Victoria Falls is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most beautiful treasures. They border Zimbabwe and Zambia and are the region’s most visited tourist hotspot. The falls are by no means the world’s biggest waterfall, however ,at 1700 m wide and 108 m high their length and the vast volume of water which find its way to the falls via the Zambezi river makes them one of the most spectacular. David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view the Victoria Falls and wrote: "It has never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so wonderful must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight". The older, indigenous name of Mosi-oa-Tunya (‘the Smoke that Thunders’) is the name in official use in Zambia, and the falls spray water into the air which can be seen for miles, including in the surrounding game reserves and national parks. Due to its immense power and size, the waterfall is surrounded by a rich mythology. The local Tonga people of the Zambezi believe that a river god, Nyaminyami, resides in the water in the form of an immense snake. When the Kariba Dam was built in the 1950s, the Zambezi River flooded three times, causing many deaths and much destruction. The local people believe Nyaminyami caused the terrible floods in his anger at the construction.
The unusual form of Victoria Falls enables virtually the whole width of the falls to be viewed face-on, at the same level as the top, from as close as 60 metres, because the whole Zambezi River drops into a deep, narrow slot like chasm, connected to a long series of gorges. Few other waterfalls allow such a close approach on foot.
The falls are formed as the full width of the river plummets in a single vertical drop into a chasm 60–120 m wide, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau. The depth of the chasm, called the First Gorge, varies from 80 m at its western end to 108 m in the centre. The only outlet to the First Gorge is a 110 m-wide gap about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end, through which the whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls gorges.
There are two islands on the crest of the falls that are large enough to divide the curtain of water even at full flood: Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank and Livingstone Island near the middle. At less than full flood, additional islets divide the curtain of water into separate parallel streams. The main streams are named, in order from Zimbabwe (west) to Zambia (east): Leaping Water (called Devil's Cataract by some), Main Falls, Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.
While staying here, guests can also embark on bush safaris – on foot, horseback or in a vehicle, embark on a Zambezi cruise along the waters before the falls, or try some exciting white water rafting. While on these Victoria Falls safaris guests will have the chance to see crocodiles, hippos and other African wildlife.
Hwange National Park
Hwange National Park, the largest park in Zimbabwe, is one of Africa's finest havens for wildlife and is home to Africa’s Big 5 large concentrations of zebra and giraffe. Elephant make up the largest proportion of the biomass, and are so prolific that culling has been periodically considered. It is also home to many predators and endangered species – lion are sighted frequently, while leopard and rhino are seen less often. It is also the only protected area where gemsbok and brown hyena occur in reasonable numbers. The population of wild dog to be found in Hwange is thought to be of one of the largest surviving groups in Africa today. The birdlife is varied and up to 400 species can be spotted, making the area a birder’s paradise, especially in the wet season.
The park, covering just over 14 600 square km, is situated on the main road between Bulawayo and the world famous Victoria Falls. The landscape varies from sparse woodland to savannah grasslands and granite outcrops. An interesting feature of the area is its fossil dunes – ancient sand dunes held together by vegetation.
Matopos National Park
Less than an hour’s drive from Bulawayo, this park is set in a sea of fascinating granite rock formations. It is the oldest in Zimbabwe, established in 1926 as Rhodes Motopos National Park, a bequest from Cecile John Rhodes, who founded Rhodesia in 1890, inaugurating 9 decades of colonial rule. The beautiful rocks are said to be his favourite place, and he was buried there. The jumble of granite domes more importantly has a deep significance for the ancestral people. Other historical sites can be found here, the most fascinating being the rock paintings left by the San bushman who lived in these hills about 2 000 years ago, and various archaeological sites dating back to the Stone Age.
A large section of Matopos National Park is fenced to contain wild game including some of the more beautiful larger antelope (kudu, sable and eland) as well as black and white rhinoceros. The park boasts the largest concentration of black eagles and leopard in an area of its size in the world. The Motobo Hills, with their distinct rock formations, were formed 2000 million years ago with granite being forced to the earth’s surface and weathered into fantastic shapes such as the famous balancing rocks, known as Mother and Child Kopje. Here, you’ll find over 200 tree species, 100 grass species, 175 birds and 88 mammals. It’s important to wear long trousers and closed shoes while visiting as there are also 39 types of snakes. Walking tours, canoeing, game viewing, drives and picnics are among the most popular activities, however you can also go boating here, fishing and horse-riding. Spend an evening soaking in the tranquil atmosphere and listening to the sounds of the surrounding wildlife.
