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It may be be landlocked, but Zimbabwe puts on one of the most spectacular water displays on the planet

The immense Victoria Falls send a sweep of thundering water 108 meters down from a high basalt plateau into the churning chasm below. This is where the mighty Zambezi River plunges in from neighbouring Zambia bringing life to the vast grasslands of Zimbabwe and the wildlife that thrives there.

From families of elephants to herds of grazing wildebeest, prowling lions and a multitude of wetland birds, Zimbabwe offers an incredible opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers. Bordered by Botswana, Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique, Zimbabwe sits in Africa’s southeast, and with its plentiful supply of natural wonders, over 10% of the country has been designated as national parkland.

You can expect a warm welcome here too; Zimbabwe's people are famous for their hospitality.

 

Culture and history

The main religion in Zimbabwe is Christianity, with Hindu, Muslim and Jewish minorities. A handshake is the typical greeting here, and most other Western social conventions are observed too. However, an open hand is the symbol of the political opposition, so it's best to avoid waving at anyone as it might get you into trouble!

Though international dishes and drinks are available, there are plenty of local specialities worth trying. Sadza, a type of cooked cornmeal, is a staple and often served with meat and condiments. A variety of game is eaten too, including ostrich, warthog and even crocodile tail… Beer is the most popular drink, and if you're looking to try the local brew then go for Whawha, a traditional beer brewed from maize.

There is evidence of a hunter-gatherer people living in Zimbabwe as far back at the 5th century. They are known as the Khosian and left several well-preserved examples of rock art around the country, many of which can be found in UNESCO protected Matobo National Park. In the 10th century Bantu settlers came from the North and the Khosian retreated. Later came the Shona who traded with Swahili and Portuguese traders over the course of their long rule.

In the early 1800s a ferocious warrior people known as the Ndebele arrived in the country… and then came the British. From the late 1800s the British began to colonise and appropriate land all over Zimbabwe. It was at this time that Cecil Rhodes set up the South Africa Company and Zimbabwe became known as Rhodesia in his honour.

It goes without saying that the indigenous people were not happy with this state of affairs and joined forces to fight the takeover of their lands. There were several brutally crushed uprisings until independence was established in 1980 and the infamous Mugabe took power. There followed many years of violent rule and despite being in his nineties, Mugabe may well run for re-election in 2018.

Things to do

On any holiday to Zimbabwe you’ll want to spend a good few days soaking up the spectacle of the amazing Victoria Falls… and most likely getting a soaking while you're about it! Spending a few days in the attractive and laidback capital Harare is also well worthwhile.

Those who enjoy gazing out of the window should book our escorted rail tour, which rolls through the incredible landscapes of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

For nature lovers there’s a never-ending supply of adventures – spot the big five on a wildlife safari tour of Hwange National Park, explore Matobo National Park, famed for its white rhinos and black eagles, or venture into the lovely Nyanga National Park in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands.

Victoria Falls

So, now for the stats. Victoria Falls is around 108 meters deep and 1,700 meters wide, making it the largest sheet of falling water in the world. In full flow the spray from the tumbling waters can rise well over 500 meters into the air and can be spotted from many miles away. The falls are fed by the wide Zambezi River and sit on the north-western border with Botswana. The little nearby town (also called Victoria Falls) is buzzing with restaurants and tourist activity.

Flight time

It takes around 13½ hours to fly from London to Zimbabwe – plenty of time for a couple of films and a snooze.

Tours often fly direct to Livingstone in Zambia, a journey time of about 15¾ hours.

Passports and visas

You’ll need a passport valid for at least six months to enter Zimbabwe. That’s as well as a visa, which you can buy on arrival at the airport. It’s a good idea to get the Zimbabwe/Zambia UNIVISA, allowing you access to both countries on one visa.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.

Timezone

Zimbabwe is two hours ahead of GMT.

Electricity

Three-pin plugs with round pins are used, as well as British-style plugs. Mains voltage is 220 volts (50 cycles).

Language

English -

Zimbabwe, like South Africa, has numerous official languages – 16 in total – but English is the common language for most Zimbabweans.

Tipping

Typically a 10-15% tip is expected for good service, and as a guideline we recommend a tip of around US $8 per person, per day for wildlife rangers or guides, who should be tipped direcly, and about US $5 per person, per day for general lodge staff.

Climate

Although located in the tropics, Zimbabwe’s altitude and inland position mean the climate is relatively temperate. It’s hottest during the dry season, which lasts from August to October.

The rainy season lasts from November to March. Light to medium-weight clothes are recommended, along with something warmer for the evenings, when temperatures can sometimes drop to below freezing.

Health

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure. Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

Zimbabwe has a population of just under 14 million – less than a fifth of the UK.

Zimbabwe is completely landlocked, situated between Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa. It takes up about 391,000 square miles, making it around one and a half times the size of the UK.

Smoking

Smoking is banned in all public places.



Climate