Zooming around Zim with Betty & Kate

My colleague Kate and I went on a one-week self-drive trip around Zimbabwe in May 2016. We started in Harare and made our way through the Eastern Highlands, Gonarezhou National Park, Great Zimbabwe Ruins and Matobo National Park before finishing our journey in Victoria Falls.

We started our expedition in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city and commercial, administrative and communications centre. The traffic was a bit chaotic here – there were cars, busses and people crossing the roads. We decided to just drive with a map and no GPS, in true “adventurer style”. In our little Chevrolet Spark we made our way safely to the hotel. We stayed one night at the Armadale Lodge, a beautiful Boutique hotel, only 15 min away from the Harare City Centre.

The following day we left early in the morning to drive to the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. The Eastern Highlands are a paradise for nature and hiking Lovers. There is the Nyanga National Park – the home of Mount Nyanani, the highest mountain in Zimbabwe. The landscape is very green and verdant and offers activities like hiking, horse riding and bird watching. The drive takes approximately 3.5 hours and the road conditions are very good. It is a pleasure to drive and watch the lush scenery pass you by. Our next stop was Musangano Lodge in the Eastern Highlands. Musangano is a German managed holiday resort on a property of 140ha in a hilly area. Hiking trails and mountain bike make your stay adventurous!


We spent one night here and left very early the next day to drive down to Gonarezhou National Park, which sits on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. From Musangano we drove to Mutare and from there we followed the A9 via Birchenough Bridge, Checheche to Chiredzi. It was a very long drive and the road conditions were not ideal. There road was bumpy and full of potholes, a 4×4 vehicle would be the best option when driving this road. In our little Chevrolet Spark, it took us 6 hours to get to Chiredzi! When we arrived in Chiredzi, we parked our car at the Nesbitt Arms Hotel for the next two days. A driver from Chilo Gorge Lodge picked us up and drove us all the way to the lodge. The last 43 kms of road to Chilo are on a gravel road whereby a high clearance vehicle is required. Finally, we arrived safely at the Lodge where we spent two wonderful nights. Chilo is a luxurious safari lodge at the edge of the Gonarezhou National Park. Gonarezhou means “place of the elephants” and the park is home for over 8 thousand elephants. Over 400 bird species have been recorded here, making Gonarezhou one of Southern Africa’s top birding destinations.
The lodge is overlooking the Save River where you can see the local elephants, hippos and crocodiles cooling off in river from the viewing deck. We visited Mahenya Village, it was one of the highlights of our trip; we loved learning about the culture and traditions of the local people as well as a full day trip to the Chilojo Cliffs.


After Gonarezhou, we continued onto The Great Zimbabwe Ruins. We left Chilo quite late and we were in a rush to arrive before the darkness. We were chasing sunset and soon it was dark and we were very nervous as there are no street lights on the road. We do not recommend driving at night – it was quite nerve racking but we made it safely nonetheless. We arrived at our next hotel, Norma Jeane’s River Lodge at about 7:30pm. Norma Jeane’s is known for its beautiful gardens, home-style cooking, comfortable accommodation and friendly service.
The next day we went on a guided tour of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, some of the most extraordinary man made remains in Africa. Formed of regular, rectangular granite stones, carefully placed one upon the other, they are the ruins of an amazing complex. The tour takes about 2.5 hours.


Our next stop was the Matobo Hills National Park, famous for Cecil John Rhodes’ Grave and rhino tracking. We spent 2 nights at Camp Amalinda and we were lucky to join Paul Hubbard, a well renown archaeological and rock art expert, for a tour of Rhodes’ Grave.


From Matobo National Park to the town of Bulawayo is a 40-minute drive and from Bulawayo, we headed off to our last stop, Victoria Falls. It took us approximately 4.5 hours to drive up to Victoria Falls, one of the UNESCO 7 Natural Wonders of the World, the place that the locals call ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’- The Smoke that Thunders.

Overall, we found Zimbabwe to be an extremely safe and friendly country. Yes, there were many police controls and roadblocks on our way, but most of the time the officers were very friendly and just happy to have a quick chat with us. If you follow the speed limits, make sure you have the correct licence and registration documentation for both the driver and the vehicle and have a vehicle with all of the correct safety specifications (such as a fire extinguisher, red triangles, reflective tape on your bumpers, etc) you are unlikely to have any trouble on your journey. While some of the roads have degraded due to lack of maintenance, we never felt unsafe or harassed, neither did we get lost. Zimbabwe is a beautiful country and we are already longing to go back.