Please note: These countries were visited on tour, therefore, we spent less than a usual amount of time in each (some as small as 2 days). The information we give below is based on our experiences, organized on behalf of us and is not a reflection of all the country has to offer.
Our first impressions of Zimbabwe? Mayhem at the border crossing from South Africa! This border crossing is one of the busiest in the world as the road to transport goods from the south of Africa to the north runs directly through here. The wait to get through can be as long as 8 hours but luckily with a few strings pulled by our tour leader, we were through in just under 4.5 hours.
There were people sprawled out everywhere taking everything out of the back of their trucks, buses and cars for thorough inspections. A visa needs to be obtained upon arrival and the fee differs per country; Australians $30 USD, Americans $55 USD and Canadians $75 USD (ouch).
The Zimbabwean dollar was the official currency of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 12th of April 2009, with a period of inflation, followed by hyperinflation. Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe reduced it to one of the lowest valued currency units in the world. It was redenominated three times (in 2006, 2008 and 2009), with denominations up to a $100 trillion banknote. These days the USD is the main form of currency in Zimbabwe. To feel rich for just a moment, we bought a 5 billion dollar note for just $1.
Matobo National Park
During our time in Zimbabwe, we were based in the town of Bulawayo, a town located close to the Matobo National Park. Matobo National Park was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2003 and is home to a protection zone in which a large population of black and white rhinoceros are successfully breeding.
We took a full day excursion with Black Rhino Safari’s which involved learning about the local flora and fauna (amazing what remedies plants can have), admired the unique rock formations, took an obligatory photo on pride rock with Simba in hand, visited “World View” which is where British Cecil Rhodes burial lays and our favourite part of the day, a trek to walk within 10 m of the rhinos!
Walking with Rhinos
Walking with the rhinos was indescribable. You’re basically entering their home with no fences or protection. After a short briefing of how to behave around these animals, we began our walk through the long reeds and thorny grass.
We were lucky to spot them pretty much straight after entering the park, something the guide says is very unusual. We jumped out of the truck and started walking. On approach, 60 m away, we slowed our pace down, stayed together and kept silent to avoid scaring them. The closer we came to these astounding creatures, the more you could see the details of their bodies, their features and most notably the size of their horns.
You really have no idea the size of a rhino until you put yourself within 10 m from one. 7 of them lay before us, grazing in the grass, sleeping and others looking at their surroundings. It was very fascinating to learn about their behaviours, the habitat they live in and how they protect themselves and their young ones.
Unfortunately, these poor animals are constantly threatened by poachers. Poaching is a massive problem in Africa and something that has dire consequences for anyone caught trying to harm an animal. In certain African countries, including Zimbabwe, a poacher will be shot without question. On the black market, the horns of a rhino are generally sold to the Chinese for $50,000 USD+ and used for aphrodisiacs and a symbol of wealth. Some of the parks in Africa have started removing the horns of the rhinos, to ensure they don’t get killed by poachers. Sad but necessary.
Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe Side
Victoria Falls defines the border separating Zimbabwe and Zambia and has a length of over 1 km and a height of over 100 m. We stayed in the small town near Victoria Falls which was a short walk to reach the entrance of the park. As soon as we entered, we were immediately blown away by the sound of the falls along with the enormous double rainbow that lined the sky. We’ve never seen such a vivid rainbow before, let alone 2! Although we just came from Iguazu Falls, it was impossible not to be impressed by Victoria Falls.
We spent just under 2 hours walking around the park. They have marked lookout points numbered from 1-16. If you reach 16, you will see the Victoria Falls Bridge where you can see the bungee jumpers, jump right towards the Zambezi River. It’s a good idea to bring a poncho along because at many of the points you will get absolutely drenched.
Entrance to the falls on the Zimbabwe side is $30 USD.
After a painless and rather quick border crossing, we entered the land of Zambia. Unfortunately, we had only 2 days to visit Zambia which is a little bit disappointing considering the hefty $50 USD visa fee we had to pay upon arrival. Oh well! A short visit is better than no visit.
We stayed in the small town of Livingstone which was once Zambia’s Capital. A lot of Africa’s tours start from Livingstone and we saw many other overland trucks here. One of the best places to eat in Livingstone is Café Zambezi. Holy smokes… HUGE portions! We ordered a mixed platter for 2 for less than $12 and it came with crocodile, goat curry, chicken, buffalo, a salad, mixed veggies, a local rice dish and french fries.
Our eyes popped out of our head when it was placed in front of us. We’re all for trying new things, but I think we got way more than we bargained for on this one. In case you’re wondering if we finished it? The answer would be yes. Yes, we did…
Victoria Falls from Zambia Side
It’s a bonus to view a natural wonder from a different perspective and in this case, a different country. Which was better? They’re both fantastic, at the end of the day you’re viewing the same falls. The Zimbabwe side had more of an open view to see the falls but the Zambian side was really fun because we got absolutely drenched crossing the bridges and walking out so far that you felt like you were standing right in the falls.
There are many optional excursions to do from Zambia. Some of the most popular trips include helicopter flights, micro flights (1 person + the driver only), bungy jumping, gorge swings, white water rafting (in season) & zip lining. All of these come at a very expensive price tag. For example, bungy jumping here is $160 USD yet we did it at the world’s highest on the Boulkrans Bridge in South Africa during our garden route drive and paid just $60 USD.
Entry to the falls on the Zambia side is $20 USD.
Zambezi River Booze Cruise
We had such a fun group on this leg of the tour, we all got along very well and were that of similar ages. Unfortunately, this portion of the tour was finishing and we had 4 people departing so to finish off their portion of the trip, we embarked on a sunset, all-inclusive cruise along the Zambezi River.
Along the river, we spotted a small variety of animals, including giraffes but at this point in time we were more focused on the food and drink that the boat was providing us. Whoops! The sunset, of course, didn’t disappoint and went down in true African style, with vibrant colours coming out of the sky. I think African sunsets are our new favourite sunset. The colours, oh the colours!
Livingstone is quite a backpacker’s pit stop which makes it quite a party town so we continued after our cruise to two of Livingstone’s bars and mingled with both locals and tourists. If you’re travelling alone, Zampub crawl runs pub crawls through Livingstone.
Short but sweet through Zim and Zam but enough to get a feel for both countries. Next up on our overland adventure, we crossed into the beautiful land of Botswana!
Married days survived; 443