Few African destinations can compete with Victoria Falls for sheer visual drama. In full, furious flood, the ‘Smoke that Thunders' as it is traditionally known, is one of the continent's most mesmerising sights, leaving visitors soaked and exhilarated at the same time. And the best on-foot views - so lovely that explorer David Livingstone declared they must have been gazed on by angels - are from Zimbabwe’s side of the Zambezi River.
But while these views have won it international fame, Zimbabwe is more than just Victoria Falls: it has long been one of Southern Africa’s most rewarding safari destinations.
Highly recommended for safari aficionados on a return trip to Africa, a Zimbabwe safari delivers one of the most authentic ‘canvas and candlelight’ experiences available, offering safari camps that are comfortable without being ostentatious, game viewing that ranks with the best in Africa, and guides who have the reputation as among the best in the business.
Zimbabwe’s flagship reserve is Hwange National Park, a short drive from Victoria Falls and home to a full cast of predators as well as herds of elephant and buffalo that rival those of neighbouring Botswana. The wildlife of the Zambezi River – hippos, crocodiles and shy antelope – is the focus of Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, where activities include game drives and river cruises as well as canoe adventures and walking safaris.
Even more unique safaris are found in Zimbabwe’s less well-known destinations. Fly in to Matusadona National Park, set on the shores of Lake Kariba, for one of the highest densities of lions in Africa. It is also a haven for rhinos and elephants, animals you may also see at Matobo National Park, a lovely reserve of tumbled rocks and tangled leopard-filled thickets. But for Zimbabwe’s wildest experiences, Gonarezhou National Park and the adjoining Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve are hard to beat. Their remote setting makes this fly-in destination one for the adventurous but the rewards include big-tusker elephants, all the big cats and nearly 400 bird species.