A luxury Zimbabwean safari would be incomplete without a visit to Victoria Falls.

Luxury safaris in Zimbabwe

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.

When to Go

As you’d expect, the seasons are similar to those in neighbouring Botswana, which means our weather advice is aligned – and that you can easily combine these two countries in one longer itinerary. The winter season is peak safari time, with vegetation dying back and game being more concentrated around water sources. Cooler mornings and evenings mean that temperatures are pleasant and rain is infrequent. While Zambezi River activities continue year round, this is the best time to tackle the remote stretches of the Lower Zambezi, near Mana Pools. Victoria Falls will be very much reduced in volume towards the end of this period, but still impressive.

The key game-viewing destinations of Hwange and Mana Pools are at their most beautiful in the summer green season, with prolific new life provoking much predator action. There are typically fewer visitors, which means better pricing and even more exclusivity at luxury lodges. As the summer rains begin, the volume of water at Victoria Falls increases almost exponentially, with this spectacle at its most impressive (and overwhelming) from February to May. Canoe and boat excursions on tamer sections of the Zambezi River continue as usual.

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