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Zimbabwe Travel Guide

Fast Facts about the country

Perhaps most famous for the magnificent Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe gets its name from the Zimbabwe Great Ruins – a Natural Heritage Site with a mysterious past. A land-locked country in southern Africa with Botswana to the south-west, Mozambique to the east, Zambia to the north/north-west (separated by the mighty Zambezi River), and South Africa in the south. An intriguing country, with an equally intriguing past, centuries ago it was part of a highway for Arab and later, for Portuguese traders. With a growing population of over 16.5-17million people (2018), Zimbabwe is 390,580 sq kms made up of savannah, forest-topped mountains, fertile lands (Zimbabwe was known as the bread-basket of Africa), along with moorlands, granite hills and lush lands with flowing rivers. After a number of years of unrest, tourists are starting to return to this beautiful country and some trade resumes. Hwange is perhaps the most easily recognised and reached of the wildlife national parks (due to its location to Victoria Falls), along with Matopos and Mana Pools. Vic Falls is of course, a natural wonder of the world and one of the reasons for making this a prime destination, and though many tourists remain close to this location without venturing further there is so much more to experience and those that explore are not disappointed including the ancient civilisation of Great Zimbabwe with its reputedly 13,000year old rock art, Big 5 game viewing with plenty of space and limited tourists around you, huge elephant herds and wonderful walking and canoeing safaris, you can rent a house boat on Lake Kariba to enjoy game viewing from you deck. If you are a safari addict and not yet experienced Zimbabwe, ensure you put it on your list. Its ideal to visit as a singular country but can easily be combined with neighbouring countries such as Zambia or Botswana.

A country rich in natural resources which includes coal, gold, nickel, copper, iron ore, tin, chromium ore, asbestos, lithium and platinum group metals. Major cities include the capital Harare and Bulawayo.

Flora and fauna:

Without doubt, elephants are one of the main attractions and parks such as Hwange has an estimated 40,000 animals, in addition watch out for Big 5, and endangered species such as wild dog. There are 199 mammal species, 1 is critically endangered (black rhino), 1 endangered and 8 vulnerable, with 10 near-threatened.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority under the Board has the onerous task of overseeing the activities related to 10 national parks,[4] nine recreational parks,[5] four botanical gardens,[6] four safari areas,[7] and three sanctuaries.[8] These areas are collectively called the Wildlife Estate which covers an area about 47,000km2 (18,000sqmi), which is equivalent to 12.5% of the total land area of the country. (Wikipedia)

Large mammals: The Big 5 are present and in particular elephants are prolific (numbers vary between 20-70,000) in Hwange along with giraffe. Rhino can be found particularly in Matopos but less likely to be seen elsewhere. Overall hippo, giraffe, and buffalo are relatively common.

Other mammals: Predators include big cats such at lion and leopard, along with brown hyena. Hwange is also a good place to see sable -the country’s national animal
Endangered: Include cheetah and wild dog and though both are rare, Zim is a good place for wild dog.

Endemic: There is just 1 endemic mammal species – the Selinda veld rat, along with 7 reptile - ferocious round-headed worm lizard; Marshall’s pygmy chameleon; regal girdled lizard; Tasman’s house gecko; Nyanga dwarfgecko; Zimbabwe blind legless lizard and Zimbabwe slug-eater, along with 5 amphibian species.

Birding: There are over 650 species of birds in Zimbabwe, though no endemics, walking safaris are great for birding and migratory species are found between November to April when the general number of birds is incredible. Near-endemics include Robert’s warbler, Gurney’s sugarbird, lemon-breasted canary, chiranda apalis, melodious lark, Woodward’s batis, Swee waxbill, and Swynnerton’s robin. The best time for birding is the summer months when the migratory birds are present and species are in breeding plumage. There is no specific national bird – it is represented by the “stone-bird”, a national emblem.

Flora: Vegetation is generally uniform, with acacia savannah, bushveld, miombo or dry open woodland is all common throughout the central and western plateau. Where there are dry lowlands (south/south-east), baobabs and thorny scrub are prolific with poisonous euphorbias, wild flowers, beautiful purple jacarandas and succulent tropical flowers and palms along with 30 species of aloes. The stunning flame lily – and national flower, a climbing lily, grows profusely throughout the country.

