Our second leg of the adventure took us over the border to Zimbabwe. This landlocked country resides between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers and is encased by South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Mozambique. It was formerly known as ‘Rhodesia’ after Cecil John Rhodes, whose company acquired land in the late 19th century. Zimbabwe has been through the wars (literally) and although it gained independence in 1980, it has gone through many difficult challenges as an independent nation under the rule of its former leader, Robert Mugabe.
Despite the political unrest, Zimbabwe is a beautiful country. The sun shines through the pale blue sky and the streets are lined with bright green trees. The county itself sits on a raised platform which presents us with stunning natural beauty and jaw-dropping scenery.
This was another driving day as we hopped over the border to Zimbabwe. Visa formalities were easy enough but it did take about 1.5 hours. For Brits, the visa costs 55USD. On our journey, we did manage to see some elephants crossing the road. One even made a little trumpet noise at the end.
Day 5 Matopos National Park
After an early breakfast, we departed for our next game drive at Matopos National Park. Driving in the 4×4 you are surrounded by the glorious, rolling Matobo Hills and wonderful rock formations. This area is very important to the indigenous people of this area as it holds cultural and spiritual significance. The park is also home to the largest concentration of white and black rhinos as well as leopards, giraffes and black eagles.
After a bit of driving, we managed to locate a crash of white rhinos who were just chilling in the shade of some trees. Each morning, the park rangers would go around the park and try to locate the rhinos. If they find them, they would notify the game drivers (and the tourists) so they can try and take a sneak peek.
More importantly, this is done to check on the safety of the animals. As mentioned in our last post, poaching rhino horn is still an attractive and dangerous market. We were fortunate enough to be super close to the rhinos, about 55ft away. There were 5 or 6 of them and they laid down in a circle, with each one facing a different direction so they can prepare themselves and alert the others if there are any predators. Although rhinos don’t have the best eyesight, they have a strong sense of smell and hearing. For such big animals, they are pretty quick too. They can run up to 30mph in 100 metres!
As we left the rhinos to snooze, we gave the park rangers a ride back to their camp. One of the rangers (in green) has held this job for 14 years and has been in 3 gunfights with poachers. All poachers in Zimbabwe are under the law of ‘shoot to kill’. It is crazy to think how one day you are just walking around looking for the rhinos and then the next minute you are exchanging fire.
After a delicious picnic, we headed up the hill where Cecil John Rhodes was buried. Although he died in South Africa, he wished to be buried in Zimbabwe. On the top of the hill, there also lies 2 other burials; Dr Starr Jameson and Sir Patrick Coghlan. There is also a monument which was built in remembrance of the men who fought at the Shangani Patrol Battle led by Allan Wilson. The views from here are simply magnificent. You have a 360-degree view of the rolling, whaleback hills and lots of skinks.
Our last stop of the day took us to the Nswatugi Caves where you can find some historical cave paintings. The age of the paintings is still unknown, but estimated guesses have said anywhere between 10,000-30,000 years old. Unfortunately, many of the indigenous people no longer exist in Zimbabwe anymore, so finding an exact date is difficult.
We stayed at the Travellers Guest House here and it was lovely. The rooms were basic, but it had a very powerful shower and the general vibe here was fantastic.
Day 6 River Cruise
On the road again towards Victoria Falls. We arrived mid-afternoon and had a bit of time to ourselves before enjoying a sunset evening cruise. As we were driving down to board the cruise, we managed to bump into a very large herd of elephants who were enjoying their evening stroll. We were super close! This was definitely one of the highlights of this trip.
The area around Victoria Falls is essentially a big wildlife conservation park so it is not unheard of to bump into an array of animals. People are warned not to walk at night as they can encounter a lion!
The weather wasn’t the greatest for the cruise. Nevertheless, we had a lovely time. The cruise itself actually started in Zambia and then travelled into Zimbabwe. (#bonuscountry 🇿🇲) The food was exceptional and there was an open bar. We also managed to see a hippo in the water.
Day 7 Victoria Falls
After a much-needed lie in, we headed to Victoria Falls, which is one of the biggest in the world. It is twice the size of Niagara Falls and has the largest sheet of falling water. It was named ‘Victoria’ after Queen Victoria by David Livingstone who was the first European to stumble upon the natural beauty. The indigenous Tonga name Mosi-oa-Tunya which translates to “The Smoke That Thunders” is very apt as the spray can reach over 100 feet in the air and looks as if smoke is rising. We were warned by our guide that we should wear waterproof clothing, he was not wrong! We were drenched. It was really nice to see, but difficult to get photos!
After a quick change went to have afternoon tea at the prestigious Victoria Falls Hotel. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon as the tea is served on Stanley’s Terrace which overlooks the gardens onto the falls itself. Simply splendid!
I hope you’ve got your bags packed as we are off to Botswana tomorrow!