Why I Went to Zimbabwe
March 22nd, 2010

My most recent blogs have featured destinations that most others aren’t – either destinations I’ve visited, or want to, that I feel are worth sharing with others. Last year, I went to southern Africa for 16 days and I couldn’t pass up the chance to go to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Victoria Falls can be seen from both Zambia and Zimbabwe. Given the fact that Zimbabwe’s currency has fallen to the point that it’s no longer accepted even in it’s own country, and that the nation has suffered more than its share of political turmoil, most people would opt to see the Falls via Zambia.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

My family, however, decided to go to Zimbabwe. Why chance it? First, I feel one has to separate the country’s politics and domestic turmoil with the way they treat foreigners. I’ve been given this respect when traveling to countries that didn’t like American politics and I like to do the same for others. Despite all of the hardship Zimbabwe has undergone, there had not, at least near the time that we were traveling, been an issue with trouble or violence towards visitors. We suspected, and were proven correct, that the locals loved having us there. After all, for a country whose currency is no longer legitimate, having Americans spending their comparatively strong currency must make them ecstatic (it did)!

The tourism infrastructure in the Victoria Falls area is as strong as can be expected given their situation. We easily obtained our visas upon arrival and our private transfers which met us on time at the airport were friendly and helpful. As they drove us to our hotel, they answered our questions about their country and its situation, and even gave us each a 10 billion dollar note, which is of course no longer accepted in Zimbabwe or anywhere else. (The fact that currency deflated so much that even a 10 billion dollar note wasn’t worth anything should tell you a bit about what bad shape they are in financially).

Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe

We stayed at the Victoria Falls Hotel, a beautiful victorian building situated close enough to the falls that they can be viewed from the grounds in the back. The hotel was upscale and clean, the staff friendly and the service impeccable. As for the falls themselves, they were absolutely spectacular. We went in what is traditionally the rainy season, so the falls were plentiful – they can dry up a good bit in the dry season –  and we got an up close and personal view of the myst which they produce (wear your rain jacket!!).

The next morning we went on an elephant back “safari” through the country’s beautiful landscape, along the way learning about everything that the country has to offer. In the way of activities, we only scratched the surface – its an excellent place for white water rafting, river boarding, bungee jumping, abseiling, microlight flights through the safari park and much more which we didn’t get to try during our unfortunately short stay here. This safari, though, which gave us the opportunity to bond with the elephants, our guides and really the country as a whole, was one of my favorite parts of the two week trip.

Elephants preparing for the elephant-back safari in Zimbabwe

I’m sure that the falls are beautiful from the Zambian side, and I hope some day to explore that country as well. For me, though, I would go to Zimbabwe again in a heartbeat. I had to opportunity to experience a people who, despite their desperate situation, welcomed us into their home. In turn, I got to help these people, if even just a tiny bit, by creating a need for their jobs (which are constantly threatened) and bringing in some of our strong currency which will hopefully help to buy them basic food supplies, shoes and other necessities which they are currently going without.

If you do choose to go to Zimbabwe, they are in dire need of donations – old clothes, shoes, etc and readily accept them. We didn’t realize this at the time so were not able to participate, but I highly urge you to bring these items to leave there when you go.

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