Few people will deny that the Victoria Falls is one of Africa’s greatest tourist attractions. Forming a natural border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, it is known among locals as “The smoke that thunders,” a name that perfectly describes the veil of mist and the roaring sound as the water flows over the rocks and into river many meters below. There are, however, other perhaps less known African beauties vying with the Victoria Falls for the attention and admiration of tourists and travellers. Read about them below – their charm will surely win you over.
Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve. It is situated south of, but not too far from the beautiful Vic Falls, and it is within this environment that numerous species of fascinating birds and animals flourish. Some of the largest herds of elephant and buffalo in Africa can be seen in Hwange, not to mention many predators too. Visitors have the choice of staying at three camps, namely Robins, Sinamatella or Main Camp.
At Robins, there is accommodation that will satisfy most tastes, in the form of a lodge, chalets and camping sites. There is a restaurant where visitors can enjoy a lovely snack or meal, a shop for buying nibbles and a petrol station for refuelling your tank. There are also several exclusive camps with their own water holes in the Robins area, where wildlife enthusiasts can view game as they come to quench their thirst after a long and hot day foraging for food in the bush. Families may also wish to have picnics at the many designated picnic spots in the area. For the curious and fearless, there are trails and walks available too.
Sinamatella, formerly a cattle ranch but now classified as an Intensive Protection Zone (an area equipped with sophisticated detection and tracking equipment, as well as an infrastructure to combat poaching), is located on a rocky outcrop overlooking a riverbed and grassy plain. Various types of accommodation are on offer and several dams and hides make game viewing both rewarding and exciting.
Main Camp is situated at the main entrance to the park. The area is rich in game that come to drink at the waterholes that surround the camp. Accommodation choices include self-catering lodges, cottages and chalets, and a camping and caravan site. There is also a bar, restaurant, grocery store, curio shop and petrol station.
Mana Pools National Park is distinctive as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site extending from Kariba Dam in the west to the Mozambique border in the east. This sanctuary is teeming with wildlife and many other species of appealing creepy crawlies. Geographically, Mana Pools is located in the Zambezi valley and its vegetation includes floodplains, woodlands and riverine forest. One of the main features of Mana Pools, are its four large pools that are actually ox-bow lakes that were originally part of the once mighty Zambezi River. These pools are the natural habitats of water-loving mammals, such as hippos, reptiles, such as crocodiles, as well as countless colourful aquatic birds. Grazers such as elephants, eland, buffalos, impala, waterbuck, baboons, monkeys, zebras and warthogs visit the pools to drink water and to cool off, which means that predators, such as lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs, are often seen here too. Visitors to Mana Pools may wish to try one of the thrilling activities on offer, like going on day or night drive, or enjoying a guided walk in nature. Some may prefer the river safaris where adventurers paddle a two-man canoe down the Zambezi. Accommodation includes lodges, a communal campsite with ablution facilities, and exclusive campsites where visitors can become one with nature.
Matobo National Park
Like Mana Pools, Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the place to be if you’re a geologist or anthropologist, since it boasts beautiful granite boulders, caves and ancient rock paintings. It is home to many animal species, including black and white rhinos, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, kudu, eland, sable, klipspringer, leopard, hyena, cheetah, hippo, warthog, rock dassies, waterbuck, wildcat, springhare, common duiker, crocodiles, baboons and monkeys. In addition, bird-watching enthusiasts can look forward to appreciating its rich and diverse birdlife, as the park is well known for its black eagles that soar over the cliffs in search of prey.
Accommodation ranges from exclusive lodges to chalets and campsites. Visitors who seek quiet and relaxing activities may go fishing, admire rock paintings or take a pony trail, while the fitness fanatics can opt for walking trails or hikes.
Nyanga National Park
Located in Zimbabwe’s eastern Highlands, Nyanga National Park is a scenic region of green hills and river valleys with mesmerising mountain views, exhilarating waterfalls, diverse fauna and flora, and refreshing, cool weather. Here, visitors to the Mutarazi Falls will learn that this is the highest waterfall in Zimbabwe and the second highest waterfall in Africa.
Nyanga National Park is a perfect place to relax, and every visitor to this park is sure to return home with only the happiest of holiday memories. Wildlife lovers will be able to view waterbuck, wildebeest, kudu, zebra, impala, sable antelope and eland, among others, that have made the mountainous areas of the park their home, while the clear fresh-water rivers teem with fish, the most noteworthy of which is the Nyanga trout, a fish that many visitors consider a delicacy.
Three rest camps, namely Rhodes, Udu and Mare, offer visitors accommodation in spacious thatched one or two bedroomed self-catering lodges with fully equipped kitchens. There are also exciting camping and caravan sites, well-sheltered by acacia trees where visitors can cook delicious meals on open wood fires.
If you cannot wait to visit these beautiful national parks in Zimbabwe, consider travelling there with Rovos Rail’s luxurious trains. Happy Zimbabwe exploring!