Nothing can match the hustle of a Zimbabwean. We are hardworking and so versatile, we easily adapt into different scenarios.

Our survival instinct is so strong, it is difficult to keep a Zimbabwean down. But, what we need to learn to do as well is relax. Some of the economic activities we do can also be turned into recreational activities.

In a recent interview with Dr Emmanuel Fundira, the CEO of Astoc Leisure Group and president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, he said it is important that, “we involve ourselves in some recreation, where we can spend and enjoy a bit of time in the ambience of our natural resources away from the hustle and bustle from the pressures we receive when the economy is not performing so well.”

He added that to revive the local tourism industry, the economic aspect and the mind-set of the local people are critical areas that we need to work on in order to revive the domestic tourism industry.

So how do we shift the mindset?

Some of the ways mentioned by Dr Fundira include an enlightenment of the various aspects that are available through education in schools, through the influence of the media and various campaigns that can educate people to shift from the thinking that international travel is better, when in actual fact, domestic tourism gives an enriching feeling that fuels pride in the destination.

Hardworking as the Zimbabwean people may be, it is important that we play as well. As the old cliché goes, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. We must come out and play. Just along the Harare-Bulawayo road up to Norton, there are plenty of recreational options.

Before you get to Lake Chivero there is Lion and Cheetah Park and Snake World. This is a sanctuary for lions and also home to other wildlife. One of the greatest attractions at the park, is Tommy the Galapagos tortoise, who is over 200 years old.

Camping facilities are available at the park for a minimum charge of $40 so instead of a day trip, an overnight stay can be done here too at Shumba Camp. Shumba Camp can accommodate four doubles and two singles.

Also near the park is Snake World which has a wide variety of venomous and non-venomous snakes found in Zimbabwe. In terms of costs one should budget $10 for adults and $5 for children entry into the park and $5 per adult and $3 per child to enter Snake World.

One of the issues with domestic tourism mentioned by Dr Fundira was the economic aspect.

Travel is directly linked with disposable income which many Zimbabweans do not have. As a starting point, if one wants to spend a night or two out, National Parks offers some very affordable accommodation and whilst there, fishing and birdwatching are some of the activities that can be done at the National Parks along the Harare-Bulawayo Road.

Fishing is an exciting sport or past time that can be done by people of all ages. Because it is a relaxing activity, it can help to get away from the hustle of city life and routine and relieves stress. It is a great activity for bonding with family and friends and if you are lucky or skilled, you may just go home with your supper too. Living and working in the capital city, you may feel there is no time or there are no places close enough to enjoy this.

Lake Chivero is a perfect place for this. There are various lodges by the lake in addition to the National Parks lodges such as Samaki Grill and Leisure Centre. This is a family friendly establishment with accommodation starting from $25 serviced accommodation per night.

It is by the Lakeside so the views and sunsets are magical. As a bonus over the weekends, a live band is often present to help you unwind, if you are not on the lake canoeing or fishing.  There are plenty of braai spots available as well as a play area for the children.

What I love about National Parks is that, not only is it cheaper than usual but each park has got a special characteristic. Lake Chivero for example, is known as a “white rhino haven”, and yes, if you are lucky you will spot some rhino grazing or browsing.

You can increase your chances of finding the rhino by actually going on a rhino trail with one of the guides, which is one of the many activities you can do. Fishing requires permits from National Parks and at Lake Chivero whilst some people fish for recreational purposes, it is also the traditional form of employment for locals.

For others, the preferred fishing spot is at Darwendale Recreational Park which is just 36km from Norton where Lake Chivero is, and about 76km out of Harare. The park is also under National Parks and is known as the “Heart of Peace”.

Some of the species of fish you can catch at Lake Manyame which is in the park are the Mozambican bream, bass fish and hunyani salmon. The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has unveiled plans to development Kariba so it becomes the destination of choice and Kariba is renowned for its tiger fish.

Tiger fishing tournaments are held at Kariba and attract fishing fanatics from all over the world. So if fishing is a sport, this is something to aim for. Lodges are also available at Darwendale Park as well as picnic sites, campsites and caravan sites.

Another activity that can be done whilst fishing is bird watching. The two places mentioned Lake Chivero and Darwendale Park are some of the many perfect places for this in Zimbabwe.

Dr Fundira highlighted that birding was one of the unique aspects of Zimbabwe tourism that we as locals can tap into. He says in a recent meeting he attended online, it was revealed that that there are possibly 800 bird species in the world and 650 of those are found in Zimbabwe.

Kuimba Shiri, located at Lake Chivero, is a bird sanctuary and home to 400 species of wild birds. It is the only bird rehabilitation centre in Zimbabwe and they have bird shows daily. There is a small charge to get in but what you learn and see far outweighs the charge offered.

Birds such as the marshall and fish eagles can be seen at the sanctuary. There is also a small restaurant as well as chalets should you choose to spend the night there.

The Harare-Bulawayo highway up to Darwendale, has countless traditional food and barbeque options. I have had some of my best “gango” meals in this area around Kuwadzana just as you leave Harare. Gango is when is different types of meats are barbequed and mixed with different veggies then served with sadza. A great hearty meal and the perfect welcome to Zimbabwean cuisine.

After considering these options yet the budget is still constrained or there are challenges with fuel and you still want to visit a fishing spot, if you are in Harare, Kingfisher Park in Emerald Hill is a perfect location for fishing. It is a great family location with foefie slides, jungle gyms and braai spots. So it is a perfect location for a day outing or to go for a celebration.

I conclude with a question asked by Dr Fundira, “How do we (Zimbabweans) expect visitors to appreciate our product when we ourselves as locals don’t patronise it?”

There is so much to do and we are blessed to have so many different places to do this. If you are not in Harare, there are many dams within and around cities, towns and rural areas that we can explore. Find out from local authorities what the fishing regulations are or if there are any levies or fees that need to be paid, often if they are there, they are minimal.

Go and appreciate nature, appreciate creation and live life. If nature is not for you and you are more of a historical tourist, along the same Harare-Bulawayo road is the National Heroes Acre which has a museum. You can learn about the country and the liberation struggle there.

Some general tips for travel:

  1. Safety always comes first, particularly near water bodies. Life jackets are necessary even for avid swimmers.
  2. It is also important to go with other people, when going fishing who can help in case of emergencies.
  3. Get a fishing permit or find out if entry fees include the fishing permit.
  4. The animal sanctuaries mentioned have got animals in rehabilitation or enclosed animals but this does not make them tame. Follow instructions given by the guides and take necessary precautions.
  5. Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.

Take a break from the grind, relax and have fun! Stay safe!

Happy Travelling!

Mazwi Shamu is a travel and tourism consultant, writer and educator. She can be reached on 0712893354 or [email protected]