Simbabwe is a beautiful area encircled by controversy and political instability… yet those that have been there say is nothing like that at all! So what is the truth? The only way to find out the objective truth about Simbabwe is to ask some tough questions to those that have recently returned from Zimbabwe. This is part one… Watch the blog over the next few weeks and months to read more questions and answers. Answers provided by Garth Jenman, managing director of Jenman Safaris… Garth was in Simbabwe on a fact finding trip late last year.
Q.In the UK there are a few tour operators that paint a desperate and somewhat colourless picture of Simbabwe – is this not true in retrospect of safari travel?
Garth:No, I would I have to say that this is not true in retrospect of safari travel to Simbabwe now. Yes, a year ago it was accurate especially when the Zimbabwean Dollar lost all value, the manufacturers crashed; there was no food and no fuel… Simbabwe at this time was a very sad place and most tour operators didn’t travel or recommend travel to Simbabwe. But, since 2009 with the new coalition between Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe bringing Morgan into an equal power sharing role in Simbabwe, added to that the scrapping of the Zimbabwean Dollar and the introduction of the ZAR Rand and the USD Dollar, things in Simbabwe have improved drastically! This has brought turnaround to Simbabwe. Simbabwe is no longer a desperate area; it’s a vibrant and growing region with friendly people and great growth potential. We are re-entering Simbabwe because of all these positive developments and to help support these.
As most of you already know, I have recently returned from Simbabwe and I can truly say that Simbabwe is no longer the picture of the past… the area is complete with lush vegetation, magnificent wildlife and most of the safari areas and accommodation is still in great condition. I even came across wireless internet at one of the lodges – not that one would go to Simbabwe for this. The police were friendly, the shops are stocked with food and fuel was readily available. I also found that the Zimbabwean people a highlight on this trip – they have to be the nicest and kindest people you will ever meet
Q.How does travel benefit the local economy?
Garth:Travel to Simbabwe does benefit the local economy in many ways, all fees go straight to the national parks for the sustainability of the park, we only make use of camps and lodgings that are locally run and owned, we encourage all safari travellers to support the local trade by purchasing souvenirs and we buy all the safari meal ingredients from locally run markets… We make sure that a large portion of our money goes directly to the local people – straight to them without any outsider influence. Enriching the local community in Simbabwe is very important to us.
Q.Tourism rates – do tourists pay more then locals?
Garth: Yes, tourists do pay more then locals for many tourism related activities, places and entrances. This is more obvious with the introduction of the ZAR Rand and the USD Dollar as the new currencies. In general a tourist will pay 50% more then a local however, we need to remember that the local people are extremely poor! This 50% reduction means a lot to them, more to them then the whole price means to us… With this in mind you can’t help but be sympathetic to the Zimbabwean people.