As we celebrate our 30th anniversary of sharing the magic of Africa, it seems a good time to revisit where it all began. Just as African Portfolio has evolved over the past three decades so has the country of Zimbabwe. While much has changed, what I originally found so compelling about Zimbabwe, has remained the same.
In 1990, Zimbabwe was not a particularly well known safari destination – at least not to American travelers. Yet Zimbabwe has one of the oldest, most fabled and romantic histories in the whole of Africa. Bushman cave paintings in the sacred Matobo Hills date back over 20,000 years. The first explorers came to Zimbabwe in search of the riches of the lost biblical city of Ophir, visited by the Queen of Sheba, to enrich the temple of Solomon. Today, the ancient Great Zimbabwe Ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest and most spectacular human structure south of the Sahara, testify to the amazing civilization that flourished while Europe was still in the dark ages.
Then, during the last century, more explorers came. Dr. David Livingstone first enraptured all of London with his exciting accounts of the Great Zambezi and the flourishing slave trade. He was soon followed by the pioneer white hunters, each one attracted by stories of the incredible variety and quantity of game that was to be found in the true wilds of Africa. The most famous of these was Frederick Courtney Selous, the model for Rider Haggard’s Allan Quartermain in his book King Solomon’s Mines.
The landscape is still the same today as when these adventurers first set eyes on Zimbabwe. Its natural heritage of mountains, lakes, majestic rivers, plains and thundering waterfalls remains Zimbabwe’s greatest treasure, a place where nature still works in her own mysterious ways. Set against a backdrop of sweeping savannas and dense bush, the remote and untamed wilderness offers a unique variety of opportunities for game viewing: from open 4 x 4 vehicles, by canoe and boat, by horseback or like the first explorers, on foot. Zimbabwe has long been recognized as having some of the most elite, professional, highly trained guides in all of Africa. Their knowledge of the wildlife, the bush and bushlore is both enlightening and entertaining. Even after 30 years, we can still say with confidence that Zimbabwe offers an abundance and diversity of wildlife, and the traveler’s interaction with these magnificent animals and their environment is still genuine. For travelers interested in roughing it in style, combining sheer adventure with creature comforts, getting off the beaten path and experiencing the drama and intensity of the African bush, Zimbabwe does not disappoint.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of a safari to Africa is the opportunity to experience the culture of another land and its people. There is no doubt that on my first visit to Zimbabwe in April 1990, I was captivated not only by the beauty of the country but by the soul of its people. While other African countries certainly have friendly people, Zimbabweans have a reputation, even amongst Africans, for their upbeat and joyful spirit, even in the face of adversity. They are renowned for their warmth, humor and generous hospitality which will enhance your travels in this country in so many ways.
Join our celebration of where it all began by treating yourself to a Zimbabwe safari, that may just be a life changing experience for you as it was for me. At the least, it will be a journey you will forever cherish in your memory.