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Safaris in Zimbabwe

Lion and buffalo battle in Botswana courtesy Wilderness Safaris


A safari in Zimbabwe – really good value for money?!

The quick answer is to compare some regional rates. Map of Zimbabwe

The real answer lies a little bit deeper to realise just how good this value is.

The safari industry a decade ago

  • Pre-2000, Zimbabwe had a conservation record second to none.
  • The country was home to a healthy crop of Africa’s top professional guides for whom walking safaris, canoeing and real adventures were the product of superior guide training, good enterprise and some big personalities.
  • With diverse habitats, prolific wildlife and varied safari options Zimbabwe commanded some of the best rates in southern Africa’s maturing safari industry.

Politicians dim the lights in Zimbabwe

By 2000 however the politicians had quite simply lost the plot. Aside from a socio-economic disaster about to be delivered to the people of Zimbabwe, international tour operators and the country’s traditional markets cast their own votes by withdrawing support. The safari industry shrank as a result, visitor numbers plummeted and the country’s wildlife and conservationists were left stranded. [...for a full history go to ZimbabweSituation]

Graph showing how the Zim$ crashed against the USD 2001 to 2009

graph showing visitor numbers to Zimbabwe

 The Zim$ crashes against the USD - 2001 to 2009

International arrivals plummet from 2000 to 2007

Zimbabwe's $100 billion banknote

a money changer in Zimbabwe

In July 2008, the $100 billion banknote hit the streets.
Its real value? 3 raw eggs.

In April 2009, the Zim$ was replaced by the US$.
Value? Z$308 trillion = 1US$

Africa's safari industry continues to boom

The continent’s safari industry continued to grow elsewhere in east, central and southern Africa however. Traditional safari markets boomed, investment in camps and lodges climbed, occupancies matched supply and rates rose steadily until the 2008/2009 "credit crunch" shook everybody. At that point a high-standard safari in Zimbabwe was around 30% less expensive than an “equivalent” trip in Zambia, almost half the price of a comparable safari in Botswana or Tanzania.

So for eight years, whilst safari volumes grew elsewhere, Zimbabwe’s diminished as a whole. Costs were held in check and prices dropped but importantly service standards didn’t decline. Within private sector properties in particular there’s strong consensus that the quality of service in fact improved. Owners and managers of hotels, lodges and small camps especially in Victoria Falls, Hwange, Matusadona and Mana Pools focussed on delivering excellent service to fewer clients. These enriched safari experiences have been reflected consistently in feedback from visitors over the years.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge special

Changes start turning in Zimbabwe's favour

To illustrate the effects of growth, neighbouring Zambia benefitted from rising demand and a proliferation of lodge and hotel developments ensued. Emphasis was on development, not hospitality. The safari industry, conservation bodies and environmentalists in fact stood up and halted a Legacy development of two hotels, 450 chalets and a new golf course at Livingstone in 2007/8. The same occurred with a proposed 144 bed hotel development by Protea on the lower Zambezi in 2009. Both would have had long term negative effects on the status of two World Heritage sites.  (Victoria Falls and Mana Pools)

Positive change started in Zimbabwe in the meantime.

  • The economy turned in April 2009 when the US dollar replaced the local currency.
  • Shops of every description stocked up on goods and have kept trading since.
  • Travel warnings were lifted and media restrictions were eased in April 2009.
  • Private sector groups, independent safari operators, international tour operators and some new entrants have geared up steadily.
  • Occupancies in the better hotels, lodges and camps have trebled over the last three years.

Savvy owners are aware of the competitive advantage they’ve gained by having kept costs trim and are conscious of bigger threats from weak markets over the next few years so prices rises are being mostly contained for the coming season.

Kariba sunset, courtesy Liz Ferreira

Conservation and environmental bodies across the country have worked against odds to protect wildlife and preserve natural resources with varying results. One of the better outcomes took place in June 2010 when Zimbabwe’s middle Zambezi Valley was granted enhanced conservation status as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve (MBZR) extends from Lake Kariba and Matusadona National Park down the Zambezi River to include the Mana Pools-Sapi-Chewore complex which in itself is recognised as one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites within Zimbabwe.

More change to come in Zimbabwe

Momentum is in the right direction and even more encouraging change is on the horizon for Zimbabwe. Visitors who make the effort to get on safari in 2013 will be greeted by some big personalities, warm smiles and simply tremendous service.

This good news comes with a warning because you need to rediscover Zimbabwe and realise its excellent value for money before the crowds do! and why we support Zimbabwe


More about safaris in Zimbabwe

Here's the "the best ticket in town" - 4* comfort at less than half price in Victoria Falls.  It's even better with our "two river safaris" in Zambia and Botswana as follows:

  • The Zambezi & Luangwa River Safari: 3 nights in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe plus 5 nights in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia; that's 8 nights on safari including activities and local flights.
  • The Zambezi and Chobe River Safari: 3 nights in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe plus 3 nights on the Chobe River, Botswana; a 6 night safari including activities and local transfers.

Check availability on these "Two Rivers Safaris"

Victoria Falls, Batoka Gorge elephant in the sunset

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