Zimbabwe still rates as one of the greatest Southern African safari destinations. Despite its recent troubles, it offers a superior safari experience and is home to some of the very best guides in the business. With a people whose history and culture dates back thousands of years, Zimbabwe sits between two great rivers; the tranquil Limpopo to the south and the mighty Zambezi to the north. Here visitors flock to see one of the wonders of the natural world - the spectacular Victoria Falls.
However, Zimbabwe is a country with much more to offer than its most famous water feature. Visitors choosing a safari have a huge range of options in a host of natural habitats untouched by the political upheavals of past decades. From the mountains and forests of the Eastern Highlands, the granite hilltops in Matopos to the mopane woodlands of Hwange and the waters of Lake Kariba, there is plenty here to enjoy.
Zimbabwe's best known nature reserve, as well as its largest (14,600km²) and oldest (established in 1928), is Hwange National Park. With its huge variation in vegetation, including Kalahari sands and mopane woodland hills and valleys, Hwange is home to more than 400 bird species and 100 species of mammal. These include lion, rhino and leopard, and in particular, large herds of elephants, rivalling that of neighbouring Botswana. Easily accessible to visitors, most of the camps are found along the northern fringe of the park and offer of variety of price ranges and styles.
Mana Pools National Park, below Kariba dam wall, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and wildlife mecca. Mana Pools has been formed over millennia by the rushing of the Zambezi River through the valley, leaving in its wake are myriad of islands, sandbanks and channels, as well as many small ox-bow lakes, all lush with vegetation and a magnet for wildlife. It's still one of the best places in Southern Africa to do a canoe or walking safari.
For those wanting a less well-trodden path, Gonarezhou National Park in the southeast is a remote wilderness region, and the country's second largest national park. It offers abundant trees and vegetation, as well as antelopes, elephants and large herds of the beautiful but shy nyala. Chizarira National Park, to the south of Kariba dam, is another wild and isolated place, perfect for the more adventurous. There are some great walking safaris that follow the escarpement with majestic views down the valley. Wildlife populations are not at the same levels as Hwange or Mana Pools but you will be rewarded none the less.