Zimbabwe is cradled between two great African rivers – the myth-shrouded perennial Zambezi and the “great grey green greasy” seasonal Limpopo. Between these two majestic watercourses lies a wealth of scenic landscapes, remnants of ancient civilisations, and incredible wildlife.
Spectacular granite landscapes rise up out of miombo woodland and mopane savannah in the south-west, while on the central plateau are extensive moist grasslands and broad-leaved woodland; to the south-east lie the dry woodlands and bushveld of the lowveld, while in the north-west corner the Zambezi pours over the world-famous Victoria Falls.
Hwange National Park, covering almost 15,000 sq km, is the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe. It is predominantly Kalahari sandveld supporting teak and mopane woodlands, and dry acacia scrub, interspersed with saltpans and grasslands. Located on the border with Botswana, Hwange has served as a haven for one of the densest concentrations of game in Africa including great herds of Cape buffalo and nearly 30,000 elephant, along with frequent viewings of lion and leopard. With over 100 species, Hwange offers one of the greatest mammal diversity of any national park in the world, including yellow mongoose, honey badger, porcupine, aardwolf, spotted hyaena, pangolin and caracal.
Mana Pools National Park lies at the heart of the Zambezi Valley and is a remote, beautiful place offering spectacular views of the broad flowing river, its floodplains, the tree canopy and the mountains of the Rift Valley escarpment over the border in Zambia. This stretch of the Zambezi River is famous for its four main pools (after which the Park is named – ‘mana’ means ‘four’ in Shona) Main, Chine, Long and Chisambuk. These are remnants of channels of the river which stopped flowing years ago. These and smaller seasonal pools dotted further inland hold water all year round, drawing all manner of wildlife and waterfowl during the dry season. Wildlife viewing is excellent, with large concentrations of buffalo and elephant to be found along the river’s edges, while predators such as lion, wild dog, leopard and cheetah are often sighted. Canoe safaris around Mana Pools offer an utterly life-changing experience.
Zimbabwe has a semi-arid climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, dry winters. The rainy season runs from October to April, and most of the rain falls between December and February. The national average rainfall is 700 mm per year.
Temperatures are generally warm to hot year-round. The hottest months are October to March, when average daily temperatures range from 29 to 35 degrees Celsius. The coolest months are June to August, when average daily temperatures range from 15 to 20 degrees Celsius but minimums can down to 2-3 degrees.
Rainfall is highly variable in Zimbabwe and droughts are a regular occurrence. In recent years, the country has experienced a number of severe droughts.
The best time to travel on safari is between May and early November.