Safaris in Zimbabwe
Whilst Zimbabwe’s National Parks and game reserves are lesser-known than those in South Africa or Kenya for example, the opportunities for wildlife viewing are at least of equal measure.
What Zimbabwe can offer on top is pure wilderness, with space to yourself to observe nature as it should be. A sometimes bumpy 4×4 ride or flight by small aircraft is often needed to reach the country’s more remote reserves, but this tends to only add to the adventure.
An added bonus of a safari holiday in Zimbabwe is the chance to see Victoria Falls, with its mile-wide cascade that can be heard from 40 km away.
National Parks in Zimbabwe
Whether you are looking to spot the ‘Big 5’, go in search of elusive African wild dogs or watch sea eagles effortlessly catch their next meal, there is a part of Zimbabwe for you.
To help you choose your safari, our Africa Experts have provided an overview of the country’s main National Parks. They have all travelled to Zimbabwe and would be pleased to share their recommendations should you wish to get in touch.
Hwange National Park
Zimbabwe’s largest National Park, Hwange, offers a safari experience of equal magnitude. Elephants are everywhere, including super herds with over 150 members. The four other animals that make up the ‘Big 5’ are also present; buffalo, lion, leopard and rhino. Hippos are easily spotted wallowing in the waterholes, and in the dry season you are likely to also see giraffe and herds of zebra, kudu, sable or other types antelope. This, in turn, attracts cheetah, hyena and wild dog, and a sighting of at least one of these three is typical for a two or three day safari.
Hwange National Park features in most Zimbabwe safaris, including our six day Best of Zimbabwe adventure tour and seven day Hwange & Matopos lodge based itinerary. The park is 200 km south of Victoria Falls, though a 4×4 is needed to reach some of the more remote safari camps.
If you are looking for a more unique way to visit Hwange National Park, look no further than the luxurious Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls service, which runs alongside the park’s eastern edge, before guests disembark to enjoy a game drive.
Matusadona National Park
Situated in the shores of the beautiful Lake Kariba, which straddles the Zimbabwe and Zambia border, Matusadona National Park is a great place to see the ‘Big 5’ as well as hyena, hippo, crocodile and several antelope species. The lake also attracts a wide variety of birdlife, including the African sea eagles and pied and malachite kingfishers, best by spotted by boat trip.
Most visitors choose to fly into Matusadona, as the drive from Victoria Falls requires a 4×4, and time! The park’s remoteness is all part of its appeal, however; you’ll rarely meet another safari truck when out on a game drive. Matusadona is a real treasure of Zimbabwe.
Mana Pools National Park
Also located next to the Zambezi River in northern Zimbabwe, the UNESCO listed Mana Pools National Park protects a large flood plain, which in the rainy season transforms into a shimmering network of lakes. It is a birders’ paradise with over 350 species present throughout the year including colourful bee eaters, African skimmers, sunbirds and lovebirds.
Unsurprisingly the abundance of water at Mana Pools means there are thriving hippo and Nile crocodile populations, the most concentrated in Zimbabwe. In the dry season herds of zebra and a variety of antelope descend on the river’s edge; elephants are in abundance and lion and leopard commonly seen.
Whilst by no means guaranteed, Mana Pools is also one of the best places to go on safari in Zimbabwe to see African wild dog, as unusually for the species, those living in the park return to the same dens year after year. Like Matusadona, the park is most easily reached by small aircraft.
Matobo National Park
Leopard and white rhino are a major draw on a safari to Matobo National Park, as well as the area’s dramatic landscape of bulging granite rocks, some in precarious-looking piles and others seemingly scattered across the plains. Giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and hippo can also be found, though unfortunately neither lion nor elephant.
Archaeological evidence suggests that people have lived in the Matobo Hills for at least 500,000 years, and Bushman rock art, dating back 13,000 years can be viewed at several sites.
Matobo National Park is around a six hour drive from Victoria Falls, as it is from Harare. Alternatively, you can fly to the town of Bulawayo, around 50 km north of the park.
Victoria Falls National Park
Whilst not a wildlife destination itself, an overview of Zimbabwe’s National Parks wouldn’t be complete without mentioning its most visited. Victoria Falls National Park covers just 23 square km but is of course home to one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Measuring over 100 metres high and 1,700 metres wide, Victoria Falls is recognised as the largest waterfall on earth and the start or endpoint of many safaris and tours exploring Zimbabwe and its Southern African neighbours.
Zambezi National Park
Just 5 km west of Victoria Falls, Zambezi National Park provides a fantastic opportunity for those who have flown in to visit the natural wonder to also see some of Africa’s big wildlife. Elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and baboon are common, lion frequently sighted and wild dog spotted by a fortunate few.
Game drives to Zambezi National Park leave each morning and afternoon and can be pre-booked when you arrange your Victoria Falls hotel. Alternatively, you can stay at a safari lodge overlooking the Zambezi River. Please speak with you Travel Consultant for options.
Elsewhere in Zimbabwe…
While the above National Parks feature in the majority of Zimbabwe safaris, if you would like to explore other wildlife reserves and protected areas in the country just speak with a Travel Consultant who will provide more options for tours, experiences and safari lodges.
Gonarezhou National Park in southeast Zimbabwe borders Kruger National Park in South Africa and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. Elephant, zebra and buffalo are common, but big predators rare. The Chilojo Cliffs, formed of red sandstone, provide an impressive backdrop when on safari.
Chizarira National Park in the northwest of Zimbabwe is known for its leopard population and walking safaris through stunning craggy scenery. Very remote, there are no safari lodges, so it’s camping only. Nyanga National Park in East Zimbabwe offers great birding.
Zimbabwe Safari Lodges
An alternative to an organised safari tour, is to stay a few nights in a Zimbabwe safari lodge, from where you can take game drives in the local area.
Guests at The Hide, a luxury tented camp in Hwange National Park, can enjoy morning and afternoon 4×4 excursions as well as guided bushwalks. Relax on the balcony at Changa Safari Camp, on the shores of Lake Kariba, and you may just see elephants wonder past in the evening. Boat trips and game drives are on offer during the day.
Over the Border
With its international airport and proximity to several countries, Victoria Falls is also a natural starting or finishing point for safaris to Botswana, Namibia and further afield.
Botswana’s Chobe National Park offers superb wildlife viewing and the Okavango Delta the opportunity to spot animals by air on a scenic flight or by canoe through the watery wonderland.
A safari in Namibia is just as much about seeing the country’s mesmerising landscapes as it is its unique wildlife. Black rhino can be found in Damaraland and oversized elephants in Etosha.
Our Great Trans African Lodge Safari visits the best of both countries as well as Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls.
Flights, Transfers & More
With FREEDOM you can arrange everything in one place; your Zimbabwe safari; flights; transit hotels, transfers and experiences. You will benefit from having a personal Travel Consultant to help you plan your adventure and provide advice and recommendations as needed.
So whether you have one week or three, prefer luxurious lodges or remote tented camps, would like to stay within Zimbabwe or travel across Southern Africa, we can help!
Get In Touch