The word Zimbabwe means “big house of stone” in Shona (Zimba Ramabwe). The country was formerly named Southern Rhodesia from Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), English-born businessman, politician and imperialist. Zimbabwe covers an area of 390 245km2 with a population of 12 million Africans and 120 000 Europeans. The country is mostly on a plateau averaging 1200m elevation. The low river valleys get an annual rainfall of 400-600mm, the plateau gets 750-1000mm and the eastern highlands 1500-2000mm.
The protected areas cover 44 680km2 (±10% of the land area) and includes National Parks, wildlife sanctuaries, botanical and safari areas.
GENERAL INFORMATION - ZIMBABWE
Great Zimbabwe Ruins · Bulawayo · Matabo Hills
Hwange NP · Victoria Falls · Livingstone
Lake Kariba · Harare
Great Zimbabwe: The ancient stone structures are the largest ancient man-made buildings south of the Sahara. The structures were probably built by local Shona Karanga with the help of Arab builders/ architects during the Arab gold trade which flourished during the 13-15th century AD. Radio-carbon dating suggests that Great Zimbabwe was built in the 11th century AD. Adam Render, a German hunter reached the ruins in 1868 and it was Karl Mauch, a German traveller who first recorded the find in great detail in his journal (1872).
Bulawayo: This is the second most important city with a population of 600 000 (altitude 1350m). It was first named Gubuluwayo (place of killing) by Lobengula after a fierce battle between his indunas and those of a rival. Bulawayo has many interesting buildings dating from its colonial era. The natural history museum and the railway museum make for an interesting visit.
Matobo: The Matobo Hills lie to the south of Bulawayo and cover 3000km2 . They are famous for the abundance of granite kopjes (outcrops) and dwales. In 1933, the government set aside 456km2 of the hills as the Rhodes Matobo National Park and Game Reserve. Cecil Rhodes is buried in the park at World’s View. There are numerous caves with rock painting and White Rhino have been re-introduced from Zululand in Natal.
Hwange National Park: Set aside in 1928 as the land was not suitable for agricultural use, the Park was opened to the public in 1932 and covers 14 650km2. It receives an average annual rainfall of 650mm. This is the largest park in Zimbabwe with over 50 species of animals being recorded.
Victoria Falls: Also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (“the smoke that thunders”) at an altitude of 914m is one of the world’s most spectacular natural scenic attractions and Zimbabwe’s major tourist destination. The Falls were probably visited by early Portuguese traders and Boer hunters before Livingstone visited them in 1855. He named the falls after England’s queen - Victoria. Livingstone wrote in his diary: “It has never been seen before by European eyes but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”.
The Falls are 1700m wide and 92m high. 545 million litres of water per minute pour into the gorge during the peak season (April-May) and the spray rises 500m into the air. During the Rhodesian/ Zimbabwe War (1967-1980) the Falls were almost deserted by tourists. During 1950 and 1960, tourist accommodation and facilities were situated in Livingstone and the Zimbabwean side had only the Victoria Falls Hotel and Soper’s Curios.
Livingstone: see ZAMBIA
Lake Kariba: The second largest man-made lake in the world covers 5000km2 and is 280km long and 32km wide at its maximum width. The dam wall is a concrete arch wall 128m high and 633m long on the neck. The wall was built at the entrance to the Kariba Gorges which had hard basement rocks. The word “Kariba” in local language means “little trap”. The dam construction commenced in 1955 and was officially opened by the Queen Mother (mother of Queen Elizabeth II) in 1960. The dam was built for generating hydro-electricity for Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). The hydro electric power from Kariba still supplies the bulk of Zimbabwean and Zambian domestic and industrial energy requirements. Lake Kariba has become important for the commercial fishing of Kapenta (Ndakala) introduced from Lake Tanganyika. The small fish are dried in the sun and sold in the markets in Zimbabwe.
Harare: The capital has a population of 1 million. It is at an altitude of 1470m and was formerly known as Salisbury until 1980. Harare was a suburb of Salisbury.