Zimbabwe’s National Parks are largely undervalued public, environmental and cultural treasures. They offer a range of recreational facilities and activities and a variety of affordable accommodation options from self catering lodges to fishing camps, safari areas, sanctuaries, campsites and picnic spots and botanic gardens. This holiday season, and indeed any time of the year, its well worth looking into what’s available from day trips to extended stays.Situated close to Harare are the Ewanrigg Botanic Gardenswhich are the perfect spot for a day out in the country without having to travel too far. Pack up a picnic lunch and head out for the day with family and friends. The serene, calm and scenic environment of the gardens makes Ewanrigg an ideal picnic area. The sites are well serviced with ablution facilities, braai stands and water points. It’s great for bird watching, photography and guided or unguided walks. They have one of the world’s most extensive cycad and aloe collections.If you’re holidaying in the Eastern Highlands you must visit the Bunga Forest Botanical Reserve. You’ll find a huge variety of both indigenous and exotic plants including azaleas, fuchsias and hydrangeas set amid majestic ancient forest trees. The woodland reserve has footpaths, natural streams, magnificent views and a variety of bird and animal life. There are three places in or near the forest to have tea or coffee or take your own refreshments with you for lunch in a magical fairytale forest.While you’re in the Eastern Highlands the Bvumba Gardens and Reserve are definitely worth a day visit or even to stay over for a night or two. Their facilities include self catering lodges, a camping and caravan site with ablution blocks and electric power points for caravans and a tea room which also provides light lunches. There’s even a swimming pool at the camping site for cooling down on hot summer days or just chilling out and relaxing. Also in the eastern parts is the Osborne Dam Recreational Parkwhich is great for a day of fishing or boating and you can also stay overnight here too. There’s a well equipped campsite plus the self catering lodges which are very pretty and all have wonderful views of the Dam. The lodges are fully furnished and equipped with bedding, a fridge, cooking utensils and cutlery and crockery. All you need to take is your own food.
And of course there’s the Nyanga National Park, one of the oldest and finest in the country. Some of the many attractions in the area include Mount Nyangani, the highest peak in Zimbabwe at 2,593 metres above sea level. You can also visit Nyangombe Falls, a beautiful series of cascading waterfalls located on the western edge of the Park, about a 15 minute walk from the car park. It’s another perfect spot for a picnic or even for Christmas Day lunch. There’s a perfect natural beach on a bend in the Nyangombe River which is ideal for swimming and braaing. Then there’s the Mutarazi Fallswhich are the highest waterfall in Zimbabwe and the second highest on the African continent. It’s a truly spectacular site with views down to the Honde Valley about 800 metres below. There’s also the Pungwe Gorge and Waterfallswhich are very impressive. Another great attraction in the area are the Nyangwe and Chawomera Forts which are little known but very imposing massive stone structures with lintel covered entrances which were built about 400 years ago. Apart from the three main rest camps in the Nyanga National Park, namely Rhodes, Udu and Mare, which offer charming thatched one or two bedrooms lodges, there’s the world famous Rhodes Nyanga Hotelwhich has been operating since the early 1900s. It’s luxurious and well appointed and still has some of the original furniture used by Rhodes himself. The customer service is excellent and the restaurant has a very good, well deserved reputation. Even if you’re not staying over at the hotel you should spoil yourself with a fantastic dinner in the restaurant or even just a cream tea in the afternoon. You’ll also find the Rhodes Museum here which is interesting and informative.These are just a few of the wonderful National Parks facilities and accommodation options which can be found close to Harare or in the Eastern Highlands. There are many more across the country along the Zambezi and also in the southern parts. So go on, spoil yourself and your family this festive season. After all you deserve it and our National Parks are a real treat for families as well as for visitors from outside the country and they’re a very affordable option too.
To find out more or to make a booking have a look at the National Parks website: www.zimparks.orgor call Harare 706077/8 or drop in to their offices which are situated within the Botanical Gardens on Sandringham Drive – just off Borrowdale Road. We promise you won’t be disappointed.