Over the course of the last few decades, Zimbabwe has experienced a number of ill-fated political challenges; in terms of tourism the country has all but lost a decade, with understandably cynical visitors looking to neighbouring Southern African countries to book their African safari and wildlife holidays.
Very happily, this somewhat sad situation seems to be all but in the past, there is a renewed confidence in the country, more than just a recovery, there is a revival, a reemergence, a reawakening, in the tourism industry.
Evidence of this revitalisation comes in many forms, not least of all and very noticeably in the new international airport terminal officially opened at Victoria Falls in December 2015.
Victoria Falls, ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’, ‘the Smoke that Thunders’, undeniably lies at the top of Zimbabwe’s myriad of natural attractions, and this new terminal does well to convey international guests directly into the iconic ‘Falls’ sans unnecessary stopovers.
Another happy rumour (still to be confirmed), is that either Etihad, Kenya Airways or hopefully Emirates will be the main carrier servicing the terminal. Think efficient, effective, reliable, well maintained … all get my double thumbs up!
Similar positive reinforcement is evident in the buoyancy of at least two of the big players in the Southern Africa tourism industry.
Amongst other operators, both Wilderness Safaris, and andBeyond have shown confidence in the country, in having already opened, and in planning to open new camps, as well as in implementing upgrades to existing properties.
Zimbabwe is blessed with a wealth of diverse landscapes; rugged tawny plains, lush emerald grasses, verdant broad-tree canopies, mighty and meandering rivers, flood -plains and salt-pans, arid, and woodland areas, all are here.
Together with this wealth of wilderness areas, arguably some of the most outstanding game-viewing in Zimbabwe, if not in Southern Africa, is to be found in the much unspoilt Hwange National Park, as well as in the spectacular Mana Pools National Park respectively.
Wilderness Safaris has shown enthusiasm in both these national parks.
In May 2015, Wilderness Safaris opened the new and luxurious Linkwasha tented safari camp in Hwange, this new camp in addition to it’s existing Hwange properties, Davison’s Camp and Little Makalolo.
Hot on the heels of the reopening of Linkwasha Camp, Wilderness has enhanced its sustainable ecotourism offering in Mana Pools National Park with the rebuild of its much-loved Ruckomechi Camp, just opened and looking fab!
An additional smaller camp offering a more personalised experience of the Mana Pools area, the intimate Little Ruckomechi, (opened July 2016), is also being created in the same concession.
Both camps have a prime location within the only private-use concession in Mana Pools National Park, offering exclusive access to a spectacular stretch of the mighty Zambezi River.
The expansive Hwange National Park lies just 250kms South-East of Victoria Falls, and the slightly more remote Mana Pools National Park lies some 550kms North-East of Victoria Falls, making both parks easily accessible by transfer.
Closer to the actual Falls, andBeyond is also showing fervor and commitment to the renaissance of Zimbabwe, in the US$ 10 million rebuild and refurb of two lodges in the Matetsi Private Game Reserve.
A mere 40kms from Victoria Falls, andBeyond’s Matetsi River Lodge and Matetsi River House are situated on a large concession with an impressive 27kms of private Zambezi River frontage.
Matetsi River Lodge showcases two intimate camps of just nine river-facing suites each, and Matetsi River House, an exclusive sole-use villa boasts 4 luxurious bedrooms.
The 500 km² private concession is home to large herds of elephant and buffalo, as well as to plains game and predators; all this wildlife ridiculously accessible and conveniently close to Victoria Falls.
Previously battered by controversy, the country looks to have settled into a phase of stability and reconstruction.
Zimbabwe is a big, beautiful country, bursting at the seams with amazing wildlife and breathtaking landscapes; largely untouched by past turmoil, the wilderness areas are an absolute oasis and delight of untapped game-viewing potential.
Despite previous hardships, the local people, entrenched in cultural history and heritage, are abundantly friendly, hospitable, and warm.
Veteran wildlife guides, veritably weaned on the bush, astound visitors with their inherent knowledge and expertise.
Existing and new lodges are being refurbished and built, luxurious and lavish, all authentically African … each offering potential guests excellent value for money … and all of this within a 500km radius of, and effortlessly combinable with Victoria Falls itself.
In the course of the last three decades, there has never been a better or a more exciting time to visit Zimbabwe, cease the opportunity, go now!