Conservation and conservancies

A country that until recent years protected its animals and set up parks for conservation ensuring that around 13% of the country was set aside to national parks and hunting for any reason within them forbidden. Unfortunately, due to its recent economic collapse, poaching for meat, skins, horns etc and simply survival has meant that in some areas numbers of animals have decreased. Trees have been chopped down for firewood or to create wooden curio carvings to sell has put additional pressure on the environment and moving forward to sustainable conservation means creating sustainability and community awareness ensuring all understand the importance of natural resources and the longer-term benefits they bring with tourism. A challenge indeed. For further information, there are some dedicated companies actively working on conserving Zimbabwe’s wildlife and include:

  • Vic Falls Anti Poaching Unit (VFAPU)
  • IAPF - International Anti Poaching Fund
  • Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust
  • Zambezi Society
  • Friends Of Hwange
  • International Rhino Foundation
  • Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve

When to travel

Best time to travel for game viewing is in the dry winter months from May to October, when animals congregate around water holes. However, in parks such as Hwange, sightings are normally good year-round, summer storms are spectacular and make for great photography, so in many ways it is a place that can be visited at any time. There are several tour operators that run trips via Zimbabwe to other destinations and operate throughout the year.

Climate: Due to size of country there are different weather patterns – this is a guideline to the 2 major areas. Please also be aware that the effects of global warming means that weather patterns are sometimes affected.

Summer: Often late afternoon showers with storms and max temps around 35c . Most of the country’s rain falls in the more humid months of November to April.

Winter: Dry & sunny with conditions similar to Mediterranean. Can be chilly at night and early morning. During the day, temperatures rise quickly and short pants and short-sleeved shirts can be worn. There is rain but it is more limited
If your main interest is game viewing the best months are late winter/dry season (August – October), otherwise it can be a little disappointing.

Travel Documents and information

Money & FX:

Zimbabwe: USD was the preferred currency and was until recently the country used as a multi-currency system, this has reverted to the Zimbabwean dollar and can only be obtained in country. Whilst we have given indications below, note that the situation changes quite regularly and may alter from the information. Essentially, this isexactly the same as almost every other country in the world. The USA uses the US$, Britain uses the Pound, South Africa uses the ZAR etc.

When you are in one of these countries,prices displayed are in their own currencyand if you are buying something you go to a bank or bureau de change and exchange your home currency for the visiting country^s currency and pay in cash. Or you use your credit/debit card and then your card provider automatically does the exchange for you at the prevailing exchange rate on the day. Your credit card statement will reflect the debit amount in your home currency.

Now where Zimbabwe presently differs to the above, is that there are very few Zimbabwe Dollars in physical cash in circulation so you cannot just go into a bank and exchange as much as you like of your home currency for Zimbabwe dollars. Another big difference is that the exchange rate is not stable and theZWL is also not yet recognised, by the rest of the world as an official currency, which makes paying for anything with a foreign card unclear.

Credit Cards: Visa and Barclays accounts are often accepted. ATMs in Victoria Falls dispense US$s but not all international cards are accepted. Use of credit cards may incur an additional fee and lines may be down so worth carrying extra cas
Cash: The US$, Botswana Pula and South African Rand are accepted in Zimbabwe. Recently, the Chinese Yuan, Indian Rupee, Japanese Yen and Australian Dollar have also been accepted as legal tender in Zimbabwe. Do not use the black market for exchanging money

Travel Insurance: As part of the Terms and Conditions to Chameleon Holidays and Travel, it is essential that all clients purchase comprehensive travel insurance. Your insurance should be inclusive of full medical cover including costs of emergency repatriation to your home country, and cancellation and strongly recommend covering for loss, damage, theft of personal luggage and belongings, personal injury, accident or illness. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate insurance and have read and understood the full terms and conditions of this policy to ensure you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on your trip. Please carry your insurance details with you at all times and that you have given your details to us before arrival – you may be requested to show your insurance on the morning of safari departure or to complete indemnity so please ensure it is in hand luggage. We will also require a copy of this insurance or details for your insurance, in the very unlikely event that you are involved in an accident or require health care whilst you are on holiday we MAY need to be able to act on your behalf and instruct medical evacuation – please note that much of Africa is not like many first world countries where there is a good local emergency and health service that will automatically assist – here, they don’t! If for any reason you are unconscious we need to be able to act on your behalf and get assistance to you as quickly as possible. Chameleon recommends: www.worldnomad.com

Passport & Visa Information

It is the clients’ responsibility to ensure that they have allowed adequate time to obtain necessary visas in advance if they require them.

Visas: This information is given in good faith but recommend you check in advance. Zimbabwe has 3 visa categories:

Category A: Countries whose nationals do NOT require a Visa. No action required, you will be granted easy entry at any border post.

Category B: Countries whose nationals are granted a Zimbabwe visa at the port of entry on payment of requisite visa fees. These visas are easiest obtained on your arrival at the Airport or border post, or online using the Zimbabwe evisa website - payment is made online. If you get them done via an agency in your home country they will often cost you quite a bit more and be a lot more hassle. If you are intending to visit Zambia as well then the Kaza / UniVisa is your most economical choice.

