The Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe are a cool and refreshing contrast to the bristling bush of the Zambezi Valley and low lying southern regions.
Mountains, rivers, waterfalls, lakes and the bracing fresh air make this massive mountain range along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border a favourite holiday destination for every Zimbabwean and, in the spirit of full disclosure, ourselves included.
Forming a link in the off-centre spine of Africa, the Eastern Highlands Mountain Range effectively begins all the way down in the Western Cape of South Africa, continues up along the Drakensburg Mountains and onwards along the Grift Rift to the Ethiopian Highlands.
Altitude, latitude and its proximity to the Indian Ocean combine to provide a unique and arresting landscape in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. The altitude changes the vegetation and climate dramatically from the rest of southern Africa and being inside the tropics, the coldest it ever gets is, \"let's make a roaring fire\"; and moisture rising from the Indian Ocean turns this mountainous region into a lush watershed of abundance.
The northern part of the Eastern Highlands has massive rolling hills and mountains covered with miombo woodlands and grassy valleys that support a good population of wildlife in the Nyanga National Park. Also inside the park is Mt. Inyangani, Zimbabwe's highest peak and a not-too-strenuous walk for a sensational view as your reward.
Adjoining Nyanga Park is a small park named after the Mutarazi Falls, which, plunging 762m down a sheer cliff, are the second highest falls in Africa and among the highest in the world. The view into the Honde Valley below and the walk along the cliff's edge are worth at least 8GB on your camera (by 2010 standards that is).
Moving south, the altitude drops into the Vumba Forest and mountains where the rainfall and mist-shrouded peaks create an intimate forest perfect for scenic hikes and and drives.
The Chimanimani National Park is, if anything, more dramatic than the gentle mountains to the north. This area speaks in the jagged peaks and deeply-cut river gorges that are the mother tongue of adventure hikers and nature lovers. The Bridal Veil Falls paint a beautiful picture among too many to mention.
The Eastern Highlands, being a unique habitat, has many rare species of plants and animals and is one of only nine endemic bird areas in southern Africa. Wildlife is not as prolific as in the big game parks but the encounters you do have are all the more intimate for it.
What to do in the Eastern Highlands depends on your whim and your vigour (and how much time you've given yourself):
- Multi-day adventure hike into the Chimanimani Mountains
- Scenic day walks up mountains, through valleys and to rivers, pools and waterfalls
- White-water rafting down the Pungwe River
- Trout fishing in specially stocked dams and rivers
- Horse riding on a private nature reserve
- Explore many sites of ancient ruins left by the Ziwa people
- Tea at the botanical gardens or a boozy chocolate cake at Tony's Coffee Shop, both in the Bvumba Forest.
- Chirinda Forest, the southernmost tropical forest in Africa with giant mahogany trees and a multitude of orchids
- Game drives and walking safaris in the Nyanga National Park looking for rare plants and animals including leopard, wildebeest, waterbuck, samango monkeys, Swynnerton's robin, flame lilies, Inyangani river frog and many others
- Golf at scenic Troutbeck or the Leopard Rock Championship Course - one of Africa's best courses designed by Peter Matkovitch and overlooking the Burma Valley
- Explore the Honde Valley blanketed in tea and coffee plantations reminiscent of Tolkien's shire and home to many rare birds, countless butterflies and some of the world's fastest-growing trees
- Mutarazi Falls is the 2nd highest waterfalls in Africa and about 17th highest in the world
- Hike up Mount Inyangani, Zimbabwe's highest peak at 2,593m
- Curl up by the fire with nothing but a good book and the fresh pine smells of the forest air
- Organised and independent activities abound in the Eastern Highlands so it's best to talk with your Travel Expert to decide how best to spend your time in "Little Scotland Without the Midges or Bad Weather".
More In Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a small country and its diverse attractions are packed into short easy drives or even quicker, easier flights. Expect beautiful waterfalls and rivers, exceptional wildlife safaris and spectacular scenery from classic African plains to vast river valleys, mystical hills and misty mountains.
Mana Pools National Park
Mana Pools National Park occupies a vast flood plain along the Zambezi River in northern Zimbabwe. The plains support a diversity of wildlife, the massive mahogany and acacia trees providing cover for all the plains species and the 2,000sq km of seasonally flooded river frontage, ox-bow lakes and pools providing permanent water for a large population of wildlife.
Elevated 1483 metres above sea level in the Northeast of Zimbabwe, this metropolitan city in the Mashonaland Region offers a subtropical highland climate, one of the most favourable year round, throughout the world. Perhaps one of the main reasons it’s the most populous city in Zimbabwe. Who doesn’t want to live in the ‘Sunshine City’?
Situated in a scenic area of granite outcrops, miombo woodland and right next to one of several recreational lakes in central Zimbabwe, the ancient city of Great Zimbabwe is a wonderful diversion between north, south, east and west. The Lake Muturikiwe features an excellent game reserve with scenic mountains framing images of rhino and antelope at the water's edge. Further afield is Antelope Park, a small private game reserve dedicated to restoring Africa's lion population to a happier state.
Gonarezhou National Park
At just short of half the size of Hwange National Park, this park of 5053sq km, is found in the south eastern corner of the Masvingo Province. Smaller but certainly not inferior. This park boasts about being further off the normal northern tourist route and of a rugged terrain, therefore offering an untouched wildlife and African bush experience.
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