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Places of Interest in Zimbabwe

Southern Sky Adventures: Places of Interest in Zimbabwe

Capitol is Harare

Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) links Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park, South Africa’s Kruger National Park, and three Zimbabwean conservation areas to form a protected area of 20,000 square miles. The relocation of some 1000 elephants from the overcrowded Kruger to the Limpopo National Park began in 2001, and in March 2004 a plan was executed that increased the size of the park to all of 60,000 square miles.

Directly benefitting from the conservation efforts of South Africa over the many past decades of wildlife conservation, Zimbabwe now enjoys prolific numbers of animals in these conservation areas that were once decimated by poaching.

Great Zimbabwe

The city of Great Zimbabwe is located to the east of the Kalahari desert between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. The huge walls and tower, which are held together without mortar, are the largest structures in Africa south of the Pyramids. The walls are up to 35 feet tall and 18 feet thick at the bottom.

When Portuguese traders first encountered the vast stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe in the sixteenth century, they believed they had found the fabled capital of the Queen of Sheba. Later travelers surmised that the site’s impressive stone structures were the work of Egyptians, Phoenicians, or even Prester John, the legendary Christian king of lands beyond the Islamic realm. Such misguided and romantic speculation held for nearly 400 years, until the excavations of British archaeologists David Randall-MacIver and Gertrude Caton-Thompson early in this century, which confirmed that the ruins were of African origin.

The largest ancient stone construction south of the Sahara, Great Zimbabwe was built between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries by the ancestors of the Shona, one of Zimbabwe’s many Bantu-speaking groups. The ruins cover nearly 1,800 acres and can be divided into three distinct architectural groupings known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex, and the Great Enclosure. At its apogee in the late fourteenth century, Great Zimbabwe may have had as many as 18,000 inhabitants. It was one of some 300 known stone enclosure sites on the Zimbabwe Plateau. In Bantu, zimbabwe means “sacred house” or “ritual seat of a king.” An important trading center and capital of the medieval Zimbabwe state, the city controlled much of interior southeast Africa for nearly two centuries.

Hwange National Park

Hwange National Park (HNP) is Zimbabwe’s biggest game reserve and covers 5,656 square miles of Kalahari sand country. It is a place of great contrasts between wet and dry season, with the extremes reminding you of the life-giving properties of water.
NHP has one of the densest concentrations of wildlife in Africa with great herds of buffalo and elephant and all the “big five” present. Other predominant species include giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, cheetah, African wild dog, kudu, hyena, impala, Roan antelope, waterbuck, tsessebe, black-backed jackal and bat-eared fox. This is also one of the best places in Africa to see the beautiful and elusive sable antelope.

Generally, there are no seasonal animal migrations. The best time to view wildlife is during the dry season, from July to October, when the game concentrates near permanent water. Game viewing is also good during May, June and November and fairly good from December through April. During the rainy season, from January to March, the game is widely dispersed.

Lake Kariba

Lake Kariba is like an inland sea on the border of two landlocked countries. By volume, Lake Kariba is the largest man-made lake and reservoir in the world. It is located on the Zambezi River, about halfway between the river’s source and mouth, about 750 miles upstream from the Indian Ocean, and lies along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Lake Kariba was filled between 1958 and 1963 following the completion of the Kariba Dam at its northeastern end, flooding the Kariba Gorge on the Zambezi River.

Lake, islands and shoreline constitute an unparalleled wilderness spectacle, home to a multitude of wildlife species in a protected environment. Elephants are often seen traversing the lake from shoreline to island. Lake Kariba is teeming with crocodiles and you can see them sunbathing at intervals of a few yards or so along the shore. Matusadona National Park is the finest safari location along the lake with the best of Lake Kariba’s water wildlife coupled with great inland wildlife viewing. Game viewing by boat near the shore is a wonderful experience and visitors will see large herds of elephant, buffalo and plenty of hippos and waterbuck. Further into the park roan and sable antelope, kudu, impala, lions and black rhino are often seen while leopards are elusive.

Kariba is famed for its sport fishing, with the fighting tigerfish as the prime trophy.

Mana Pools National Park

Mana Pools National Park (MPNP) is one of Zimbabwe’s most popular parks. Based on its wildness and beauty, together with the wide range of large mammals, over 350 bird species and aquatic wildlife, (MPNP) is a World Heritage Site, and it is easy to see why it falls into this profile.

The name “Mana” means “four” in the local Shona language. This applies to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River. These pools are the remnant ox-bow lakes that the Zambezi River carved out thousands of years ago as it changed its course northwards. Hippopotamus, crocodiles and a wide variety of aquatic birds are associated with the pools. ”Long Pool”, is the largest of the four pools, extending some 3 ½ miles in a west-east direction. This pool has a large population of hippo and crocodiles and is a favorite for the large herds of elephant that come out of the thickly vegetated areas in the south to drink.

These 1,500 square miles of river frontage, islands, sandbanks and pools, flanked by forests of mahogany, wild figs, ebonies and baobabs, make up one of the least developed national parks in southern Africa. Canoeing and walking safaris are the most popular forms of game viewing at Mana Pools.

Victoria Falls

Described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘the Smoke that Thunders’ and in more modern terms as ‘the greatest known curtain of falling water’, Victoria Falls are a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as 546 million cubic yards of water per minute plummet over the edge, at the height of the flood season, over a width of more than one mile into a deep gorge over 300 feet below. The wide basalt cliff, over which the falls thunder, transforms the Zambezi from a wide placid river to a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges.

Facing the falls is another sheer wall of basalt, rising to the same height and capped by mist-soaked rain forest. A path along the edge of the forest provides the visitor who is prepared to brave the tremendous spray with an unparalleled series of views of the falls.

Heralded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls offers a myriad of accommodation choices in and around the town of Victoria Falls, some of them laden with history dating back to colonial rule. Whitewater rafting, helicopter tours, canoe trips and power boat rides are all means by which to enjoy the falls as well as the walking the paths along the cliffs and strolling across the bridge just a short distance downstream.

Zambezi National Park

Zambezi National Park (ZNP) together with Victoria Falls National Park covers an area of 140,000 acres. The northern border of the ZNP is formed by the great Zambezi River which also forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia for much of its length. A wide variety of larger mammals may be found within the Zambezi National Park including The Big Five: elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and white rhinoceros. In addition, herds of sable antelope, eland, zebra, giraffe, kudu, waterbuck and impala as well as many of the smaller species of game can be viewed. The Zambezi River is home to a large variety of fish and is famous for its bream and fighting tiger fish. The park has two main game-viewing sections: the Zambezi River Game Drive, with an extensive network of roads along the river accessed through the main gate of the Park, and the 15 mile Chamabondo Game Drive in the southern part of the park, which begins about 3 miles outside of the town of Victoria Falls – just off the main road to Bulawayo.

Zambezi River

The Zambezi is Africa’s fourth largest River system, after the Nile, Zaire and Niger Rivers. It runs through six countries on its journey from central Africa to the Indian Ocean for a total of 2,000 miles. Its unique value is that it is less developed than others in terms of human settlement and many areas along its banks enjoy protected status.

The river’s power has carved the spectacular Victoria Falls and the zigzagging Batoka Gorge. The Zambezi has been harnessed at various points along the way including the massive Kariba Dam between Zambia and Zimbabwe and Cabora Bassa Dam in Mozambique.

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