Ask any old Zimbabwe safari hand (there are many), and they won’t be shy to tell you that Zimbabwe is where safari, as we know it, truly began. The best guides, the most majestic elephant… While campfire stories may get a little embellished, there’s more than a grain of truth in these bush tales.
The country has successfully prevented its urban, political stirrings from affecting the quality of the luxury Zimbabwean safari experience, and continues to be an all-time classic safari destination. Plus, the best luxury lodge operators continue to invest in the country, so that there’s arguably no better-value safari destination.
As for its safari attractions, Zimbabwe is almost synonymous with its best-known landmark, Victoria Falls. The surrounding area is Southern Africa’s ‘extreme sports’ capital – I love the microlight flights, for example – but it also offers calmer activities such as sunset river cruises and canoeing on calmer stretches of the Upper Zambezi.
Above the falls, you’ll find Matetsi Private Game Reserve and the Zambezi National Park, while below, past Lake Kariba, is Mana Pools National Park. This is guided walking safari territory par excellence, but it too offers unforgettable canoe safaris, and the opportunity to spend the night on a sleepout deck, next to a waterhole.
Mana Pools competes with the iconic Hwange National Park – south of Victoria Falls – to be Zimbabwe’s pre-eminent game-viewing area, and ideally you should never choose between the two. Hwange presents the opportunity to encounter very large herds of buffalo and elephant – yet more thunder, although this time the ‘smoke’ is dust.