Discovering Zimbabwe

By Guy Arnold

My destination Zimbabwe is, for some, a backpacker’s dream. It’s got all you could want: vast expanses of countryside, dramatic waterfalls and beautiful wildlife. Its climate may be a little overbearing for some so, if you’re planning a visit, pack sun cream by the bucket-load. Light clothes would also be a logical suggestion, not only to stop you overheating but because they’re easier to carry around and store.

Anyway, in order to make a trip somewhere like this worthwhile you need to plan, plan, and plan some more. Things like essentials can wait, for now. Before you decide on those, you need to have an idea of where to stay, and what to do on your adventure. This article aims to kill those two pesky birds with one hefty stone by providing suggestions on wallet-friendly accommodation while absorbing the breathtaking scenery Zimbabwe has to offer.

Situated on Zimbabwe’s north westerly border is the largest manmade reservoir in the world: Lake Kariba. The surrounding mountainous landscape and mini islands spotting the lake itself make this place as picturesque as it sounds. Throw in the gorgeous weather conditions to top it off, and you can enjoy all the walking tours and crocodile tracking excitement that’s on offer. Although the nearby town of a Kariba hosts plenty of classy hotels, casinos and generally has a buzzing atmosphere, why not visit the lake and stake yourself out for the night, as well? Because you can. The Kariba Bush club provides accommodation for all visitors, be it luxury guest and boathouses, or budget provide rooms. These rooms cost about £20 per person and are self-catering with B&B provided. They sit away from the water’s edge, but are close enough to the on-site swimming pool, restaurant and volleyball courts. You’ll be safe from all sorts of biting insects throughout the night thanks to the solid thatched roofs and protective nets. The buildings themselves are thick, white stone so they’ll stay cool in the day and warm in the colder nights.

For the campers among us, you’re in luck too. The Zambezi River provides ample campsites about a hundred kilometres from civilisation. Be prepared if this sounds like your idea of fun, and don’t bring any fresh fruit because elephants might take a seat on the roof of your car and munch their way through the supplies. That said, of the five lodges in Mana Pools National park, there’s the Nyamepi Camp ground near to the Mana Pools reception office (from which you can buy kindling for a fire and a sing-song!) which has thirty sites at which you can pitch your tent. You’ll need to bring all necessary equipment but, to save you digging holes in the ground, there are ablution blocks providing toilets that flush, as well as hot and cold running water.

Finally, something else to discover in Zimbabwe is the ancient ruined city of Great Zimbabwe. It’s a place of culture and historical education dating back to the Iron Age, before the city was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Fortunately, if you plan to visit this place, there’s nearby accommodation which is comfortable and affordable: Lake View Resort, Masvingo. A self-catering chalet or lodge will only set you back about £20 and, set in lush rolling greenery with granite rockeries and a view over the beautiful Lake Mtirikwe, you can’t exactly argue with that.

Zimbabwe is truly a wonderful country to visit. It’s full of culture, beauty, dazzling African wildlife and, fortunately, it won’t cost a backpacker or traveller an arm and a leg to visit either.

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