Category C: Countries whose nationals are required to apply for and obtain a Zimbabwe visa prior to travelling. You can apply through a Zimbabwe High Commission in your home or neighbouring country or an easier way is to apply online.

Passport Requirements

All Categories need:

  • Passport valid for a least 6 months from your date of entry.
  • Return ticket to your country (or enough money to buy one)
  • Sufficient funds to cover your stay in Zimbabwe
  • Enough blank pages in your passport to fit the required entry visa.

Visa Types

Single Entry visa – allows for entry into Zimbabwe one time. Once you exit Zimbabwe, the visa cannot be used again. Double Entry visa allows for up to two entries into Zimbabwe. Valid up to 90 days from the date of issue. Once you have used it for the two entries and two exits, the visa cannot be used again.

Multiple Entry visas – CANNOT be obtained at the port of entry into Zimbabwe. You may enter Zimbabwe on a single entry visa and then obtain a Multiple Entry Visa from the town office - but this may take up to 7 working days to be issued and in many cases is declined - if you need to enter 3 or 4 times rather buy a single entry and then a double entry visa or two doubles, which is a perfectly accepted by immigration.

Children - As of June 2012 – Zimbabwe will now be charging FULL VISA fees for any individual who is required to have a VISA despite their age. This includes infants and children who were previously being exempted from this. This has been imposed with immediate effect.

Zimbabwe Visa Fees

Visitors coming from Category B countries (listed below) can pay the fee for their visa when they arrive at the port of entry, whether it is at the land border or at the airport, or through an online application via the e-visa website. We strongly advise visitors who wish to pay on arrival to have cash for their visas as credit card machines have become more and more unreliable when it comes to payments for visas. Category C nationals who applied for a visa online will pay for the visa during the online application.

Here is the fee structure for Zimbabwe visas:

ZIMBABWE FEES

Single Entry

US$ 30

Double Entry

US$ 45

Multiple Entry - See notes above

US$ 55

Please ensure you provide Chameleon with the correct passport information prior to arrival – passport number, full name as per passport, date of birth and passport expiry date.

Allow for departure tax

Health Precautions

We recommend that you consult your physician or a travel centre prior to your safari departure, as there are a few health matters that require attention and recommend visiting around 8 weeks prior to travel. Here are some guidelines but please remember we are not medical practitioners and recommend you contact your Governments Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and discuss with your doctor about the current situation – as a guideline only and general recommendation, we recommend you take a small first aid kit along with any standard medication you need but ensure you check your medication is legal and carry in original packaging, as well as regular pain relief (for headaches etc) . Please do not underestimate heat exhaustion

  • Hepatitis A & B – Vaccines give good protection; initially two weeks from first dose and then second dose within 6-12months gives long term protection.
  • Polio – Within 10years.
  • Typhoid - Recommended.
  • TB – recommended and covers long term.
  • Tetanus – Yes.
  • Diphtheria: Yes – note there is a all-in-one vaccine that covers tetanus, polio and diphtheria.
  • Malaria - Protection against malaria is required as malaria occurs in many areas.
  • Yellow Fever – not required in Zimbabwe however, if you are travelling from countries with yellow fever you may be asked to produce the certificate of vaccination – regulations for this are changing on a regular basis and we advise you check in plenty of time before your trip. Legislation may be checked or changed at any point.

Packing Checklist:

Safari: Neutral coloured casual clothing (shorts/long trousers, shirts/t-shirts) for everyday wear, bright colours or white are not suitable for game viewing in game walks or open vehicles; stout shoes (with soles thick enough to protect against thorns and for walking) or robust trainers with good traction soles, light jacket or jumper (summer time), warm jumper and jacket (winter time), light spray jacket during rainy season.

In towns/cities : normal clothing attire.

Other clothing: sunhat; nightwear; underwear; socks; sandals; swimwear; scarf/gloves; beanie/warm hat for winter months; thermals useful in winter;

Other items: sunglasses; torch; prescription glasses or spare contact lenses if needed (note with dusty climate contact lenses may not be suitable); personal toiletries; small first aid kit and malaria prophylactics if required; any personal medication; insect repellent; sun lotion; lip salve; credit cards/visas/money/tickets/passport and insurance details; binoculars; refillable water bottle.

Transport and Getting around

There are several overland style tours to join and between Vic Falls, Hwange, and the main cities roads are tarred so quite straight forward to drive, however, obtaining fuel for self-driving may at times be a little challenging so pre-planning is essential. For the moment we recommend visitors (unless keen for adventurous challenges) stick to guided tours whether group or private-guided. There are flights and transfers available between major tourist destinations.

Enquire about our safaris

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Tour & Safari Association
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