hwange National Park - Hwange is the largest and probably the most popular national park in the country. With a land area of more than 14 000km2, the park boasts over a hundred species of animal and over 400 species of birds,one of the few remaining true African forests! Experience the Big Five, including the world renowned Presidential Herd of elephants from this beautiful location, a elephant sanctuary. Only 2 hours drive from the Mighty Victoria Falls, sits the quiet and deceptively civil Hwange Safari Lodge.

Eastern Highlands  - There are streams, waterfalls, lakes, forests, hiking trails, golf courses and many other mountain activities to be enjoyed in this region. The crisp mountain air and the lush scenery make this a favorite tourist destination.

The region includes Nyanga National Park, with its spectacular World’s view; 30 hectares of indigenous and exotic plants, which make up the Vumba Botanical Gardens, and the rugged Chimanimani Mountains, reaching over 2 400m, pose a real challenge for climbers.

Great Zimbabwe - The famous ruined city of great Zimbabwe lies about 30km from Masvingo and is the country’s premier national monument. Judging from the ancient iron tools, ceramics, pottery, gold and carvings discovered in the ruins. It is believed to date from the 12th to 16th century. The complex covers about 720 hectares with its huge granite walls, conical towers and fortresses. Tourist facilities are good offering guided tours, a souvenier shop and a museum containing the archaeological artifacts recovered from the ruins.

Matobo Hills National ParkThe Matobo Hills National Park near Bulawayo is another of Zimbabwe’s major tourist attractions. Covering an area of 2 000km2, it contains fantastic rock formations, fine San (Bushman) paintings at Nswatugi Cave and a game park with 20 varieties of game including white rhino and the worlds largest concentration of black eagles. Picnic spots abound in the park and on the hill Malindidzimu “the legendary place of benevolent spirits”, lies the tomb of Cecil John Rhodes. 

Short List of preparations and Important information

To help you pack and prepare for your Botswana Bound Journey with African Chapter have provided you with a short List to assist you and bring to your attention the important facts to remember

  • Light tropical clothing with rainwear from Nov to Mar. The evenings during the winter months, from May to Aug, can be cool. Sept to Oct is hot and dry whilst Nov to Mar is hot and wet.
  • Neutral colours on safari and smart casual evening wear for top hotels and restaurants is recommended. All camouflage clothing is prohibited in Zimbabwe.
  • Zimbabwe currency is the Zimbabwe Dollar. Most foreign currencies mainly USD and credit cards are readily accepted.
  • Electricity - 220-240 volts ac, via 14 amp fused, square pinned plugs. 50 hz.
  • Time GMT + 2 hours
  • Drink bottled water
  • Language English (official) and Shona and Ndebele. 
  • A service charge of 10 % is usually included in the bill. When service charge is not included a 10 % tip is acceptable.
  • Zimbabwean specialty is the Batonka stool seats, which are traditionally carved form one piece of wood. Along roadsides, one finds row upon row of soapstone and wooden carved items, Crochet garments, tablecloths and bedspreads are a new craft. Precious and semi precious stones, polished and/or set are widely available. Negotiate your price!

Travel Safe and enjoy one of the 7 wonders of the world at the inspiring VIC FALLS, a must to see in your itinerary!

Please don't hesitate to contact us directly, we have visited here previously and are able to provide you with up to date information at any time.

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Fax: +27 11 805 4519
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Skype : african.chapter

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