Ancient Ruins and Terrifying Infinity Pools: Discovering Zimbabwe

Africa — By on August 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm
By Edd Morris

Your friends will raise their eyebrows when you tell them you’re vacationing in Zimbabwe. Rather like Vietnam, the general public’s perception of the country is exaggerated from the reality – dwelling upon the most negative aspects without a thought to the positive. It’s a real shame, because Zimbabwe is stunning – a verdant land teeming with beautiful wildlife, and capped off with the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls.

Even so, do pay heed to the political reality in Zimbabwe. Things have improved significantly in recent times, but the situation remains volatile, and life for most Zimbabweans is desperately difficult. Limited infrastructure, as well as safety concerns, also means that wandering without an itinerary isn’t a smart idea: mydestination.com/zimbabwe is a good site to use for prior trip planning and find out about safaris.

Those who do make it to Zimbabwe will be rewarded with an off-the-beaten track experience like no other. Here are four ideas to start off a truly adventurous trip to Africa.

Visit the ancient ruins of Great Zimbabwe

Some scholars argue that ‘Zimbabwe’ means ‘great houses of stone’: and the huge, stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe are the remnants of the country’s enigmatic ancient civilization. The ruins – which are a UNESCO world heritage site – span more than 30 hectares, and include three distinct territories. The most remarkable area is the walled, 14th century Great Enclosure, that’s sectioned off with massive blocks of carefully-cut granite. Although the ruins are only about 200 miles south of Harare, access can range from difficult to almost impossible: you may need to arrange a tour before you arrive in the country.

Safari – on foot

Mana Pools National Park offers something truly unique: the opportunity to safari on foot. The park stretches over more than 2,000 square kilometers, and is so unspoiled that the vast majority of the reserve can only be reached by walking tour. Resultantly, Mana Pools is brimming with phenomenal creatures, all in a state of rude health. You’re very likely to spot herds of wandering elephants, prowling cheetah, and even bloats of hippos (and yes, that is the correct term) floating through the murky rivers.

Swim in the world’s most terrifying infinity pool

On the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Devil’s Pool at the Victoria Falls is an infinity pool with a terrifying difference. The pool is a naturally formed basin at the very top of one of the waterfalls, where water crashes 360ft onto the rocks below. If you dare get in, the ferocious current will pull you to the edge of the waterfall: but a freak rocky ledge will prevent you from being swept over the side to your certain doom. Resultantly, it’s become a world-class infinity pool with a truly terrifying view. Do pay heed to local advice, though: if the water-level’s high, it’s still perfectly possible to be swept over. Eeek!

Safari Aboard a Houseboat

Zimbabwe houseboats are an ingenious way to safari. The big difference is that they encourage wildlife to come to you – when floating along Lake Kariba, you’re in prime position to spot big game as it ambles to the waterhole for a drink. Many houseboats are equipped for a luxurious stay aboard, offering beds, kitchens, housekeeping staff and even jacuzzis on deck. In the downtime, when there’s no game to be spotted, you can always content yourself with fishing for bream over the side of the boat.

Edd Morris has been a Londoner since 2005. That hasn’t cured his itchy feet – he still loves traveling the world in search of spicy food and someone to practice Spanish with.

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