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Zimbabwe sits in the middle of the African sub-continent, on a high plateau between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. It is landlocked and bordered by South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana. This tourist paradise is characterised by a unique contrast of moods, defined by a combination of fantastic topography and climatic conditions. It boasts the spectacle of the Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the mysticism of Great Zimbabwe and the Matobo Hills, the tranquility of the eastern highlands and finally the adrenalin pumping excitement of the Zambezi River and the various national parks.
Since Zimbabwe is situated south of the equator, there is a reversal of seasons for those familiar with the northern hemisphere. Christmas is mid-summer and winter lasts from May to August. It is considerably warmer in the areas of Kariba, Victoria Falls, Hwange, Gona-re-Zhou and the Zambezi Valley.
In winter, May to August, the days are generally dry and sunny with temperatures averaging 15 to 20 degrees C. It can be quite cold at night and in the early mornings.
In the summer, temperatures are higher, ranging from 25 to 30 degrees C, with October being the hottest month.
Zimbabwe's tourist product is founded on its abundant wildlife and natural resources. With 12.5 per cent of the land area designated as national park and wildlife estates, and a commitment to effective and sustainable tourism development, the country enjoys the prestige of being amongst the leaders in the world.
The population is around 11 million. The two main ethnic groups are the Shona (about 75 per cent of the population) in the centre and east of the country, and the Ndebele (about 18 per cent) in the west. Whites comprise about two per cent.
A brief history
As with all the countries in the southern tip of Africa, Zimbabwe's first inhabitants were the Khoisan, who painted figures on the walls of caves and rocks that marked their living sites. They were hunter-gatherers who constantly moved to other areas of greater game and vegetation concentration, living in encampments that were very often situated in caves.
From about the 14th century, the country that is Zimbabwe today experienced profound change. First there were the Bantu migrations from the north in to central and southern Africa. During the time of their settlement there were two major kingdoms, the Mutapas and the Rozvi Mambo, who established trade links with the Arabs travelling down the Indian Ocean coast.
As with many other African communities, traditional Zimbabwean cultures have a firm monotheistic faith rooted in the belief in one supreme creator. Today this has been welded with the Christian message into a syncretic faith, part Christian, part traditional, that is followed by at least 50 per cent of the people. Today, many new religions originating in Africa are gaining ground, the most important of which is the Zionist or Apostolic Church.
Languages spoken by nationals
English is the official language of Zimbabwe. African languages spoken include Ndebele and various Shona dialects.
Zimbabwe is consistently two hours ahead of Britain.
Zimbabwe's unit of currency is the Zimbabwean dollar (Z$) worth 100 cents. Please note that rates are subject to variations.
Travellers may bring up to Z$500.00 and any amount of foreign currency in bank notes, but the total amount must be declared to Customs at entry, otherwise only the equivalent of US$200.00 will be allowed to be re-exported on leaving the country.
Official holidays (all offices and shops closed)
January 1 - New Years Day; April 18 - Independence Day; May 1 - Workers Day; May 25 - Africa Day; August 11 - Heroes Day; August 12 - Defence Forces Day; December 25 - Christmas Day; December 26 - Boxing Day.
Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday dates vary yearly.
What one should not fail to see
There are many wonderful sights to be experienced in Zimbabwe. The country's largest National Park is Hwange, and it is renowned for its huge elephant and buffalo herds as well as for its 350 species of exotic birds.
The infamous Doctor David Livingstone said in 1865 that the Victoria Falls were, 'so lovely that they must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight'. The spray of the Victoria Falls can amazingly reach heights of up to 500 metres; the African name for this is 'Mosi-o-Tunya', meaning 'smoke that thunders'.
For the supposedly more adventurous among us, white water rafting at Victoria Falls will certainly prove to be a test of courage. The Matabo Hills provide a fantastic viewpoint over the area, as well as once being the spiritual home for Bushmen, who have left behind a legacy of magnificent rock art.
There are houseboats on Lake Kariba, and the trail of the legendary Dr Livingstone can be followed on a canoe trip through the Zambezi Valley.
The Great Zimbabwe ruins can be seen in Masvingo, and the capital Harare is a bustling vibrant city with very modern hotels and excellent restaurants.
Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touring
The best months for safari are in Zimbabwe's summer months, September to January. The bush is dry during this period, making game-viewing extremely good, as the plains game is concentrated around the permanent weather.
How to dress
In the winter months, light to medium clothing is generally sufficient, with a warm coat or woollens to wear outdoors on overcast or windy days.
In the summer, the heat demands light clothing to be worn. It is advisable to wear a hat outdoors. During the rainy season (November to March), a cardigan may be needed in the evenings.
Main holiday resorts
Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Harare, Great Zimbabwe, Save Valley, Lake Kariba, Mutare, Mana Pools, Chimaniman.
All travellers arriving in Zimbabwe from infected areas, with the exception of children under one year of age, are requested to possess valid vaccination certificates against cholera and yellow fever. While in Zimbabwe, you are advised not to use water in the country's rivers and dams for swimming or drinking. All water in towns, hotels, and swimming pools is from purified central water supplies or boreholes and is perfectly safe. If you are intending to visit the lower lying areas such as Victoria Falls, Hwange, Kariba, Gona-re-Zhou or the Zambezi Valley, it is highly advisable to take a course of anti-malaria tablets as a simple precaution.
Passports and visas
All visitors require valid passports.
Visas are required except for most Commonwealth and EC nationals/subjects. Transit visas are also required. Visas are available on arrival (with some exceptions) provided onward or return tickets are held. Visitors are advised to check with their Zimbabwean diplomatic consulate or other mission.