“Africa gives you the knowledge that man is a small creature, among other creatures, in a large landscape”
-Doris Lessing, Nobel-laureate in literature (and long-time Zimbabwe resident)
The word Zambezi means “great” in the local Tonga dialect.
The story is famous: exploring the Zambezi river by canoe in 1855, David Livingstone stumbled into the 350-foot (that’s about 35 stories, in our world) tall, mile-wide drop of the Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders”. He renamed – in his mind, anyway – the world’s largest waterfall in honor of his Queen, Victoria.
Touched by the magnitude of the Falls, he wrote, “the tops of the columns [of vapor] at this distance appeared to mingle with the clouds.” Ever since his accidental “discovery”, the “Smoke that Thunders” is widely considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The Falls can be seen from both Zambia and Zimbabwe. The view – including that of the famous Devil’s Cataract – is considered superior from Zimbabwe. Yet, like neighboring Zambia, Zimbabwe just begins at the Falls.
For the 21st century David Livingstones among us, Zimbabwe offers a great sense of being an explorer yourself. The excellent wildlife and the diversity of landscapes and ecosystems – not to mention five unique UNESCO World Heritage Sites – give Zimbabwe its own singular appeal in a part of the world already overflowing with special places.
The best-known game area is Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe. More rugged and remote is Gonarezhou National Park. Or, seeing the greatest concentration of African Black Eagles in the world appeals to you, then you may want to check out Matobo National Park.
One of the more interesting wildlife conservation projects in all of Africa at the moment is the “dropped fence” project between Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, Kruger National Park in South Africa, and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. This three-country, trans-frontier park creates an enormous tract of protected wilderness the size of the Netherlands.
Mana Pools offers excellent canoeing and fishing, especially for African Tigerfish. And the Zambezi offers serious rafters – very serious, please – the most Grade 6 succession rapids concentrated in one place in the world.
Culturally, Zimbabwe has given birth to great civilizations and dynasties: for instance, the Torwa, who once ruled large chunks of Africa. There are hundreds of archaeological ruins all over Zimbabwe, the most famous of them at Khami and Great Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe also contains a high concentration of Rock Art paintings, some dating back 13,000 years. While overt forms (mostly animals) may be obvious to the casual viewer, each painting contains hidden symbolic meanings that will be manifest under the tutelage of an expert.
Recent decades have been difficult for Zimbabweans – certainly less illustrious than the centuries when the Torwas’ power was felt all over Southern Africa. But Africans embrace the future and tourism is on the rise with each passing year
For those who know and love Africa, Zimbabwe offers a true African adventure that is unvarnished, real, and rich. Now is perhaps the best time to go – before it becomes the next Big Thing.