Going on a safari in Zimbabwe is a highly exciting and immersive experience, it is also, however, a process. Before you submerge yourself in an amazing African cultural adventure, there are a few things you should consider when planning the perfect safari.
While scouring the internet, you will find there is a lot of information available and it is easy to be overwhelmed by it all, but it’s important to take it in your stride. An African safari is both relaxing and adventurous; a truly life-changing experience. As long as you prepare yourself adequately, the rest is a breeze. Here are some tips for helping to get yourself prepared.
Where to visit in Zimbabwe
Everyone who embarks on a safari experience to Zimbabwe has a unique story to tell and is witness to completely different encounters, based on the time of the year, location of camp and their personal preferences.
There are varying accommodation types and comfort levels provided by each camp, diverse activities, and a variety of animal species specific to the geographic area and ecosystem you stay in. If you love the luxury of a big, comfortable bed with a spa-like bathroom, Somalisa Camp in Hwange National Park is elegance epitomised.
If you prefer more intimacy with nature and want to feel like you’ve been immersed in the wilderness, Zambezi Expeditions in Mana Pools National Park strikes the perfect balance between rustic luxury and close up wildlife encounters. Regardless of which safari accommodation choice you plan to spend your nights under the African sky in, you will certainly feel the purity of its wild areas resonate deep within.
When to visit Zimbabwe
Each time of the year has its own specific travel benefits, however there could be a specific season that’s best for you. Think about factors like what animals you would like to see and what weather is most pleasing for you. Although Zimbabwe is located in the tropics, temperate conditions prevail all year as the climate is moderated by altitude and the inland position of the country. The hot and dry season is from August to October, and the rainy season from November to March.
Night-time temperatures can become very cold during the winter months. Conditions can vary greatly, from Mana Pools National Park in the Zambezi Valley, to Victoria Falls in the north west corner of the country and Hwange National Park, covering a 14,500km² plateau, with an average altitude of 1,000m above sea level. There are a number of area-specific resources to help you learn more about the different micro climates, like the informative seasonal calendar recently developed by African Bush Camps.
What to bring
Generally speaking, you should begin to think about practical things like food, power and battery charging, communications, and laundry, among others. As far as your packing list is concerned, here are a few things we would recommend you pack:
-Earth tone and weather appropriate clothing (jeans or safari trousers for evenings, cooler days and early morning and evening game drives)
-Sunscreen with insect repellent
-Hat with under-chin tie for your game drives
-Camera, extra camera batteries and memory cards
-Comfortable walking shoes and sandals
Travellers are urged not to wear, or even carry, any military inspired clothing while travelling in Zimbabwe.
There are some health precautions that need to be taken with any ‘out of comfort zone’ experience. Anyone who has any special medication should take enough supplies to last the visit. Yellow fever certificates are required for entry into Southern Africa if you have travelled through the yellow fever belt.
Ticks can be found in Africa’s wilderness areas. To avoid getting bitten when going on bush walks, guests are advised to take precautions by wearing long trousers, socks and boots. Although most camps are equipped with a first aid kit, it’s suggested that you bring a small airtight container with a few well-chosen articles such as plasters, travel sickness tablets, antiseptic cream, antihistamine cream, pain relieving tablets for headaches, indigestion tablets, sunscreen, eye drops, insect repellent, medication for upset stomachs and after-sun moisturiser.
Getting everything in order
It’s important to organise the logistical details ahead of time, including cash, passports, visas and airport paperwork. Your fully comprehensive insurance cover should include emergency assistance and air evacuation, full medical coverage and repatriation cover. It’s advised to take classic travel insurance cover for baggage and money insurance and travel cancellation. For some safari agencies, you are automatically covered by emergency evacuation insurance.
Passports are required by all foreign visitors and must be valid for six months after the intended length of stay. It is imperative to check your visa requirements with the relevant embassies or consulates as it may vary according to your nationality. Zimbabwe is a multi-currency, cash economy. The best currency to carry is US dollars. Most camps will not have credit card facilities and ATMs are scarce, even in the cities and towns. Please make sure you have sufficient cash for the duration of your stay.
General electricity specifications in Zimbabwe are 220/240 Volts AC, 50hz. Lodges in the more remote areas do not have electricity. Most camps generally rely on generator and solar power for lighting and refrigeration but this power only runs at critical times of the day. You typically will not find a plug socket in your tents, however they might have charging stations in the main areas for all guests to make use of. English is widely spoken throughout Southern Africa. Most dietary requirements can be catered for wherever you choose to stay.
Although these are all important things to keep in mind, your travel agency will make it an absolute priority to keep you safe and comfortable. After all, you’re taking this trip as an escape from your hectic life! Once you’ve figured out the logistics and the details, the rest is history. All that is left to worry about is how late you plan to sleep in, what is for dinner and to watch out for a that awe-inspiring wildlife sighting.
Who to share your trip with
With whom would you like to share your trip? Perhaps you will take the whole family or perhaps it’s a romantic getaway for two? Many of the safari operators in Zimbabwe have catered for a variety of holiday makers. There are beautiful honeymoon options, classic simple tents for two or camps specifically designed to accommodate groups and families, like the newly built, Somalisa Acacia Camp in Hwange National Park. Sharing your safari experience with friends and family is a phenomenal way to create lasting memories.
Remembering your safari
A safari is a often a memorable experience. You will undoubtedly have so many stories to tell on your return home, memories that you’d like to refer back to for years to come. Some of the best ways of doing this is by keeping a daily journal and taking an abundance of pictures and videos whilst you’re in Zimbabwe. For photography inspiration, we highly recommend you check out Greg du Toit, who was awarded the title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2013. His photographs will make you feel a deep connection to the safari experience and make you want to take similar pictures of your own.
Greg will be spending two weeks in Zimbabwe, as resident photographer at Somalisa Camp, in February 2017. Read more about the opportunity to spend time with him here. Once you return home, you will want to share your memories on social media and tell your stories to friends and family. Make the most of your investment by aspiring to reflect on your time spend on a Zimbabwean safari.