Falling in love with Bulawayo and all the purple blossoms:
There it was. Everywhere. I couldn’t stop staring and wanted to jump out of the taxi. The Jacaranda tree! It is one of the dozens of colonial ‘leftovers’ that you’ll see in Bulawayo but has become a common sight all over Southern Africa. The picture-perfect blossoms draw thousands of tourists every year. And Bulawayo, was I hooked!
After a 11h30 flight from Heathrow to Johannesburg with South African Airways, followed by a short flight to the cosy airport of Bulawayo we were finally there. I was ready for some African air and sun!
I was invited to Zimbabwe thanks to the lovely folks at the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and South African Airways to attend Sanganai, the world tourism expo hosted in Bulawayo. After the expo, we would be shown some of the sites that makes Zimbabwe great and our hosts did not let us down.
How to get to Zimbabwe:
It’s easy to get to Zimbabwe with South African Airlines. The airline has two flights daily from London Heathrow to O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg. The flights are overnight so you’ll wake up with the blue, African sky around you. From here you have a few options. You can jump on a short flight to Bulawayo, Harare or even directly to Victoria Falls. SAA has great specials to South Africa. The best way to learn about their specials is to sign up to their newsletter or follow them on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).
Taking care of business:
As a South African, I had no issues with my visa. A welcome change of arriving at Heathrow where I have to endure lines only those ‘Non-EU’ of us can understand. If you are travelling with a passport that requires a visa you might queue for longer than you think. The entry points are manually operated in terms of issuing and making payments. Don’t worry, the kind airport staff will make you feel welcome and your bag will be waiting, safely. Take a look here to see whether you need a visa for Zimbabwe. You’ll have to declare donations or heavy equipment like cameras, so allow some extra time if your transfer is waiting.
Where we stayed:
From the airport, we were ready to hit the town. The weather was hot but a lovely breeze greeted us as we arrived at the Holiday Inn. The room overlooked a beautiful pool that made you feel as though you were in paradise. Each night a band performed in the hotel bar. A highlight of our stay in Zimbabwe.
Bulawayo has an art gallery, natural history museum, a theatre and more. The great thing about this city (as with any great African city) is that within a short drive you can reach nature at it’s purest. Which is exactly what we did on our second day in Zimbabwe.
Checking out teenage rhinos:
Our always chirpy driver took us to the nearest national park called Matobo Hills, which covers 2000sq and is only 32km south of Bulawayo. The Unesco World Heritage Site is filled with the most gorgeous rock formation. We had our wildest dreams come true after our great guide, Lynette, took us on a walking tour to find some rhinos…and we did! It was (with the risk of sounding cheesy) a once in a lifetime experience that left our normally very chatty group totally speechless.
Coming close to Cecil John Rhodes:
From here we made our way to Cecil John Rhodes’ grave. Slightly controversial due to the colonial heritage that comes with being a certain Mr Rhodes, the site is still a must see if only for the views. Initially, you’ll be captivated by hundreds of little gecko’s that keeps your eyes locked to the ground. Then, once you look up you’ll feel like the lizards transported you to a magical kingdom. Commonly referred to as ‘The World’s view’ you immediately see why Mr Cecil wanted to be buried there. I could have spent the entire day there if I had a lizard proof chair and umbrella.
From Bulawayo, we made our way to Hwange National Park and little did we know what amazingness still awaited us.
Make the most of travelling to Zimbabwe:
Flying directly to Bulawayo via Johannesburg is a great way to start your Zimbabwean adventure. It is almost like a passageway into the wonderful wild heart of Africa. It’s temperature is mild in comparison to the rest of Zimbabwe and you can invest in the local craft markets before getting whisked away by the wonderful wildlife that awaits.