Great Zimbabwe Ruins
The Great Zimbabwe Ruins in Masvingo are sub-Saharan Africa's most important and largest stone ruins. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1986, the ancient and long-abandoned city of high-walled granite structures were built out of millions of stones balanced perfectly on top of one another without the aid of mortar. Hence the name ‘dzimba dzembabwe’ or ‘houses of stone’. It is not known exactly when the walled city was built, but it is believed to be around the 11th century, when the local people were becoming increasingly influential – controlling gold and ivory trade with the Swahili, Portuguese and Arabs who were sailing down the Mozambique coast. As the Great Zimbabwe people flourished, they built an empire whose huge stone buildings eventually spread over 500 square km. It is thought that as many as 18,000 people lived here during its heyday. It was the seat of political power and was a true force to be reckoned with; a formidable African palace, perhaps the largest during its time in Southern Africa.
By the 15th century, Great Zimbabwe was in decline due to overpopulation and political discord. When the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century in search of rumoured cities built of gold, Great Zimbabwe had already fallen into ruin.
There have been many theories as to who was responsible for building the magnificent monuments; some believed that Great Zimbabwe was built by Phoenicians or Arabs. It wasn't until 1929 that archaeologist Gertrude Caton-Thompson proved that Great Zimbabwe was built by black Africans. Nowadays, various tribes in the region claim that Great Zimbabwe was built by their ancestors. Archaeologists generally believe that the Lemba tribe is responsible.
Great Zimbabwe gave modern Zimbabwe its name as well as its national emblem - an eagle carved from soapstone, many of which were found at the ruins.
Kruger National Park
Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, this national park of nearly 2 million hectares is the largest in South Africa and unrivalled in the diversity of its wildlife. Approximately 145 mammal species including the ‘Big Five’, a list of over 500 bird species, some of which are not to be found elsewhere in South Africa, and 336 tree species occur in the park. When the first tourist cars visited the park in 1927, they made their own camps in thorn-bush enclosures and had to carry weapons to protect themselves from predators. During the Second World War the park was closed to the public, and reopened in 1946 under new management. Today it is one of the most famous safari destinations in the world with all the facilities that one would expect from a world class holiday destination, but it has retained the untamed, unspoilt environment where you can experience Africa just as you imagined it.
The Panorama route in Mpumalanga follows the edge of Blyde River Canyon, and includes some breathtaking views of the Three Rondavels, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Pinnacle. Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world, and got its name in 1840 (‘blyde’ meaning ‘joyful’) from the Voortrekkers who passed through on their way to Lorenzo Marques (now Mozambique). It is one of the most spectacular canyons in Africa and its cliffs rise between 600 m-800 m from the riverbed. Possibly the best view in the whole of the Blyde River Canyon is of the "Three Rondavels - three huge rock spirals rising out of the far wall of the canyon. Their tops appear to have a hut-like rounded roof. They are named after the Swazi Chief Maripi’s wives - from the lowest to the highest, they are Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maserote.
Where the Blyde River and the Treur River meet, water erosion has formed one of the most remarkable geological phenomena in the country, known as ‘Bourke’s Luck Potholes’. Over thousands of years, surreal cylindrical rock sculptures created by whirling water have formed a series of dark pools which contrast artfully with the streaked white and yellow lichen covered rocks. Following the road and the Treur River south, there are further viewpoints; Wonder View, God’s Window and the Pinnacle.
Johannesburg is the largest and most populated city in South Africa, its business hub, and the second largest city in Africa after Cairo. Gold was discovered in the mineral-rich Witwatersrand in 1886 by an Australian prospector, George Harrison. This discovery started a major gold rush as fortune hunters came to the area from all over the world. A huge labour force of contract workers sprang up to work in the mines and within three years Johannesburg became the largest settlement in South Africa. It is now the economic and financial core of the country, and although mining is no longer practiced within the city bounds, the headquarters of most of the mining companies can be found here.
Everything here is faster than anywhere else in Africa, something this city has prided itself on ever since the gold rush..The streets of Johannesburg boast a rich historical background while its suburbs are home to some of the savviest businessmen in Africa. However, it’s not all about business in this economic terrain and Johannesburg offers a wealth of sights for visitors including the beautiful Kruger National Park, Emmerentia Dam and the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. It’s also close to the world renowned Sun City, the popular Gold Reef City and the Blyde River Canyon. Most visitors embark on tours to Johannesburg to take in the sites of the townships. Soweto in particular offers fantastic opportunities for township tours as well as a glimpse into South Africa’s history. The Apartheid Museum is also part of these tours and delves visitors to Johannesburg into South Africa’s past. Johannesburg’s Sandton is also the sight of the best shopping ground in South Africa with shopping malls offering all the latest and hottest haute couture and labels seen on the world’s catwalks. Johannesburg is also known as the world’s largest human-made forest, with over 10 million trees planted throughout the city.