Iconic Zimbabwe Itinerary: Victoria Falls, Hwange, Mana Pools & Lake Kariba

A 11 day trip to Zimbabwe 

Zimbabwe's natural legends delight in their diversity. Gushing Victoria Falls, lions chasing wildebeest on the arid savannah, nomadic elephants swimming across rivers, and wilderness celebrated in contrasting national parks. Such diversity demands a privately guided safari, one that celebrates eclectic activities and captures the essence of Zimbabwe's endless appeal. This 11-day safari flies between the country's four famous natural legends, where private guides help to reveal all.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, Hwange National Park, Mana Pools National Park, Lake Kariba, Matusadona National Park

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Victoria Falls – A Natural Legend Welcomes You to Zimbabwe

Tumbling powerfully into the abyss, Victoria Falls captures the essence of nature’s power, a legendary waterfall that impresses all the senses. It roars like thunder, growling continuously as hundreds of tons of water drop over the edge every second. For an introduction to the natural legends of Africa, there’s nowhere quite like Victoria Falls. You’ll be greeted at the airport and transferred to a beautiful lodge along the Zambezi riverfront, where monkeys jump around, and hippos can be seen in the distance. Spend the afternoon at Victoria Falls, exploring two-thirds of its length on the walking trail. You’re likely to get wet, the spray powering up from the canyon, showcasing why the locals call this the smoke that thunders.

What’s Included: accommodation, airport transfer, tour, lunch, dinner

Day 2: Victoria Falls – Lounging Around the River With Hippos Watching On

Today is deliberately left free, a time to recuperate from the journey and prepare yourself for the safari to come. But it’s not without wildlife incident. Baboons occupy the surrounding trees, and they’re not bashful about coming close to the lodge. Hippos can be heard grunting, then emerging from the bathing spaces around dusk. Nile crocodiles sunbathe along the banks while the rumble of Victoria Falls competes with exotic birds on the airwaves. You’ll depart on a sunset cruise in the late afternoon, with drinks being served as the landscape transforms through golden colors. As with most days on the safari, all meals are included, and there are some beautiful places to dine amongst nature.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Hwange National Park – Lions and Wildebeest on the Arid Savannah

Fly into Hwange and expressions of the African savannah immediately fill your vision. Dusty and scorched, the plains seem to stretch out for eternity, rolling into the Kalahari Desert with their pristine promise. This is the land of predators, a land of big cats prowling towards epic herds of wildebeest and zebra. You’ll see the lions lounging about, manes fluttering on the breeze and cubs playfully resting on mothers’ paws. Authentic hunting scenes are a regular sight here, and over these three days, you’ll likely to encounter the cats in their search for a meal. After touching down in the park, you enjoy brunch with your guide and discuss the options for the next three days.

Hwange is one of Africa’s most diverse parks, in terms of habitats, animals, and experiences. To the north lie granite-dappled hills and mopane woodlands, packed with elephants and intimate encounters. Journey south and the atmosphere of the Kalahari takes over, with its endless panoramas and nomadic wanderers. Lakes and waterholes are dotted around; while palm trees and shrub bush both have their distinctive mammal residents. You could travel in many directions dependent on the type of animals you’d like to see. If it’s your first time in Africa, then the guide will recommend a diverse day that explores the center of the park, where the habitats converge and dreams of Africa’s legends become a reality. Elephants, lions, huge buffalo herds and a dozen different antelope skipping around; it’s not long before you’re fully immersed in the wild wonder of Africa.

What’s Included: accommodation, airport transfer, domestic flight, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 4 – 5: Hwange National Park – Exclusive Private Safari in One of Africa's Finest Parks

Over these two days, you connect the experiences. Explore on foot, following local trackers towards herds of springbok and majestic giraffe necks. Stay out after dark on captivating nighttime drives, with roving spotlights illuminating nocturnal hunters and the lucid eyes of leopards. Take the camping chairs and spend an hour overlooking a waterhole, where hippos barge around, and wildebeest come to drink in huge numbers. Choose to spend the afternoon at your luxury camp, watching the world go by and waiting for the sun to cross the sky. Or spend the whole day on a game drive; a chance to visit the outer reaches of the park and some of its most wonderful sights. Special hideaways have been created for wildlife photography while particular waterholes are famed for their wildlife abundance.

Despite having over 100 mammal species and stretching for many thousands of square miles, visitor numbers in Hwange remain low. With such huge expanses of bush, it is unlikely you’ll encounter another vehicle or person. Find a cheetah and follow her movements, her neck dipping with precision as she disappears into a hiding place. Watch the hunt for an hour, the slow tiptoeing closer, then the extravagant acceleration of speed. In some national parks, there could be ten vehicles watching the same scene. In Hwange, it’s all yours. This really is a private playground, even though you’re not in a private concession. With three full days tailored to your interests, you’ll be astonished at the diversity and quantity of animals that are encountered. And you’ll never forget the proximity, certainly not when lionesses circle the safari vehicle.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Mana Pools National Park – Delightful Safari Scenes Along the River

Hwange is a park for exploration and adventure. In comparison, Mana Pools is charming and compact, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that makes game viewing wonderfully easy. This park is defined by water, with four pools populated by rumbustious hippo pods. Elephants clatter through majestic stands of ebony and mahogany trees, their color a noticeable contrast to the lushness of the vegetation. The Zambezi River flows along the park’s northern edge, connecting it with Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park across the water. Gaze over the river, and you’re likely to see buffalo and wildebeest herds making the treacherous swim over the water, moving in search of fresh grazing pastures.

