Zimbabwe continues to dip in and out of international news, often creating an unclear but daunting vibe for prospective visitors. In 2008 the economy finally collapsed and there was a cholera breakout that killed about 4000 people. But in February 2009 many Zimbabweans dared to dream (again) when Robert Mugabe’s 30-year-old regime formed a unity government with the opposition. Today the cholera has abated, the economy has dollarised and things are much easier.
The Zimbabwean government recently announced a two year strategy that enhances sustainable development and growth of the tourism and hospitality industry. The plan is guided by the Ministry’s vision which is to position Zimbabwe as the destination of choice and leader in the development of sustainable tourism in Africa by 2018. Zimbabwe’s tourism industry has almost collapsed in terms of backpackers and DIY travellers, but top-end and regional travellers have kept coming, so accommodation remains best in the region.
Victoria Falls has five-star food, accommodation, service and access to well-organised activities. Elsewhere, while some lodges and hotels have closed, just as many are being built and renovated. Those that remain often offer stunning locations, good amenities and friendly service. Surviving the collapse of the tourism sector clearly means they have something worthwhile to offer.
Typical Zimbabwean accommodation is in ‘lodges’, meaning individual bungalows built in close harmony with nature: thatched roofs, natural flooring, teak furniture, large window and stunning views. There are also tented camps, which range from fairly basic to luxurious. (Note that ‘tented camp’ means you have to pitch your own tent – at the very least there are pre-erected walk-in tents with comfortable camp beds and a camp cook to provide three full meals per day, usually at a table set on a river bank.) Breakfast is usually included in the price in lodges and hotels, and in all package deals for camps.
Whether you arrange everything through a tour operator or figure it out yourself, a country of charm, beauty and intrigue awaits. Oh, and Zimbabwe’s got one of the world’s best climates.
The video clip from a previous television series showcases just how pristine and diverse the wild animals and landscapes of Zimbabwe are.