Zimbabwe and Zambia | Magnificent South African landscapes

Zimbabwe makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Despite its political strife and dependence on food aid, Zimbabwe offers the traveler a world of magnificent landscapes, and a race of people full of smiles and welcoming to the few tourists that take the time to visit.

The Victoria Falls, whilst not the highest or longest waterfall, is the largest waterfall in the world – with a 1,708 metre wide curtain of water falling 108 metres
The Victoria Falls, whilst not the highest or longest waterfall, is the largest waterfall in the world – with a 1,708 metre wide curtain of water falling 108 metres

Zimbabwe and Zambia lie on a high plateau crossed by the mighty Limpopo and Zambezi rivers, the terrain studded with lakes, forests, savannah, marshland and mountains.

Here, amidst some of the most magnificent landscapes in Southern Africa, roams an abundance of animals - lion, leopard, hippopotamus, elephant, waterbuck, antelope, zebra, crocodile, warthog, monkeys, hyena, porcupines, buffalo, baboon, as well as a plethora of birdlife.

They may be young nations but Zimbabwe and Zambia have a long history of civilisation, as the massive 600-year old stone structures of Great Zimbabwe, Khami and Dhlo-Dhlo bear startling witness. From here the Mwene Mutapa empire traded agricultural produce, textiles, gold, copper and iron with Arab and Swahili merchants along the coast.

For many visitors the region's leading attraction is, of course, Victoria Falls - where you can view wildlife from cruise boats, or try some of the world's most challenging white water rafting - but there is much, much more: in the mountain country of the Eastern Highlands are wooded valleys, peaceful lakes and some of the loveliest vistas in Africa; the national parks are amongst the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world; in the shops may be found exquisitely worked handicrafts; and in Harare you can find some of the liveliest, friendliest nightlife on the continent.

Because of the inland position and height, humidity is comfortably low. Temperatures are agreeably warm in summer and winters are sunny and mild. The rainy season extends from November to March.

Zimbabwe's capital was founded in 1890 by Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company, since when Harare, formerly known as Salisbury, has developed into an exceptionally attractive city whose wide boulevards are lined with jacaranda and bougainvillea flourishing in the sub-tropical highland climate.

Fine colonial buildings, modern high-rises, spacious parks and leafy suburbs - whose names such as Kensington, Belgravia and Sunningdale are heavy with the nostalgia of the early settlers for their homeland, combine to make Harare one of Africa's most appealing cities. Relaxed, welcoming and culturally active - particularly in its strong musical tradition which often combines African and western influences - cosmopolitan Harare offers an array of restaurants, theatres, cinemas and nightclubs. The weather encourages outdoor activities and there is a wide range of local sporting events, from horse-racing and trotting to soccer and rugby.

Spend some time in the wilderness at Mana Pools National Park - the only national park (with lions) that allows unguided walking safaris. The park stretches across 2000km² of prime Zambezi riverfront vegetation, much of which is inaccessible except on foot and as a result is completely unspoilt. The landscape includes islands and sandbanks fringed by dense forests of baobabs and indigenous trees, as well as the rugged Zambezi escarpment. Aside from the excellent walking safaris in Mana, the river adds another dimension to any safari as it is ideal for canoe safaris.

Victoria Falls in the province of Matabeleland in Zimbabwe lies on the southern bank of the Zambezi River, at the western end of the Victoria Falls.

The historic colonial city of Livingston, or Maramba, is the capital of the Southern Province of Zambia, and is an ideal base from which to explore the Victoria Falls, which lie 10km north of the Zambezi River.

The city is named after Sir David Livingston. Here you will find craft markets, museums, and a golf course. The Victoria Falls, whilst not the highest or longest waterfall, is the largest waterfall in the world - with a 1,708 metre wide curtain of water falling 108 metres. Amongst local people, it is known as "Mosi-oa-Tunya", meaning the "smoke that thunders" and it is one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. The thunder of the falling water, the towering column of spray, the deep abyss and the tranquil lagoons upstream, where hippo and crocodile rest, make it a magical place. Remarkably preserved, the falls inspire visitors as much today as they did Sir David Livingston in the 1860's. The falls and the surrounding area have been declared a National Park and a World Heritage Site, thus preserving the area from excessive commercialisation.

Busy, booming, fast-growing Lusaka, with its modern high-rise buildings, exclusive suburbs, busy shanty towns, new shopping malls and hectic markets, is a sprawling metropolis with a warm African charm.

Recent development in Zambia's capital has attracted an influx of people of many nationalities, adding a cosmopolitan flavour to an already bustling centre of economic, political and cultural activities.

How to get there?

Emirates offers daily flights from Malta to Zimbabwe and Zambia with a stop over in Dubai. Flights to Zimbabwe departing from Malta on 23 January and returning on 7 February were priced at €885.21, including tax, at the time of going to print. Total flying time is approximately 17 hours.

Flights to Zambia on the same dates were priced at €786.08. Total flying time is approximately 15 hours.

 

 

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I've recently returned from Vic Falls after a trip three years ago. I'm pleased to say it is on the road to recovery and is filled with the same adventurous spirit now as 25 years ago. But a small warning. We went at low water, the Zambezi at it's lowest, and the only real view is from the Zim side. It's easy to get a visa though. The white water rafting was a rush, and I would like to thank our guide from Shearwater for making it a trip to remember. Can't wait to return.