In the 1990’s Zimbabwe was an excellent self-drive destination, with several areas beyond the major parks attracting attention.
Near Masvingo in central Zimbabwe, are the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. These ruins are hugely significant as they represent a civilisation that ruled for over 300 years. At least 8 kings are said to have lived and ruled at Great Zimbabwe, before the kingdom became too big and began to splinter.
In the east of the country, the Bvumba and Nyanga mountains offer great birding opportunities and wonderful scenery. Together they make up what is known as the Eastern Highlands. The Nyanga National Park covers the area of a huge estate, once owned by Cecil John Rhodes who was enthralled by the beauty of the area. Scenic drives to Eagles and World’s views, or walks through the mountains are available.
The upland area of Nyanga is often compared to the Scottish highlands or western Ireland, and there are few places more evocative of these distant climes than one of the highest plateau.
Bvumba is Nyanga compressed, and apart from the fantastic views across valleys, streams and hills, there is an amazing range of vegetation which varies from lush pastures to the deep montane forest of Bunga. The botanical garden demonstrates that practically anything grows here, although it is particularly well known for its aloes. Much of the southern portion is devoted to farming, although the Chimanimani National Park has been retained as a wilderness area and can only be entered on foot – the mountains are big and rugged, the highest peak reaching some 2400 m.
The range is deeply incised with heavily forested gorges. On the more open ranges, some wildlife can be found including sable antelope and eland, a range of smaller antelope, baboon, porcupine and occasionally leopard. Many bird species are endemic to the mountains, as are a number of protea species. Fly-fishing for trout is excellent in a number of spots throughout the Eastern Highlands.
To the north of Gonarezhou in the lowveld region is Save Valley Conservancy, a large area of private owned big game wilderness which has mostly been used for hunting safaris since 2000. Nowadays there are a couple of ranches attempting to evolve into photographic operations. The area has very good big game concentrations, including rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and wild dog, and offers a mix of walking and driving, with a definite focus on the exclusive wilderness experience.