In the news nowadays for all the wrong reasons, Zimbabwe has been, and will be again, among the principal tourist destinations in Southern Africa. A modest sized, landlocked country situated between the tropic of Capricorn and the Equator, gifted with a gorgeous climate, friendly peoples and a wide spectrum of landscapes and features, it can hardly be otherwise.
Zimbabwe was born in 1980 after the obligatory regional rite of political fire, and until 2000 enjoyed not only steady political and social progress, but also a reputation as the darling of the West. Prior to independence the colonial government spared neither time nor money in developing the country’s enviable system of national parks and wildlife conservancies. Many of these are in private hands, and this network was a among the numerous gifts the black majority inherited upon assuming power.
Most have since suffered terrible depletion, and although the wildlife heritage of the country is not as crippled as was the case in Angola and Mozambique after emergence of those countries from war, much that is irreplaceable has been lost, and it remains to be seen what can be salvaged of this when the current crisis has passed.
Zimbabwe, it is hoped, will be one of the last of the African countries to suffer under the current system of dictatorship that is in the modern age such an anachronism. While most of the old trouble spots in the sub-Saharan region are moving towards a brighter, democratic future, Zimbabwe is still deeply mired in crisis, and although recent moves to establsih political parity are underway, the jury is still out as to how viable this process will be.
Travel To & Within Zimbabwe
Why Travel to Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe began life with one of the best transport and communication infrastructures in Africa, a solid industrial base, and with towns and cities that were ordered, safe and well maintained. While this is manifestly no longer the case, Zimbabwe still has an excellent network of roads, a functional national parks and wildlife preservation infrastructure, and a network of lodges, hotels and hostelries that, even in the midst of the crisis, offer world class standards of accommodation and service.
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Alongside this, all the main tourist destinations are still basically functional. These are represented by a handful of highly rated wildlife parks and International Heritage Sites, notably Victoria Falls, Mana Pools, Hwange and Matusadona, as well as others such as the Vumba Mountains, Nyanga and Chimanimani in the Eastern Highlands of the country. A number of museum sites and monuments, such as the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, showcase the fractured history of the local society, while the urban arts, music and restaurant scenes are proving surprisingly resilient in the face of current difficulties.
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First and foremost do not change foreign currency at any bank or bureau de change. The listed exchange rate is massively underated, meaning that the only rational exchange rate exists on the black market, and the only safe way to access this is via the good offices of your tour operator or hotel or lodge manager. Check in advance, and shop around.
While on a street and ground level there is little direct threat posed to foreigners by the current crisis in Zimbabwe, indirect threats exists thanks to the volatility of the situation, and the potential for sudden and spontaneous political unrest.
Currently the country is in an absolute ferment thanks to the upcoming elections of 27 June, and non-essential travel, and tourist activity generally, is not recommended. For the foreseeable future it is therefore unwise to visit the country, and if you are currently in the country, leave, or maintain a very low profile. There have been no recorded incidences so far of violence directed at foreigners, but the potential exists for this to happen, be it directly or indirectly.
Thanks to plunging economic conditions, and widespread unemployment and poverty, street crime is widespread, and although often not overtly violent, does occasionally have the potential to be so. Avoid any shanty towns, informal or squatter settlement, the downtown areas of any cities, and movement on foot anywhere after dark.
Zimbabwe is a malarial zone, and suffers extremely high rates of HIV/AIDS. Any kind of risky or unprotected sexual activity is inadvisable.