You fly directly from Hwange to Mana Pools, where a new guide joins you for brunch next to one of the lakes. Over the three days, it’s highly recommended to experience the park’s four distinctive activities. Game drives are the norm, complemented by guided canoeing trips along the river and exceptional walking safaris. Paddling softly, you watch the mystique of the riverfront, animals appearing on the clearings, a giant elephant bull looming over you as younger elephants use their trunks as snorkels. Walking is really encouraged, and there are countless options, from 30-minute exploratory trails to full days tracking kudu and eland in the bush. The pace of the park is very relaxed and the leisurely hours at the camp provide the fourth classic Mana Pools activity: sitting back and watching the animals converge on the waterfront.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Mana Pools National Park – Game Drives and Bush Walks in a Mystical Landscape

As the sunrise bathes the lush landscape in golden light, you head out on a game drive, tracking the prints in the sand and following a leopard on the prowl. Transfixed, you watch the spotted hunter for an hour, barely aware of the large elephant herd that crashes through the trees behind you. It’s always active at this hour, and you’ll encounter most of the park’s mammal species on the move. Jump out of the vehicle and follow a female buffalo herd through the bush, taking a winding trail beneath the ebony trees before being picked up by the vehicle. Continue to one of the four large pools and drink coffee with hippos entertaining you in the water below. Then it’s back to the camp for lunch and a rest before the afternoon’s canoe safari. Of course, this is just one option for the day as this privately guided program will tailor each hour to your interests.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Lake Kariba (Matusadona National Park) – Tranquility Along the Water and Safari Drama in the Bush

From one water to another, a short flight to Matusadona and the very serene waters of Lake Kariba. There’s less game in the lake, and you can easily spend the day simply watching the rippling water, admiring what is one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. Head down to the waterfront and dip your toes in the water, savoring the tranquility that’s normally associated with a coastal escape. After five days of safari, Lake Kariba is the getaway that brings you back down to earth. Except this isn’t just a destination for lounging around. This is Africa and one of Zimbabwe’s natural legends. And the surrounding Matusadona National Park offers one of the continent’s most exotic collections of wild mammals.

Like the other destinations, a guide outlines the options, and you’ll be able to combine adventures in the safari vehicle with walks and canoe trips. Longer boat trips are another opportunity to combine the serenity of escape with the sporadic drama provided by big mammals. Top of the list is likely to be tracking wild rhinos, an animal that you won’t have encountered thus far. Both black and white subspecies live here, the former elegant and bashful, the latter possibly roaming straight past your vehicle with proud horns. This is Big Five paradise, and you’ll continue the experiences with Africa’s giants.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 9 – 10: Lake Kariba (Matusadona National Park) – Relaxed Safari Around Africa's Riviera

Lake Kariba revels in its nickname as Africa’s riviera, the calm waters shimmering with the moving sun. Lounge on the shore and the lake becomes the classic getaway, the place to recharge the batteries and sip cocktails before returning home. But when there’s such superb game to be found, it’s hard not to lace up the boots and seek out Africa’s wildlife charm. Buffalo congregate in huge numbers, and they attract the cats, notably a healthy number of lion prides. Elephant herds provide the focal point when you’re watching the sunset after a canoe safari, while fish eagles are amongst the tropical birds to find during the boat trips.

Lake Kariba was created when the Kariba Dam flooded the Zambezi Valley, forcing a scattered collection of animals into the last vestiges of land and islands. Canoe trips along the inlets and creeks offer a tropical insight into the landscape while boating out to remote islands reveals a competition for resources between mammals. If there are particular animals that you haven’t seen so far, then the guide can tailor the activities to spotting them. If there are some animals that really capture your imagination, then a whole day can be dedicated to seeing them from the park’s many angles. Black rhinos are the ultimate highlight here and seeking them amongst the bushes is always a thrill. Sometimes you open the curtains to a giraffe neck, on other mornings, you’re eating breakfast as a baboon troop marauds past.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: Lake Kariba to Harare – Departure

From Lake Kariba, you take a short flight to the capital city of Harare, where you check into your international departure. After four of Zimbabwe’s natural legends, you leave with rich memories of wildlife and landscapes, from the giants of a continent to the spectacular sights that make safari such a special experience. And you’re still wondering why Zimbabwe sees such few visitors, given the richness of its safari experience and the opportunity to fully tailor every day amongst the natural legends.

What’s Included: airport transfer, domestic flight, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$4,395
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.